Chapter 6: battle of Winchester (continued)—Federal retreat across the Potomac to Williamsport.
The commanding ridge that has been described1
as partially surrounding Winchester
, and extending southwesterly, parallel to the pike road to Strasburg
, is towards the south broken up into a succession of hills which extend to within one mile of Kernstown
As one stands on the ridge within about one third of a mile from the town he will perceive to the south, on his left, the turnpike gradually surmounting a gentle ascent; in his front a valley, and beyond, perhaps four hundred yards distant, the crest of a higher ridge.
On his right the valley leads to a hill whose summit, one hundred yards farther to the west, is lower than the ridge upon which he stands, and higher than the crest beyond.
When I arrived at the spot where the regiments of my brigade had dropped down to sleep, I found them forming in line in the valley I have described.
Posting my battery of Parrotts (six guns, under command of Lieutenant Peabody
) on the bluff end of the ridge, I moved my brigade up the valley, and occupied the summit of the hill to the right, with the Second Massachusetts.
Next to it I posted the Third Wisconsin, farther down the ravine the Twentyninth
, and on the extreme left the Twentyseventh Indiana
Before us, just over the crest of the hill opposite, was the enemy; but he could not show himself without being in sight and range of my command.
From one and a half to two miles on my left, on the Front Royal
was confronted by Donelly
's brigade of three regiments,--the Twenty-eighth New York, Fifth Connecticut, Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, and Best
's United States Battery of six smooth-bore brass pieces under command of Lieutenant Crosby
The country in front of Donelly
on the south and east is almost level.
From this description it will be seen, that, with Winchester
as a centre, we occupied at daylight of the 25th a portion of an arc the whole of which was at least two and a half miles in length, or 4,400 yards. We could with our. command occupy only 1,750 yards of the 4,400; for 3,500 men in two ranks will cover no more.
In other words, we could extend over a little more than one third of our front.
With 16,000 infantry in two ranks in line of battle, the enemy could not only encircle our entire front, but extend 1,800 yards beyond our right and left flanks, or forty more than a mile.
With my brigade and Donelly
's we could occupy only the flanks of our line; the centre was unprotected, except by a fire from Best
's Battery, which was so posted as to bear upon either flank of the enemy's line.
My picket line, which had occupied the crest of the hill opposite, had been driven back upon the main body just before my arrival.
had hoped to seize those hills before daylight warned us of his presence; 2
but if the detention of the previous day did not show the futility of such a wish, the strong line of pickets that confronted him must have been more convincing.
Looking upon this position as the key-point upon the field, and
determining to possess it, Jackson
threw forward, after a careful examination of a few moments, a brigade of infantry, under General Winder
(the Stonewall brigade), and strengthening this on its right with the Fifth Virginia, he threw this force, larger than my whole command, against my pickets on his front.
It was this contest that aroused me from an attempt to secure a moment's sleep.
Of course my pickets gave way, and when I reached the ground the enemy was in possession of his coveted prize,the hill beyond the ravine, in front of my battery and line of infantry.3
A strong detachment of artillery, composed of the batteries of Poague
, and Cutshaw
, were then advanced and supported by two brigades of infantry, the “Stonewall
,” and that of Colonel John A. Campbell
As the Second Regiment on the right of the line moved up to the crest of the hill, the enemy opened upon it with grape; but it continued steadily on and took up its position without wavering.
then threw out to his right and front his right company, commanded by Captain Savage
, as a covering skirmish-line.
Soon, however, this company was sent forward to a stone-wall a few rods in advance.
It was now five o'clock in the morning.
As my eye fell on the columns of the enemy under Winder
moving up in support of their batteries, I ordered my gunners to fire upon them; and at the same time Captain Savage
, finding the Rebel
artillery within good range from his stone-wall, opened upon their gunners.
strengthened Captain Savage
by Captain Cary
While the fire from my battery was incessant and effective, the two companies of the Second behind the wall poured an harassing fire into the enemy's gunners, and the two right companies of the regiment added to the effect by firing volleys at his battery.
The effect of our artillery fire was to drive the enemy back over the crest of the hill, where he had for a moment vauntingly showed himself, and to cause one of his guns to be abandoned by his cannoneers.
From five until almost seven o'clock in the morning, nothing saved us from a heavy fire of shell, roundshot, and canister but the accurate aim of our men of the Second, who from behind the stone-wall and the crest of the hill so annoyed the enemy's gunners that his firing was wild.
A Southern account of these two hours of the fight bears testimony to the pluck with which we responded to our enemy's challenge.4 General Jackson
, it seems, had been an observer of our movements.
He is described as having ridden forward with two field-officers, Campbell
and another, to the very crest of the hill, and amidst a perfect shower of balls observed the position.
It is said that though both the officers beside him were speedily wounded, he sat calmly on his horse until he had satisfied himself of our dispositions.
He saw, it is said, my battery, as I was posting it on the edge of the ridge; he saw, nearer to his left front, Captains Cary
behind an oblique stone-fence pouring a galling fire upon his gunners that struck down many men and horses.
He saw his battery,
sometimes almost silenced, holding well up to punishment, until Winder
ordered it to change front to the left and bring part of the guns to bear with solid shot, to shatter the wall behind which were the two companies of the Second.
With solid shot crashing into and over them, and with canister raking them, General Jackson
found that not one inch could he make Savage
turn back, although Cary
was knocked over by a flying stone, through a shell that killed a man by his side.
looked upon the scene, it is represented that he did not doubt that the enemy would attempt to drive his artillery from this vital position and occupy it with his own; and so turning to Colonel Neff
, commanding the Thirty-third Virginia infantry, then supporting Carpenter
's Battery, he asked him,--
, wllre is your regiment posted?”
“Here,” he replied.
“I expect,” answered Jackson
, “the enemy to bring artillery to this hill: they must not do it. If they attempt to come, charge them with the bayonet.”
Then after this survey, leaving two more of his batteries to reply to my single one, Jackson
, glancing again at the scene, planned his attack and turned to his command.6
Turning now to the southeastern part of the town, the left of our line of battle, we find Colonel Donelly
Having reached a position on the direct road from Front Royal
, within two miles of the latter, at ten o'clock the preceding evening (where he was joined by Steuart
's cavalry from Newtown
confronted our outlying pickets.
This command consisted, as it will be remembered, of a North Carolina brigade under General Trimble
, of the First Maryland Regiment, and two batteries (Courtenay
's and Brockenbrough
's). As Ewell
, at dawn the next morning, advanced his brigade, the left regiment, the Twenty-first North Carolina, under command of Colonel Kirkland
, encountered Donelly
's brigade in line, covered by a stone-wall.
Donclly's fire was terrific.
We claim that Kirkland
's regiment was nearly destroyed; and the enemy admits that all the field-officers were wounded, and that the “gallant regiment was obliged to recoil” 7
(run away). Ewell
then sent in the Twenty-first Georgia Regiment.
Approaching with caution, its fate was better than that of its predecessor; but yet Donelly
was not routed, nor in danger of it, from that mode of attack, nor from any other that the small force Jackson
had given Ewell
Seeing this, Trimble
suggested throwing forward the right and turning Donelly
It was done, and the enemy claims that Donelly
, who had been driven from his cover by the Georgia
regiment, now gave way entirely.8
In his report General Banks
's flank movement was abandoned because General Williams
, our division commander, sent a detachment of cavalry to intercept it.9
have held Ewell
It is more than probable that he could, if there had been no other force confronting us. Did Jackson
's movements on my flank, by causing me to withdraw, compel Donelly
This is quite probable: Banks
avers it in his report.
Why then did I withdraw?
To answer this, I resume my narrative.
For two hours the Stonewall brigade (Jackson
's own, under General Winder
), with Carpenter
's and Taliaferro
's brigades, and three batteries, had been held in check on the heights opposite by the rifles of the Second Massachusetts, and by the battery of six Parrotts on our flank.
During this time the roar of artillery and infantry on our left before Donelly
And now General
, thinking the battle had reached a critical stage,10
determined to strike a final blow.
For this purpose he ordered forward one of his reserve brigades, the one commanded by General Taylor
, which with Elzey
's brigade was in reserve behind the mill-house on the turn-pike, about three fourths of a mile from town.
Burning with eagerness, Jackson
, outstripping the speed of his messenger, rode rapidly to meet it. Conducting it by a hollow way in rear of the two brigades before us, he gained the cover of a wood to our right, and there directing its rapid formation in line of battle with the left regiments, thrown forward 11
to gain our rear, he was ready for his assault.
The moment the enemy's column began to emerge from the woods, Colonel Andrews
, through Major Dwight
, reported to me that he could see his troops advancing in line of battle directly upon our right flank.
Receiving this message while opposite the centre of my brigade, I dashed up to the head of the Second, jumped from my horse, and with Colonel Andrews
crawled forward to the crest of the hill, just behind which this regiment was formed in line.
On any day in spring the view from that summit would have been most fascinating, There to the south and west was a cluster of beautiful hills, commanding the town, and covered with luxurious clover and pasturage, with here and there a forest grove crowning the eminences.
Everywhere the fields were enclosed with fences and stone-walls.
The verdure of the forest trees, the rich green of the grasses, the blue sky overhead, and the soft beams of the morning sunlight adorned the picture.
But to all that Nature offered, man had added his touch to stamp forever the scene upon my mind.
There, just below us, in good rifle-range, preceded by swarms of skirmishers, regiment after regiment of the enemy were moving in good order
steadily but rapidly up the hill.12
Farther south, coming from the direction of the Strasburg pike
, and galloping across the fields, I saw a new battery urged forward to a new position to support this attack; while nearer my centre the crest of the hill was wreathed with the smoke of the three batteries that for two hours had tried in vain to drive us from our position.
There was no time to linger.
In an instant I again mounted my horse; ordered the Twenty-ninth Pennsylvania and the Twenty-seventh Indiana to move by flank on the run and extend to the right of the Second, at the same time directing a section of my battery to the front, where the guns could bear upon the enemy's columns.
But at this time a shell killed one man and three horses, so that the guns were pulled up by hand, and progress was necessarily slow.
Before the arrival of these regiments the Second had opened upon the enemy a heavy fire of musketry, which was taken up and continued by the new regiments as they came into position.
Although the enemy claims that his flanking column was greeted with a shower of shells and rifle-balls, it is true to history to state that when the Twenty-ninth Pennsylvania and Twenty-seventh Indiana reached their position, they
were imperfectly formed, and their fire was hasty and less effective than it should have been.
At all events, the fire did not check the advance of the enemy, who, somewhat favored by the ground, formed his lines with the accuracy of a parade.
in motion, he galloped along the rear of his line to the centre, and ordered a general advance; then moving to the hill where Carpenter
's battery was firing upon us, the same from which he had exposed himself at the beginning, he mounted it with an air of eager caution and peered like a deer-stalker over its summit.13
saw ought to have encouraged him; for now, looking down upon the steady movement of Taylor
(despite the fire we poured into him), he saw the Twenty-ninth and Twenty-seventh of my brigade break into disorder and begin to fall to the rear; while the Second, holding on for a moment, soon turned, and we were in retreat.14
“I can't help it,” replied Colonel Andrews
, as I rode hastily up to him with the question, <" Why are you falling back?"
It was true.
With his right uncovered, it would have been madness to remain.
“Move in order, then, and retreat steadily,” I replied, giving at the same time the
same caution to the Third Wisconsin, for it too had turned.
The scene unfolded to Jackson
was one in which two regiments were retiring, somewhat in disorder, down the hill towards the town; another, the Second Massachusetts, breaking to the rear in columns of companies as quietly and orderly as if on parade; while the fourth and last, the Third Wisconsin, with line of battle formed to the rear by an about face, was moving leisurely in retreat.
Seeing this, Jackson
, setting spurs to his horse, bounded upon the crest, and shouted to the officers nearest to him, “Forward after the enemy!”
Then, on right, left, and centre, they swarmed in pursuit.
There in front were the Stonewall
's, and Taliaferro
's brigades; to my right was Taylor
's brigade; and hurrying up from the reserve was Elzey
's,--all in pursuit of my four regiments, who were now in full retreat for the town.15
On right, left, and centre, immensely superior columns of the enemy were pressing upon my brigade, which numbered at the beginning of the fight, all told, exactly 2,101 infantry and one battery.
Not another man was available.
There was no support between us and the Potomac
Above the surrounding crests surged the enemy, who opened upon us a sharp and withering fire of musketry.
A storm of bullets from the hill where we had so long confronted the main body of Jackson
's forces crossed a deadlier fire from Taylor
's brigade, now on the crest in our rear.
Above the din of musketry, a yell of triumph rose from the
endless columns that seemed to gird the town.
My troops were not dismayed, though many had fallen.
We had not yet gained the cover of the streets, and some of my brigade, notably the Second Massachusetts and Third Wisconsin, disdained to do so until again they had turned in defiance upon the foe.17
In full sight of Jackson
and his army, the Second kept its formation and delivered its fire; while three companies of the Third Wisconsin, from behind a stone-wall, emptied their muskets into the faces of the advancing lines.
Not until my acting adjutant's18
horse was shot dead by my side, not until my aid returned to reply that he had given my message to General Banks
that my right had been turned land 1 was ialliug back, did I, with the last of my command, leave the field and turn into the streets of Winchester
We had made our last stand, and though driven after a three hours fight, in such a retreat there was nothing of shame.
There were but fifteen rounds of ammunition left for my battery; and there was no ammunition-train from which to replenish the cartridge-boxes of the infantry.
All this, if there were no other reasons for turning when we did. But there was another, even this: a delay of a few minutes from the time the Twenty-ninth
and Twenty-seventh Indiana broke to the rear from the right would have caused our capture or destruction.
It was officially reported 19
that an order to these regiments to fall back was given.
If so, it was without authority.
I feel sure none was ever given; but in view of the results, I cannot condemn the want of discipline that caused it.
As my troops faded away into the streets of Winchester
, the scene, as painted in colored sketches by the imaginative Dabney
is represented as the most imposing sight that ever greeted the eyes of a victorious captain.
“Far to the east,” he says,
the advancing lines of Ewell rolled forward, concealed in waves of white smoke from their volleys of musketry, as they were rapidly passing the suburbs of the town.
On the west, the long and glittering lines of Taylor, after one thundering discharge, were sweeping at a bayonet charge up the reverse of the hills with irresistible momentum.
Nearer the General (Jackson) came the Stonewall brigade, with the gallant Twenty-third Virginia, who sprung from their lairs,21 and rushed panting down the hillsides.
Between him (Jackson) and the town the enemy were everywhere breaking away from the walls and fences behind which they had sheltered themselves, at first with some semblance of order, but then dissolving into a vast confusion, in which the infantry, mounted officers, and artillery crowded and surged through the streets.
Our artillery and infantry moved through the town in as good order as the crowded condition of the streets would permit.
The Second Massachusetts Regiment, marching in order, passed through the lower part of the suburbs, and formed in line by Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews
with perfect steadiness and regularity, in order to
change the position of certain companies,22
that they might be, if the fight were to be continued, in the order provided for by the regulations.
To do this, he threw out his guides to secure a good alignement.
A hot fire of grape and shell from the enemy's batteries close to the town, the near approach of the cavalry, and the victorious cheers of their infantry about his ears induce Colonel Andrews
to follow the retreating column, even though he sacrificed some paragraphs of the tactics.
The Second, the last regiment to leave the town, followed the line of the railroad, which for some miles runs parallel to the road from Winchester
, and joined the main body of Banks
's column a few miles out; but the enemy was so close upon it that Major Dwight
fell into his hands.
He could have escaped but for his sympathy with a wounded man, whom he aided into a house.23
Return now to the main street, through which, towards Martinsburg
, moved the main column of our troops.
An eager enemy was close upon us; there was no time for any arrangement or defence.
Pursuers and pursued were swallowed from view, and the rout roared through every street with rattling rifle-shots and ringing cheers.24
In the main street I found myself, with my staff, in rear of a battery.
All around and in front there was a confused mob. At the windows and on the piazzas there were more men than I had ever before seen in the town.
Women, too, were there, well dressed, rushing to their doors and windows with unrepressed expressions of joy at our defeat.
Besides soldiers, horses, and batteries, there were men, women, and children in the streets, each making frantic efforts to get out of the way. Amidst the crack of rifle-shots and the bursting of shells;25
through the fire of musketry and pistol-shots, which killed many of our men in the street; and, worse than all, under the humiliation of jeers and taunting glances of defiance from young and old, male and female,we at length came out of the town upon the north, on the Martinsburg
road, where a long column of baggage-wagons, division, brigade, and regimental, were making their way in fair order towards the Potomac
was in possession of Winchester
Greeted with every demonstration of affection by the inhabitants, Jackson
is represented as, for the first and only time in his life, tearing a greasy, faded old forage-cap from his head, swinging it in air, and attempting to cheer; then, with “face inflamed
with towering passion and triumph, galloping amidst the foremost of his pursuers and urging them upon the enemy.”
With all the baggage that we had saved from Strasburg
, and with all that we had added at Winchester
, leaving behind us the sick, the dying, the dead, and many prisoners, we moved rapidly northward for Williamsport
to cross the Potomac
As we gained the hill north of the town, I turned to look back upon the ridge of which I have spoken as almost surrounding Winchester
The entire crest for three parts of this vast circumference was covered with the enemy.
Now, for the first time, I saw General Banks
, making a feeble effort to arrest the troops, and uttering some words about promised reinforcements.
Turning his eyes backward, I think there was no doubt in his own mind that the enemy had “developed” his force to him, -thus reversing the necessity with which General Banks
had met my most urgent appeals on the night of the 23d of May.26 General Banks
had made no provision for a retreat, evidently believing that with his inferior force he should comply with his telegram to the War Department, sent the day before, and return to Strasburg
Why, encumbered as we were with baggage and wagons and all the material that hours before should have been sent away, we were not destroyed, must be answered by those who claim that on this occasion Jackson
exhibited the highest order of military talent.
The pursuit was feeble in the extreme.
followed us to Bunker Hill
, thirteen miles, but finding that he could
not flank or cut us off, halted his infantry and gave up the pursuit to his batteries and cavalry,--and these annoyed us for a time by sending shells, round-shot, and grape into our rear, with destruction to some battery-horses and a few men; but even this was stopped a short distance beyond Martinsburg
After twenty-four miles of mounted pursuit of foot-men, even the cavalry was tired.
Where was Steuart
with his three cavalry regiments,--Ashby
's, and Flournoy
's,--to oppose General Hatch
with less than one (he had, as it will be remembered, less than nine hundred men at Strasburg
). Undoubtedly a feeble pursuit by cavalry was made on the Harper's Ferry
road and on the railroad, where broken parts of our command were seeking to make their way to Harper's Ferry
: many stragglers, and men wearied from long marching, fasting, and fighting; also the wounded “who had sunk on the ground overpowered,” --many such were picked up by the enemy's cavalry; but what else?--what that any commander of even ordinary ability would have done, under similar circumstances?
Feeling the necessity of defending him, Dabney
, or both of them, aver that General Jackson
ordered General Steuart
to follow with his cavalry and capture us, even as Flournoy
had ridden down and captured Kenly
on the 23d in his attempt at escape; and that Steuart
would not obey, because he was under the immediate command of Ewell
, from whom he had received no orders.
What man of military fame would not blush at such an excuse?
It is with amazement that I, even now, recall that retreat from Winchester
Encumbered with baggage, a wearied, defeated, overworked, and desponding force plods on its foot-march for fifty-four miles to the Potomac
, receiving a constant fire of artillery in its rear for twenty-four miles, and is permitted to cross its material and its troops,
occupying in so doing until ten o'clock of the next day; and this without an attempt to waylay, to flank, or to surprise it with a cavalry force in numbers quite equal to if not exceeding one half of the whole of Banks
It was eleven o'clock at night when the last of our column reached the banks of the Potomac
, opposite Williamsport
Our men tumbled down upon the grass and slept until 2 A. M. of the 26th, when we were aroused to begin the passage of the river.
The scene before crossing seems to have struck General Banks 28
as “of the most animating and exciting description.”
“A thousand camp-fires,” he says, “were burning on the hillsides, a thousand carriages of every description were crowded on the banks; and the broad river rolled between the exhausted troops and their coveted rest.”
The appliances for crossing were most inadequate.
It was a mercy that Jackson
's unwilling cavalry and too tired infantry did not follow us up; it was a crime not to be forgiven that our passage of that river depended upon such contingencies.
For the passage of the “thousand carriages” (if there were a thousand) there was a single ferry, and over this the ammunition-wagons had precedence.
In the ford, too deep for safety, many hapless mules were drowned and many wagons lost.
Only a few strong animals got through.
Some of the pontoon-boats, luckily saved from the burning, were found in our wagons; and with these, the ferry, and the ford, some in one way and some in another, all got safely to land.
At midday of the 26th the last of our command had crossed, and there were “never more grateful hearts in the same number of men,” says Banks
“than when we stood on the opposite shore.”
I certainly can speak for one grateful heart, that of my colored woman Peggy
, who with her child I passed
among the first across the swollen river to a land of freedom.
Across the Potomac
Yes, we were again where, in July of the preceding year, we had made our march so gayly into Virginia
One more campaign was ended.
There was now left from Banks
's command on Virginia
soil a feeble rear-guard of four companies from the Second Massachusetts and Third Wisconsin of my brigade.
The purposes and plans that animated General Banks
during this retreat were revealed to the world on the 31st day of May, 1862 (six days after the events here narrated had occurred), in his official report.
In this paper I not only learned for the first time what his plans were (if he had any) at our conference in Winchester
, but I further found out that before three o'clock in the morning of the preceding day, the 24th, while at Strasburg
, he knew all about the “extraordinary force of the enemy,” and fully appreciated that “to attack him, he being in such overwhelming force, could only result in certain destruction,” and that “it was apparent that the enemy's troops, embracing at least 25,000 to 30,00 men, were close upon us.”
In corroboration of all this information and these appreciations on the 24th, Banks
had heard at Winchester
before daylight of the 25th all my statements in confirmation of his own opinions, had questioned my prisoner, and received from all classes,--secessionists, Union men, refugees, fugitives, and prisoners,--such an account of Jackson
's numbers, that (as he admits) his “suspense was relieved, for all agreed that the enemy's force at or near Winchester
was overwhelming, ranging from 25,000 to 30,000 men;” and yet with all this information, and the conclusions based on such incontrovertible testimony, he officially reported that then and there, at Winchester
, he “determined to test the substance and strength of the enemy by actual collision.”
Everything was confirmed at Winchester
that was known at Strasburg
of the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, and yet Banks
“determined to test by actual collision the substance and strength of the enemy;” to attack an enemy known to be “in such overwhelming force that our attack could only result in certain destruction” --to ourselves, With this conviction, upon his arrival at Winchester Banks
sent off his telegram to the War Department that he would return to Strasburg
the next day.30
In conclusion, I may say that it was not until the scenes of that march from Strasburg
had been carefully reviewed; not until the terrible fatigue, the heat and dust, the rack and roar of battle, the feared attacks of cavalry hovering around the long miles before us, the wide and dangerous river in our path, and the panic-stricken crowd of fugitives,not until these were over, could we fairly estimate the sum total of our achievements.
Between the 24th of May, at eleven o'clock, A. M., and near midnight of the 25th, my brigade had marched from Strasburg
, a distance of fifty-four miles. To this, two miles more should be added to the march of the Second Massachusetts, on its return from Bartonsville
, where we turned upon Jackson
Without sleep on the night of the 23d, the brigade marched the next day eighteen miles to Winchester
On the same day the Second Massachusetts not only marched farther than any other regiment of the brigade, but from three o'clock P. M., until two o'clock of the next day, it was engaged in an almost continuous skirmish with the enemy, holding back alone, in the most plucky manner, as narrated, the head of Jackson
's army, materially defeating his plans, and giving ample opportunity, which might have been availed of, to remove much Government property, that was destroyed or captured.
And on the 25th, after two hours rest, my brigade maintained its unequal contest for three hours against almost the whole of Jackson
In this, the principal share of the fighting in the infantry fell to the Second Massachusetts.
It was entirely due to this regiment that Jackson
was unable to, or at any rate did not, seize the crest of the hill from which he had driven our pickets, and render untenable the heights from which we at last fell back into the town.
After its three hours fight, my brigade marched thirty-six miles in about twelve hours.
's report, he admits that the Federal
forces, in falling back into the town of Winchester
, “preserved their organization remarkably well;” but affirms that “in passing through its streets they were thrown into confusion, and shortly after debouching upon the plain and turnpike to Martinsburg
, and after being fired upon by our artillery, they presented the aspect of a mass of disordered fugitives.”
“Never have I seen,” he adds, “an opportunity when it was in the power of cavalry to reap a richer harvest of the fruits of victory.”
Hoping that the cavalry would come up, Jackson
pursued the Federals
for two hours with artillery followed by infantry, and then as nothing was heard of the cavalry halted his troops,--his infantry being exhausted,--and went into camp.
It appears that the cavalry failed Jackson
because those of Ashby
's command had not yet been collected since they scattered for pillage and plunder of Banks
's wagons the day before; and those under Steuart
(the Second and Sixth Virginia cavalry regiments) were held inactive, while their commander wasted valuable time on a point of military etiquette before he yielded to an urgent order of Lieutenant Pendleton
's staff to follow the enemy, which afforded the Federal
army time to make such headway that it was “beyond,” as Jackson
declared, the reach of successful pursuit.
With what cavalry Ashby
could collect, he moved by way of Berryville
to Harper's Ferry
, halting at Halltown
, while Steuart
, passing the advance of the Confederate infantry an hour after it had halted, proceeded as far as Hainesville
, contenting himself with picking up a good many prisoners.31
It remains to consider our losses in this retreat,--first of men, second of material
, in his official report of losses on the 24th and 25th, gives as killed, 38; wounded, 155; missing, 711, -total, 904.
He thinks “the number killed and wounded may be larger than this, while many missing may return,” but that “the aggregate will not be changed.”
reported the loss in the Second Massachusetts Regiment on the 25th, as 7 killed and 28 wounded; among the latter were included two commissioned officers, Captain Mudge
and Second Lieutenant Crowninshield
He also reported 131 missing, “though many are coming in daily, who having been compelled to halt from exhaustion, after recovery found their way in by different routes.”
On the 24th, Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews
reported his total loss to have been 3 killed and 17 wounded. Banks
also reported that there were 189 men of Williams
's division sick in hospital at Strasburg
, and that 125 of them were left in the hospital at Winchester
, and 64 not removed from Strasburg
with two surgeons and attendants.
, Dr. Stone
of the Second was left in charge.
In addition to these surgeons, there were eight others who fell into the enemy's hands.
, when he marched for Fredericksburg
, left 1,000 sick and disabled men at Strasburg
says, “Surgeon King
, division surgeon, exhibits the disposition of them,” but does not say what it was.
Of material, Banks
makes the following statement: “All our guns were saved.
Our wagon-train consisted of nearly five hundred wagons, of which number fifty-five were lost.
They were not, with few exceptions, abandoned to the enemy, but were burned33
upon the road.
Nearly all of our supplies were thus saved.”
But the stores at Front Royal
, of which he “had no knowledge until” his visit to that post on the 21st inst., “and those at Winchester
, of which a considerable portion was destroyed by our troops,” are not embraced in this statement.
says, “A wagon-train eight miles long lost only fifty wagons, and we brought off all our artillery, losing only one caisson.”
The enemy's account of his captures is put with force: “The complete success of our efforts can never be known.
We have captured thousands of prisoners, killed and wounded hundreds more, seized miles of baggage-wagons, immense stores of every imaginable description, together with many cannon, thousands of small arms, ammunition by hundreds of tons, medicines, and public documents of value, thousands of shoes; and have burned millions of
property for want of transportation.”
Says another Southern writer, “Banks
had abandoned at Winchester
all his commissary and ordnance stores; he had left in our hands 4,000 prisoners, and stores amounting to millions of dollars.”
Our own papers reported our losses as very heavy.
This excited Banks
, who sent on the thirty-first of May, through the Associated Press
, from Williamsport
, a despatch that “Great regret and some indignation is felt here, that exaggerated and unauthorized and unfounded statements of losses of public property sustained by our retreat from Strasburg
have found publicity through papers at a distance.
At present the figures cannot be accurately ascertained; but the heaviest losses are known to be very light
compared with the amounts exposed to capture or abandonment by such a rapid retreat as it was necessary to perform.”
General Joseph E. Johnston
, in his order of May 29, 1862, announcing “another brilliant victory by the combined divisions of Major-Generals Jackson
, constituting a portion of this army,” over General Banks
at Front Royal
, and Winchester
, declares “that several thousands of prisoners 37
were captured, and an immense quantity of ammunition and stores of every description.”
Among other captures the enemy claimed to have taken a large amount of baggage at Cedar Creek
, with all the knapsacks of the Zouaves.
The original reports of this retreat, my own among the number, attributed many cold-blooded atrocities to the enemy.
In the excitement of such a retreat, and thus
early in the war, it was not strange that we put faith in improbable stories.
I have before me the account of one of the theatrical company, whom I met in flight at Strasburg
, which, so far as it goes, may correct the earlier reports.
He got safely to Winchester
, slept through the fight there, and was captured.
Taken for a Southerner, which he was by birth, he volunteered to drive Ashby
in an ambulance: Ashby
, it appears, was wounded at Front Royal
in the shoulder, and could not mount a horse.
Following in the rear of our retreating army amid cannonading and dust, he saw nothing of the reported cruelties, but upon one occasion was directed by Ashby
to see if one of our men lying by the road-side was alive.
He was of the Tenth Maine,--was dead.
“Carry him over into the adjoining field to prevent mutilation by animals,” was Ashby
It does not come within the scope of this narrative to follow the fortunes of the enemy under Stonewall Jackson
further than to say, generally, that for one week he held high carnival along the Potomac
He concentrated his troops in and around Charlestown
; he attempted with his infantry to ford the Potomac
two miles above the railroad bridge at Harper's Ferry
, and was driven back by our shells, fired from batteries established where we first pitched our encampment in July of 1861; he ascended Loudon Heights between the Shenandoah
and the Potomac
, but was driven off by our guns from across the river.
Information of the numbers of Stonewall Jackson
's forces given by observers during his occupation of towns between Winchester
, shows that we had not greatly exaggerated his strength.
Their lowest estimate placed the combined strength of the enemy at twenty thousand.39
In the pursuit of Shields
the battles of Cross Keyes
and Port Republic
, the march of Jackson
to unite with the Army of Virginia, we did not participate; therefore I leave them with no other allusion.
On the thirty-first of May, the enemy at Bunker Hill
, and Charlestown
was apprised that Fremont
from the west and McDowell
from the east were closing in upon his rear.
In one week after our fight at Winchester
, with his whole army, turned southward in flight.
The effect of our retreat upon the country was startling.
the people were aroused by a proclamation.
Hardly had “the thousand camp-fires” begun to glow around “the thousand carriages upon the banks of the Potomac
,” at eleven o'clock at night of the twenty-fifth of May, when Governor Andrew
penned the last words of a proclamation, calling upon Massachusetts
to rise once more for the rescue and defence of the capital.
The whole active militia of Massachusetts
was summoned to report on Boston Common “to-morrow,” from thence to “oppose with fiery zeal and courageous patriotism the march of the foe.”
The next day the public was again excited by an appeal41
from Major R. Morris Copeland
's adjutant-general, who happened to be in Boston
during the fight.
blamed the War Department for leaving Banks
“ The hands that hold the pen, the ruler, and the hammer were made in these days,” says Copeland
, “for better things.”
“Seize the musket and the sabre!”
But alas for Copeland
that he should have told the country to blame the Secretary of War
for our retreat; for this was given by the President
as one of the reasons 42
's hands, during the remainder of the war, held nothing more belligerent than “the pen, the ruler, and the hammer.”
In other States the excitement was scarcely less intense than in Massachusetts
New York sent her Eleventh Regiment of State Militia.
It arrived at Harper's Ferry
on the thirtieth of May; but the men refused to be sworn into the service of the United States
unless they could dictate terms, which were, that they should go to Washington
and be placed in a camp of instruction.
These being rejected by officers of the United States army, the whole regiment marched over to Sandy Hook
, where the troops slept upon it, with the result that eight companies took the oath, one asked for further time, and one started for home.
On the twenty-eighth of May, General Banks
thought it his duty to assign a full brigadier-general to the command of my brigade, and make the War Department responsible for the change.
For this he selected General Greene
one of the two supernumerary brigadiers who had
accompanied us from Strasburg
In his order General Banks
took especial care to speak in praise of the part taken by my brigade during the retreat.
On the thirty-first of May a paper was handed me by General Hatch
signed by all the officers of rank who were cognizant of or had participated in the events of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of May.
This paper, containing most flattering references to my brigade, was the more acceptable, as, without any knowledge whatever of it or its contents on my part, it was presented to me with all the names it now bears, save that of Crawford
, which was placed there afterwards.
But the feeling among the troops themselves, as indicating their opinion of the part taken by the Second Massachusetts Regiment, is of more worth in my eyes than any praise bestowed upon us by others.
The thirty-first of May found Mr. Dwight
, of Boston
, the brother of our captured major, at our camp, en route
to learn his brother's fate.
Colonel De Forrest
, then in command at Martinsburg
was ordered by General Hatch
to send with Mr. Dwight
an escort of ten men,--“men who can remember what they see of the enemy and his strength.”
“Let them move,” said the order, “with a white flag, twenty yards in advance of the main body, and waving the flag, wait to be recognized by the enemy's pickets.”
A telegram from the Secretary of War
, that my promotion from colonel to brigadier-general “could no longer be deferred,” was sent immediately after our arrival at Williamsport
to Governor Andrew
, of Massachusetts
This final act, connected with the days of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of May, requires explanation.
In July of 1861 it came to my knowledge that the congressional delegation from Massachusetts
had recommended my promotion to a brigadier-generalslip.
The President of the United States
in a personal interview informed me that the reason why he did not heed this recommendation was because “the Governor
of your State protests against it.”
, at the time of making this reply, held in his hand a paper, from which he assumed to read the protest.
On the 4th of June, 1862, Governor Andrew
, in acknowledging my application for two surgeons, and informing me that he has sent Doctors Heath
, adds, “Permit me in closing to congratulate you, Colonel
, upon your nomination for promotion to the rank of brigadiergeneral; and also upon the brilliant success achieved by the withdrawal of our forces, with so little loss, from the heart of the enemy's country and against a force so completely overwhelming.”
On the tenth of June General Banks
's corps recrossed
the river at Williamsport
, moved through Martinsburg
, over historic ground, and went into camp at Bartonsville
, where the Second had so ably arrested Jackson
's march in the night of the twenty-fourth of May.
On the twelfth of June, at Washington
, my commission as brigadier-general of volunteers was handed me, accompanied with an order from the Secretary of War
to “report immediately for duty to General Banks
, wherever he might be found;” and this proving to be at Winchester
, I arrived there the next night to learn from him that he could not remove the brigadier-general
commanding my brigade without a special order from the Secretary of War
The next day, therefore, I returned to Washington
, carrying with me on her way to her new home my negro woman Peggy
and her child.
Before I could purchase tickets for the woman, I was compelled to give a bond to save the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad harmless from any lawful claims that might be hereafter brought against it by the owner of this colored property.
I readily gave my bond, secured the tickets, placed the bewildered woman and child in charge of a faithful expressman, and soon heard of their safe arrival at the North
, where, since then, they have in prosperity continued.
On the eighteenth of June the Secretary of War
specifically assigned to me the command of my old brigade;49
and on the 22d, after a fruitless effort on the preceding day by rail, via Manassas
, to reach Front Royal
, to which place my command had moved from Bartonsville
, I shook the dust of Washington
from my feet, not to return to it again for two months, when, as part of a wrecked and broken army, we made our way across the Potomac
to fight under McClellan
, for the safety of Maryland
and the North
Before leaving Washington
, I enlightened the Committee
on the Conduct of the War
upon the subject of Union guards over enemy's property, upon which political soldiers were much exercised.