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In the Shenandoah Valley and the alarm of Washington.

Henry W. Elson

June, 1862-McClellan's men drilling within five miles of Richmond, ignorant of Jackson's movements from the Valley, so soon to result in their repulse — Richardson's entrenchments south of Fort Sumner


Men Jackson could afford to lose: Confederate prisoners captured in the Shenandoah These two hundred Confederate soldiers captured the day after “StonewallJackson's victory at Front Royal, were an insignificant reprisal for the damage done to the Federal cause by that dashing and fearless Confederate leader. When Richmond was threatened both by land and water in May, 1862, Johnston sent Jackson to create a diversion and alarm the Federal capital. Rushing down the Valley of the Shenandoah, his forces threatened to cut off and overwhelm those of General Banks, who immediately began a retreat. It became a race between the two armies down the Valley toward Winchester and Harper's Ferry. Forced marches, sometimes as long as thirty-five miles a day, were the portion of both during the four weeks in which Jackson led his forces after the retreating


Federals, engaging them in six actions and two battles, in all of which he came off victorious. Just after these prisoners were taken, Banks was driven back to the Potomac. Once more a panic spread through the North, and both the troops of Banks and McDowell were held in the vicinity of Washington for its defense. But Jackson's purpose was accomplished. He had held Banks in the Shenandoah Valley until McClellan's Peninsula Campaign was well advanced. Then again by forced marches his men disappeared up the Valley to join Lee in teaching the overconfident Union administration that Richmond was not to be won without long and costly fighting. But a year later the Confederacy lost this astonishing military genius. [304]

Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible, and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow. . . . The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail.--StonewallJackson.

The main move of the Union army, for 1862, was to be McClellan's advance up the Peninsula toward Richmond. Everything had been most carefully planned by the brilliant strategist. With the assistance of McDowell's corps, he expected in all confidence to be in the Confederate capital before the spring had closed. But, comprehensively as he had worked the scheme out, he had neglected a factor in the problem which was destined in the end to bring the whole campaign to naught. This was the presence of “StonewallJackson in the Valley of Virginia.

The strategic value to the Confederacy of this broad, sheltered avenue into Maryland and Pennsylvania was great. Along the northeasterly roads the gray legions could march in perfect safety upon the rear of Washington so long as the eastern gaps could be held. No wonder that the Federal authorities, however much concerned with other problems of the war, never removed a vigilant eye from the Valley.

Jackson had taken possession of Winchester, near the foot of the Valley, in November, 1861. He then had about ten thousand men. The Confederate army dwindled greatly during the winter. At the beginning of March there were but forty-five hundred men. With Banks and his forty thousand now on Virginia soil at the foot of the Valley, and Fremont's [305]

Stonewall” Jackson at Winchester 1862 It is the great good fortune of American hero-lovers that they can gaze here upon the features of Thomas Jonathan Jackson precisely as that brilliant Lieutenant-General of the Confederate States Army appeared during his masterly “Valley Campaign” of 1862. Few photographers dared to approach this man, whose silence and modesty were as deep as his mastery of warfare. Jackson lived much to himself. Indeed, his plans were rarely known even to his immediate subordinates, and herein lay the secret of those swift and deadly surprises that raised him to first rank among the world's military figures. Jackson's ability and efficiency won the utter confidence of his ragged troops; and their marvelous forced marches, their contempt for privations if under his guidance, put into his hands a living weapon such as no other leader in the mighty conflict had ever wielded.

[306] army approaching the head, why should the Federal commander even think about this insignificant fragment of his foe? But the records of war have shown that a small force, guided by a master mind, sometimes accomplishes more in effective results than ten times the number under a less active and able commander.

The presence of Banks compelled Jackson to withdraw to Woodstock, fifty miles south of Winchester. If McClellan ever experienced any anxiety as to affairs in the Valley, it seems to have left him now, for he ordered Banks to Manassas on March 16th to cover Washington, leaving General Shields and his division of seven thousand men to hold the Valley. When Jackson heard of the withdrawal, he resolved that, cut off as he was from taking part in the defense of Richmond, he would do what he could to prevent any aggrandizement of McClellan's forces.

Shields hastened to his station at Winchester, and Jackson, on the 23d of March, massed his troops at Kernstown, about three miles south of the former place. Deceived as to the strength of his adversary, he led his weary men to an attack on Shields' right flank about three o'clock in the afternoon. He carried the ridge where the Federals were posted, but the energy of his troops was spent, and they had to give way to the reserves of the Union army after three hours of stubborn contest. The Federal ranks were diminished by six hundred; the Confederate force by more than seven hundred. Kernstown was a Union victory; yet never in history did victory bring such ultimate disaster upon the victors.

At Washington the alarm was intense over Jackson's audacious attack. Williams' division of Banks' troops was halted on its way to Manassas and sent back to Winchester. Mr. Lincoln transferred Blenker's division, nine thousand strong, to Fremont. These things were done at once, but they were by no means the most momentous consequence of Kernstown. The President began to fear that Jackson's goal was [307]

McDowell and McClellan-two Union leaders whose plans “StonewallJackson foiled In General McClellan's plan for the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, General McDowell, with the First Army Corps of 37,000 men, was assigned a most important part, that of joining him before Richmond. Lincoln had reluctantly consented to the plan, fearing sufficient protection was not provided for Washington. By the battle of Kernstown, March 23d, in the Valley of Virginia, Jackson, though defeated, so alarmed the Administration that McDowell was ordered to remain at Manassas to protect the capital. The reverse at Kernstown was therefore a real triumph for Jackson, but with his small force he had to keep up the game of holding McDowell, Banks, and Fremont from reenforcing McClellan. If he failed, 80,000 troops might move up to Richmond from the west while McClellan was approaching from the North. But Jackson, on May 23d and 25th, surprised Banks' forces at Front Royal and Winchester, forcing a retreat to the Potomac. At the news of this event McDowell was ordered not to join McClellan in front of Richmond.


Washington. After consulting six of his generals he became convinced that McClellan had not arranged proper protection for the city. Therefore, McDowell and his corps of thirty-seven thousand men were ordered to remain at Manassas. The Valley grew to greater importance in the Federal eyes. Banks was made entirely independent of McClellan and the defense of this region became his sole task. McClellan, to his great chagrin, saw his force depleted by forty-six thousand men. There were now four Union generals in the East operating independently one of the other.

General Ewell with eight thousand troops on the upper Rappahannock and General Johnson with two brigades were now ordered to cooperate with Jackson. These reenforcements were badly needed. Schenck and Milroy, of Fremont's corps, began to threaten Johnson. Banks, with twenty thousand, was near Harrisonburg.

The Confederate leader left General Ewell to watch Banks while he made a dash for Milroy and Schenck. He fought them at McDowell on May 8th and they fled precipitately to rejoin Fremont. The swift-acting Jackson now darted at Banks, who had fortified himself at Strasburg. Jackson stopped long enough to be joined by Ewell. He did not attack Strasburg, but stole across the Massanutten Mountain unknown to Banks, and made for Front Royal, where a strong Union detachment was stationed under Colonel Kenly. Early on the afternoon of May 23d, Ewell rushed from the forest. Kenly and his men fled before them toward Winchester. A large number were captured by the cavalry before they had gotten more than four miles away.

Banks at Strasburg realized that Jackson was approaching from the rear, the thing he had least expected and had made no provision for. His fortifications protected his front alone. There was nothing to be done but retreat to Winchester. Even that was prevented by the remarkable speed of Jackson's men, who could march as much as thirty-five [309] miles a day. On May 24th, the Confederates overtook and struck the receding Union flank near Newtown, inflicting heavy loss and taking many prisoners. Altogether, three thousand of Banks' men fell into Jackson's hands.

This exploit was most opportune for the Southern arms. It caused the final ruin of McClellan's hopes. Banks received one more attack from Ewell's division the next day as he passed through Winchester on his way to the shelter of the Potomac. He crossed at Williamsport late the same evening and wrote the President that his losses, though serious enough, might have been far worse “considering the very great disparity of forces engaged, and the long-matured plans of the enemy, which aimed at nothing less than entire capture of our force.” Mr. Lincoln now rescinded his resolution to send McDowell to McClellan. Instead, he transferred twenty thousand of the former's men to Fremont and informed McClellan that he was not, after all, to have the aid of McDowell's forty thousand men.

Fremont was coming from the west; Shields lay in the other direction, but Jackson was not the man to be trapped. He managed to hold Fremont while he marched his main force quickly up the Valley. At Port Republic he drove Carroll's brigade of Shields' division away and took possession of a bridge which Colonel Carroll had neglected to burn. Fremont in pursuit was defeated by Ewell at Cross Keys. Jackson immediately put his force of twelve thousand over the Shenandoah at Port Republic and burned the bridge. Safe from the immediate attack by Fremont, he fell upon Tyler and Carroll, who had not more than three thousand men between them. The Federals made a brave stand, but after many hours' fighting were compelled to retreat. Jackson emerged through Swift Run Gap on the 17th of June, to assist in turning the Union right on the Peninsula, and Banks and Shields, baffled and checkmated at every move, finally withdrew from the Valley.

The German Division sent against Jackson [310] Blenker's division, composed of three brigades of German volunteers, was detached from the Army of the Potomac in March, 1862, to assist Fremont in his operations against Jackson. The German troops were but poorly equipped, many of them carrying old-pattern Belgian and Austrian muskets. When they united with Fremont he was obliged to rearm them with Springfield rifles from his own stores. When the combined forces met Jackson and Ewell at Cross Keys, five of Blenker's regiments were sent forward to the first attack. In the picture Brigadier-General Louis Blenker is standing, with his hand on his belt, before the door. At his left is Prince Felix Salm-Salm, a Prussian military officer, who joined the Federal army as a colonel of volunteers. At the right of Blenker is General Stahel, who led the advance of the Federal left at Cross Keys.

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