Jackson's Valley campaign of 1862.
Address delivered before the Virginia division, A. N. V., October 31st, 1878, by Colonel William Allan, late Chief of Ordnance, Second ( “Stonewall” ) corps, A. N. V.
[Published by unanimous request of the association].
After the disastrous termination of Braddock's campaign against Fort Duquesne, in the summer of 1756, Colonel George Washington
, to whom was entrusted the duty of protecting the Alleghany
frontier of Virginia from the French
, established himself at Winchester, in the lower Shenandoah Valley, as the point from which he could best protect the district assigned to him. Here he subsequently built Fort Loudoun, and made it the base of his operations.
A grass-grown mound, marking the site of one of the bastions of the old fort, and Loudoun street, the name of the principal thoroughfare of the town, remain to recall an important chapter in Colonial history.
It was this old town that Major-General T. J. Jackson
entered on the evening of November 4, 1861, as commander of the Valley
district, and his headquarters were established within musket-shot of Fort Loudoun
He had been made Major General
on October 7 for his services at the first battle of Manassas
, and was now assigned to this important command because of the expectations formed of his capacity, and because of his acquaintance with the country.
His district embraced the territory bounded north by the Potomac
, east by the Blue Ridge
, and west by the Alleghanies
Born and reared in Western Virginia
, and filled with a patriot's devotion to the land of his birth, he had manifested a strong desire to be employed in the operations in that region, and had cherished the ambition of freeing his former home from hostile domination.
The Confederates, during the summer, had in that region been unsuccessful.
General Robert Garnett
had been forced to retreat by General McClellan
, and had then met defeat and death at Corrick's Ford on Cheat river
, July 13th.
This gave the Federals
control of the greater part of Virginia
west of the Alleghanies
, and the subsequent efforts of Generals Floyd
, and still later of General Lee
, availed only to prevent further encroachments of the enemy — not to regain the lost territory.
When, therefore, General Jackson
assumed command of the Valley of Virginia
, the enemy had possession of all the State
north of the Great Kanawha
and west of the Alleghanies
, and had pushed their outposts into that mountain region itself, and in some cases eastward of the main range.
Thus, General Kelly
had captured Romney
, the county seat of Hampshire
, forty miles west of Winchester
, and now occupied it with a force of 5,000 men.1
This movement gave the Federals
control of the fertile valley of the south branch of the Potomac
Another, though much smaller force, occupied Bath
, the county seat of Morgan
, forty miles due north of Winchester
, while the north bank of the Potomac
was everywhere guarded by Union troops.
The Baltimore and Ohio railroad was open and available for the supply of the Federal
troops from Baltimore
to Harper's Ferry
, and again from a point opposite Hancock
The section of this road of about forty miles from Harper's Ferry
, lying for the most part some distance within the Virginia
border, had been interrupted and rendered useless by the Confederates
, but this gap was now supplied by the Chesapeake and Ohio canal
, which was open all the way from Cumberland, Maryland
, to Georgetown
in the District of Columbia.
The plan of operations, that Jackson
had conceived for regaining West Virginia
, was to move along the Baltimore and Ohio railroad and the turnpikes parallel to it, and thus enter Western Virginia
at the northeastern end. In this way he could turn the left flank of the enemy's forces, place himself on their communications, and force them to evacuate or fight under circumstances of his own selection.
Having seen how his predecessors had been hampered in trying to operate from Staunton
westward, by the difficult and inaccessible nature of the country, composed almost entirely of mountains destitute of supplies, and penetrated by nothing but indifferent wagon roads, he was anxious to try a mode of approach which, if more exposed to the enemy, had the advantage of being easier, of lying through a much more populous and cultivated region, of affording to some extent the use of a railroad for supplies, and which would soon place him in the midst of some of the most fertile parts of West Virginia
In order to carry out this scheme he asked for his old brigade, which had been left at Manassas
, and that all the forces operating along the line of the Alleghanies
southwest of Winchester
, and lately commanded by General Lee
, should be concentrated under his command.
This would have given him 15,000 or 16,000 men, the least force with which he thought it possible to undertake so bold an enterprise.
His wishes were complied with in part.
His own brigade was promptly sent to him, and one of the brigades of Loring
's troops (General Loring
had succeeded General Lee
) reached him early in December.
Subsequently two more brigades under General Loring
himself were added, but all these troops only increased the small force of 3,000 State militia which he had assembled in the district itself to about 11,000 men.2
The greater part of General Loring
's force did not arrive at Winchester
, thus preventing any important movements during November and December.
But meantime Jackson
was not idle.
He spent the time in organizing, drilling and equipping the militia and the scattered cavalry commands, which he consolidated into a regiment under Colonel Ashby
; and in sending expeditions against the Chesapeake and Ohio canal
, by breaking which he annoyed the enemy and interrupted an important line of communication.3
By the last week in December all the troops that the War Department thought it judicious to spare him had arrived, and though the season was far advanced, he determined at once to assume the offensive.
The winter had so far been mild, the roads were in excellent condition, and though his force was not large enough for the recovery of West Virginia
, important advantages seemed within reach.
The forces and positions of the enemy opposed to Jackson
at the beginning of 1862 were as follows: General Banks
, commanding the Fifth corps of McClellan
's army, with headquarters at Frederick, Maryland
, had 16,000 effective men,4
the greater part of whom were in winter quarters near that city, while the remainder guarded the Potomac
from Harper's Ferry
, still holding command of the Department of West Virginia, had 22,000 men scattered over that region,5
but was concentrating them on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad.
He says in his testimony (Report on Conduct of War, 1865, volume III): “On the 6th of December, satisfied that the condition of the roads over the Alleghanies
into Western Virginia
, as well as the scarcity of subsistence and horse-feed, would preclude any serious operations of the enemy against us, until the opening of the spring, I began quietly and secretly to assemble all the spare troops of the department in the neighborhood of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, under cover of about 5,000 men I had posted at Romney
, with the design of obtaining General McClellan
's permission to take nearly all these troops and suddenly seize, fortify and hold Winchester
, whereby I should at once more effectually cover the northeastern and central parts of Western Virginia
, and at the same time threaten the left of the enemy's position at Manassas
, compel him to lengthen his line of defence in front of the Army of the Potomac, and throw it further south.”
This plan of Rosecrans
was anticipated and foiled by Jackson
On the first of January, 1862, the latter left Winchester
at the head of between 8,000 and 9,000 men,6
and moved towards Bath, in Morgan county
The fine weather of the preceding month changed on the very first night of the expedition, and
a terrible storm of sleet and snow and cold set in, which for the next three weeks subjected the troops to the severest hardships, and finally forced their commander to suspend his forward movement.
At first the troops marched cheerfully on in spite of cold and sleet.