previous next

Chapter 9: General view of the campaigns of 1862.

The campaigns of 1861 had been but a prelude to the gigantic struggle which was to be witnessed in 1862. The prowess and superiority which the Confederates everywhere displayed, rudely awakened the people of the United States from their dreams of an easy conquest, and exasperated their pride and revenge. The Washington Government now resolved upon a new policy. This was, to raise armies so vast, and to add to their momentum by such deliberate preparation, as to overwhelm their gallant enemies by material weight. Under the industrious management of General McClellan, their levies reached, if they were to be believed, the enormous number of seven hundred thousand men; and it is probable that more than half a million were actually under arms, and drilling with the greatest care. Hitherto, the different campaigns had been detached, but in 1862 they assumed connexion with each other. The movements in Virginia were related to those in the Great West, and the brilliant events in the district commanded by General Jackson had a vital influence upon the campaign in Virginia.

In writing the military history of this great commander, two objects must be kept in view. One will be to explain the strategic grounds which support the propriety of his own movements: the other, to show the intimate connexion of his [288] successes with the fortunes of the war. Many persons have claimed his career as an illustration of the uselessness of the science of warfare, and an instance of success in defiance of it. They have conceived of him as a leader who discarded rules, and trusted only to his fortunate star, to rapidity of movements, and to hard blows. They suppose his victories were the results of his boldness only, with that inexplicable chance, which, to man's natural reason, appears good luck, and which a religious faith, like that of Jackson, terms Providence. But while the perpetual and essential influence of the divine power is asserted, which alone sustains the regular connexion of means with ends, it will be shown that these conceptions are erroneous; that General Jackson's campaigns were guided by the most profound and original applications of military science, as well as sustained by the vigor of their execution; and that they are an invaluable study for the leader of armies.

The reader has now reached the commencement of that wondrous campaign in the Valley of Virginia, which created his fame. Before the narrative is begun, it will not be unprofitable to pass in review the general theatre of the war, and the posture and advantages of the two parties. This survey, as well as the subsequent history, will involve the use of a few technical terms, whose definition may be helpful to the unprofessional reader. In accordance with the best usage the word Strategy will be employed to denote the art of giving the proper direction to the movements of an army upon the theatre of war. A Strategic Point is a place, which, from geographical or other reasons, secures for its occupant some advantage in strategic movements, and thence, some control over a part of the theatre of war. Thus, Manassa's Junction was an important strategic point for the Confederates in 1861, because the two railroads meeting there gave them the decisive advantage in all movements over [289] the territory through which they pass. So, an important fortress, a focus where many highways meet, a mountain defile constituting the main entrance to a region, may be such a point. The phrase General Tactics expresses the art of arraying and using an army successfully upon a field of battle; while special tactics is the drill which is taught to the single soldier, the company, or the battalion, in the several branches of infantry, cavalry, or artillery. A Base of Operations is that line, or series of neighboring points, in secure possession of an army, whence it sets out to assail its enemy, whence it continually draws its supplies and reinforcements, and to which it may retreat for safety. Its Line of Operations is the zone along which an army advances from its base toward the object of its attack; and its Line of Communications is but the same tract, usually, viewed in the inverted direction. It might appear from this definition, that an army's line of operations would be projected always at right angles to its base, or in a direction approximating this; but while this is often true, it is not necessarily so, and instances arise in which the most successful line of operations may be oblique, or even almost parallel to the base. Other terms which occur will now easily explain themselves to the attentive reader, without the formality of definitions.

The one decisive advantage, to which the North owes all its successes over the South, has been, not its larger territories, or population, or armies, or geographical position, but its superiority upon the water. And this is true, as will be made clear, notwithstanding that it has been chiefly a war upon land. At the division of the Union) the Government of Washington retained all the Federal Navy. Many of its States were maritime and manufacturing communities; while those of the South were chiefly agricultural; hence the multiplication of ships and sailors, from the river transport up to the man-of-war, was far more [290] rapid among them. This inequality was made more ruinous to the naval force of the South, by the further fact, that the initial superiority of the North excluded her rival from all foreign sources of supply, for equipping and manning ships. The result has been, that the Confederates have had no opportunity to cope with their invaders upon the water; and whereever an entrance was open to Federal ships, either upon sea or river, the former have been expelled.

It has also been the misfortune of the Confederate States, to have the hitherto unsettled question, whether shore-batteries can prevent the passage of ships of war, decided, in novel instances, of the most serious importance to them. When ships were only propelled by the winds, a motive power never so forcible as steam, save in tempests, variable, uncertain, liable to desert the mariner at the critical moment, and leaving him no option save that of moving in a direction somewhat conformed to its own, or else, of casting anchor, artillerists might well boast, that the stationary battery would usually destroy the vessel which challenged its fire. But our generation has witnessed the introduction of steam-ships of war, having a regular and unfailing motive power within themselves, propelling them irrespective of winds and tides, in any direction desired, and capable of a speed as safe and steady, at once, as that of the gentle breeze, and as rapid as the hurricane. When to these advantages is added the iron plating, which, if not impenetrable, at least delays the ruin of the ship's frame-work until after a series of blows, it becomes probable, that such a vessel of war might brave the bullets of shore-batteries, and pass them with impunity without silencing them. But the old authorities of the land service, confident in the former precedents, still declared that such batteries must ever be a secure protection against the entrance of ships of war into rivers and harbors; and it required the disastrous events of [291] Island No.10, of New Orleans, and at last, of Vicksburg, in each of which the batteries were passed, and thus rendered useless, without being silenced, to teach the Confederate Government this new fact in warfare.

Let it be remembered, then, that the oceans which bound two sides of the Confederate States, belong to their enemy, affording them a way of approach, cheap, speedy, and secure from assault. This fact renders the whole sea-shore, wherever harbor or inlets gave access to Federal ships,, a base of operations to their armies. It has made it all an exposed frontier, and brought the enemy upon it all, as though he had embraced its whole circumference with coterminous territories of his own. Popular readers may form to themselves some conception of the disastrous influence of this fact, by representing to themselves the inland kingdom of Bavaria, assailed at once on four sides, by Austria, Switzerland, and the German States, all united under a single hostile will. The similitude is unequal only in this, that the Confederate States have a larger area than Bavaria. The professional reader will comprehend our disadvantage more accurately, by considering that our enemies thus had two pairs of bases of operations, at right angles to each other; whence it resulted, that from whatever interior base a Confederate army might set out, to meet the invading force advancing from one of these sides, the Confederate line of operations must needs be exposed, at a greater or less distance, to a Federal advance from another base, threatening to strike it at right angles. And the cheap and rapid transit of large masses by water, from one line of operations to another, gave to the exterior lines all the advantages for concentration usually possessed by the interior.

But this was not the worst: the Confederate territories are penetrated in every part by navigable rivers, either opening into the sea, which is the territory of the Federal, or into his own frontiers. [292]

From the east and south, the Potomac, the Rappahannock, the James, the Roanoke, the Neuse, the Cape Fear, the Savannah, the Alabama, the Brazos, pierce the country from the sea, while the Mississippi, itself an inland sea, which floats the greatest men of war, passes out of the United States, through the middle of the Confederacy, to the Gulf of Mexico. The Tennessee and the Cumberland, with their mouths opening upon the Federal frontier, and navigable in winter for war-ships as well as transports, curve inward, deep into the heart of the southeastern quarter; and the Arkansas and Red Rivers open up the States west of the Mississippi. Now, the naval supremacy of the Federalists having been asserted upon all these streams, it is the least part of the evil, that their fertile borders have all been exposed to ravage, and the wealthy cities which grace them, have been wrested from the Confederates. The margins of all these rivers are thus made capable of becoming new bases of operations for invading armies, as secure as their own frontiers. The difficulties of distance, arising from the great extent of the Confederate territories, are reduced, and worst of all, no interior base remains to the Confederates, from which strategic operations can proceed in any direction, but that line is found parallel to some one of these bases of Federal operations; and so, exposed at no great distance, to their advance at right angles upon it. Or, if there is an exception, it is only found in the regions surrounding the Appalachian Range, in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, equally removed from the navigable waters of the Ohio, the Tennessee, and the Atlantic streams. And here, accordingly, the Confederates may be expected to make their most successful resistance, and the Federalists to find their accidental advantages lost, and their true obstacles beginning.

The true strategic difficulties of the Confederates, have ever [293] arisen more from their enemies' command of the water, than from their superior numbers. A review of the crowd of disasters with which the year 1862 opened, will be the best illustration of these reasonings.

The first of these was the battle of Mill Spring, or of Somerset, in the southeastern part of Kentucky; where the Confederates, at first victorious, were struck with discouragement by the death of their beloved commander Gen. Zollicoffer, and suffered a defeat. This insulated event was without consequence, save as it showed improved spirit and drill in the Federal soldiery. February 8th, a Federal fleet and army, entering Albemarle Sound in North Carolina, overpowered the feeble armament on land and water, by which the Confederates sought to defend Roanoke Island, the key to all the inland waters of the region. The enemy established himself there; and this naval success was one of the causes, which led to the evacuation of Norfolk at a later day; because it gave a base for offensive operations against the rear of its defences. The Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, to whom the defence of Kentucky and Tennessee was entrusted, had stationed his main force at Bowling Green, in Kentucky, a position in itself strong and well chosen. But his retention of it depended upon his closing the Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers, to the enemy; because the former ran parallel with his line of communications, and the two latter actually passed behind his rear. He attempted to close the Mississippi by batteries at Columbus, the Tennessee by Fort Henry, and the Cumberland by Fort Donelson. The first of these posts was supposed by friends and enemies, to be of adequate strength. But the second fell after a feeble defence, February 6th, and the third after a bloody and heroic resistance, February 15th. These events at once compelled the evacuation [294] of Columbus, on the Mississippi, because they gave the Federalists, on the margin of the two rivers now opened to them, a base of operations parallel to the line of communications which connected the Confederate army, at Columbus, with their base. The next defence was attempted at Island No.10, between that place and the city of Memphis. The Federalists, after an expensive and futile bombardment, made an essay to pass the batteries with their gunboats, without waiting to silence them; and being partially successful in this, compelled the evacuation of the post, which they could not reduce, by threatening the communications of the garrison. The necessary corollary was the fall of Memphis without a defence. There now remained for the Confederates, no practicable line of operations, in all West and Middle Tennessee: for the reason that the three streams, diverging from points near Cairo, the great naval depot of the Federalists, and open to their fleets, gave them bases of operations on all their banks, parallel to any line upon which the other party might move. The determination of Generals A. S. Johnston and Beauregard to transfer the campaign to the southern bank of the Tennessee, was therefore in strict conformity with military principle; although it required the loss of the Capital of the fine State of Tennessee, and two-thirds of its territory. The result of their wise strategy was the victory of Sbiloh, April 6th: yet even this was almost neutralized by the facility of concentration, which the naval resources of the enemy gave them. The selection of Corinth as the strategic point for the protection of the State of Mississippi was also correct: for it gave the command of the railroads diverging thence eastward and southward. But the advantage of river transportation for troops and munitions of war, to the neighborhood, speedily enabled the Federalists to assemble so enormous a preponderance of means in front of General Beauregard's position there, [295] as to compel his retreat to an interior point. Had he withstood this motive for retreat, another, still more controlling, would in time, have appeared: the Mississippi River, now open to the enemy to Vicksburg, offered them a base, parallel to General Beauregard's line of communications from Corinth with his rear; so that it was practicable to assail that line by advancing from the water.

The extravagant joy of the Federalists at the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson was generally ridiculed. It was said that the capture of two hastily-constructed earthworks, mounting a few cannon, was no exploit to justify the boastings of a great fleet and army, employed in their reduction. The results of these successes were far greater than their glory; and they spoke far more strongly against the providence of the Confederate rulers, than for the prowess of the Federal armies. The true gravity of the events was not in the fact, that the reduction of such works was a difficult or honorable task: but in the fact that the Confederates lacked either the wisdom or the means to interpose more stable defences in avenues of such vital importance to their campaign. It is now manifest, that the possession of the three rivers decided that of the theatre of war. It is not intended that the mere access to the margins of these streams, and the opportunity to use them as bases of operations on land, would have been enough, without a preponderance of military means to be employed thence; but that, without the advantage of these bases, even the great superiority of the Federal numbers would not have availed to give. them the campaign.

But the most fatal of all these advantages was the occupation of New Orleans. This success also resulted from the discovery, whose novelty was so unfortunate for the Confederate cause, that war steamers could pass batteries with impunity. After [296] the chief of the naval force had despaired of the reduction of the forts which guarded the approaches to the city, Commodore Farragut, April 24th, essayed, what was then esteemed the rash experiment of passing them by night, with perfect success. The rich and unarmed city then lay at his mercy; for the Confederates had no fleet adequate to resist his approach, and the surrender of the forts was thQ obvious sequel to the loss of that, which they were intended to protect. The Mississippi River was now open to the Federal navies through all its length, except the section embraced between the fortresses of Port Hudson and Vicksburg. Thus, their strategic advantages were extended indefinitely for operating in all the States on both sides of its waters. The greater success of the Federalists in their southwestern campaigns is explained by the position of these great rivers. When the advantage which they possessed in them is considered, the only wonder will be, that they did not accomplish more, with their vast military resources. Their failure to conquer the whole is only to be explained by their own timidity and feebleness in execution, coupled with the bravery and talent of the Confederates. It is no small glory to the latter, to have saved any part of their country from an enemy possessed of strategic advantages so deadly.

The policy which should have been adopted for defence by the Confederate Government, is also indicated by these events. They should have understood that there were four vital points, --the mouth of the Mississippi, its course at the western extremity of Kentucky, the mouth of the Tennessee, and the mouth of the Cumberland, to the defence of which every en, ergy should have been bent from the first day of the war. The loss of one of these, and especially of one of the last three, rendered nugatory the defence of the others; because the invading army, penetrating along the one stream which it had [297] opened, could base itself upon its banks, far in the rear of the forces defending the other two, and, by threatening their communications, compel their retreat. The obstacles placed upon all of them should, therefore, have been equally impregnable. It had been better to neglect anything else, and to suffer any incursions by land, than to fail in this. And since the recent introduction of steam into ships of war, with the earnest warnings of enlightened naval men, ought to have aroused at least a mistrust of shore-batteries, as a sufficient defence against ships, other and more certain means of resistance should have been provided at these essential points. To the construction of enough efficient war-ships to hold these four avenues, the energies of the Government and people should have been directed, at the earliest hour, with an activity akin to that of desperation. The Confederates then possessed the wealth, the skilled labor, and the material supplies, of Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, and Norfolk; by neglecting to expend a part early and wisely, they lost the whole of them.

At the place last named, the Confederates were employed during the winter, in one enterprise, which pointed in the right direction; the construction of the iron-clad steamer, Virginia. This powerful and unique ship, armed with the most formidable rifled cannon, was prepared for action early in March, and on the 8th of that month, attacked the Federal fleet in Hampton Roads, destroying three frigates and several gunboats, and putting the remainder to flight.

This brilliant action filled the people with delight, and the noble ship was accepted as a sufficient defence for the mouth of James River, against all the men-of-war which the Federalists could at that time bring against her. Her prowess showed that a few such vessels in the Mississippi might have saved the [298] disasters of the southwest, and the occupation of a third of its territory.

The disparity of the strength of the two parties was pointed out at the beginning of the war. The geographical position of the Confederate States, it has been now shown, rendered them yet weaker for a defensive war; but to this species of resistance they were shut up. At the beginning of the campaign of 1862, they had experienced a farther diminution of strength, in the virtual loss of Kentucky and Missouri. A few of the chivalrous citizens of these States, accepting banishment rather than subjugation, followed the fortunes of the Confederacy; but their territories, their revenues, and their wealth were now in the hands of the oppressors. The military events which induced this result need not be detailed here; for they would lead too far away from the proper subject — the Virginian campaign. After this loss, which occurred before the struggle reached its acme, the Confederates States had about eight and a half millions of people, including among them nearly all the Africans of the South, with whom to resist twenty millions. This statement declares, more forcibly than any eloquence of words, the heroic character of the defence which they have since made.

Comparisons of present with past events assist us to appreciate the merit of the latter, by the help of the estimate established for the former in history. Let the defence of the Southern Confederacy against the United States, be illustrated, for instance, by that of Spain, in the Peninsular War, against the designs of Napoleon, which were not unlike the aggressions of the Federals in iniquity. Spain then possessed about eleven millions of people, an army of one hundred and twenty-seven thousand men, and a navy superior to that of the United States, at the opening of this war. Her soil was open to the invader only at one quarter, for the sea which surrounds her was held [299] by the fleets of England, in conjunction with her own; and these reduced the navy of France to an absolute inactivity. Access to her wealthy colonies was open throughout the struggle, and no blockade obstructed the entrance of the British arms and supplies. On the other hand, the population of the. French Empire was double that of the Federal States, but the armies of the Emperor were not more numerous than those employed for our conquest. The vast difference against Napoleon was, that during the whole Spanish struggle, his strength was also tasked with gigantic wars elsewhere while the malice of the Federal has met no diversion from any other nation in its concentration upon the work of our destruction, and to his armies, equal to all the imperial legions, must be added the efforts of a great navy. Yet, with these relative means of aggression, Napoleon overran the whole territory of Spain, occupied her capital, and compelled her to a war of six years, in which she was seconded by the whole military power of Great Britain, to shake off his grasp. What, then, must have been the energy of the Southern character, as compared with the Spanish, or what the impotency of the Federal administration as compared with the French, to reduce the consequences of their invasion to so partial a limit, at the end of three years nf lavish expenditure and bloodshed?

The opening of the campaign of 1862 found the Federalists firmly seated upon the coast of South Carolina at Beaufort, and of North Carolina at Fort Macon, Newberne, and Roanoke Island. On the eastern borders of Virginia, they occupied Fortress Monroe, and Newport News, all the lower peninsula between the James and York Rivers, and the mouth of the Rappahannock. Near the ancient towns of Williamsburg and York, General Magruder, with a few thousand men, held their superior numbers at bay: and his guns maintained a precarious command [300] over the channels of the two rivers. Around Washington, swarmed “the Grand Army” of General McClellan, upon both banks of the Potomac; while its wings extended from the lower regions of the State of Maryland, to the Alleghanies. It was confronted by the army of General Joseph E. Johnston, with its right wing resting upon the Potomac to Evansport, and commanding the river by a formidable battery, its centre about Manassa's Junction, and its left at Winchester under General Jackson. This army was composed of volunteers enlisted for one year; and the hour when their term of service expired, was now fast approaching.

Neither State nor Confederate Government had yet adopted any permanent system for raising or recruiting armies. The Congress was just moving, under the impulse of threatening disasters, towards the adoption of a general conscription, which placed all the male white population, between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, in the military service.

But this law, while it promised ultimately to bring a multitude of new soldiers into the service, released a number of veterans, who were more than thirty-five years old. It moreover involved the reorganization of every regiment, by the election of new officers; a work which was in progress throughout the early months of the campaign. All the forces of the Confederacy, being volunteers, had claimed the republican privilege of election. The fruits of this vicious system of appointment were now becoming more painfully manifest; when to its other relaxations of authority were added the desire on the part of the officers to propitiate the favor of their soldiers by indulgence, in view of the approaching vote, and the disposition of other aspirants to oppose their pretensions to a re-election, by every species of cabal. The troops were chiefly raised by authority of the States: during the remainder of the war, they were to be [301] governed by that of the Confederacy. That power therefore proposed to introduce, along with their conscription, a uniform system for its armies. The 3rd of March, General Jackson, through a member of Congress from his Military District, urged the adoption of two principles: of which one was, that the right of electing should be arrested, save for the lowest rank of commissioned officers, third lieutenants: and that above that grade, all vacancies should be filled by promotion. The second was, that promotion should not be obtained by seniority, unless the applicant was approved by a Board of Examiners, whose rejection, when sanctioned by the Commander-in-Chief of a Department, should be final. Although the reorganization of the Virginia regiments, for the second year, was completed under laws of the State, without these wholesome regulations, they were soon after embodied in the laws of Congress. Their effect has been steadily to raise the efficiency of the officers, and thus, the discipline of the army. But during the first, and the greater part of the second campaign, the lack of competent and energetic officers for companies and regiments, was the bane of the service, and the constant grievance of the commanders. In many, there was neither an intelligent comprehension of their duties, nor zeal in their performance.

Appointed by the votes of their neighbors and friends, to lead them, they would neither exercise that rigidity in governing, nor that detailed care in providing for the wants of their men, which are necessary to keep soldiers efficient. The duties of the drill and the sentry-post were often negligently performed; and the most profuse waste of ammunition, and other military stores, was permitted. It was indeed seldom that these officers were guilty of cowardice upon the field of battle; but they were often in the wrong place, fighting as common soldiers, when they should have been directing others. Above all, was their inefficiency [302] marked by their inability to keep their men in the ranks “Absenteeism” grew under them to a monstrous evil; and while those who were animated by principle were bravely in their places on the day of action, every poltroon and laggard found a way to creep from the ranks. Indeed, it was no-rare thing to hear these leaders reason, that efforts to keep the latter class in their places were injudicious; because they would be of no use, if present Hence the frequent phenomenon, that regiments which, on the books of the commissary appeared as consumers of five hundred or a thousand rations, were reported as carrying into action two hundred and fifty, or three hundred bayonets. The thinness of these ranks must needs be repaired by the greater devotion and gallantry of the true men. They were compelled to take their own share of the bullets, and those of the cowards in addition: and thus, the blood which was shed in battle was almost exclusively that of the noblest and best, while the ignoble currents, in the veins of the base, were husbanded.

At the approach of the spring campaign, other causes, less discreditable, concurred to diminish the armies in Virginia. Furloughs were liberally given, in order to encourage the men to re-enlist with cheerfulness. A majority of the officers were at their homes, professedly engaged in collecting absentees, or in recruiting new men. The fevers of the previous autumn had decimated the most of the regiments. While, therefore, the diligence of the Federal Government was swelling the host of McClellan to two hundred and thirty thousand men, the command of General Johnston was absolutely diminished more than one half, when the season of activity arrived. It was manifest that he would be in no condition to cope with his adversary, in his present positions. His chief protection against a catastrophe had been, for some time, the condition of the roads, which [303] forbade campaigning. A winter and early spring of unprecedented rains had so softened the argillaceous soil of the Bull Run, that the two armies lay immovable, like two hostile ships fast grounded in a shoal of mud, a little too remote for combat. General McClellan was anxiously awaiting the first drying suns of March, to move his gigantic army forward to that triumph, for which he had been so assiduously preparing them for eight months; and General Johnston was watching for the same juncture, to retire to a more interior line of defence.

The goal of the Federal advance was, of course, to be Richmond; and to its capture, every movement was to converge. General McClellan was to drive back the left wing of the Confederate army at Winchester, by — the forces under Shields and Banks, to insulate and overpower the right wing resting on the Potomac at Evansport, and to surround and crush General Johnston at Manassas, or else to force him toward Richmond, and pursue him. The army on the Peninsula, setting out from Fortress Monroe, was to press back General Magruder, and assail the capital from the East. The forces in the Valley, having beaten General Jackson, were either to converge towards the rear of Manassa's Junction, by crossing the Blue Ridge, or else to march southwestward up that District, and at Staunton, meet a powerful force from the Northwest, which was preparing to advance from Wheeling, under General Fremont. Staunton was manifestly one of the most important strategic points in Central Virginia. It is situated on the Central Railroad, and at the intersection of the great Valley Turnpike (a paved road which extends from the Potomac continuously to the extremity of Southwestern Virginia). It is also the terminus of the Turnpike to Parkersburg, in Northwest Virginia, and the focus of a number of important highways. Its possession decided that of the whole interior of the State, and of another avenue, the Central Railroad, [304] leading to Richmond from its western side. As this road, on its way to the capital, passes by Gordonsville, the intersection of the Orange and Alexandria road, on which General Johnston now depended as his sole line of communications, its possession by the Federalists would at once endanger that line, and compel him to seek a position still more interior. Moreover, Eastern Virginia, south of Gordonsville, was the great tobacco-planting region, and consequently, yielded no large supplies for the capital or armies. The great central counties, to which Staunton was the key, were the granary of the Commonwealth. There was, then, little hope that the capital, with the large armies necessary for its defence, when thus insulated from its sources of supply, and open only to the south, would endure a very long investment. Considering these things, and remembering that if Staunton were surrendered, the concentration of General Banks' and General Fremont's columns there must inevitably occur, thus placing a third army of commanding strength far in the rear of General Johnston's left, and of his temporary base, General Jackson declared that the defence of the Valley was essential to the defence of Virginia. Geographically, it is the heart of the State. Its vast resources were essential to our strength; and if seized by the enemy, would enable them to deal deadly blows. If they seated themselves in force there, they could not be dislodged, save at great cost; because no favorable base and line of operations against them, would remain to the Confederates.

The retreat of General Johnston from Manassa's Junction implied that of General Jackson from Winchester, for reasons already explained (in Chap. VII.); and for the latter, no practicable line of operations would remain north of Front Royal and Strasbourg. These two villages, both on the line of the Manassa's Gap Railroad, marked the opening of the twin valleys, into [305] which the Masanuttin Mountains divide the Great Valley for fifty miles. The strategic question for General Jackson was, whether he should move to Front Royal, at the mouth of the Eastern Valley, or to Strasbourg, at the beginning of the Western, and on the great road leading to Staunton. At the beginning of March, this question was receiving careful discussion by letters between his Commander-in-Chief and him. The former advised that he should retire to Front Royal, and thence, up the south branch of the Shenandoah, because it was in the direction of his own intended retreat, and therefore upon convergent lines; because thus, the retreating wings would be prepared for a more rapid concentration than those of the invading army, and for a vigorous blow at each of them in turn: and because it was contrary to all sound discretion to allow the enemy to attain a point between the Manassa's Army and the Army of the Valley, from which he might act against them on interior lines. General Johnston accordingly enjoined on General Jackson, not to permit the Federalists to insinuate themselves between Winchester and the Blue Ridge. Had there been no armies on the theatre of war, save those of McClellan and Johnston, Banks and Jackson, these views would have been correct. But General Jackson declared his preference for a retreat up the main Valley, in the direction of Staunton. That place, he argued, would be the object of Banks's endeavors, rather than a junction with MOClellan in front of General Johnston; because, by approaching Staunton, he threatened General Edward Johnson's rear, and compelled his retreat without a blow; he thus opened the way for General Fremont's unobstructed advance, and effected a junction with him; and he placed himself, in redoubled force, so far in the rear of General Johnston's left, and so near his line of communications, as to necessitate his retiring without battle, and yielding to McClellan the vast and [306] precious circuit of country which has been described. For this reason, he said the main Valley must not be left open to General Banks. But unless the Confederates from Winchester moved so decisively towards the Blue Ridge, as to leave the road to Staunton undefended against him, they could not effect General Johnston's purpose, of converging on lines shorter and more concentric than those of the enemy's advance. Indeed, since a short march from Charlestown, by the way of Berryville and Milwood, would place General Banks at the fords of the Shenandoah, and on the main roads from Winchester to Manassa's, if that purpose were to be the dominant one, the Confederate army ought to move that very day, not towards Front Royal, but directly towards Manassa's. If such an object were in view as dictated the masterly strategy of July, 1861 [to make an immediate concentration, and fight a successful battle for the retention of Manassa's Junction], then this would be the proper movement; but in no other case. On the other hand, he declared that he did not believe General Banks could cross the Blue Ridge, to bear upon General Johnston, while he remained in the Valley near him, acting upon the line of communications with Staunton, and continually threatening his right. General Jackson therefore desired to be permitted to retire to Strasbourg; but he closed his manly argument with the assurance, that he should promptly and cheerfully obey the wishes of his Commander-in-Chief, whatever they might be. General Johnston conceded to him the exercise of his own discretion; and he made preparations to retreat, when it became necessary, up the Valley, by sending his stores and sick to Mount Jackson, forty-five miles above Winchester. It will appear how far events confirmed his speculations.

To a friend in the Confederate Congress, General Jackson thus disclosed his own wishes. Speaking of the Valley of Virginia, [307] he says:--

What I desire is, to hold the country as far as practicable, until we are in a condition to advance; and then, with God's blessing, let us make thorough work of it. But let us start right ...

In regard to your question as to how many troops I need, you will probably be able to form some idea, when I tell you that Banks, who commands about 35,000 has his Headquarters in Charlestown, and that Kelly, who has succeeded Lander, has probably 11,000, with his Headquarters near Paw Paw. Thus you see two Generals, whose united force is near 46,000, of troops already organized for three years or the war, opposed to our little force here; but I do not feel discouraged. Let me have what force you can. McClellan, as I learn, was at Charlestown on Friday last: there may be something significant in this. You observe then, the impossibility of saying how many troops I will require, since it is impossible for me to know how many will invade us. I am delighted to hear you say Virginia is resolved to consecrate all her resources, if necessary, to the defence of herself Now we may look for war in earnest.

You ask me for a letter respecting the Valley. I am well satisfied. that you can say much more about it than I can, and in much more forcible terms. I have only to say this; that if this Valley is lost, Virginia is lost.

Very truly, your friend, T. J. Jackson.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Virginia (Virginia, United States) (12)
United States (United States) (8)
Staunton, Va. (Virginia, United States) (8)
Winchester, Va. (Virginia, United States) (7)
Kentucky (Kentucky, United States) (5)
Tennessee River (United States) (4)
Mississippi (United States) (4)
Front Royal (Virginia, United States) (4)
Vicksburg (Mississippi, United States) (3)
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (3)
Strasburg (Ohio, United States) (3)
Columbus, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (3)
Charles Town (West Virginia, United States) (3)
Washington (United States) (2)
Roanoke Island (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Richmond (Virginia, United States) (2)
North Carolina (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Norfolk (Virginia, United States) (2)
Manassa (Colorado, United States) (2)
Island Number Ten (Missouri, United States) (2)
Gordonsville (Virginia, United States) (2)
Fortress Monroe (Virginia, United States) (2)
Fort Henry (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Fort Donelson (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Evansport (Ohio, United States) (2)
England (United Kingdom) (2)
Cumberland River (Kentucky, United States) (2)
Bavaria (Bavaria, Germany) (2)
Alexandria (Virginia, United States) (2)
York (Virginia, United States) (1)
Williamsburg (Virginia, United States) (1)
Wheeling, W. Va. (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Switzerland (Switzerland) (1)
South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Somerset, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Rappahannock (Virginia, United States) (1)
Providence, R. I. (Rhode Island, United States) (1)
Port Hudson (Louisiana, United States) (1)
Paw Paw, Michigan (Michigan, United States) (1)
Parkersburg (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Orange Court House (Virginia, United States) (1)
New Bern (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Mount Jackson (Virginia, United States) (1)
Missouri (Missouri, United States) (1)
Mississippi (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Milwood (Missouri, United States) (1)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (1)
Manassas, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Hampton Roads (Virginia, United States) (1)
Gulf of Mexico (1)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (1)
France (France) (1)
Fort Macon (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Edgefield (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Cairo, Ill. (Illinois, United States) (1)
Bowling Green (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Bluff Point (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Berryville (Virginia, United States) (1)
Beaufort, S. C. (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Austria (Austria) (1)
Arkansas (United States) (1)
Alleghany Mountains (United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1862 AD (6)
March (3)
1861 AD (2)
July, 1861 AD (1)
April 24th (1)
April 6th (1)
March 3rd (1)
February 15th (1)
February 8th (1)
February 6th (1)
8th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: