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Chapter 10: Kernstown.

By the 11th of March, 1862, General Jackson had removed all his sick and supplies to Mount Jackson, and had gathered in all his troops from the outposts to Winchester. He now had only the First, Second, and Third Virginia Brigades, the last containing two small regiments, Colonel Ashby's regiment of horse, and six batteries of field artillery. On that day, General Banks approached within four miles of Winchester, on the north, and General Jackson went out and offered him battle. This challenge Banks declined, although his force present on the field was fourfold, and preferred to await the arrival of General Shields with his reserves. The Confederates, therefore, returned in the evening to their camp around the town, and General Jackson assembled the commander and colonels of the Stonewall Brigade, as a council of war, to lay before them a daring project which he had conceived. While he was awaiting them, he went to take his supper with the hospitable family whose board he frequented, and appeared in their parlor with his military cloak, spurs, sword, and haversack. His spirits were unusually bright and genial, and his countenance glowed with animation. His friends, on the contrary, were oppressed with gloom; for they could not but see that the movement of stores to the rear, which had been go complete, portended the evacuation of Winchester, and their surrender to the hated oppressions of the [309] enemy. To the inquiries of the ladies, he replied by a polite evasion, while he evidently sought to relieve their apprehensions. According to the usage of the family, the domestic devotions were to follow the meal; but the master, presuming that General Jackson must be too busy on this occasion to be delayed by them, paused to give him an opportunity to retire. He, however, requested the privilege of joining in them. At their close, he arose, asked that a lunch be placed in his haversack, and went away with a cheerful good evening,--merely saying that he hoped to dine with them on the morrow as usual. His friends, re-assured by his air, and by their implicit confidence in his prowess, went out to make a call. In an hour, the General returned, with a rapid stride, and gave the door-bell an energetic ring. Upon learning that the family were out, he left with the servants a request that their master should repair to his Headquarters immediately after his return; and they said that he looked anxious and hurried. His friend hastened down to his office, and found him prepared for mounting, striding across the room with rapid steps, and depressed with an inexpressible weight of sadness. General Jackson then explained that it was his plan to march the army back by night, after allowing them time to refresh themselves, to General Banks's front, and, having made his dispositions in profound silence, to begin a fierce attack upon him at the “small hours” of the morning. General Shields had not yet come within a supporting distance; but by the next day he would be united with his commanding general, and the odds would then be so enormous that it would be madness to resist them. General Banks had an army of new and unsteady troops, half intimidated by the fame and valor of the Confederates, while the latter were animated by a towering enthusiasm and confidence. He believed that the darkness, the suddenness and fury of his attack, the lack of experience in [310] evolutions among the Federalists, would throw them into confusion; and, by the vigorous use of the bayonet, and the blessing of the Providence in which he trusted, he should inflict upon them a great overthrow. He was exceedingly loath to leave the gallant, loyal, and generous town, with all the fine country around it, to their ruthless sway, without a struggle. But when he consulted his officers, he found them too reluctant, to permit him to hope for a successful execution of his plan. They argued that the troops had already marched ten miles to and fro that day, and the night attack would require a farther journey of six miles, after which they would reach the scene of action too much wearied to effect anything; and that there was at least a probability of an advance of the enemy from Berryville; which would place them, at the critical moment, upon the right and rear of the Confederates.

As he detailed these facts, General Jackson paced his floor in painful indecision, and repeated an expression of his bitter reluctance to leave Winchester without one brave stroke for its defence. Then passing full before the candles, he lifted up his face with a look of lofty determination, and his hand convulsively grasped the hilt of his sword, while he slowly hissed through his clenched teeth words to this effect: “But-Let me think-may I not execute my purpose still?” As he uttered this, his eye burned with a fire before which his friend, who had never seen the light of battle in his face, confessed he could not but tremble. Then releasing his sword, he dropped his head, and said, “No: I must not do it: it may cost the lives of too many brave men. I must retreat, and wait for a better time.” The air of grief again possessed him, and he proposed to return to his friend's dwelling, to take leave of his family. He bade them a sad farewell, but said he hoped a good Providence would enable him soon to return, and bring them deliverance. The next morning, [311] at dawn of day, the Confederate army left Winchester for Strasbourg, and at 9 o'clock, A. M., the column of General Banks began cautiously to enter it. As they approached, Colonel Ashby slowly withdrew his troopers into the streets, and then through the town, while he remained the last man, and sat quietly upon his horse, until the enemy had approached within a short distance; when he gave his defiant shout, and galloped away. The Federalists found not a single prisoner, horse, musket, or wagon, to enrich their conquest. The citizens of Winchester, who, saw their nervous timidity at the thought of Stonewall Jackson's proximity, and their ignorance of his real numbers, were convinced that, had the night attack been made, they would have been utterly routed. General Shields's troops were so far in the rear, that they did not begin to arrive until 2 o'clock, P. M., and it is therefore manifest that the affair would have been decided, before they reached the scene of action. But the panic among their friends would not have been slow to propagate itself among them.

General Jackson wished, after once surrendering the lower Valley, to draw the enemy farther into the country, and thus both to relieve General Johnston of their pressure, and to diminish the numbers with whom he would be required to deal in his front. After marching to Strasbourg, twenty miles above Winchester, the 12th of March, he retreated slowly to the neighborhood of Mt. Jackson, reaching it the 17th. There he received a despatch from General Johnston, dated March 19th, stating that it was most desirable the enemy's force in the Valley should be detained there, and prevented from reinforcing General McClellan. To effect this, he requested General Jackson to return nearer the enemy, and remain in as threatening attitude as was practicable without compromising the safety of his army. The was completing that hazardous retreat [312] from Manassa's Junction to the south side of the Rappahannock, begun March 10th, by which he so skilfully delivered his army, and its whole materiel, from the jaws of his powerful enemy. McClellan was also endeavoring to envelop him with his multitudinous hordes, and, to this end, was just drawing a number of regiments from the army of Banks, to aid in turning General Johnston's left. They had already begun their march, and were preparing to cross the Blue Ridge at Snicker's Gap, while their General, regarding Jackson as a fugitive whom it was vain to pursue, had returned to Washington to boast of his bloodless conquest, leaving the remainder of his army in charge of General Shields. Upon receiving the orders of his Commander-in-Chief, the Confederate General prepared for a rapid return towards Winchester. Leaving the neighborhood of Mount Jackson, March 22d, he marched that day to Strasbourg, twentysix miles; while Colonel Ashby, with his cavalry and a light battery of three guns, advanced before him, and drove the enemy's outposts into Winchester. The rapidity of this movement took them by surprise. The troops which remained with General Shields were encamped below the town, and Ashby found only a feeble force in his front. With these he skirmished actively and successfully; and, in the combat, an exploding shell from one of his guns broke the arm of the Federal Commander. So audacious was Ashby's pursuit, that his scouts privately penetrated the town of Winchester, and communicated with the citizens. The latter, knowing that many regiments had been sent towards Manassa's, by Snicker's Gap, and seeing very few remaining near the town, assisted to confirm him in the impression of the paucity of the enemy's numbers. He accordingly sent back to General Jackson the assurance that there were but four regiments of infantry occupying Winchester, and that they were preparing to return to Harper's Ferry: which [313] encouraged him, in turn, to push forward his whole force on the morning of the 23d. But the alarmed enemy had advanced all the forces encamped below the town, and had sent couriers to recall all those which were on their march towards Manassa's. When the General, therefore, reached Barton's Mills, five miles from the town, at noon of that day, he found Ashby pressed back to the highlands south of Kernstown, and confronted by considerable masses of the enemy.

It was the Sabbath day; and if there was one principle of General Jackson's religion, which was more stringent than the others, it was his reverence for its sanctity. He had yielded to the demands of military necessity, so far as to march on the sacred morning, that he might not lose the advantages which opportunity seemed to place within his reach; but now a more inexorable necessity was upon him. It was manifest that Colonel Ashby had been deceived in his estimate of the force opposed to him; and Jackson had reason to anticipate that General Johnston's desire to have the powerful army of Banks recalled, was fulfilled too efficaciously for his own safety. The region about him, and in his rear, was a beautiful champaign, swelling with gentle hills: and on that side of Cedar Creek, twelve miles behind him, there was no defensible position against superior masses. The whole country was practicable for the manoeuvres of cavalry and artillery. To delay, therefore, was to incur the hazard of being enclosed in the overwhelming numbers of the enemy: already it was doubtful whether a prompt retreat would be safely concluded. General Jackson's resolution was therefore immediately taken, to assail the enemy on the spot, and win, if not a decisive victory, at least the privilege of an unmolested retreat, before the preponderance against him became more alarming than it already was. In the force with which he proposed to attack them, more than half the commissioned officers [314] were absent, either on furloughs or recruiting service; for a few days before, it was supposed that the cessation of the enemy's pursuit would allow a period of quiet, to be devoted to the needed work of reorganization. Many of the men were also at their homes; so that after deducting the stragglers lurking with the baggage train, the foot-sore, whom the rapid march had left behind, and a regiment detained to guard the equipage, there were but two thousand seven hundred of the little army left, to meet the enemy.

The great road crossing the Opequon Creek, a quiet mill stream, five miles from Winchester, proceeds thither over a series of long and gentle slopes, through a country smiling with fertility, and almost denuded of its forests. Two miles from the Opequon, after surmounting a moderate ridge, it reaches Kernstown, a hamlet of a dozen houses, seated in the midst of meadows, three miles from Winchester. All the vicinity was divided into farms, by stone fences, which also lined the highway continuously. Here, there was nothing in the nature of the ground to offer advantage to the smaller force. A mile to the left, or west of the Turnpike, is a country road, which also crosses the Opequon, and passing through gently undulating farms, converges towards Winchester, in such a direction as to meet the main thoroughfare at the nearer side of the town. And west of this country road, there is an elevated ridge parallel to it, terminated at its rear, or southwestern end, by the Opequon, which curves around it. This range of hills, after running forward for two miles towards the town, sinks into the plain. Although elevated enough to command the whole neighborhood, it is not craggy, but so rounded, as to permit the ascent of artillery; and it is clothed with forests, with a few small fields interspersed, and notched by successive depressions, which descend into ravines between the lateral spurs of the hill. West of this ridge is another vale, [315] filled with meadows and farm-houses, among which the ascending course of the stream threads its way parallel to tie main crest. The larger part of the fields here, likewise, were enclosed by: fences of limestone, which, rising to the height of four feet, offered a very adequate breastwork against the fire of musketry. A mile west of the region last described, still another road passes in the direction of Winchester, called the Cedar Creek Turnpike. This route manifestly gave the enemy access to the left and rear of the Confederates.

General Jackson's plan was to contest the wooded ridge with the enemy; for upon it rested their right flank, and its heights gave their artillery commanding positions whence they could sweep all the champaign between it and the great road. With their wings thus supported, the one by the hills, and the other upon Kernstown, and their centre strengthened with fourfold numbers of infantry and artillery, an attack in front gave no promise of success. The only hopeful project for the inferior force taking the aggressive, was, to amuse the enemy's centre and left, while the main body availed itself of the covert and strength of the same heights, which were occupied at their northern end by them, and to direct the whole weight of the assault against their right. The obvious mode for effecting this would have appeared to be to ascend the ridge at its southwestern end, and thus proceed along its crest; but such a movement was forbidden by an extensive pond, formed on the Opequon for feeding a mill, whose waters embraced that extremity of the hill. General Jackson was compelled, therefore, to march his infantry and artillery obliquely from the great road to the hills, under a hot cannonade from the enemy, without the ability to return his fire at that time. But the movement was effected without loss, and without confusion. About 4 o'clock in the afternoon, the following dispositions were completed. On his [316] extreme right, which rested upon the turnpike in front of Kernstown, he posted Colonel Ashby, with his battery of three guns, all his cavalry, except four companies detached for the left, and four companies of infantry from the Stonewall Brigade. These were ordered to occupy the attention of the enemy's left by a constant cannonade, and to press them as opportunity might permit. Next to the turnpike was placed the 5th Virginia regiment, to hold a mile of space, and to watch the enemy's centre. Effective resistance from so small a force was, of course, not to be expected; but General Jackson relied upon his artillery, commanding the country along which they must advance if they assumed the aggressive from the centre, and yet more upon the engrossing occupation which he expected to give them upon their right wing, to hold that part of their army in check. Nor was he disappointed of this hope. His main line of battle was finally formed, with no small interval between it and the regiment last named, obliquely across the wooded ridge, with his left advanced. Next the right were the 42d and 21st regiments of Virginia Volunteers, and the 1st battalion of Virginia Regulars, composing the 2d brigade, under the command of Colonel Burks. Next to these on the left, was the Stonewall Brigade, with the 2d regiment on its light, and then the 33d, the 27th, and the 4th. The left of the infantry line was composed of the two regiments of the 3d brigade, the 37th and 23d, under the command of Colonel Fulkerson. These occupied the farther, or western, side of the ridge. Beyond the meadows which lay at its base, four companies of cavalry were stationed on a hill which overlooks the country to the Cedar Creek turnpike, to check the insults of the enemy's horse. The batteries were posted in the centre in front of the Stonewall Brigade; for their line passed across the higher grounds, most suitable for the position of artillery. [317]

Thus disposed, the little army advanced against the enemy, with its left continually thrown forward, through the alternate woods and fields which covered the sides and crest of the highlands. After a spirited cannonade, by which/several batteries of the enemy were silenced, the infantry engaged with inexpressible fury, at close quarters, the 27th regiment leading off. In some places, the lines were advanced within twenty paces, partially shielded from each other by the abrupt little ravines, where the Confederates, lying upon their breasts behind the protuberances of the ground, or retiring a few steps into the hollow places to reload, held their enemies at bay by their scathing discharges. As regiment after regiment came into position, their heroic General led them into the hottest of the fire; and wherever the line wavered under overwhelming numbers, he was present, to cheer the fainting men, and bring up the reinforcements. But he had no reserves, save the 5th Virginia, which was speedily released from its first position by the inactivity of the enemy in that quarter, and the 48th, left as a baggage guard. Only the former of these came up in time to share in the action, and was introduced to reinforce the 2d brigade between the 42d and 21st, where it bore its full share of the glories and dangers of the combat. On the Federal side, the superior numbers enabled them perpetually to bring up fresh troops. As one regiment recoiled, reeling and panicstruck, it was replaced again and again by another; and the officers, secure of victory from their preponderating force, were seen riding madly behind the wavering lines, goading their men to the work with the sabre. The Confederates, on the other hand, having no succors,. fought until they exhausted their ammunition. As the men fired their last cartridge, their officers allowed them to go to the rear; and after a time, the thinned lines presented no adequate resistance to the fresh crowds of [318] enemies. Near nightfall, General Richard B. Garnett, cor manding the Stonewall Brigade, in the centre, seeing his fire dying away for lack of ammunition, and his line pierced on his right, assumed the responsibility of authorizing a retreat of his command, without orders from General Jackson; and nothing now remained, but to protect the movement from more serious disaster.

Where every regiment fought with steady heroism, and none retired until they had fired the last round from their cartridgeboxes, detailed exploits can scarcely be singled out, without injustice to the men passed over in silence. But a few particulars, in which the actors possessed, not more courage, but more opportunity, should be described, as having a decisive influence on the battle. On the right, Colonel Ashby cannonaded the enemy continually with his three guns, with such audacity, as to win ground all the day from their multitudes. They advanced their infantry through a tract of woodland, to seize his pieces; when his four infantry companies, thrown forward as skirmishers, scoured the forest with enthusiastic courage, and repulsed the attacking party, until the artillery was again posted in a more secure position. Later in the day, this daring leader executed a cavalry charge against the extreme left of the Federalists, drove their first line back upon their reserves, and captured a few prisoners. In that quarter, they advanced no more during the day. Upon the left, where the advance was first confided to the 27th and 21st regiments, supported by Colonel Fulkerson, and Carpenter's and McLauchlin's batteries, the guns were advanced with great spirit under the eye of General Jackson, delivering an effective fire towards the right and front. The infantry engagement was opened by the 27th, seconded by the 21st; and these two regiments sustained the whole brunt of the fire with unsurpassed heroism, until Colonel [319] Fulkerson passed to their left, and the remainder of the Stonewall Brigade came up. Twice they routed their assailants in quick succession, and held the Federalist army in check while the line of battle was completed. In the centre, the 5th and 42nd regiments, with the batteries of McLauchlin and Carpenter, were the last upon the field. While the enemy pressed up to close quarters, and shot down the horses and gunners at the pieces, the latter replied with murderous discharges of canister shot, at the distance of a hundred paces. This determined resistance saved the batteries, with the exception of two guns, of which one was disabled, and the other entangled in a fence, and of four caissons, whose horses were slaughtered. On the left, Colonel Fulkerson, upon becoming warmly engaged, perceived between him and the enemy, a long stone fence, to which each party was advancing, intending to employ it as a breastwork against the other. The boldness of the Confederates secured them that advantage. Reaching the covert a moment in advance of the enemy, they fell upon their knees, and delivered a volley so withering, that the whole line before them seemed to sink into the earth. The larger part of the Federalists were indeed killed or wounded by that unerring fire; and the remainder, to escape instant death, prostrated themselves, and attempted to crawl to the rear. But in this endeavor, nearly all perished; the mountain riflemen picked them off with deadly aim, before they reached the shelter of the wood. The regiment thus annihilated was said to be the 5th Ohio. A New York regiment, coming to their aid, escaped with a fate little less terrible; for when they sheltered themselves behind another stone fence running to that occupied by Colonel Fulkerson at right angles, and endeavored to fusillade the Confederates from its shelter, that skilful commander moved a part of his line down, along his own defence, to a point below the juncture of [320] the two walls, whence he delivered an enfilading fire upon the exposed rear of the astonished Federalists. But finding the centre of the Confederate line broken, at nightfall he retired in good order, bringing off his two little regiments in safety. The four companies of cavalry upon the extreme left had been instructed by General Jackson to hold themselves prepared to charge the enemy should he retreat, or to protect the Confederate infantry, should it be forced to that alternative. They now rendered good service, by holding in check, and ultimately putting to flight, the Federal cavalry, which had made a circuit by the Cedar Creek turnpike, and sought to interrupt the retreat of their friends. But on the eastern side of the Opequon, a number of the fugitives found themselves enclosed, at dark, between the mill-pond and the enemy, and were thus captured.

The infantry retreated a few miles to the neighborhood of Newtown, while the cavalry of Colonel Ashby took its station at Barton's Mills, a mile in the rear of the field of combat, and held the enemy in check until 10 o'clock of the next morning.

General Jackson himself, begging a morsel of food at the bivouac fire of the soldiers, lay down in the field, to snatch a few hours' repose, a little in the rear of his outposts.

Such was the battle of Kernstown,--in which twenty-seven hundred Confederates, with eighteen guns, attacked eleven thousand Federalists, and almost wrested the victory from their hands. For General Jackson estimated their force actually engaged at that number, besides heavy reserves upon their left which were not brought into action. The next morning, while remarking upon the struggle, he said: “Had I been able to bring up two thousand more men, I should have beaten them.” The officer to whom he spoke replied by referring to the dense masses of unbroken infantry hanging behind Kernstown, and expressed the opinion that any success won by so small a force [321] must have been unavailing, because these reserves, by threatening his right, would have compelled him to arrest his career. Jackson answered: “No; if I had put the men engaged to flight, they would all have gone together.” The troops marshalled against him were unquestionably the best in the Federal army, composed chiefly of hardy Western men, habituated from childhood to field sports and the use of fire-arms; and while those who have a visible odds of four to one upon their side deserve but little credit for their boldness, and would have no excuse for their panic, the perseverance with which the Federal regiments brought their weight of numbers to bear against the Confederates, notwithstanding bloody losses, is some testimony to their manhood. General Jackson's loss was eighty killed outright, three hundred and seventy-seven wounded, and two hundred and sixty captured,--making a total of seven hundred and seventeen, or more than one fourth of the whole force engaged. The loss of the enemy was never divulged; but there are reasons for believing that it was nearly quadruple that of the patriots. Their officers reported their killed as four hundred and eighteen. The loyal citizens of Winchester were permitted to perform the last offices to the Confederate dead upon the field of battle; and, as they collected the glorious remains, they had an opportunity to observe that the slain invaders lay four times as thick. Hundreds of corpses were sent by railroad to their northern friends for interment, and many more must have remained, unhonored and forgotten, to find their common tomb in the pits of the battlefield. The generous women of Winchester demanded and obtained leave to carry their ministrations of love to the Confederate wounded in the hospitals of the enemy,--for many of the captives were also wounded,--and thus they were enabled to estimate the numbers of disabled men belonging to the other party. The unfortunate 5th Ohio, in particular, filled hundreds [322] of cots with its wounded. From the testimony of these witnesses, it is believed that as many men were disabled by Jackson in the enemy's ranks as he had soldiers in his own. Their greater loss is to be accounted for by his skill in handling his forces, by the superior accuracy of the Virginians' aim, by their discipline and deliberate courage, and by the density of tile enemy's ranks, which hardly permitted a well-directed shot to miss its object.

This was the first pitched battle in which General Jackson had supreme command, and it was fought exclusively by Virginians, except that a few Marylanders participated in its dangers. Its effect was to raise the estimate of the prowess both of soldiers and leader to an exalted height; and from this day, the great qualities of the Virginian soldiery, depreciated at first by their own Southern brethren, but illustrated and redeemed at Manassa's, have shone forth unquestioned by all. Kernstown has remained, among the many more bloody days, when greater hosts pursued the work of slaughter in this sanguinary war, a name expressive of the sternest fighting, to the Confederates, to spectators, and to the Federalists. The soldiers of the old Jackson division, when describing the horrors of some subsequent struggle, are wont to say that it almost reminded them of Kernstown. The peaceful citizens of Winclester, who have met the strange fate of having their ears grow more familiar with the sounds of battle than those of many a veteran, still declare that none of the tempests of war which have howled around their devoted town raged like that of Kernstown, with cannonade so fast and furious, and such reverberating roars of musketry. The Federal soldiery, after timidly pursuing the Confederates the next day for a few miles, returned to their quarters, with no triumph upon their tongues, or in their countenances. Their commander, with the usual [323] gasconade of the Federal Generals, claimed a brilliant victory; but his boasts awoke no answering enthusiasm among his followers. The deadly energy of Jackson's blows filled them with gloom and dread, as they asked themselves, what was the task which they had undertaken, in seeking to conquer this people in their consolidated strength, whose resistance, in their weakness and disorganization, was so terrible. To this sombre impression, the spirit of the captives and the oppressed people contributed no little. The former, as they passed through the streets to their prisons, were joyous and defiant, the sympathies of the patriotic multitude converted their progress rather into an ovation than a defeat, and they rent the air with shouts for their country and General, which their gloomy captors, durst not suppress. The very scenes upon the field of blood, harrowing as they were, intimidated the Federal spectators. The regiments which suffered most in Jackson's command, were raised in the lower Valley, and in the town itself. As soon as the permission was given to the Mayor and citizens, to bury the dead of their defenders, they flocked thither upon this errand of grief and mercy. The cultivated and accomplished female, the minister of religion, the tottering grandfather, were seen together, in all the abandon of their anguish, running to and fro, pouring water into the parched lips of the wounded, composing the convulsed limbs of the slain into decency, and looking eagerly into every begrimed and haggard face of dead or dying to recognize a son, a husband, or a brother. Yet, amidst all these horrors, the very women were as determined as the brave men whose fate they bewailed, and arose from beside the corpses whose discovery had just informed them of their bereavement, to declare to their invaders that none of these miseries, nor death itself, should bend their souls to submission. Yet these same women, with a generosity equal to their heroism, [324] divided their cares and gifts between wounded friends and foes in the hospitals where they languished together.

General Jackson had directed his wounded to be gathered at the village of Middletown, eight miles above the field of battle. Intending to retreat to a strong position above Cedar Creek, and there stand on the defensive, he had instructed his Medical Director to collect every vehicle which was available, and send the sufferers to the rear, before the army retired. The morning was approaching, and that officer, after working all the night at the humane task, and employing every carriage which he could procure, found a large number of wounded awaiting removal still. On meeting the General, he informed him of this, and added that he knew not where the transportation was to be obtained, and that unless some expedient were discovered these brave men must be left to the enemy. General Jackson ordered him to have the necessary vehicles impressed from the people of the vicinage. “But,” said the surgeon, “that requires time; can you stay to protect us?” “Make yourself easy,” said Jackson, “about that. This army stays here till the last wounded man is removed.” And then, with a glow of passion suffusing his face, he cried; “Before I will leave them to the enemy, I will lose many men more.” It was such traits as these, which made him the idol of his soldiery. It is related of the great Bruce, that, while retreating before his enemies, in his expedition to Ireland, the distress of a poor laundress, who was too helpless to follow the army, and was therefore about to be abandoned to the savage pursuers, touched his heart. He halted the host, and said; “Gentlemen, is there one of us who was born of a woman, so base as to leave this poor soul to her fate? No: let us rather die with her.” And he then drew up his men in line of battle, to await the enemy; but they, supposing he had received reinforcements, or was more powerful than [325] his former retreat indicated, recoiled, and feared to assault him. In like manner, the bold front which Jackson assumed, held the enemy at a respectful distance. They did not venture to annoy him, save by a few cannon-shot; and, after the first day, discontinued their pursuit. He retired to the neighborhood of Woodstock; and thus, in three days, his army marched seventy-five miles, and fought a hardly contested pitched battle.

The battle of Kernstown, was technically, a victory of the Federalists. They held the field, the dead, and the wounded. But, like those of Pyrrhus at Heraclea, and of Cornwallis at Guilford, it was a victory with the results of a defeat. The conquerors, crippled by their losses, and terrified by the resistance which they met, dared not press the retreating Confederates. But above all, the object of the battle was won by General Jackson. The Federal army in the Valley was detained there, and the troops which were on their way to Manassa's to increase the embarrassments of General Johnston, were recalled. The army of the latter extricated itself from its perilous situation, and retired in safety behind the Rappahannock, while McClellan, foiled in his plans, arrested his advance at Manassa's, and began to consider the policy of transferring the campaign to the Peninsula.

Yet, General Jackson was not satisfied with the results, and insisted that a more resolute struggle for the field might have won it, even against the fearful odds opposed to him. The chief error of the battle, he believed, was the unexpected retreat of the Stonewall Brigade from the centre; for this necessitated the surrender of the field. His disapprobation was strongly expressed against its brave General, Garnett, nor was he willing to accept the justification, that their ammunition was expended. A regiment of reserves was at hand, and the bayonet, his favorite resource, yet remained to them; aid he [326] did not consider all the means of victory as exhausted, until the naked steel was employed. Justice to one now dead, requires that these facts should also be stated: that General Garnett's gallantry was declared by the officers of his brigade, to be conspicuous on this bloody field; that they concurred with him in the opinion, that the troops were not withdrawn too soon to save them from destruction; and that proceedings against him were dismissed, and he was again employed by the Government in a most honorable post, in which he surrendered his life at the battle of Gettysburg. It is neither necessary nor practicable to pass a correct judgment upon the question, whether General Jackson's animadversions upon his conduct at Kernstown were erroneous. It is enough to testify, that all men regarded them as consistent with the justice of his intentions. This instance may serve to show Jackson's rigid ideas of official duty, which were always more exacting, as men rose in rank.

On the 1st of April, the army retreated to a range of highlands overlooking the North Branch of the Shenandoah, five miles below the town of Newmarket, called Reede's Hill. The stream is bordered here by a wide expanse of fertile meadows, over which this hill dominates; and artillery posted upon it commands the bridge by which the great highway crosses it. The Federal forces, again under the command of General Banks, now advanced by slow and cautious steps to the opposing hills, whence, for many days, they cannonaded the Confederates without effect. General Jackson, meantime, keeping Colonel Ashby in front, busied himself in refitting his crippled artillery, and recruiting his forces. The 10th Virginia regiment joined him, and was assigned to the 3d brigade, to which BrigadierGen-eral Wm. B. Taliaferro was now promoted. His men returned rapidly from hospitals and furloughs, and a multitude of new recruits poured in, inspired by the growing fame of the General, [327] and the urgency of their country's danger. Especially was the enthusiasm of the people stimulated by the chivalrous and modest courage of Ashby, whose name roused the thrilling hearts of the youth, like the peal of a clarion. His regiment of troopers was speedily swelled to twenty-one companies, and more than two thousand men. Including these, General Jackson's aggregate force now mounted up to more than eleven thousand. But the irregularities and official neglects which have been described were still lurking in all the regiments, and prevalent in the cavalry. Colonel Ashby had little genius for organization and discipline; tasks which, at best, are arduous in a force continually scattered upon outposts, and harassed by hardships, and which were impracticable for a commander seconded by few competent officers, and compelled to launch his raw levies at once into the employments of veteran troopers. The continuance of this imperfect organization was caused by the indiscreet action of the War Department itself. The Secretary, dazzled by Colonel Ashby's fame and exploits, had given him independent authority to raise and command a cavalry force. When General Jackson attempted to stretch his vigorous hand over that part of his army, so as to bring order out of confusion, he was met with a reference to this separate authority, and a threat of resignation. Knowing Colonel Ashby's ascendancy over his men, and finding himself thus deprived of legitimate power, he was constrained to pause, and leave the cavalry unorganized and undisciplined. Colonel Ashby and a Major were the only field-officers for the twenty-one companies; nor had they any regimental organization whatever. The evils and disasters growing out of the crude condition of this force will manifest themselves in the subsequent narrative. They give a valuable illustration of the importance of those principles of military order and subordination, established by experience, [328] and of the danger of such departures from them as that of the Secretary of War in making Colonel Ashby independent of his commanding General. Of his great command, one half was rarely available for duty, while the remainder were roaming over the country, imposing upon the generous hospitalities of the citizens, or lurking in their homes. The exploits of their famous leader were all performed with a few hundreds, or often scores, of men who followed him from personal devotion rather than the force of discipline. Thus, the effective force which General Jackson was now able to wield against the enemy, may be correctly estimated as seven or eight thousand men, with thirty guns.

The position on Reede's Hill, with so strong an artillery, was impregnable in front. But while, on the right, it was supported upon the Masanuttin Mountain, on the left it could be turned with facility by fords of the North River, above the main bridge, which were practicable in all dry seasons. Luckily, the melting snows of the western mountains concurred with the rains of spring, to swell the current, and General Jackson continued to hold the position until he should be more seriously menaced by Banks. Its chief value to him was in the fact, that it covered the juncture of the great Valley turnpike, at New Market, with that which leads across the Masanuttin, by Luray, the seat of justice for Page County, to Culpepper. The Headquarters of General Johnston, with the army of North Virginia, were now at that place, about fifty miles distant from General Jackson; and it was desirable to hold possession of the route, that a speedy union of the two armies might be effected, should necessity demand it. The next movements thence inaugurated a new arrangement of the forces upon the theatre of war. The chapter will therefore be closed with a few brief extracts from General Jackson's [329] letters to his wife, illustrating the events which have just been narrated.

March 24th, just after the battle of Kernstown, he wrote:

Our God was my shield. His protecting care is an additional cause for gratitude.

. . .. “My little army is in excellent spirits: it feels that it inflicted a severe blow on the enemy.”

April 7th. “I trust you and all I have in the hands of an ever kind Providence, knowing that all things work together for the good of his people. So live that your sufferings may be sanctified to you; remembering that our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” [In allusion to the illness of his wife.] “Our gallant little army is increasing in numbers, and my prayer is, that it may be an army of the living God, as well as of its country. Yesterday was a lovely Sabbath day. Though I had not the privilege of hearing the word of life, yet it felt like a holy Sabbath day, beautiful, serene, holy and lovely. All it wanted was the church bell, and God's services in the sanctuary, to make it complete ..... After God, our God, again blesses us with peace, I hope to visit this country with you, and enjoy its beauty and loveliness.”

No Christian reader can fail to note here, the parallelism between these sentiments, and those of the ancient warrior-saint, in similar circumstances. “How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.”

April 11th. “I feel much concerned at having no letter this week, but my trust is in the Almighty. How precious is the consolation flowing from the Christian's assurance, that ‘all things work together for good, to them that love God.’ ” [330]

“ God gave us a glorious victory in the S. W. (Shiloh), but the loss of the great Johnston is to be mourned. I do not remember having ever felt so sad at the loss of a man whom I had never seen.”

In explanation of his Sabbath attack at Kernstown, he wrote:

You appear greatly concerned about my attacking on Sunday. I was greatly concerned too; but I felt it my duty to do it, in consideration of the ruinous effects that might result from postponing the battle until the next morning. So far as I can see, my course was a wise one; the best that I could do under the circumstances, though very distasteful to my feelings, and I hope and pray to our Heavenly Father, that I may never again be circumstanced as on that day. I believed that so far as our troops were concerned, necessity and mercy both called for the battle.

“ I hope that the war will soon be over, and that I shall never again have to take the field. Arms is a profession that, if its principles are adhered to for success, requires an officer to do what he fears may be wrong, and yet, according to military experience, must be done, if success is attained. And this fact, of its being necessary to success, and being accompanied with success, and that a departure from it is accompanied with disaster, suggests that it must be right. Had I fought the battle on Monday, instead of Sunday, I fear our cause would have suffered; whereas, as things turned out, I consider our cause gained much from the engagement.”

For his achievement at Kernstown, the Confederate Congress rewarded him with the first of those honors, which were afterwards showered so thickly upon him. The following Resolutions of Thanks were unanimously passed:

1. “Resolved by the Congress of the Confederate States, That the thanks of Congress are due, and are hereby tendered [331] to Major General Thomas J. Jackson, and the officers and men under his command, for gallant and meritorious services, in a successful engagement with a greatly superior force of the enemy, near Kernstown, Frederick Co., Va., on the 23d day of March, 1862.”

2. “Resolved, That these resolutions be communicated by the Secretary of War to Major General Jackson, and by him to his command.” [332]

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