Tag Archives: James Shields

“Stonewall” Jackson Looks to Move North

June 14, 1862 – Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson proclaimed a day of thanksgiving for his army and sent a message to General Robert E. Lee requesting more men so he could invade the North.

Maj Gen “Stonewall” Jackson | Image Credit: SonoftheSouth.net

Jackson participated in the thanksgiving services with his men, writing to his wife:

“This evening, we have religious services in the army for the purpose of rendering thanks to the Most High for the victories with which He has crowned our arms, and to offer earnest prayer that He will continue to give us success, until, through His divine blessing, our independence shall be established. Wouldn’t you like to get home again?”

In addition, Jackson directed Congressman Alexander R. Boteler, representing a district in the Shenandoah Valley, to deliver a message to Lee on the Peninsula. Jackson suggested that if he could get 40,000 reinforcements, he could easily defeat the remaining Federals in the Valley and advance northward unopposed, perhaps even into Pennsylvania. Lee had already sent some additional men to Jackson, but Lee expected Jackson to stay in the Valley, ready to come east to the Virginia Peninsula if needed.

When Boteler arrived at Lee’s headquarters with Jackson’s message on the 15th, Lee had already decided to bring Jackson east. Boteler opposed this idea, saying it would be better for Jackson to stay in the Valley. Boteler reasoned, “If you bring our valley boys down here at this season among the pestilential swamps of the Chickahominy, the change from their pure mountain air to the miasmatic atmosphere will kill them off faster than the Federals have been doing.”

Boteler also explained, “Jackson has been doing so well with an independent command that it seems a pity not to let him have his own way; and then, too, bringing him here, General, will be–to use a homely phrase–putting all your eggs in one basket.”

Lee responded, “I see that you appreciate General Jackson as highly as I myself do, and it is because of my appreciation of him that I wish to have him here.” Lee wrote out orders for Jackson to come east and gave them to Boteler to deliver. Lee hoped to destroy Major General George B. McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac before it could be reinforced by Major General Irvin McDowell’s Federals en route.

Meanwhile, President Abraham Lincoln continued corresponding with Major General John C. Fremont, now commanding all Federals in the Shenandoah Valley. Lincoln, skeptical of Fremont’s assertion that he had won both the Battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic, indulged the general nonetheless: “As you alone beat Jackson last Sunday I argue that you are stronger than he is to-day.”

In response to Fremont’s fears that Jackson was being heavily reinforced, Lincoln wrote that “such re-enforcement could only have come from Richmond, and he is much more likely to go to Richmond than Richmond is to come to him.”

Lincoln believed the Confederate reinforcements headed for the Valley were probably being sent to deceive the Federals into thinking an attack would take place there. He wrote, “I do not believe Jackson will attack you, but certainly he cannot attack you by surprise; and if he comes upon you in superior force you have but to notify us, fall back cautiously, and (Major General Nathaniel) Banks will join you in due time.”

The president repeated that Fremont’s objectives were to cover the Shenandoah Valley while Banks guarded the Luray Valley to the east. This would allow McDowell to join McClellan for the drive on Richmond. Lincoln wrote, “I have arranged this, and am very unwilling to have it deranged.”

The next day, Boteler returned to Jackson’s headquarters near Port Republic. Boteler delivered a verbal order from Lee stating that he could not spare the 40,000 troops needed to invade Pennsylvania. Later that day, Jackson received a written dispatch from Lee:

“The present… seems to be favorable for a junction of your army with this. If you agree with me, the sooner you can make arrangements to do so the better. In moving your troops you can let it be understood that it was to pursue the enemy in your front. Dispose those to hold the Valley so as to deceive the enemy, keeping your cavalry well in their front, and at the proper time suddenly descending upon the Pamunkey… I should like to have the advantage of your views and to be able to confer with you. Will meet you at some point on your approach to the Chickahominy.”

Lee correctly guessed that both Fremont and Shields were retreating, with Fremont still at Mount Jackson and Shields at Front Royal. Jackson prepared to set his men in motion for the 120-mile eastward journey to Richmond. He told nobody of Lee’s order, not even his most trusted subordinates. McDowell was in the process of moving his corps (including Shields’s division) from the Valley back east to the Peninsula. If Jackson hurried, he would get there first.

Jackson’s Confederates marched to Waynesboro and began boarding trains on the 17th. Jackson obstructed his movements to avoid both Federal detection and Confederate speculation on where they were going. Brigadier General W.H.C. Whiting’s Confederates arrived at Staunton, 20 miles south of Port Republic, to reinforce Jackson, but Jackson ordered Whiting to go back east the same way he had just come without explaining why. This infuriated Whiting, but he complied nonetheless. Moving up a pass in the Blue Ridge, topographer Jedediah Hotchkiss told Jackson, “General, I fear we will not find our wagons tonight.” Jackson said, “Never take counsel of your fears.”

Meanwhile, the Federals still in the Valley received word that as many as 15,000 Confederates were heading there. A scout informed Shields that Jackson’s division under Major General Richard Ewell was advancing on Front Royal, 40,000 strong. However, Confederate deserters told Shields that Jackson’s army was leaving the Valley.

Based on this, Shields reported to McDowell that Jackson was heading east. At the same time, Shields warned Major General Franz Sigel of Fremont’s army that 8,500 Confederates were south of Luray. Sigel wrote Fremont, “General Shields has no correct knowledge of the enemy’s movements.”

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 76; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, Decoying the Yanks: Jackson’s Valley Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 170; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 183; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 473; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 167-69; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 3675-86, 3698; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 226-28; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 30

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The Peninsula and the Shenandoah Valley

June 10, 1862 – As Major General George B. McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac remained relatively idle on the Virginia Peninsula, Confederate General Robert E. Lee sent reinforcements to Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley.

Maj Gen George B. McClellan | Image Credit: Histmag.org

Maj Gen George B. McClellan | Image Credit: Histmag.org

Since the Battle of Seven Pines, McClellan had opted to stay put and await reinforcements. The first unit to bolster McClellan’s army was Brigadier General George A. McCall’s 9,500-man division stationed on the Rappahannock River. Major General Irvin McDowell, McCall’s superior, notified McClellan, “McCall goes in advance by water. I will be with you in 10 days with the remainder by land from Fredericksburg.”

Meanwhile, Jackson informed Lee that he could have his Confederates at the railroad within a day if they were needed on the Peninsula. Lee told Jackson to rest his men for now, but “should an opportunity occur for striking the enemy a successful blow, do not let it escape you.”

Lee learned the next day that Jackson had won battles at Cross Keys and Port Republic. In keeping with his original strategy, Lee directed Brigadier General Alexander Lawton’s brigade to reinforce Jackson so he could invade Pennsylvania. But when he realized that Jackson still lacked the resources for such an operation, Lee began pondering whether Jackson should come to the Peninsula and help him defeat McClellan.

Gen James Shields | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Gen James Shields | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Back west, Brigadier General James Shields’s battered, exhausted Federal division began withdrawing to the Luray Valley on the 10th. They had endured brutal marches, drenching rains, broken supply lines, and finally defeat at Port Republic. Shields had orders to stay in the Luray Valley until the Federals at Winchester moved to Front Royal. Then, Shields was to rejoin McDowell’s men on their return to Fredericksburg.

Shields requested supplies before moving. In addition to 12,000 shoes, he asked for “4,000 blankets, 9,200 caps… 20,000 socks, 12,000 pants, 10,000 blouses, 12,000 shirts, 12,000 drawers, 5,000 haversacks, 6,100 canteens, 1,600 shelter-tents, 3,500 rubber blankets, 60 drums, 6 bugles, 300 pants (re-enforced), 300 artillery jackets,” and 80,000 rounds of ammunition. This indicated that Shields’s men were in terrible condition, something McDowell was unaware of when he promised McClellan to be on the Peninsula within 10 days.

Shields reported from the Luray Valley that half his men were barefooted. He also blamed the defeat at Port Republic on Brigadier General Samuel Carroll for failing to burn the lone bridge over the South River, even though Shields had specifically ordered him to “save the bridge at Port Republic” beforehand. Shields also falsely claimed that he and Major General John C. Fremont were just about to join forces and overwhelm Jackson when President Abraham Lincoln called it off.

Meanwhile, Fremont received orders to stay put near Cross Keys. But he was already withdrawing to Harrisonburg, fearing that he might be isolated now that Shields had pulled back. After reaching Harrisonburg, Fremont still did not feel safe enough: “Harrisonburg, however strong in a strategical point of view for an army of larger proportions, was to my small command dangerous in the extreme.”

Erroneously thinking that Jackson outnumbered his 14,000-man army, Fremont retreated another 25 miles north to Mount Jackson. Ironically, Fremont submitted triumphant reports of his “victories” at Cross Keys and Port Republic while in retreat. When his superiors directed him to fall back to Mount Jackson, he was already on his way there.

Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Lee wrote Jackson from the Peninsula, “Your recent successes have been the cause of the liveliest joy in this army as well as in the country.” Lee wrote that he was sending Jackson six Georgia regiments under Lawton and eight regiments under Brigadier General W.H.C. Whiting. Lee explained, “The object is to enable you to crush the forces opposed to you.” Lee was not yet aware that both Shields and Fremont were on the retreat.

After delivering the decisive blow, Lee instructed Jackson to “move rapidly to Ashland (20 miles north of Richmond)… and sweep down between the Chickahominy and Pamunkey (rivers), cutting up the enemy’s communications, &c, while this (Lee’s) army attacks General McClellan in front…”

At this time, Jackson’s Confederates were camped at Brown’s Gap on the Blue Ridge. Jackson worked with topographer Jedediah Hotchkiss on a plan to pursue both Fremont and Shields. He began by dispatching his cavalry under Colonel Thomas Munford to spread rumors that the Confederates in the Valley were being heavily reinforced.

Jackson’s men reentered the Valley on the 12th and took positions near Port Republic and Patterson’s Mill. As the Confederate reinforcements began arriving, Munford’s troopers operated near Harrisonburg, capturing 200 wounded Federals that Fremont left behind. They also seized a large amount of supplies and ammunition. As the Confederates hoped, Lincoln notified Fremont, “Jackson is largely reinforced, and is turning upon you. Stand well on your guard.”

To the east, McCall’s Federals from the Rappahannock began arriving at White House, McClellan’s base on the Pamunkey River. The rest of McDowell’s force was headed eastward from the Blue Ridge to also reinforce Federals on the Peninsula.

The next day, McClellan moved his headquarters to the south bank of the Chickahominy River, where three of his five corps were now stationed:

  • General Edwin V. Sumner’s II Corps held the railroad on the right
  • General Samuel P. Heintzelman’s III Corps guarded the Williamsburg road in the center
  • General Erasmus D. Keyes’s IV Corps was at White Oak Swamp on the left

The two corps under Generals Fitz John Porter and William B. Franklin remained on the north bank, with Porter on the right and Franklin on the left. McCall’s Federals were arriving to reinforce Porter.

Back in the Valley, General Carl Schurz, a close friend of Lincoln serving in Fremont’s army, wrote the president defending Fremont’s performance and asserting that the Federals urgently needed supplies: “Fremont’s force has dwindled down to 10,000 combatants at the outside, and these in a wretched condition.” Schurz reported that the artillerymen were “hardly able to draw their pieces.” Such a “weak and exhausted” army could not match Jackson, who had just supposedly been reinforced to 29,000 men, or double Fremont’s actual size.

All this time, the 12,000 Federals under Major General Nathaniel P. Banks remained at Winchester, 45 miles north of Fremont. Banks disagreed with Fremont’s contention that Mount Jackson was the best place to make a stand against Jackson. Banks instead preferred Middletown, 15 miles south of Winchester, because it commanded both the Shenandoah and Luray valleys.

Banks argued that the only way to defeat Jackson was for he and Fremont to join forces, especially now that McDowell’s army was returning to Fredericksburg. The maneuvering on both sides continued.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 182; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 466-67; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 163, 167; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 3591-3603, 3626-38; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 225-26; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 24-25

The Battle of Port Republic

June 9, 1862 – Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson capped off his remarkable Shenandoah Valley campaign with another victory over the Federals sent to destroy him.

Following his victory over Major General John C. Fremont’s Federals at Cross Keys, Major General Richard Ewell moved the bulk of his force to join with Jackson’s army at Port Republic. Meanwhile, Jackson sent the Stonewall Brigade, led by Brigadier General Charles S. Winder, eastward across the South River to take the fight to the Federals under Brigadier General James Shields. Jackson planned to defeat Shields and then turn back west to defeat Fremont.

The South River bridge was so unstable that the Confederates had to cross single-file. This gave the Federals time to identify their advance. The Federal force consisted of four brigades led by Brigadier Generals Erastus B. Tyler and Samuel Carroll, totaling 3,000 men and 16 cannon. These troops took positions atop a steep hill in the Confederates’ front, with the artillerists firing down on the approaching enemy.

Jackson had lost the element of surprise. He also had just one brigade across the river to face four brigades in strong, elevated positions. Nevertheless, Jackson ordered an attack. The Stonewall Brigade split in two, with one force moving directly up the hill against the Federal guns and the other moving through the heavy brush to get around the Federal left.

The Battle of Port Republic | Image Credit: Flickr.com

The Battle of Port Republic | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Brigadier General Richard Taylor’s Confederate brigade soon arrived, which Jackson divided as well. The Louisiana Tigers joined Winder’s men scaling the hill, and Taylor’s other portion joined the Confederates moving around the flank to silence the Federal batteries. Meanwhile, Colonel John D. Imboden hurriedly assembled the Confederate guns to offset the Federals’ artillery and prevent them from receiving any reinforcements from Shields.

Winder’s Confederates facing the hill charged across the Lewis farm but stopped within 200 yards of the Federal line, sustaining heavy casualties before finally breaking in retreat. Carroll’s Federals began pursuing them. Jackson had to abandon his plan to defeat Shields and then turn to defeat Fremont, instead ordering the brigade in Fremont’s front to hurry in support and burn the bridge behind them.

Prospects were not good for the Confederates. They were running low on ammunition, they were under constant bombardment from the Federal guns, and they were in danger of being cut off from their supply base at Staunton. Finally, Ewell arrived with another brigade to join the fight. Seeing that Carroll’s pursuit had exposed the Federal flank, Ewell ordered his men to attack this vulnerable spot.

Another Confederate brigade arrived, which Jackson directed to support the flank attack against the Federal batteries. Taylor’s Confederates finally made their way around the Federal left and charged into the Federal gunners, capturing six cannon. Federal infantry counterattacked and slowly drove the enemy back in vicious combat, as reinforcements arrived on both sides.

Imboden massed his Confederate guns and began pouring deadly fire into the Federal positions, while the Confederates who had retreated regrouped and began advancing again. A lull fell over the field as the Federals halted to ponder their next move. Jackson took this opportunity to order an all-out attack.

Winder regained his lost ground, while Taylor regained the Federals guns and trained them on their former owners. The Federals slowly retreated, ultimately falling back eight miles to Conrad’s Store. Jackson watched the Federal withdrawal and said to Ewell, “He who does not see the hand of God in this is blind, sir. Blind!”

Shields met the Federals at Conrad’s Store with two brigades and prepared for a Confederate attack that never came. Jackson’s men were too exhausted to pursue, and they still had Fremont in their rear to worry about. The lone brigade holding up Fremont’s entire army narrowly escaped across the Shenandoah River after Fremont finally realized that he faced just a token force.

Fremont claimed victory because the brigade withdrew, but the Confederates escaped across the Shenandoah and burned the bridge behind them, making pursuit impossible. Fremont bombarded the field from the bluffs across the river, which destroyed ambulances carrying men from both sides but did little damage to Jackson’s army. Jackson moved his men to Brown’s Gap in the Blue Ridge, out of harm’s way. The fight was over.

Jackson, who managed this battle poorly, sustained more casualties than in any of his other Valley engagements. He lost over 800 men out of the 7,000 that ultimately took part. The Federals lost over a third of their men, or 1,018 (67 killed, 393 wounded, and 558 missing) out of 3,000.

Shields soon received orders to rejoin the Federals under Major General Irvin McDowell that were moving to the Peninsula. Shields, who wanted another crack at Jackson, said, “I never obeyed an order with such reluctance.” Fremont was ordered to stop pursuing Jackson now that the Confederates had moved far enough south to no longer threaten Washington. Fremont gratefully complied, saying he had “expended (his) last effort in reaching Port Republic.”

This marked the last battle in Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley campaign. Since April 29, his “foot cavalry” had marched almost 400 miles and won five battles (McDowell, Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys, and Port Republic) against four commanders (Schenck, Banks, Fremont, and Shields). Facing armies totaling 60,000 men, Jackson never had more than 17,000 effectives at any one time. He used superior mobility and knowledge of his surroundings to achieve incredible success, and, as Jackson reported, “God has been our shield, and to His name be all the glory.”

Jackson’s achievements baffled the Federal high command, terrified government officials at Washington, and prevented tens of thousands of troops from reinforcing Major General George B. McClellan on the Virginia Peninsula. Perhaps more importantly, Jackson greatly boosted the plummeting Confederate morale. He could now move freely throughout the Valley, or he could move east to reinforce the Confederates on the Peninsula.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, Decoying the Yanks: Jackson’s Valley Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 169; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 45-46; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 181; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 463; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 165-66; Jensen, Les D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 597; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 206-07; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 224-25; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 459-60; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 389-91; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 677

The Battle of Cross Keys

June 8, 1862 – In Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, a portion of Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederate army met a Federal advance from the northwest while Jackson faced a separate Federal threat from the northeast.

By the morning of the 8th, Major General Richard Ewell’s Confederates were at Cross Keys, while Jackson was with the rest of his force outside Port Republic, three miles south, where the North and South rivers merged to form the Shenandoah River. Two Federal forces were converging on the Confederates: Major General John C. Fremont’s from the northwest, and Brigadier General James Shields’s from the northeast. Neither force could support the other due to swollen rivers and burned bridges.

Jackson was outnumbered and pinned between two enemy forces, but he held the only bridge. He therefore planned to hold Fremont off first, and then turn to confront Shields. Jackson assigned Ewell’s 6,000 Confederates to oppose Fremont’s 11,000 Federals at Cross Keys.

Jackson’s plan was foiled when Federal cavalry unexpectedly rode into Port Republic, nearly separating Jackson from his men and capturing several of his staff members. The Federals could have taken the entire enemy force, or at least cut it off from its supply wagons across the South River by burning the North Bridge. But for some reason, Federal Brigadier General Samuel Carroll prohibited the bridge from being destroyed.

Federal artillery scattered the town’s residents and destroyed several buildings and homes. Confederate gunners began returning fire, and the rear guard made a stand that eventually pushed the Federals back out of town the way they came. Meanwhile, action had begun at Cross Keys to the north.

As Fremont’s troops advanced, Ewell’s front line held them up long enough for the rest of the Confederates to assemble in their strong defenses. Fremont, believing he was facing Jackson’s entire army, held back and instead opened an artillery barrage. Both sides traded cannon fire for about two hours before Fremont directed Brigadier General Julius Stahel’s brigade to move around and attack the Confederate right flank.

Battle of Cross Keys | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Battle of Cross Keys | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

As Stahel’s men moved, they were unaware that Brigadier General Isaac Trimble’s Confederate brigade had moved forward a half-mile on the right, crawling to avoid detection. When the Federals came within 50 yards, Trimble’s men rose and fired into them. After two more volleys, the surviving Federals fell back.

The fight reverted to an artillery duel, but it had to be cut short due to ammunition running low on both sides. Trimble advanced another half-mile down the Keezletown road to attack a Federal battery, forming a mile-wide gap between Ewell’s right and center. The Federals pulled their guns back before Trimble’s men could reach them.

Ewell brought up Brigadier General Richard Taylor’s brigade to fill the gap caused by Trimble and shore up the left. A portion of Fremont’s army led by Brigadier General Robert H. Milroy advanced to attack the Confederate left at Mill Creek, but the Federals were met unexpectedly by enemy skirmishers firing into them. Milroy tried regrouping, but his men were then hit by Ewell’s artillery in the center.

As Milroy prepared to shift right, an order came from Fremont to fall back. This shocked Milroy because had Fremont committed his entire force, he could have taken the Confederate positions. But Fremont seemed confused by the unexpected Confederate strength and ended the fight. Five regiments under Brigadier General Robert C. Schenck stood idle to Milroy’s right, having never received orders to get into the fight.

Despite his objections, Milroy complied with Fremont’s directive, and the Federals withdrew under cover of their artillery. As the Confederates took the Federals’ positions, Trimble pleaded with Ewell to counterattack. But Ewell, following Jackson’s orders to stay on the defensive, refused.

Fremont sustained 684 casualties (114 killed, 443 wounded, and 127 missing), with half the losses suffered by the 8th New York. Ewell lost just 288 (41 killed, 232 wounded, and 15 missing), but two of his brigade commanders (Arnold Elzey and George Steuart) were badly wounded.

Meanwhile, Fremont received a message that Shields had arrived at Port Republic and would be ready to link with him. Unbeknownst to Fremont, Shields had written the message before Jackson’s Confederates drove him back out of town. Thus, Fremont planned to renew the attack the next day.

President Abraham Lincoln, unaware that all this was taking place, realized that Major General Irvin McDowell’s Federals, further northward down the Shenandoah Valley, would not catch Jackson. Therefore, he granted McDowell’s request to leave the Valley and head back east to reinforce the Federals on the Virginia Peninsula.

Lincoln gave Fremont command of all troops in the Valley, with Shields to rejoin McDowell on the return trip. The other Federal army in the Valley under Major General Nathaniel P. Banks would then move from Winchester to McDowell’s positions at Front Royal.

Jackson, emboldened by his successes today, planned to attack Shields in the morning, and then turn to finish Fremont off in the afternoon. In a bold move, Jackson ordered Trimble’s reinforced brigade to hold Fremont off at Cross Keys while the rest of Ewell’s men crossed the North River and joined Jackson at Port Republic. Jackson risked his army’s destruction if either Fremont or Shields attacked, but Jackson was convinced they would not.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, Decoying the Yanks: Jackson’s Valley Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 165, 169; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 181; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 461; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 164-65; Jensen, Les D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 194, 597; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 77-78; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 224; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 459; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 387-89; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 677

“Stonewall” Jackson Turns the Tables

June 7, 1862 – Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederate army continued moving south up the Shenandoah Valley and prepared to face two Federal forces approaching from both the east and west.

Federal Brigadier General James Shields, whose pursuit of Jackson had been thwarted due to burned bridges and swelling rivers, continued heading south to block the Confederates’ retreat. Shields wrote his superior, Major General Irvin McDowell, that despite the obstacles, he intended to “ascend the river, cross it and take Jackson in the rear.”

How Shields would do this was a mystery since he also reported that his men were dangerously low on supplies and “destitute of everything in the way of shoes.” But Shields felt this was the only way to destroy Jackson, as he explained to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, “I cannot now take him (Jackson) in reverse, owing to the inundation. I cannot fight against the elements, but give me bread to keep me alive and they (Jackson’s men) will never leave the valley.”

Although the other Federal commanders in the Valley had consistently guessed Jackson had about 20,000 men, Shields more accurately estimated all along that Jackson had no more than 7,000. As such, Shields told Stanton that he could “stampede them down to Richmond if you give me plenty of bread.”

Shields based his strategy on the false assumption that Jackson was trying to leave the Valley to join the Confederates on the Virginia Peninsula. Shields dispatched part of his force to Staunton, while his remaining Federals guarded the bridge to Port Republic, which Shields thought Jackson needed to escape.

Maj Gen "Stonewall" Jackson | Image Credit: SonoftheSouth.net

Maj Gen “Stonewall” Jackson | Image Credit: SonoftheSouth.net

But Jackson was not planning to escape. His men were in line of battle at New Market, expecting Shields to attack from the east and Major General John C. Fremont’s Federal army to advance from the west. When neither Shields nor Fremont showed, Jackson resumed his eastward march at 1 a.m. on the 5th. Jackson knew Shields would have to either return north or try crossing the Shenandoah River at Port Republic. If Shields chose the latter, Jackson would oppose him.

Jackson’s Confederates reached Harrisonburg on the morning of June 5, having marched over 100 miles in a week. The troops passed through town and then turned toward Port Republic, 11 miles southeast, with Fremont pursuing on the Valley turnpike.

The Confederate vanguard reached Port Republic near nightfall, as Jackson learned that Brigadier General Turner Ashby’s Confederate cavalry had destroyed all the bridges between Front Royal and Port Republic. This would prevent Shields from crossing the river and joining forces with Fremont. Confederate signalmen atop Massanutten Mountain reported that Shields was still in the Luray Valley, 14 miles away, and Fremont remained near New Market.

Meanwhile, General Robert E. Lee, now commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia on the Peninsula, envisioned Jackson taking the offensive in the Valley while Lee prepared to counterattack Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Lee wrote President Jefferson Davis:

“After much reflection, I think if it was possible to reinforce Jackson strongly, it would change the character of the war. This can only be done by the troops in Georgia, S.C. and N.C. Jackson could in that event cross Maryland into Penn. It would call all the enemy from our Southern Coast and liberate those states. If these states will give up their troops I think it can be done… McClellan will make this a battle of posts. He will take position from position, under cover of his heavy guns. I am preparing a line that I can hold with part of our forces in front, while with the rest I will endeavour to make a diversion to bring McClellan out.”

Lee began working with Secretary of War George W. Randolph to gather the reinforcements Jackson had requested. Lee was aided by continuous rain on the Peninsula, which virtually assured that McClellan would not attack. McClellan’s lack of aggressiveness prompted Lee to push for Jackson to take the offensive in a message to Randolph: “His plan is to march to Front Royal and crush Shields. It is his only course, and as he is a good soldier, I expect him to do it.”

By the 6th, Jackson had beaten Shields in the race to Port Republic, while Ashby set up defenses near Harrisonburg to fend off Fremont coming from the west. As Ashby’s men pulled out to join the rest of the army, his troopers scattered a half hearted attempt by Federal cavalry to pursue. The Confederates captured Colonel Percy Wyndham, a British soldier-of-fortune, and 63 of his men.

Ashby then turned to confront Federal infantry marching through Harrisonburg, with support from Major General Richard Ewell’s Confederates. The Federals came on stronger than Ashby expected and nearly routed the Confederates; Ashby was killed leading a countercharge. Ewell took command, and the Confederates eventually drove the Federals back. Ewell then withdrew to join Jackson’s main force.

Ashby’s troopers mourned the loss of their popular commander. Jackson was informed of Ashby’s death that night, and he wrote in his report several months later:

“As a partisan officer I never knew his superior. His daring was proverbial; his power of endurance almost incredible; his tone of character heroic; and his sagacity almost intuitive in divining the purposes and movements of the enemy.”

As the day ended, Fremont moved south along one branch of the Shenandoah River, and Shields advanced along the other. Ewell’s Confederates resumed their withdrawal the next day before stopping at Cross Keys, a hamlet six miles from Harrisonburg, to make a stand against Fremont’s approaching Federals. Ewell commanded positions on a ridge overlooking several miles of open ground that the Federals would have to cross. Ewell posted four artillery batteries in the center of his line, and woods afforded him natural protection on both his flanks.

Meanwhile, Jackson’s Confederates marched another three miles and positioned themselves on high ground overlooking the confluence of rivers at Port Republic. From this point, they could see Shields’s Federals advancing. Confederate Congressman Alexander R. Boteler delivered a message to Jackson from President Davis, which congratulated the general on his success and responded to his request for more men:

“Were it practicable to send you reinforcements it should be done, and your past success shows how surely you would, with an adequate force, destroy the wicked designs of the invader of our homes and assailer of our political rights… (but) it is on your skill and daring that reliance is to be placed. The army under your command encourages us to hope for all which men can achieve.”

Jackson, knowing his command could be called to the Virginia Peninsula at any time, wrote to General Joseph E. Johnston (still unaware that Lee had replaced Johnston as army commander):

“Should my command be required at Richmond I can be at Mechum’s River Depot, on the Central Railroad, the second day’s march, and part of the command can reach there the first day, as the distance is 25 miles. At present, I do not see that I can do much more than rest my command and devote its time to drilling.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, Decoying the Yanks: Jackson’s Valley Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 157-58; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 13849-67; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 181; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 457-59; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 162-63; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 3591-3603; Jensen, Les D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 194; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 222-23; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 24-25

Federals Pursue “Stonewall” Jackson in the Valley

June 2, 1862 – The Federal pursuit of Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Valley army continued, with the Confederates narrowly escaping two Federal armies converging on them from opposite directions.

Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson | Image Credit: Bing public domain

Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson | Image Credit: Bing public domain

By midnight on Sunday the 1st, the Stonewall Brigade of Jackson’s army had arrived within four miles south of Winchester. The men had endured an exhausting, unprecedented 35-mile march to prevent two Federal commands from joining forces against them. The Confederates resumed their march that morning and joined the rest of the army at Strasburg around noon.

This gave Jackson about 16,000 men. Major General John C. Fremont’s army of 12,000 Federals was to Jackson’s west, between Wardensburg and Strasburg, unable to advance further due to rain making the roads impassable. Major General Irvin McDowell’s 30,000 men were 10 miles east of Strasburg at Front Royal. McDowell’s lead division, 9,000 men under Brigadier General James Shields, began moving to confront Jackson.

Jackson pushed his men through the torrential rain toward Fisher’s Hill, two miles south. On the way, Jackson learned that Shields was headed south, up the Luray Valley. Shields paralleled Jackson’s movement on the other side of Massanutten Mountain, trying to get ahead of the Confederates and block their escape at New Market. Shields intended to burn the bridge at Conrad’s Store, thinking Jackson needed it to get across the Blue Ridge and reinforce the Confederates on the Virginia Peninsula.

Sensing that Fremont posed the greater threat, Jackson dispatched Major General Richard Ewell’s division to oppose Fremont’s advance west of Strasburg. Skirmishing occurred near Mount Carmel as pickets and artillerists traded fire. Ewell, outnumbered two-to-one, refused to attack. Fremont, unaware of his advantage, held back in fear that Ewell was trying to lure him into a trap.

The pouring rain continued as night fell, and Fremont called a halt until morning. He reported to President Abraham Lincoln, “Terrible storm of thunder and hail now passing over. Hailstones as large as hens’ eggs.” This enabled Jackson to narrowly escape the Federal pincers, but he was still in serious danger as his Confederates resumed their southward march before dawn on the 2nd.

The Valley turnpike was almost impossible to traverse due to more rain falling through the night. Fremont’s pickets tried resuming the chase, as Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton telegraphed both Fremont and McDowell, “Do not let the enemy escape you.”

Federal cavalry under General George Bayard caught up to the Confederate rear guard, led by General George Steuart’s cavalry, and routed them at Woodstock, 10 miles south of Strasburg. Steuart’s men were so disgusted with their commander that they asked Jackson to place them under command of Brigadier General Turner Ashby. Jackson responded by placing all his cavalry under Ashby.

Ashby’s troopers tried saving what was left of Steuart’s command, but they were on the verge of being routed themselves before being saved by the Stonewall Brigade. The Confederates fell back, and Jackson continued pushing them southward as more storms raged.

Gen James Shields | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Gen James Shields | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Meanwhile, Shields continued paralleling Jackson to the east. His Federals reached the Shenandoah River around 5 p.m. but could not cross because Confederates had burned the White House and Columbia bridges. The river was too deep to ford, and the Federals had nothing with which to build pontoons. So Shields resumed the march 20 miles farther south, hoping to cross at Conrad’s Store. By the end of June 2, Shields’s men had marched 25 miles.

Shields wrote Lincoln and Stanton that Jackson’s force was smaller than originally thought, and there were too many Federals pursuing him. He asked them to send McDowell’s men back east to Fredericksburg, leaving just Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s 11,000 men at Winchester and Fremont’s 12,000 in the Valley.

Farther north on the Potomac River, Major General Franz Sigel arrived to take command of the 8,000 Federals stationed at Harpers Ferry and Williamsport, Maryland. They became a division in Banks’s Army of the Shenandoah. But Sigel reported that “1,200 (of the 8,000 men) are useless, and all the balance are undrilled and undisciplined.” Even so, he prepared to lead them to Winchester to support Banks.

Jackson’s Confederates crossed the North Fork of the Shenandoah River on the 3rd, burned the bridge behind them, and camped near Mount Jackson at their old site on Rude’s Hill. Meanwhile, Shields explained to McDowell that the bridges had been burned, so he would continue to Conrad’s Store:

“The bridge there I expect to find burned also, but by going higher up we may find a ford… we must cross today somehow. My next move will be to push on to Stanardsville, destroy the railroad and depot, and if possible to Staunton or Charlottesville.”

This would be a tremendously long roundabout trek, but Shields vowed to “destroy their means of escape somehow.” McDowell forwarded Shields’s message to Washington, noting that Shields offered no specifics on how he intended to stop Jackson with this long marching. McDowell wrote:

“The ‘somehow’ in which the general is to cross the river to-day, swollen as it is by the heavy rains, is not so clear, and the delay defeats the movement… and as to his preventing the enemy’s escape ‘somehow,’ I fear it will be like his intention of crossing the ‘river somehow…’ His command is not in a condition to go to the places he names.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Clark, Champ, Decoying the Yanks: Jackson’s Valley Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 157; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 13849; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 178; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 438, 453-54; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 162; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 220-21; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 459

The Battle of Winchester

May 25, 1862 – Confederates won a tremendous victory to gain control of most of the Shenandoah Valley and make the name “Stonewall” a legend in the South.

Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, whose 6,500 Federals had won the race to Winchester, held defensive works south of the town to face Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s oncoming Confederates. Having been soundly beaten and pursued, Banks guessed that Jackson had 25,000 men, but he actually had no more than about 10,000 effectives due to combat casualties, illness, straggling, and extreme fatigue.

Banks deployed his men on the low range of hills south of Winchester. Breaking his own rule not to fight on the Sabbath, Jackson advanced early that morning, with the Confederates probing through dense fog. Jackson sent Brigadier General Charles S. Winder’s Stonewall Brigade, supported by Colonel John A. Campbell’s brigade, against the Federal center at Bower’s Hill. They easily pushed the Federals off the ridge, but the Federals put up stronger resistance in falling back to a second ridge.

Both sides traded artillery fire, but the superior Federal guns got the best of the exchange. Meanwhile, Major General Richard Ewell’s division attacked the undersized Federal left flank. Jackson directed the brigade under Brigadier General Richard Taylor (son of former President Zachary Taylor) to attack the extreme Federal right in concert with Ewell on the left.

Battle map | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Battle map | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Taylor’s Confederates shrieked the “Rebel yell” as they charged, and the rest of the Confederate army followed suit. The Federals resisted at first, but both flanks quickly crumbled, and finally the troops broke and fled in panic toward the Potomac River. The Confederates seized their defenses and entered Winchester, where they took all the valuable supplies that the Federals left behind.

The pro-Confederate residents came out to cheer their liberators, prompting the troops to stop and take in the adulation when Jackson wanted them to continue pressing Banks all the way to the Potomac. Jackson could not find Brigadier General Turner Ashby’s cavalry, which he needed to lead the pursuit; they were busy looting the Federal camps. So he called up Ewell’s cavalry, but they did not arrive until mid-afternoon.

The Confederates started giving chase, but they dropped out from exhaustion at Bunker Hill, six miles north. Banks may have gotten away, but “Old Jack” had driven him out of the Valley and captured his supply depot. This made the battle at Winchester a resounding Confederate victory and Jackson a hero in the Confederacy.

The Confederates captured nearly 10,000 small arms, 500,000 rounds of ammunition, two rifled cannon, $250,000 worth of medical supplies, 103 heads of cattle, and almost 25,000 pounds of provisions. They had captured so many of Banks’s supplies over the past three days that they nicknamed the Federal commander “Commissary Banks.”

The Federals suffered 2,028 casualties in the chase yesterday and the battle today (71 killed, 243 wounded, and 1,714 missing, of which about 800 were taken prisoner). The Confederates lost just 400 (68 killed, 329 wounded, and three missing). Jackson now had control of most of the Shenandoah Valley and was just 50 miles away from Washington.

The Lincoln administration panicked upon learning of this latest defeat in the Valley, but the panic was somewhat calmed by news that Brigadier General James Shields’s division was moving west from Fredericksburg to reinforce Banks. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton called on the governors of the northern states to send troops to protect Washington, and President Lincoln looked to Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac for the victory the Federals so desperately needed.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (25 May 1862); Clark, Champ, Decoying the Yanks: Jackson’s Valley Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 130; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 45-46; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 174; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 157; Jensen, Les D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 834; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 216; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 387; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 677