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Stonewall Jackson And The American Civil War by G. F. R. Henderson

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houses along the road were filled with Jackson's dead and dying; yet
the truth was that the Confederates were in nowise pressed, and only
the hopeless cases had been left behind.* (* Major Harman wrote on
March 26 that 150 wounded had been brought to Woodstock. Manuscript.)
Had the 2000 troopers at Banks' disposal been sent forward at
daybreak on the 24th, something might have been done. The squadrons,
however, incapable of moving across country, were practically useless
in pursuit; and to start even at daybreak was to start too late. If
the fruits of victory are to be secured, the work must be put in hand
whilst the enemy is still reeling under the shock. A few hours' delay
gives him time to recover his equilibrium, to organise a rear-guard,
and to gain many miles on his rearward march.

March 26.

On the night of the 26th, sixty hours after the battle ceased, the
Federal outposts were established along Tom's Brook, seventeen miles
from Kernstown. On the opposite bank were Ashby's cavalry, while
Burks' brigade lay at Woodstock, six miles further south. The
remainder of the Valley army had reached Mount Jackson.

These positions were occupied until April 1, and for six whole days
Banks, with 19,000 men, was content to observe a force one-sixth his
strength, which had been defeated by just half the numbers he had now
at his disposal. This was hardly the "vigorous action" which
McClellan had demanded. "As soon as you are strong enough," he had
telegraphed, "push Jackson hard, drive him well beyond Strasburg,
pursuing at least as far as Woodstock, if possible, with cavalry to
Mount Jackson."* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 16. The telegrams and
letters quoted in this chapter, unless otherwise stated, are from
this volume.)

In vain he reiterated the message on the 27th: "Feel Jackson's
rear-guard smartly and push him well." Not a single Federal crossed
Tom's Brook. "The superb scenery of the Valley," writes General G.H.
Gordon, a comrade of Jackson's at West Point, and now commanding the
2nd Massachusetts, one of Banks' best regiments, "opened before
us--the sparkling waters of the Shenandoah, winding between the
parallel ranges, the groves of cedar and pine that lined its banks,
the rolling surfaces of the Valley, peacefully resting by the
mountain side, and occupied by rich fields and quiet farms. A mile
beyond I could see the rebel cavalry. Sometimes the enemy amused
himself by throwing shells at our pickets, when they were a little
too venturesome; but beyond a feeble show of strength and ugliness,
nothing transpired to disturb the dulness of the camp."* (* From
Brook Farm to Cedar Mountain page 133.)

Banks, far from all support, and with a cavalry unable to procure
information, was by no means free from apprehension. Johnston had
already fallen back into the interior of Virginia, and the Army of
the Potomac, instead of following him, was taking ship at Alexandria.
Information had reached Strasburg that the Confederates were behind
the Rapidan, with their left at Gordonsville. Now Gordonsville is
sixty-five miles, or four marches, from Mount Jackson, and there was
reason to believe that reinforcements had already been sent to
Jackson from that locality. On March 25 Banks telegraphed to Mr.
Stanton: "Reported by rebel Jackson's aide (a prisoner) that they
were assured of reinforcements to 30,000, but don't credit it." On
March 26: "The enemy is broken, but will rally. Their purpose is to
unite Jackson's and Longstreet's* (* Commanding a division under
Johnston.) forces, some 20,000, at New Market (seven miles south of
Mount Jackson) or Washington (east of Blue Ridge) in order to operate
on either side of the mountains, and will desire to prevent our
junction with the force at Manassas. At present they will not attack
here. It will relieve me greatly to know how far the enemy (i.e.
Johnston) will be pressed in front of Manassas." On the 27th his news
was less alarming: "Enemy is about four miles below Woodstock. No
reinforcement received yet. Jackson has constant communication with
Johnston, who is east of the mountains, probably at Gordonsville. His
pickets are very strong and vigilant, none of the country people
being allowed to pass the lines under any circumstances. The same
rule is applied to troops, stragglers from Winchester not being
permitted to enter their lines. We shall press them further and

The pressure, however, was postponed; and on the 29th McClellan
desired Banks to ascertain the intentions of the enemy as soon as
possible, and if he were in force to drive him from the Valley of the
Shenandoah. Thus spurred, Banks at last resolved to cross the
Rubicon. "Deficiency," he replied, "in ammunition for Shields'
artillery detains us here; expect it hourly, when we shall push
Jackson sharply." It was not, however, till April 2, four days later,
that Mr. Lincoln's protege crossed Tom's Brook. His advanced guard,
after a brisk skirmish with Ashby, reached the village of Edenburg,
ten miles south, the same evening. The main body occupied Woodstock,
and McClellan telegraphed that he was "much pleased with the vigorous

It is not impossible that Banks suspected that McClellan's
commendations were ironical. In any case, praise had no more effect
upon him than a peremptory order or the promise of reinforcements. He
was instructed to push forward as far as New Market; he was told that
he would be joined by two regiments of cavalry, and that two brigades
of Blenker's division were marching to Strasburg. But Jackson,
although Ashby had been driven in, still held obstinately to his
position, and from Woodstock and Edenburg Banks refused to move.

On April 4, becoming independent of McClellan,* (* On this date
McClellan ceased to be Commander-in-Chief.) he at once reported to
the Secretary of War that he hoped "immediately to strike Jackson an
effective blow." "Immediately," however, in Banks' opinion, was
capable of a very liberal interpretation, for it was not till April
17 that he once more broke up his camps. Well might Gordon write that
life at Edenburg became monotonous!

It is but fair to mention that during the whole of this time Banks
was much troubled about supply and transport. His magazines were at
Winchester, connected with Harper's Ferry and Washington by a line of
railway which had been rapidly repaired, and on April 12 this line
had become unserviceable through the spreading of the road-bed.* (*
The bridges over the railway between Strasburg and Manassas Gap,
which would have made a second line available, had not yet been
repaired.) His waggon train, moreover, had been diverted to Manassas
before the fight at Kernstown, and was several days late in reaching
Strasburg. The country in which he was operating was rich, and
requisitions were made upon the farmers; but in the absence of the
waggons, according to his own report, it was impossible to collect
sufficient supplies for a further advance.* (* On April 3 Jackson
wrote that the country around Banks was "very much drained of
forage.") The weather, too, had been unfavourable. The first days of
April were like summer. "But hardly," says Gordon, "had we begun to
feel in harmony with sunny days and blooming peach trees and warm
showers, before a chill came over us, bitter as the hatred of the
women of Virginia: the ground covered with snow, the air thick with
hail, and the mountains hidden in the chilly atmosphere. Our
shivering sentinels on the outer lines met at times the gaze of
half-frozen horsemen of the enemy, peering through the mist to see
what the Yankees had been doing within the last twenty-four hours. It
was hard to believe that we were in the 'sunny South.'"

All this, however, was hardly an excuse for absolute inaction. The
Confederate position on the open ridge called Rude's Hill, two and a
half miles south of Mount Jackson, was certainly strong. It was
defended in front by Mill Creek, swollen by the snows to a turbulent
and unfordable river; and by the North Fork of the Shenandoah. But
with all its natural strength Rude's Hill was but weakly held, and
Banks knew it. Moreover, it was most unlikely that Jackson would be
reinforced, for Johnston's army, with the exception of a detachment
under General Ewell, had left Orange Court House for Richmond on
April 5. "The enemy," Banks wrote to McClellan on April 6, "is
reduced to about 6000 men (sic), much demoralised by defeat,
desertion, and the general depression of spirits resting on the
Southern army. He is not in a condition to attack, neither to make a
strong resistance, and I do not believe he will make a determined
stand there. I do not believe Johnston will reinforce him." If Banks
had supplies enough to enable him to remain at Woodstock, there seems
to have been no valid reason why he should not have been able to
drive away a demoralised enemy, and to hold a position twelve miles
further south.

But the Federal commander, despite his brave words, had not yet got
rid of his misgivings. Jackson had lured him into a most
uncomfortable situation. Between the two branches of the Shenandoah,
in the very centre of the Valley, rises a gigantic mass of mountain
ridges, parallel throughout their length of fifty miles to the Blue
Ridge and the Alleghanies. These are the famous Massanuttons, the
glory of the Valley. The peaks which form their northern faces sink
as abruptly to the level near Strasburg as does the single hill which
looks down on Harrisonburg. Dense forests of oak and pine cover ridge
and ravine, and 2500 feet below, on either hand, parted by the mighty
barrier, are the dales watered by the Forks of the Shenandoah. That
to the east is the narrower and less open; the Blue Ridge is nowhere
more than ten miles distant from the Massanuttons, and the space
between them, the Luray or the South Fork Valley, through which a
single road leads northward, is clothed by continuous forest. West of
the great mountain, a broad expanse of green pasture and rich arable
extends to the foothills of the Alleghanies, dotted with woods and
homesteads, and here, in the Valley of the North Fork, is freer air
and more space for movement.

The separation of the two valleys is accentuated by the fact that
save at one point only the Massanuttons are practically impassable.
From New Market, in the western valley, a good road climbs the
heights, and crossing the lofty plateau, sinks sharply down to Luray,
the principal village on the South Fork. Elsewhere precipitous
gullies and sheer rock faces forbid all access to the mountain, and a
few hunters' paths alone wind tediously through the woods up the
steep hillside. Nor are signal stations to be found on the wide area
of unbroken forest which clothes the summit. Except from the peaks at
either end, or from one or two points on the New Market-Luray road,
the view is intercepted by the sea of foliage and the rolling spurs.

Striking eastward from Luray, two good roads cross the Blue Ridge;
one running to Culpeper Court House, through Thornton's Gap; the
other through Fisher's Gap to Gordonsville.

It was the Massanuttons that weighed on the mind of Banks. The Valley
of the South Fork gave the Confederates a covered approach against
his line of communications. Issuing from that strait cleft between
the mountains Ashby's squadrons might at any time sweep down upon his
trains of waggons, his hospitals, and his magazines; and should
Jackson be reinforced, Ashby might be supported by infantry and guns,
and both Strasburg and Winchester be endangered. It was not within
Banks' power to watch the defile. "His cavalry," he reported, "was
weak in numbers and spirit, much exhausted with night and day work."
Good cavalry, he declared, would help incalculably, and he admitted
that in this arm he was greatly inferior to the enemy.

Nor was he more happy as to the Alleghanies on his right. Fremont was
meditating an advance on Lewisburg, Staunton, and the Virginia and
Tennessee Railway with 25,000 men.* (* See ante.) One column was to
start from Gauley Bridge, in the Kanawha Valley; the other from the
South Branch of the Potomac. Milroy's brigade, from Cheat Mountain,
had therefore occupied Monterey, and Schenck's brigade had marched
from Romney to Moorefield. But Moorefield was thirty miles west of
Woodstock, and between them rose a succession of rugged ridges,
within whose deep valleys the Confederate horsemen might find paths
by which to reach to Banks' rear.

It was essential, then, that his communications should be strongly
guarded, and as he advanced up the Valley his force had diminished at
every march. According to his own report he had, on April 6, 16,700
men fit for duty. Of these 4100 were detached along the road from
Woodstock to Harper's Ferry. His effective strength for battle was
thus reduced to 12,600, or, including the troops escorting convoys
and the garrison of Strasburg, to 14,500 men, with 40 pieces of
artillery.* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 50.)

Such were the considerations that influenced the Federal commander.
Had he occupied New Market, as McClellan had desired, he would have
secured the Luray road, have opened the South Fork Valley to his
scouts, and have overcome half the difficulties presented by the
Massanuttons. A vigorous advance would have turned the attention of
the Confederates from his communications to their own; and to drive
Jackson from the Valley was the best method of protecting the trains
and the magazines. But Banks was not inclined to beard the lion in
his den, and on April 16 Jackson had been unmolested for more than
three weeks. Ashby's troopers were the only men who had even seen the
enemy. Daily that indefatigable soldier had called to arms the
Federal outposts. "Our stay at Edenburg," says Gordon, "was a
continuous season of artillery brawling and picket stalking. The
creek that separated the outposts was not more than ten yards wide.
About one-fourth of a mile away there was a thick wood, in which the
enemy concealed his batteries until he chose to stir us up, when he
would sneak up behind the cover, open upon us at an unexpected
moment, and retreat rapidly when we replied." It was doubtless by
such constant evidence of his vigilance that Ashby imposed caution on
the enemy's reconnoitring parties. The fact remains that Jackson's
camps, six miles to the rear, were never once alarmed, nor could
Banks obtain any reliable information.

This period of repose was spent by Jackson in reorganising his
regiments, in writing letters to his wife, and, like his old
class-mate, Gordon, in admiring the scenery. It is not to be supposed
that his enforced inaction was altogether to his taste. With an enemy
within sight of his outposts his bold and aggressive spirit must have
been sorely tried. But with his inferior numbers prudence cried
patience, and he had reason to be well content with the situation. He
had been instructed to prevent Banks from detaching troops to
reinforce McClellan. To attain an object in war the first
consideration is to make no mistakes yourself; the next, to take
instant advantage of those made by your opponent. But compliance with
this rule does not embrace the whole art of generalship. The enemy
may be too discreet to commit himself to risky manoeuvres. If the
campaigns of the great masters of war are examined, it will be found
that they but seldom adopted a quiescent attitude, but by one means
or another, by acting on their adversary's morale, or by creating
false impressions, they induced him to make a false step, and to
place himself in a position which made it easy for them to attain
their object. The greatest general has been defined as "he who makes
the fewest mistakes;" but "he who compels his adversary to make the
most mistakes" is a definition of equal force; and it may even be
questioned whether the general whose imagination is unequal to the
stratagems which bring mistakes about is worthy of the name. He may
be a trustworthy subordinate, but he can scarcely become a great

Johnston had advised, when, at the beginning of March, the retreat of
the Confederates from Winchester was determined on, that Jackson
should fall back on Front Royal, and thence, if necessary, up the
South Fork of the Shenandoah. His force would thus be in close
communication with the main army behind the Rapidan; and it was
contrary, in the General-in-Chief's opinion, to all sound discretion
to permit the enemy to attain a point, such as Front Royal, which
would render it possible for him to place himself between them.
Jackson, however, declared his preference for a retreat up the North
Fork, in the direction of Staunton. Why should Banks join McClellan
at all? McClellan, so Jackson calculated, had already more men with
him than he could feed; and he believed, therefore, that Staunton
would be Banks' objective, because, by seizing that town, he would
threaten Edward Johnson's rear, open the way for Fremont, and then,
crossing the Blue Ridge, place himself so near the communications of
the main army with Richmond that it would be compelled to fall back
to defend them. Nor, in any case, did he agree with Johnston that the
occupation of Front Royal would prevent Banks leaving the Valley and
marching to Manassas. Twenty miles due east of Winchester is
Snicker's Gap, where a good road crosses the Blue Ridge, and eight
miles south another turnpike leads over Ashby's Gap. By either of
these Banks could reach Manassas just as rapidly as Jackson could
join Johnston; and, while 4500 men could scarcely be expected to
detain 20,000, they might very easily be cut off by a portion of the
superior force.

If a junction with the main army were absolutely necessary, Jackson
was of opinion that the move ought to be made at once, and the Valley
abandoned. If, on the other hand, it was desirable to keep Banks and
McClellan separated, the best means of doing so was to draw the
former up the North Fork; and at Mount Jackson, covering the New
Market to Luray road, the Valley troops would be as near the Rapidan
as if they were at Front Royal.* (* Dabney volume 2 pages 22 and 23.
O.R. volume 5 page 1087.) The strategical advantages which such a
position would offer--the isolation of the troops pursuing him, the
chance of striking their communications from the South Fork Valley,
and, if reinforcements were granted, of cutting off their retreat by
a rapid movement from Luray to Winchester--were always present to
Jackson's mind.* (* Cf letters of April 5. O.R. volume 12 part 3
pages 843 and 844.)

An additional argument was that at the time when these alternatives
were discussed the road along South Fork was so bad as to make
marching difficult; and it was to this rather than to Jackson's
strategical conceptions that Johnston appears to have ultimately

Be this as it may, the sum of Jackson's operations was satisfactory
in the extreme. On March 27 he had written to Johnston, "I will try
and draw the enemy on." On April 16 Banks was exactly where he wished
him, well up the North Fork of the Shenandoah, cut off by the
Massanuttons from Manassas, and by the Alleghanies from Fremont. The
two detachments which held the Valley, his own force at Mount
Jackson, and Edward Johnson's 2800 on the Shenandoah Mountain, were
in close communication, and could at any time, if permitted by the
higher authorities, combine against either of the columns which
threatened Staunton. "What I desire," he said to Mr. Boteler, a
friend in the Confederate Congress, "is to hold the country, as far
as practicable, until we are in a condition to advance; and then,
with God's blessing, let us make thorough work of it. But let us
start right."

On April 7 he wrote to his wife as follows:--

"Your sickness gives me great concern; but so live that it and all
your tribulations 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!' I trust you and all I
have in the hands of a kind Providence, knowing that all things work
together for the good of His people. Yesterday was a lovely Sabbath
day. Although I had not the privilege of hearing the word of life,
yet it felt like a holy Sabbath day, beautiful, serene, and lovely.
All it wanted was the church-bell and God's services in the sanctuary
to make it complete. 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."

The troops, notwithstanding their defeat at Kernstown, were in high
spirits. The very slackness of the Federal pursuit had made them
aware that they had inflicted a heavy blow. They had been thanked by
Congress for their valour. The newspapers were full of their praises.
Their comrades were returning from hospital and furlough, and
recruits were rapidly coming in.* (* Congress, on April 16, passed a
Conscription Act, under which all able-bodied whites, between the
ages of eighteen and thirty-five, were compelled to serve. It was not
found necessary, however, except in the case of three religious
denominations, to enforce the Act in the Valley; and, in dealing with
these sectarians, Jackson found a means of reconciling their scruples
with their duty to their State. He organised them in companies as
teamsters, pledging himself to employ them, so far as practicable, in
other ways than fighting. O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 835.) The
mounted branch attracted the majority, and Ashby's regiment soon
numbered more than 2000 troopers. Their commander, however, knew
little of discipline. Besides himself there was but one field-officer
for one-and-twenty companies; nor had these companies any regimental
organisation. When Jackson attempted to reduce this curiously
constituted force to order, his path was once more crossed by the
Secretary of War. Mr. Benjamin, dazzled by Ashby's exploits, had
given him authority to raise and command a force of independent
cavalry. A reference to this authority and a threat of resignation
was Ashby's reply to Jackson's orders. "Knowing Ashby's ascendency
over his men, and finding himself thus deprived of legitimate power,
the general was constrained to pause, and the cavalry was left
unorganised and undisciplined. One half was rarely available for
duty. 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 force of discipline."* (* Dabney volume 2 page

By April 15 Jackson's force had increased to 6000 men.* (* On April 5
he had over 4000 infantry. O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 844. The
estimate in the text is from Colonel Allan's Valley Campaign page 64.
On April 9, however, he was so short of arms that 1000 pikes were
ordered from Richmond. "Under Divine blessing," he wrote, "we must
rely upon the bayonet when firearms cannot be furnished." O.R. volume
12 part 3 pages 842 and 845.) McClellan had now landed an army of
over 100,000 at Fortress Monroe, on the Yorktown Peninsula, and
Johnston had marched thither to oppose him. The weather had at last
cleared; although the mountain pines stood deep in snow the roads
were in good order; the rivers were once more fordable; the Manassas
Gap Railway had been restored as far as Strasburg, and Banks took
heart of grace.

April 17.

On the 17th his forces were put in motion. One of Ashby's companies
was surprised and captured. A brigade was sent to turn the
Confederate left by a ford of the North Fork; and when the
Virginians, burning the railway station at Mount Jackson, fell back
southwards, the Federal cavalry seized New Market.

For the moment the situation of the Valley army was somewhat
critical. When Johnston marched to the Peninsula he had left a force
of 8000 men, under General Ewell, on the Upper Rappahannock, and with
this force Jackson had been instructed to co-operate. But with the
road across the Massanuttons in his possession Banks could move into
the Luray Valley, and occupying Swift Run Gap with a detachment, cut
the communication between the two Confederate generals. It was
essential, then, that this important pass should be secured, and
Jackson's men were called on for a forced march.

April 18.

On the morning of the 18th they reached Harrisonburg, twenty-five
miles from Mount Jackson, and halted the same evening at Peale's,
about six miles east.

April 19.

On the 19th they crossed the Shenandoah at Conrad's store, and
leaving a detachment to hold the bridge, moved to the foot of Swift
Run Gap, and went into camp in Elk Run Valley. In three days they had
marched over fifty miles. Banks followed with his customary caution,
and when, on the 17th, his cavalry occupied New Market he was
congratulated by the Secretary of War on his "brilliant and
successful operations." On the 19th he led a detachment across the
Massanuttons, and seized the two bridges over the South Fork at
Luray, driving back a squadron which Jackson had sent to burn them.

April 22.

On the night of the 22nd his cavalry reached Harrisonburg, and he
reported that want of supplies alone prevented him from bringing the
Confederates to bay.

April 26.

On the 26th he sent two of his five brigades to Harrisonburg, the
remainder halting at New Market, and for the last few days, according
to his own dispatches, beef, flour, and forage had been abundant. Yet
it had taken him ten days to march five-and-thirty miles.

April 20.

On April 20 General Edward Johnson, menaced in rear by Banks'
advance, in flank by the brigade which Fremont had placed at
Moorefield, and in front by Milroy's brigade, which had advanced from
Monterey, had fallen back from the Shenandoah Mountain to West View,
seven miles west of Staunton; and to all appearance the Federal
prospects were exceedingly favourable.

Harrisonburg is five-and-twenty miles, or two short marches, north of
Staunton. The hamlet of M'Dowell, now occupied by Milroy, is
seven-and-twenty miles north-west. Proper concert between Banks and
Fremont should therefore have ensured the destruction or retreat of
Edward Johnson, and have placed Staunton, as well as the Virginia
Central Railroad, in their hands. But although not a single picket
stood between his outposts and Staunton, Banks dared not move. By
moving to Elk Run Valley Jackson had barred the way of the Federals
more effectively than if he had intrenched his troops across the
Staunton road.

South of Harrisonburg, where the Valley widens to five-and-twenty
miles, there was no strong position. And even had such existed, 6000
men, of which a third were cavalry, could scarcely have hoped to hold
it permanently against a far superior force. Moreover, cooped up
inside intrenchments, the Army of the Valley would have lost all
freedom of action; and Jackson would have been cut off both from
Ewell and from Richmond. But, although direct intervention was
impracticable, he was none the less resolved that Banks should never
set foot in Staunton. The Elk Run Valley was well adapted for his
purpose. Spurs of the Blue Ridge, steep, pathless, and densely
wooded, covered either flank. The front, protected by the Shenandoah,
was very strong. Communication with both Ewell and Richmond was
secure, and so long as he held the bridge at Conrad's store he
threatened the flank of the Federals should they advance on Staunton.
Strategically the position was by no means perfect. The Confederates,
to use an expression of General Grant's, applied to a similar
situation, were "in a bottle." A bold enemy would have seized the
bridge, "corking up" Jackson with a strong detachment, and have
marched on Staunton with his main body.

"Had Banks been more enterprising," says Dabney, "this objection
would have been decisive." But he was not enterprising, and Jackson
knew it.* (* "My own opinion," he wrote, when this movement was in
contemplation, "is that Banks will not follow me up to the Blue
Ridge. My desire is, as far as practicable, to hold the Valley, and I
hope that Banks will be deterred from advancing [from New Market]
much further toward Staunton by the apprehension of my returning to
New Market [by Luray], and thus getting in his rear." O.R. volume 12
part 3 page 848.) He had had opportunities in plenty of judging his
opponent's character. The slow advance on Winchester, the long delay
at Woodstock, the cautious approach to New Market, had revealed
enough. It was a month since the battle of Kernstown, and yet the
Confederate infantry, although for the greater part of the time they
had been encamped within a few miles of the enemy's outposts, had not
fired a shot.

The tardy progress of the Federals from Woodstock to Harrisonburg had
been due rather to the perplexities of their commander than to the
difficulties of supply; and Banks had got clear of the Massanuttons
only to meet with fresh embarrassments. Jackson's move to Elk Run
Valley was a complete checkmate. His opponent felt that he was
dangerously exposed. McClellan had not yet begun his advance on
Richmond; and, so long as that city was secure from immediate attack,
the Confederates could spare men to reinforce Jackson. The railway
ran within easy reach of Swift Run Gap, and the troops need not be
long absent from the capital. Ewell, too, with a force of unknown
strength, was not far distant. Banks could expect no help from
Fremont. Both generals were anxious to work together, and plans had
been submitted to Washington which would probably have secured the
capture of Staunton and the control of the railway. But the Secretary
of War rejected all advice. Fremont was given to understand that
under no circumstances was he to count on Banks,* (* O.R. volume 12
page 104.) and the latter was told to halt at Harrisonburg. "It is
not the desire of the President," wrote Mr. Stanton on April 26,
"that you should prosecute a further advance towards the south. It is
possible that events may make it necessary to transfer the command of
General Shields to the department of the Rappahannock [i.e. to the
First Army Corps], and you are desired to act accordingly." To crown
all, Blenker's division, which had reached Winchester, instead of
being sent to support Banks, forty-five miles distant by the Valley
turnpike, was ordered to join Fremont in the Alleghanies by way of
Romney, involving a march of one hundred and twenty miles, over bad
roads, before it could reinforce his advanced brigade.

Stanton, in writing to Banks, suggested that he should not let his
advanced guard get too far ahead of the main body; but be does not
appear to have seen that the separation of Banks, Fremont, and
Blenker, and the forward position of the two former, which he had
determined to maintain, was even more dangerous.* (* Jackson had
recognised all along the mistake the Federals had made in pushing
comparatively small forces up the Valley before McClellan closed in
on Richmond. On April 5, when Banks was at Woodstock, he wrote:
"Banks is very cautious. As he belongs to McClellan's army, I suppose
that McClellan is at the helm, and that he would not, even if Banks
so desired, permit him to advance much farther until other parts of
his army are farther advanced." (O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 843). He
did not know that at the date he wrote the President and Mr. Stanton
had relieved McClellan at the helm.) His lesson was to come, for
Jackson, by no means content with arresting Banks' march, was already
contemplating that general's destruction.

The situation demanded instant action, and in order that the import
of Jackson's movements may be fully realised it is necessary to turn
to the main theatre of war. McClellan, on April 5, with the 60,000
men already landed, had moved a few miles up the Peninsula. Near the
village of Yorktown, famous for the surrender of Lord Cornwallis and
his army in 1782, he found the road blocked by a line of earthworks
and numerous guns. Magruder, Jackson's captain in Mexico, was in
command; but Johnston was still on the Rapidan, one hundred and
thirty miles away, and the Confederates had no more than 15,000 men
in position. The flanks, however, were secured by the York and the
James rivers, which here expand to wide estuaries, and the works were
strong. Yorktown proved almost as fatal to the invaders as to their
English predecessors. Before the historic lines their march was
suddenly brought up. McClellan, although his army increased in
numbers every day, declined the swift process of a storm. Personal
reconnaissance convinced him that "instant assault would have been
simple folly," and he determined to besiege the intrenchments in due
form. On April 10 Johnston's army began to arrive at Yorktown, and
the lines, hitherto held by a slender garrison, were now manned by
53,000 men.

The Confederate position was by no means impregnable. The river James
to the south was held by the "Merrimac," an improvised ironclad of
novel design, which had already wrought terrible destruction amongst
the wooden frigates of the Federals. She was neutralised, however, by
her Northern counterpart, the "Monitor," and after an indecisive
action she had remained inactive for nearly a month. The York was
less securely guarded. The channel, nearly a mile wide, was barred
only by the fire of two forts; and that at Gloucester Point, on the
north bank, was open to assault from the land side. Had McClellan
disembarked a detachment and carried this work, which might easily
have been done, the river would have been opened to his gunboats, and
Johnston's lines have become untenable. He decided, however,
notwithstanding that his army was more than 100,000 strong, that he
had no men to spare for such an enterprise.

Magruder's bold stand was of infinite service to the Confederate
cause. To both parties time was of the utmost value. The Federals
were still over seventy miles from Richmond; and there was always a
possibility, if their advance were not rapidly pressed, that Johnston
might move on Washington and cause the recall of the army to protect
the capital. The Confederates, on the other hand, had been surprised
by the landing of McClellan's army. They had been long aware that the
flotilla had sailed, but they had not discovered its destination; the
detachments which first landed were supposed to be reinforcements for
the garrison of the fortress; and when McClellan advanced on
Yorktown, Johnston was far to the west of Richmond. The delay had
enabled him to reach the lines.* (* The first detachment of Federals
embarked at Alexandria on March 16, and the army was thereafter
transferred to the Peninsula by successive divisions. On March 25
Johnston was ordered to be ready to move to Richmond. On April 4 he
was ordered to move at once. On that date 50,000 Federals had
landed.) But at the time Jackson fell back to Elk Run Valley, April
17 to 19, fortune seemed inclining to the Federals.

Lincoln had been induced to relax his hold on the army corps which he
had held back at Manassas to protect the capital, and McDowell was
already moving on Fredericksburg, sixty miles north of Richmond. Here
he was to be joined by Shields, bringing his force for the field up
to 40,000 men; and the fall of Yorktown was to be the signal for his
advance on the Confederate capital. Johnston still held the lines,
but he was outnumbered by more than two to one, and the enemy was
disembarking heavy ordnance. It was evident that the end could not be
long delayed, and that in case of retreat every single Confederate
soldier, from the Valley and elsewhere, would have to be brought to
Richmond for the decisive battle. Jackson was thus bound to his
present position, close to the railway, and his orders from Johnston
confined him to a strictly defensive attitude. In case Banks advanced
eastward he was to combine with Ewell, and receive attack in the
passes of the Blue Ridge.

Such cautious strategy, to one so fully alive to the opportunity
offered by McClellan's retention before Yorktown, was by no means
acceptable. When his orders reached him, Jackson was already weaving
plans for the discomfiture of his immediate adversary, and it may be
imagined with what reluctance, although he gave no vent to his
chagrin, he accepted the passive role which had been assigned to him.

No sooner, however, had he reached Elk Run Valley than the telegraph
brought most welcome news. In a moment of unwonted wisdom the
Confederate President had charged General Lee with the control of all
military operations in Virginia, and on April 21 came a letter to
Jackson which foreshadowed the downfall of McClellan and the rout of
the invaders.

April 21.

McDowell's advance from Manassas had already become known to the
Confederates, and Lee had divined what this movement portended. "I
have no doubt," he wrote to Jackson, "that an attempt will be made to
occupy Fredericksburg and use it as a base of operations against
Richmond. Our present force there is very small, (2,500 men under
General Field), and cannot be reinforced except by weakening other
corps. If you can use General Ewell's division in an attack on Banks,
it will prove a great relief to the pressure on Fredericksburg."* (*
O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 859.)

This view of the situation was in exact agreement with Jackson's own
views. He had already made preparation for combined action with
Ewell. For some days they had been in active correspondence. The
exact route which Ewell should take to the Blue Ridge had been
decided on. The roads had been reconnoitred. Jackson had supplied a
map identical with his own, and had furnished an officer to act as
guide. A service of couriers had been established across the
mountains, and no precaution had been neglected. Ewell was instructed
to bring five days' rations. He was warned that there would be no
necessity for a forced march; he was to encamp at cross-roads, and he
was to rest on Sunday.* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 pages 849, 854 and

April 23.

Jackson, replying to Lee, stated that he was only waiting a
favourable occasion to fall on Banks. "My object," he wrote, "has
been to get in his rear at New Market or Harrisonburg, if he gives me
an opportunity, and this would be the case should he advance on
Staunton with his main body. It appears to me that if I remain quiet
a few days more he will probably make a move in some direction, or
send a large force towards Harrisonburg, and thus enable me, with the
blessing of Providence, to successfully attack his advance. If I am
unsuccessful in driving back his entire force he may be induced to
move forward from New Market, and attempt to follow me through this
Gap, where our forces would have greatly the advantage...

"Under all the circumstances I will direct General Ewell to move to
Stanardsville. Should Banks remain in the position of yesterday
[cavalry at Harrisonburg; infantry, etc., at New Market] I will try
and seek an opportunity of attacking successfully some part of his
army, and if circumstances justify press forward. My instructions
from General Johnston were to unite with General Ewell near the top
of the Blue Ridge, and give battle. The course I propose would be
departing from General Johnston's instructions, but I do not believe
that Banks will follow me to the Blue Ridge unless I first engage
him, and I doubt whether he will then."

But although authorised to draw Ewell to himself, and to carry out
the project on which his heart was set, he still kept in view the
general situation. After he had dispatched the above letter, a report
came in which led him to believe that Ewell was more needed on the
Rappahannock than in the Valley. Lee had already informed him that
McDowell's advanced guard had occupied Falmouth, on the north bank of
the river, opposite Fredericksburg, on April 19, and that General
Field had fallen back.

Jackson, in consequence, permitted Ewell to remain near Gordonsville,
close to the railway; assuring Lee that "he would make arrangements
so as not to be disappointed should Ewell be ordered to
Fredericksburg."* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 pages 863 and 864.)

Nor was this the only instance in which he demonstrated his breadth
of view. In planning co-operation with Ewell, that general had
suggested that he should take a different road to that which had been
recommended by General Johnston, should necessity for a combined
movement arise. Jackson protested against the route being altered.
"General Johnston," he wrote, "does not state why he desires you to
go (by this road), but it may be for the purpose of deceiving the
enemy with regard to your ultimate destination, to be more distant
from the enemy during the movement, and also to be in a more
favourable position for reinforcing some other points should it be
necessary." The interests of his own force, here as always, were
subordinated to those of the army which was defending Richmond.

April 25.

The next information received from General Lee was that the enemy was
collecting in strong force at Fredericksburg. "For this purpose," he
wrote, "they must weaken other points, and now is the time to
concentrate on any that may be exposed within our reach." He then
suggested that, if Banks was too strong in numbers and position,
Jackson and Ewell combined should move on Warrenton, where a Federal
force was reported; or that Ewell and Field should attack
Fredericksburg. "The blow," he added, "wherever struck, must, to be
successful, be sudden and heavy. The troops must be efficient and
light. I cannot pretend at this distance to direct operations
depending on circumstances unknown to me, and requiring the exercise
of discretion and judgment as to time and execution, but submit these
ideas for your consideration."* (* Jackson himself showed the same
wise self-restraint. In his communications with Ewell, after that
officer had been placed under his orders, but before they had joined
hands, he suggested certain movements as advisable, but invariably
left the ultimate decision to his subordinate's judgment.)

April 26.

On April 26, when Banks moved two brigades to Harrisonburg, Ewell was
at once called up to Stanardsville, twelve miles south-east of Swift
Run Gap. No opportunity as yet had offered for attack. "I have reason
to believe," wrote Jackson to Lee on the 28th, "that Banks has 21,000
men within a day's march of me.* (* On April 30 Banks and Shields,
who had been reinforced, numbered 20,000 effective officers and men,
of whom a portion must have been guarding the communications. Reports
of April 30 and May 31. O.R. volume 12 part 3.) He has moved his main
body from New Market to Harrisonburg, leaving probably a brigade at
New Market, and between that town and the Shenandoah (Luray Gap), to
guard against a force getting in his rear...On yesterday week there
were near 7000 men in the neighbourhood of Winchester, under Blenker;
as yet I have not heard of their having joined Banks...I propose to
attack Banks in front if you will send me 5000 more men...Now, as it
appears to me, is the golden opportunity for striking a blow. Until I
hear from you I will watch an opportunity for striking some exposed
point."* (* It is amusing to note how far, at this time, his staff
officers were from understanding their commander. On this very date
one of them wrote in a private letter: "As sure as you and I live,
Jackson is a cracked man, and the sequel will show it." A month later
he must have been sorry he had posed as a prophet.)

April 29.

The next day, April 29, Jackson suggested, if reinforcements could
not be spared, that one of three plans should be adopted. "Either to
leave Ewell here (Swift Run Gap) to threaten Banks' rear in the event
of his advancing on Staunton, and move with my command rapidly on the
force in front of General Edward Johnson; or else, co-operating with
Ewell, to attack the enemy's detached force between New Market and
the Shenandoah, and if successful in this, then to press forward and
get in Banks' rear at New Market, and thus induce him to fall back;
the third is to pass down the Shenandoah to Sperryvile (east of the
Blue Ridge), and thus threaten Winchester via Front Royal. To get in
Banks' rear with my present force would be rather a dangerous
undertaking, as I would have to cross the river and immediately cross
the Massanutton Mountains, during which the enemy would have the
advantage of position. Of the three plans I give the preference to
attacking the force west of Staunton [Milroy], for, if successful, I
would afterward only have Banks to contend with, and in doing this
would be reinforced by General Edward Johnson, and by that time you
might be able to give me reinforcements, which, united with the
troops under my control, would enable me to defeat Banks. If he
should be routed and his command destroyed, nearly all our own forces
here could, if necessary, cross the Blue Ridge to Warrenton,
Fredericksburg, or any other threatened point."

Lee's reply was to the effect that no reinforcements could be spared,
but that he had carefully considered the three plans of operations
proposed, and that the selection was left to Jackson.

The Army of the Valley, when the Commander-in-Chief's letter was
received, had already been put in motion. Three roads lead from
Conrad's store in the Elk Run Valley to Johnson's position at West
View; one through Harrisonburg; the second by Port Republic, Cross
Keys, and Mount Sidney; the third, the river road, by Port Republic
and Staunton. The first of these was already occupied by the
Federals; the second was tortuous, and at places almost within view
of the enemy's camps; while the third, though it was nowhere less
than ten miles distant, ran obliquely across their front. In fact, to
all appearance, Banks with his superior force blocked Jackson's march
on Staunton more effectively than did Jackson his.

On the 29th, Ashby, continually watching Banks, made a demonstration
in force towards Harrisonburg.

April 30.

(MAP. SITUATION, APRIL 30, 1862. Showing: West: Franklin, North:
Harper's Ferry, South: Richmond, East: West Point.)

On the 30th he drove the Federal cavalry back upon their camps; and
the same afternoon Jackson, leaving Elk Run Valley, which was
immediately occupied by Ewell, with 8000 men, marched up the river to
Port Republic. The track, unmetalled and untended, had been turned
into a quagmire by the heavy rains of an ungenial spring, and the
troops marched only five miles, bivouacking by the roadside. May 1
was a day of continuous rain. The great mountains loomed dimly
through the dreary mist. The streams which rushed down the gorges to
the Shenandoah had swelled to brawling torrents, and in the hollows
of the fields the water stood in sheets. Men and horses floundered
through the mud. The guns sunk axle-deep in the treacherous soil; and
it was only by the help of large detachments of pioneers that the
heavy waggons of the train were able to proceed at all. It was in
vain that piles of stones and brushwood were strewn upon the roadway;
the quicksands dragged them down as fast as they were placed. The
utmost exertions carried the army no more than five miles forward,
and the troops bivouacked once more in the dripping woods.

May 2.

The next day, the third in succession, the struggle with the elements
continued. The whole command was called upon to move the guns and
waggons. The general and his staff were seen dismounted, urging on
the labourers; and Jackson, his uniform bespattered with mud, carried
stones and timbers on his own shoulders. But before nightfall the
last ambulance had been extricated from the slough, and the men,
drenched to the skin, and worn with toil, found a halting-place on
firmer ground. But this halting-place was not on the road to
Staunton. Before they reached Port Republic, instead of crossing the
Shenandoah and passing through the village, the troops had been
ordered to change the direction of their march. The spot selected for
their bivouac was at the foot of Brown's Gap, not more than twelve
miles south-west of the camp in Elk Run Valley.

May 3.

The next morning the clouds broke. The sun, shining with summer
warmth, ushered in a glorious May day, and the column, turning its
back upon the Valley, took the stony road that led over the Blue
Ridge. Upward and eastward the battalions passed, the great forest of
oak and pine rising high on either hand, until from the eyry of the
mountain-eagles they looked down upon the wide Virginia plains. Far
off, away to the south-east, the trails of white smoke from passing
trains marked the line of the Central Railroad, and the line of march
led directly to the station at Mechum's River. Both officers and men
were more than bewildered. Save to his adjutant-general, Jackson had
breathed not a whisper of his plan. The soldiers only knew that they
were leaving the Valley, and leaving it in the enemy's possession.
Winchester, Strasburg, Front Royal, New Market, Harrisonburg, were
full of Northern troops. Staunton alone was yet unoccupied. But
Staunton was closely threatened; and north of Harrisonburg the
blue-coated cavalry were riding far and wide. While the women and old
men looked impotently on, village and mill and farm were at the mercy
of the invaders. Already the Federal commissaries had laid hands on
herds and granaries. It is true that the Northerners waged war like
gentlemen; yet for all that the patriotism of the Valley soldiers was
sorely tried. They were ready to go to Richmond if the time had come;
but it was with heavy hearts that they saw the Blue Ridge rise behind
them, and the bivouac on Mechum's River was even more cheerless than
the sodden woods near Port Republic. The long lines of cars that
awaited them at the station but confirmed their anticipations. They
were evidently wanted at the capital, and the need was pressing.
Still not a word transpired as to their destination.

May 4.

The next day was Sunday, and Jackson had intended that the troops
should rest. But early in the morning came a message from Edward
Johnson. Fremont's advanced guard was pushing forward. "After hard
debate with himself," says Dabney, who accompanied him, "and with
sore reluctance," Jackson once more sacrificed his scruples and
ordered the command to march. The infantry was to move by rail, the
artillery and waggons by road. To their astonishment and delight the
troops then heard, for the first time, that their destination was not
Richmond but Staunton; and although they were far from understanding
the reason for their circuitous march, they began to suspect that it
had not been made without good purpose.

If the soldiers had been heavy hearted at the prospect of leaving the
Valley, the people of Staunton had been plunged in the direst grief.
For a long time past they had lived in a pitiable condition of
uncertainty. On April 19 the sick and convalescent of the Valley army
had been removed to Gordonsville. On the same day Jackson had moved
to Elk Run Valley, leaving the road from Harrisonburg completely
open; and Edward Johnson evacuated his position on the Shenandoah
Mountain. Letters from Jackson's officers, unacquainted with the
designs of their commander, had confirmed the apprehension that the
Federals were too strong to be resisted. On the Saturday of this
anxious week had come the news that the army was crossing the Blue
Ridge, and that the Valley had been abandoned to the enemy. Sunday
morning was full of rumours and excitement. 10,000 Federals, it was
reported, were advancing against Johnson at West View; Banks was
moving from Harrisonburg; his cavalry had been seen from the
neighbouring hills, and Staunton believed that it was to share the
fate of Winchester. Suddenly a train full of soldiers steamed into
the station; and as regiment after regiment, clad in their own
Confederate grey, swept through the crowded streets, confidence in
Stonewall Jackson began once more to revive.

Pickets were immediately posted on all the roads leading to
Harrisonburg, and beyond the line of sentries no one, whatever his
business might be, was allowed to pass. The following day the
remainder of the division arrived, and the junction with Johnson's
brigade was virtually effected. May 6 was spent in resting the
troops, in making the arrangements for the march, and in getting

May 7.

The next morning brought a fresh surprise to both troops and
townsfolk. Banks, so the rumour went, was rapidly approaching; and it
was confidently expected that the twin hills which stand above the
town--christened by some early settler, after two similar heights in
faraway Tyrone, Betsy Bell and Mary Gray--would look down upon a
bloody battle. But instead of taking post to defend the town, the
Valley regiments filed away over the western hills, heading for the
Alleghanies; and Staunton was once more left unprotected. Jackson,
although informed by Ashby that Banks, so far from moving forward,
was actually retiring on New Market, was still determined to strike
first at Milroy, commanding Fremont's advanced guard; and there can
be little question but that his decision was correct. As we have
seen, he was under the impression that Banks' strength was 21,000, a
force exceeding the united strength of the Confederates by 4200 men.*
(* Jackson, 6000; Ewell, 8000; E. Johnson, 2800.) It was undoubtedly
sound strategy to crush the weaker and more exposed of the enemy's
detachments first; and then, having cleared his own rear and
prevented all chance of combination between Banks and Fremont, to
strike the larger.

There was nothing to be feared from Harrisonburg. Eight days had
elapsed since Jackson had marched from Elk Run; but Banks was still
in blissful ignorance of the blow that threatened Fremont's advanced

On April 28 he had telegraphed to Washington that he was "entirely
secure." Everything was satisfactory. "The enemy," he said, "is in no
condition for offensive movements. Our supplies have not been in so
good condition nor my command in so good spirits since we left
Winchester. General Hatch (commanding cavalry) made a reconnaissance
in force yesterday, which resulted in obtaining a complete view of
the enemy's position. A negro employed in Jackson's tent came in this
morning, and reports preparation for retreat of Jackson to-day. You
need have no apprehensions for our safety. I think we are just now in
a condition to do all you can desire of us in the Valley--clear the
enemy out permanently."

On the 30th, when Ashby repaid with interest Hatch's reconnaissance
in force, he reported: "All quiet. Some alarm excited by movement of
enemy's cavalry. It appears to-day that they were in pursuit of a
Union prisoner who escaped to our camp. The day he left Jackson was
to be reinforced by Johnson and attack via Luray. Another report says
Jackson is bound for Richmond. This is the fact, I have no doubt.
Jackson is on half-rations, his supplies having been cut off by our
advance. There is nothing to be done in this Valley this side of

The same night, "after full consultation with all leading officers,"
he repeated that his troops were no longer required in the Valley,
and suggested to the Secretary of War that he should be permitted to
cross the Blue Ridge and clear the whole country north of
Gordonsville. "Enemy's force there is far less than represented in
newspapers--not more than 20,000 at the outside. Jackson's army is
reduced, demoralised, on half-rations. They are all concentrating for
Richmond...I am now satisfied that it is the most safe and effective
disposition for our corps. I pray your favourable consideration. Such
order will electrify our force." The force was certainly to be
electrified, but the impulse was not to come from Mr. Secretary

Banks, it may have been observed, whenever his superiors wanted him
to move, had invariably the best of reasons for halting. At one time
supplies were most difficult to arrange for. At another time the
enemy was being reinforced, and his own numbers were small. But when
he was told to halt, he immediately panted to be let loose. "The
enemy was not half so strong as had been reported;" "His men were
never in better condition;" "Supplies were plentiful." It is not
impossible that Mr. Stanton had by this time discovered, as was said
of a certain Confederate general, a protege of the President, that
Banks had a fine career before him until Lincoln "undertook to make
of him what the good Lord hadn't, a great general." To the daring
propositions of the late Governor and Speaker, the only reply
vouchsafed was an order to fall back on Strasburg, and to transfer
Shields' division to General McDowell at Fredericksburg.

But on May 3, the day Jackson disappeared behind the Blue Ridge,
Banks, to his evident discomfiture, found that his adversary had not
retreated to Richmond after all. The dashing commander, just now so
anxious for one thing or the other, either to clear the Valley or to
sweep the country north of Gordonsville, disappeared. "The reduced,
demoralised" enemy assumed alarming proportions. Nothing was said
about his half-rations; and as Ewell had reached Swift Run Gap with a
force estimated at 12,000 men, while Jackson, according to the
Federal scouts, was still near Port Republic, Banks thought it
impossible to divide his force with safety.

Stanton's reply is not on record, but it seems that he permitted
Banks to retain Shields until he arrived at Strasburg; and on May 5
the Federals fell back to New Market, their commander, misled both by
his cavalry and his spies, believing that Jackson had marched to

On the 7th, the day that Jackson moved west from Staunton, Banks'
fears again revived. He was still anxious that Shields should remain
with him. "Our cavalry," he said, "from near Harrisonburg report
to-night that Jackson occupies that town, and that he has been
largely reinforced. Deserters confirm reports of Jackson's movements
in this direction."

Jackson's movements at this juncture are full of interest. Friend and
foe were both mystified. Even his own officers might well ask why, in
his march to Staunton, he deliberately adopted the terrible road to
Port Republic. From Elk Run Valley a metalled road passed over the
Blue Ridge to Gordonsville. Staunton by this route was twenty-four
miles further than by Port Republic; but there were no obstacles to
rapid marching. And the command would have arrived no later than it
actually did. Moreover, in moving to Port Republic, eleven miles only
from Harrisonburg, and within sight of the enemy's patrols, it would
seem that there was considerable risk. Had Banks attacked the bridge
whilst the Confederate artillery was dragging heavily through the
mire, the consequences would probably have been unpleasant. Even if
he had not carried the bridge, the road which Jackson had chosen ran
for several miles over the open plain which lies eastward of the
Shenandoah, and from the commanding bluffs on the western bank his
column could have been effectively shelled without the power of reply.

In moving to Staunton the Confederate commander had three objects in

1. To strengthen his own force by combining with Edward Johnson.

2. To prevent the Federals combining by keeping Banks stationary and
defeating Milroy.

3. To protect Staunton.

The real danger that he had to guard against was that Banks, taking
advantage of his absence from the Valley, should move on Staunton.
Knowing his adversary as well as he did, he had no reason to
apprehend attack during his march to Port Republic. But it was not
impossible that when he found out that Jackson had vanished from the
Valley, Banks might take heart and join hands with Milroy. It was
necessary, therefore, in order to prevent Banks moving, that
Jackson's absence from the Valley should be very short; also, in
order to prevent Milroy either joining Banks or taking Staunton, that
Edward Johnson should be reinforced as rapidly as possible.

These objects would be attained by making use of the road to Port
Republic. In the first place, Banks would not dare to move towards
Milroy so long as the flank of his line of march was threatened; and
in the second place, from Port Republic to Staunton, by Mechum's
River, was little more than two days' march. Within forty-eight
hours, therefore, using the railway, it would be possible to
strengthen Johnson in time to protect Staunton, and to prevent the
Federals uniting. It was unlikely that Banks, even if he heard at
once that his enemy had vanished, would immediately dash forward; and
even if he did he would still have five-and-twenty miles to march
before he reached Staunton. Every precaution had been taken, too,
that he should not hear of the movement across the Blue Ridge till it
was too late to take advantage of it; and, as we have already seen,
so late as May 5 he believed that Jackson was at Harrisonburg. Ashby
had done his work well.

It might be argued, however, that with an antagonist so supine as
Banks Jackson might have openly marched to Staunton by the most
direct route; in fact, that he need never have left the Valley at
all. But, had he taken the road across the Valley, he would have
advertised his purpose. Milroy would have received long warning of
his approach, and all chance of effecting a surprise would have been

On April 29, the day on which Jackson began his movement, Richmond
was still safe. The Yorktown lines were intact, held by the 53,000
Confederates under Johnston; but it was very evident that they could
not be long maintained.

A large siege train had been brought from Washington, and Johnston
had already learned that in a few days one hundred pieces of the
heaviest ordnance would open fire on his position. His own armament
was altogether inadequate to cope with such ponderous metal. His
strength was not half his adversary's, and he had determined to
retreat without waiting to have his works demolished.

But the mighty army in his front was not the only danger. McDowell,
with 35,000 men, had already concentrated near Falmouth. Johnston, in
falling back on Richmond, was in danger of being caught between two
fires, for to oppose McDowell on the Rappahannock Lee had been unable
to assemble more than 12,000 Confederates.

These facts were all known to Jackson. Whether the march to Mechum's
River was intended by him to have any further effect on the Federals
than surprising Milroy, and clearing the way for an attack on Banks,
it is impossible to say. It is indisputable, at the same time, that
his sudden disappearance from the Valley disturbed Mr. Stanton. The
Secretary of War had suspected that Jackson's occupation of Swift Run
Gap meant mischief. McDowell, who had been instructed to cross the
Rappahannock, was ordered in consequence to stand fast at Falmouth,
and was warned that the enemy, amusing McClellan at Yorktown, might
make a sudden dash on either himself or Banks.

A few days later McDowell reported that Jackson had passed
Gordonsville. The news came from deserters, "very intelligent men."
The next day he was informed that Shields was to be transferred to
his command, and that he was to bear in mind his instructions as to
the defence of Washington. Banks had already been ordered back to
Strasburg. Now, a few days previously, Stanton had been talking of
co-operation between McClellan and McDowell. Directly he learned that
Jackson was east of the Blue Ridge all thought of combination was
abandoned; McDowell was held back; Shields was sent to reinforce him;
and the possible danger to Washington overrode all other

The weak point of McClellan's strategy was making itself felt. In
advancing on Richmond by way of the Peninsula he had deliberately
adopted what are called in strategy "the exterior lines." That is,
his forces were distributed on the arc of a circle, of which Richmond
and the Confederate army were the centre. If, landing on the
Peninsula, he had been able to advance at once upon Richmond, the
enemy must have concentrated for the defence of his capital, and
neither Banks nor Washington would have been disturbed. But the
moment his advance was checked, as it was at Yorktown, the enemy
could detach at his leisure in any direction that he pleased, and
McClellan was absolutely unable to support the threatened point. The
strategy of exterior lines demands, for success, a strong and
continuous pressure on the enemy's main army, depriving him of the
time and the space necessary for counterstroke. If this is
impossible, a skilful foe will at once make use of his central

Lincoln appears to have had an instinctive apprehension that
McClellan might not be able to exert sufficient pressure to hold
Johnston fast, and it was for this reason that he had fought so
strongly against the Peninsula line of invasion. It was the
probability that the Confederates would use their opportunity with
which Stanton had now to deal, complicated by the fact that their
numbers were believed to be much greater than they really were. Still
the problem was not one of insurmountable difficulty. Banks and
Fremont united had 40,000 men, McDowell over 30,000. A few marches
would have brought these forces into combination. Banks and Fremont,
occupying Staunton, and moving on Gordonsville, would have soon taken
up communication with McDowell; an army 70,000 strong, far larger
than any force the Confederates could detach against it, would have
threatened Richmond from the north and west, and, at the same time,
would have covered Washington. This plan, though not without elements
of danger, offered some advantages. Nor were soldiers wanting to
advise it. Both Rosecrans and Shields had submitted schemes for such
a combination. Mr. Stanton, however, preferred to control the
chessboard by the light of unaided wisdom; and while McDowell was
unnecessarily strengthened, both Banks and Fremont were dangerously

The only single point where the Secretary showed the slightest
sagacity was in apprehending that the Confederates would make use of
their opportunity, and overwhelm one of the detachments he had so
ingeniously isolated.

On April 29 Johnston proposed to Davis that his army should be
withdrawn from the Peninsula, and that the North should be invaded by
way of the Valley.* (* O.R. volume 11 part 3 page 477.) Lee, in the
name of the President, replied that some such scheme had been for
some time under consideration; and the burden of his letters, as we
have seen, both to Ewell and Jackson, was that a sudden and heavy
blow should be struck at some exposed portion of the invading armies.
Mr. Stanton was so far right; but where the blow was to be struck he
was absolutely unable to divine.

"It is believed," he writes to the Assistant Secretary on May 8,
"that a considerable force has been sent toward the Rappahannock and
Shenandoah to move on Washington. Jackson is reinforced strongly.
Telegraph McDowell, Banks, and Hartsuff (at Warrenton) to keep a
sharp look-out. Tell General Hitchcock to see that the force around
Washington is in proper condition."

It was indeed unfortunate for the North that at this juncture the
military affairs of the Confederacy should have been placed in the
hands of the clearest-sighted soldier in America. It was an unequal
match, Lincoln and Stanton against Lee; and the stroke that was to
prove the weakness of the Federal strategy was soon to fall. On May 7
Jackson westward marched in the following order: Edward Johnson's
regiments led the way, several miles in advance; the Third and Second
Brigades followed; the Stonewall, under General Winder, a young West
Point officer of exceptional promise, bringing up the rear. "The
corps of cadets of the Virginia Military Institute," says Dabney,
"was also attached to the expedition; and the spruce equipments and
exact drill of the youths, as they stepped out full of enthusiasm to
take their first actual look upon the horrid visage of war, under
their renowned professor, formed a strong contrast with the war-worn
and nonchalant veterans who composed the army."* (* Dabney volume 2
page 65.)

Eighteen miles west of Staunton a Federal picket was overrun, and in
the pass leading to the Shenandoah Mountain Johnson captured a camp
that had just been abandoned. The Federal rear-guard fired a few
shells, and the Confederates went into bivouac. Johnson had marched
fourteen and Jackson twenty miles.

That night Milroy concentrated his whole brigade of 3700 men at
M'Dowell, a little village at the foot of the Bull Pasture Mountain,
and sent back in haste for reinforcements. Fremont's command was much
strung out. When Milroy had moved from Cheat Mountain through
Monterey, twelve miles west of M'Dowell,* (* See ante, pages 185,
269, 275.) the remainder of the army had started up the South Branch
Valley to reinforce him. But snowstorms and heavy rains had much
delayed the march, and Schenck's brigade had not advanced beyond
Franklin, thirty-four miles north of M'Dowell. Fremont himself, with
a couple of battalions, was approaching Petersburg, thirty-five miles
from Franklin; and Blenker's division, still further to the rear, had
not yet quitted Romney.

May 8.

"On the following morning," to quote from Jackson's report, "the
march was resumed, General Johnson's brigade still in front. The head
of the column was halted near the top of Bull Pasture Mountain, and
General Johnson, accompanied by a party of thirty men and several
officers, with a view to a reconnaissance of the enemy's position,
ascended Sitlington's Hill, an isolated spur on the left of the
turnpike and commanding a full view of the village of M'Dowell. From
this point the position, and to some extent the strength, of the
enemy could be seen. In the valley in which M'Dowell is situated was
observed a considerable force of infantry. To the right, on a height,
were two regiments, but too distant for an effective fire to that
point. Almost a mile in front was a battery supported by infantry.
The enemy, observing a reconnoitring party, sent a small body of
skirmishers, which was promptly met by the men with General Johnson
and driven back. For the purpose of securing the hill all of General
Johnson's regiments were sent to him."

Jackson had no intention of delivering a direct assault on the
Federal position. The ground was altogether unfavourable for attack.
The hill on which his advanced guard was now established was more
than two miles broad from east to west. But it was no plateau. Rugged
and precipitous ridges towered high above the level, and numerous
ravines, hidden by thick timber, seamed the surface of the spur. To
the front a slope of smooth unbroken greensward dropped sharply down;
and five hundred feet below, behind a screen of woods, the Bull
Pasture River ran swiftly through its narrow valley. On the river
banks were the Federals; and beyond the valley the wooded mountains,
a very labyrinth of hills, rose high and higher to the west. To the
right was a deep gorge, nearly half a mile across from cliff to
cliff, dividing Sitlington's Hill from the heights to northward; and
through this dangerous defile ran the turnpike, eventually debouching
on a bridge which was raked by the Federal guns. To the left the
country presented exactly the same features. Mountain after mountain,
ridge after ridge, cleft by shadowy crevasses, and clothed with great
tracts of forest, rolled back in tortuous masses to the backbone of
the Alleghanies; a narrow pass, leading due westward, marking the
route to Monterey and the Ohio River.

Although commanded by Sitlington's Hill, the Federal position was
difficult to reach. The river, swollen by rain, protected it in
front. The bridge could only be approached by a single road, with
inaccessible heights on either hand. The village of M'Dowell was
crowded with troops and guns. A low hill five hundred yards beyond
the bridge was occupied by infantry and artillery; long lines of
tents were ranged on the level valley, and the hum of many voices,
excited by the appearance of the enemy, was borne upwards to the
heights. Had the Confederate artillery been brought to the brow of
Sitlington's Hill, the valley would doubtless soon have become
untenable, and the enemy have been compelled to retire through the
mountains. It was by no means easy, however, to prevent them from
getting away unscathed. But Jackson was not the man to leave the task
untried, and to content himself with a mere cannonade. He had reason
to hope that Milroy was ignorant of his junction with General
Johnson, and that he would suppose he had only the six regiments of
the latter with which to deal. The day was far spent, and the Valley
brigades, toiling through the mountains, were still some miles
behind. He proposed, therefore, while his staff explored the
mountains for a track which might lead him the next day to the rear
of the Federal position, merely to hold his ground on Sitlington's

His immediate opponent, however, was a general of more resource and
energy than Banks. Milroy was at least able to supply himself with
information. On May 7 he had been advised by his scouts and spies
that Jackson and Johnson had combined, and that they were advancing
to attack him at M'Dowell. At 10 A.M. the next day Schenck's brigade
arrived from Franklin, after a march of thirty-four miles in
twenty-three hours, and a little later the enemy's scouts were
observed on the lofty crest of Sitlington's Hill. The day wore on.
The Federal battery, with muzzles elevated and the trails thrust into
trenches, threw occasional shells upon the heights, and parties of
skirmishers were sent across the river to develop the Confederate
strength. Johnson, to whom Jackson had confided the defence of the
position, kept his troops carefully concealed, merely exposing
sufficient numbers to repel the Federal patrols. Late in the
afternoon a staff officer reported to Jackson that he had discovered
a rough mountain track, which, passing through the mountains to the
north-west, crossed the Bull Pasture River and came out upon the road
between M'Dowell and Franklin. Orders had just been issued to move a
strong detachment of artillery and infantry by this track during the
night, when the Federal infantry, who had crossed the bridge under
shelter of the woods, advanced in a strong line of battle up the
slopes. Their scouts had observed what they believed to be
preparations for establishing a battery on the heights, and Milroy
and Schenck, with a view of gaining time for retreat, had determined
on attack. Johnson had six regiments concealed behind the crest, in
all about 2800 men. Two regiments of the enemy, under 1000 strong,
advanced against his front; and shortly afterwards three regiments,
bringing the numbers of the attack up to 2500 rifles, assailed his

The Ohio and West Virginia Regiments, of which the Federal force was
composed, fought with the vigour which always characterised the
Western troops.* (* Jackson fully recognised the fine fighting
qualities of his compatriots. "As Shields' brigade (division)," he
wrote on April 5, "is composed principally of Western troops, who are
familiar with the use of arms, we must calculate on hard fighting to
oust Banks if attacked only in front, and may meet with obstinate
resistance, however the attack may be made.") The lofty heights held
by the Confederates were but an illusory advantage. So steep were the
slopes in front that the men, for the most part, had to stand on the
crest to deliver their fire, and their line stood out in bold relief
against the evening sky. "On the other hand," says Dabney, "though
the Federal troops had to scale the steep acclivity of the hill, they
reaped the usual advantage in such cases, resulting from the high
firing of the Confederates." The 12th Georgia, holding the centre of
Johnson's line, displayed more valour than judgment. Having been
advanced at first in front of the crest, they could not be persuaded
to retire to the reverse of the ridge, where other regiments found
partial protection without sacrificing the efficiency of their fire.
Their commander, perceiving their useless exposure, endeavoured again
and again to withdraw them; but amidst the roar of the musketry his
voice was lifted up in vain, and when by passing along the ranks he
persuaded one wing of the regiment to recede, they rushed again to
the front while he was gone to expostulate with the other. A tall
Georgia youth expressed the spirit of his comrades when he replied
the next day to the question why they did not retreat to the shelter
of the ridge: "We did not come all this way to Virginia to run before
Yankees."* (* Dabney volume 2 page 73.) Nor was the courage of the
other troops less ardent. The 44th Virginia was placed in reserve,
thirty paces in rear of the centre. "After the battle became
animated," says the brigadier, "and my attention was otherwise
directed, a large number of the 44th quit their position, and,
rushing forward, joined the 58th and engaged in the fight, while the
balance of the regiment joined some other brigade."* (* Report of
Colonel Scott, 44th Virginia Infantry. O.R. volume 12 part 1 page

The action gradually became so fierce that Jackson sent his Third
Brigade to support the advanced guard. These nine regiments now
engaged sufficed to hold the enemy in check; the Second Brigade,
which moved towards them as darkness fell, was not engaged, and the
Stonewall regiments were still in rear. No counterstroke was
delivered. Johnson himself was wounded, and had to hand over the
command; and after four hours' fighting the Federals fell back in
perfect order under cover of the night. Nor was there any endeavour
to pursue. The Confederate troops were superior in numbers, but there
was much confusion in their ranks; the cavalry could not act on the
steep and broken ground, and there were other reasons which rendered
a night attack undesirable.

The enemy had been repulsed at every point. The tale of casualties,
nevertheless, was by no means small. 498 Confederates, including 54
officers, had fallen. The 12th Georgia paid the penalty for its
useless display of valour with the loss of 156 men and 19 officers.
The Federals, on the other hand, favoured by the ground, had no more
than 256 killed, wounded, and missing. Only three pieces of artillery
took part in the engagement. These were Federal guns; but so great
was the angle of elevation that but one man on Sitlington's Hill was
struck by a piece of shell. Jackson, in order to conceal his actual
strength, had declined to order up his artillery. The approach to the
position, a narrow steep ravine, wooded, and filled with boulders,
forbade the use of horses, and the guns must have been dragged up by
hand with great exertion. Moreover, the artillery was destined to
form part of the turning column, and had a long night march before it.

(MAP. BATTLE OF McDOWELL, VIRGINIA. Thursday, May 8th, 1862. Showing
West: Crab Run, North: Hull's Ridge, South: Stuart's Run, East: Bull
Pasture Mountain.)

"By nine o'clock," says Dabney, "the roar of the struggle had passed
away, and the green battle-field reposed under the starlight as
calmly as when it had been occupied only by its peaceful herds.
Detachments of soldiers were silently exploring the ground for their
wounded comrades, while, the tired troops were slowly filing off to
their bivouac. At midnight the last sufferer had been removed and the
last picket posted; and then only did Jackson turn to seek a few
hours' repose in a neighbouring farmhouse. The valley of M'Dowell lay
in equal quiet. The camp-fires of the Federals blazed ostentatiously
in long and regular lines, and their troops seemed wrapped in sleep.
At one o'clock the general reached his quarters, and threw himself
upon a bed. When his mulatto servant, knowing that he had eaten
nothing since morning, came in with food, he said, 'I want none;
nothing but sleep,' and in a few minutes he was slumbering like a
healthy child."

It seems, however, that the march of the turning column had already
been countermanded. Putting himself in his enemy's place, Jackson had
foreseen Milroy's movements. If the one could move by night, so could
the other; and when he rode out at dawn, the Federals, as he
anticipated, had disappeared. The next day he sent a laconic despatch
to Richmond: "God blessed our arms with victory at M'Dowell

This announcement was doubtless received by the people of Virginia,
as Dabney declares, with peculiar delight. On May 4 Johnston had
evacuated Yorktown. On the 5th he had checked the pursuit at
Williamsburg, inflicting heavy losses, but had continued his retreat.
On the 9th Norfolk was abandoned; and on the 11th the "Merrimac,"
grounding in the James, was destroyed by her commander. "The victory
of M'Dowell was the one gleam of brightness athwart all these
clouds." It must be admitted, however, that the victory was
insignificant. The repulse of 2500 men by 4000 was not a remarkable
feat; and it would even appear that M'Dowell might be ranked with the
battles of lost opportunities. A vigorous counterstroke would
probably have destroyed the whole of the attacking force. The
riflemen of the West, however, were not made of the stuff that yields
readily to superior force. The fight for the bridge would have been
fierce and bloody. Twilight had fallen before the Confederate
reinforcements arrived upon the scene; and under such conditions the
losses must have been very heavy. But to lose men was exactly what
Jackson wished to avoid. The object of his manoeuvres was the
destruction not of Fremont's advanced guard, but of Banks' army; and
if his numbers were seriously reduced it would be impossible to
attain that end. Fremont's brigades, moreover, protected no vital
point. A decisive victory at M'Dowell would have produced but little
effect at Washington. No great results were to be expected from
operations in so distant a section of the strategic theatre; and
Jackson aimed at nothing more than driving the enemy so far back as
to isolate him from Banks.

May 9.

The next morning the small force of cavalry crossed the bridge and
rode cautiously through the mountain passes. The infantry halted for
some hours in M'Dowell in order that rations might be issued, but the
Federals made three-and-twenty miles, and were already too far ahead
to be overtaken. On the 10th and the 11th the Confederates made
forced marches, but the enemy set fire to the forests on the
mountain-side, and this desperate measure proved eminently
successful. "The sky was overcast with volumes of smoke, which
wrapped every distant object in a veil, impenetrable alike to the
eyes and telescopes of the officers. Through this sultry canopy the
pursuing army felt its way cautiously, cannonaded by the enemy from
every advantageous position, while it was protected from ambuscades
only by detachments of skirmishers, who scoured the burning woods on
either side of the highway. The general, often far in advance of the
column in his eagerness to overtake the foe, declared that this was
the most adroit expedient to which a retreating army could resort,
and that it entailed upon him all the disadvantages of a night
attack. By slow approaches, and with constant skirmishing, the
Federals were driven back to Franklin village, and the double
darkness of the night and the smoke arrested the pursuit."* (* Dabney
volume 2 page 77.)

May 12.

On May 12 Jackson resolved to return to the Valley. Fremont, with
Blenker's division, was at hand. It was impossible to outflank the
enemy's position, and time was precious, "for he knew not how soon a
new emergency at Fredericksburg or at Richmond might occasion the
recall of Ewell, and deprive him of the power of striking an
effective blow at Banks."* (* Ibid page 78. On May 9, in anticipation
of a movement down the Valley, he had ordered thirty days' forage,
besides other supplies, to be accumulated at Staunton. Harman
Manuscript.) Half the day was granted to the soldiers as a day of
rest, to compensate for the Sunday spent in the pursuit, and the
following order was issued to the command:--

"I congratulate you on your recent victory at M'Dowell. I request you
to unite with me in thanksgiving to Almighty God for thus having
crowned your arms with success; and in praying that He will continue
to lead you on from victory to victory, until our independence shall
be established; and make us that people whose God is the Lord. The
chaplains will hold divine service at 10 A.M. on this day, in their
respective regiments."

Shortly after noon the march to M'Dowell was resumed.

May 15.

On the 15th the army left the mountains and encamped at Lebanon
Springs, on the road to Harrisonburg. The 16th was spent in camp, the
Confederate President having appointed a day of prayer and fasting.
On the 17th a halt was made at Mount Solon, and here Jackson was met
by Ewell, who had ridden over from Elk Run Valley. Banks had fallen
back to Strasburg, and he was now completely cut off from Fremont. On
the night of the engagement at M'Dowell Captain Hotchkiss had been
ordered back to the Valley, and, accompanied by a squadron of Ashby's
cavalry, had blocked the passes by which Fremont could cross the
mountains and support his colleague. "Bridges and culverts were
destroyed, rocks rolled down, and in one instance trees were felled
along the road for nearly a mile."* (* Fremont's Report, O.R. volume
12 part 1 page 11.) Jackson's object was thus thoroughly achieved.
All combination between the Federal columns, except by long and
devious routes, had now been rendered impracticable; and there was
little fear that in any operations down the Valley his own
communications would be endangered. The M'Dowell expedition had
neutralised, for the time being, Fremont's 20,000 men; and Banks was
now isolated, exposed to the combined attack of Jackson, Ewell, and
Edward Johnson.

One incident remains to be mentioned. During the march to Mount Solon
some companies of the 27th Virginia, who had volunteered for twelve
months, and whose time had expired, demanded their discharge. On this
being refused, as the Conscription Act was now in force, they threw
down their arms, and refused to serve another day. Colonel Grigsby
referred to the General for instructions. Jackson's face, when the
circumstances were explained, set hard as flint. "Why," he said,
"does Colonel Grigsby refer to me to learn how to deal with
mutineers? He should shoot them where they stand." The rest of the
regiment was ordered to parade with loaded muskets; the insubordinate
companies were offered the choice of instant death or instant
submission. The men knew their commander, and at once surrendered.
"This," says Dabney, "was the last attempt at organised disobedience
in the Valley army."


1862. May.

That week in May when the Army of the Valley marched back to the
Shenandoah was almost the darkest in the Confederate annals. The
Northern armies, improving daily in discipline and in efficiency, had
attained an ascendency which it seemed impossible to withstand. In
every quarter of the theatre of war success inclined to the Stars and
Stripes. At the end of April New Orleans, the commercial metropolis
of the South, had fallen to the Federal navy. Earlier in the month a
great battle had been fought at Shiloh, in Tennessee; one of the most
trusted of the Confederate commanders had been killed;* (* General
A.S. Johnston.) his troops, after a gallant struggle, had been
repulsed with fearful losses; and the upper portion of the
Mississippi, from the source to Memphis, had fallen under the control
of the invader. The wave of conquest, vast and irresistible, swept up
every navigable river of the South; and if in the West only the
outskirts of her territory were threatened with destruction, in
Virginia the roar of the rising waters was heard at the very gates of
Richmond. McClellan, with 112,000 men, had occupied West Point at the
head of the York River; and on May 16 his advance reached the White
House, on the Pamunkey, twenty miles from the Confederate capital.
McDowell, with 40,000 men, although still north of the Rappahannock,
was but five short marches distant.* (* Directly McClellan closed in
on Richmond, McDowell was ordered, as soon as Shields should join
him, to march from Manassas to his assistance. Lincoln and Stanton
had recovered confidence when Jackson returned to the Valley from
Mechum's Station.) The Federal gunboats were steaming up the James;
and Johnston's army, encamped outside the city, was menaced by thrice
its numbers.

So black was the situation that military stores had already been
removed from the capital, the archives of the Confederacy had been
packed, and Mr. Davis had made arrangements for the departure of his
family. In spite of the protests of the Virginia people the
Government had decided to abandon Richmond. The General Assembly
addressed a resolution to the President requiring him to defend the
city, if necessary, "until not a stone was left upon another." The
City Council, enthusiastically supported by the citizens, seconded
the appeal. A deputation was sent to Mr. Davis; but while they
conferred together, a messenger rode in with the news that the
mastheads of the Federal fleet could be seen from the neighbouring
hills. Davis dismissed the committee, saying: "This manifestly
concludes the matter."

The gunboats, however, had still to feel their way up the winding
reaches of the James. Their progress was very slow; there was time to
obstruct the passage, and batteries were hastily improvised. The
people made a mighty effort; and on the commanding heights of
Drewry's Bluff, six miles below the city, might be seen senators and
merchants, bankers and clergymen, digging parapets and hauling
timber, in company with parties of soldiers and gangs of slaves.
Heavy guns were mounted. A great boom was constructed across the
stream. When the ships approached they were easily driven back, and
men once more breathed freely in the streets of Richmond. The example
of the "Unterrified Commonwealth," as Virginia has been proudly
named, inspired the Government, and it was determined, come what
might, that Richmond should be held. On the land side it was already
fortified. But Lee was unwilling to resign himself to a siege.
McClellan had still to cross the Chickahominy, a stream which oozes
by many channels through treacherous swamps and an unwholesome
jungle; and despite the overwhelming numbers of the invading armies,
it was still possible to strike an effective blow.

Few would have seen the opportunity, or, with a great army thundering
at the gates of Richmond, have dared to seize it; but it was not
McClellan and McDowell whom Lee was fighting, not the enormous hosts
which they commanded, nor the vast resources of the North. The power
which gave life and motion to the mighty mechanism of the attack lay
not within the camps that could be seen from the housetops of
Richmond and from the hills round Fredericksburg. Far away to the
north, beyond the Potomac, beneath the shadow of the Capitol at
Washington, was the mainspring of the invader's strength. The
multitudes of armed men that overran Virginia were no more the
inanimate pieces of the chess-board. The power which controlled them
was the Northern President. It was at Lincoln that Lee was about to
strike, at Lincoln and the Northern people, and an effective blow at
the point which people and President deemed vital might arrest the
progress of their armies as surely as if the Confederates had been
reinforced by a hundred thousand men.

May 16.

On May 16 Lee wrote to Jackson: "Whatever movement you make against
Banks, do it speedily, and if successful drive him back towards the
Potomac, and create the impression, as far as possible, that you
design threatening that line." For this purpose, in addition to Ewell
and Johnson's forces, the Army of the Valley was to be reinforced by
two brigades, Branch's and Mahone's, of which the former had already
reached Gordonsville.

In this letter the idea of playing on the fears of Lincoln for the
safety of his capital first sees the light, and it is undoubtedly to
be attributed to the brain of Lee. That the same idea had been
uppermost in Jackson's mind during the whole course of the campaign
is proved not only by the evidence of his chief of the staff, but by
his correspondence with headquarters. "If Banks is defeated," he had
written on April 5, "it may directly retard McClellan's movements."
It is true that nowhere in his correspondence is the idea of menacing
Washington directly mentioned, nor is there the slightest evidence
that he suggested it to Lee. But in his letters to his superiors he
confines himself strictly to the immediate subject, and on no single
occasion does he indulge in speculation on possible results. In the
ability of the Commander-in-Chief he had the most implicit
confidence. "Lee," he said, "is the only man I know whom I would
follow blindfold," and he was doubtless assured that the
embarrassments of the Federal Government were as apparent to Lee as
to himself. That the same idea should have suggested itself
independently to both is hardly strange. Both looked further than the
enemy's camps; both studied the situation in its broadest bearings;
both understood the importance of introducing a disturbing element
into the enemy's plans; and both were aware that the surest means of
winning battles is to upset the mental equilibrium of the opposing

Before he reached Mount Solon Jackson had instructed Ewell to call up
Branch's brigade from Gordonsville. He intended to follow Banks with
the whole force at his disposal, and in these dispositions Lee had
acquiesced. Johnston, however, now at Richmond, had once more resumed
charge of the detached forces, and a good deal of confusion ensued.
Lee, intent on threatening Washington, was of opinion that Banks
should be attacked. Johnston, although at first he favoured such a
movement, does not appear to have realised the effect that might be
produced by an advance to the Potomac. Information had been received
that Banks was constructing intrenchments at Strasburg, and Johnston
changed his mind. He thought the attack too hazardous, and Ewell was
directed to cross the Blue Ridge and march eastward, while Jackson
"observed" Banks.

These orders placed Ewell in a dilemma. Under instructions from Lee
he was to remain with Jackson. Under instructions from Jackson he was
already moving on Luray. Johnston's orders changed his destination.
Taking horse in haste he rode across the Valley from Swift Run Gap to
Jackson's camp at Mount Solon. Jackson at once telegraphed to Lee: "I
am of opinion that an attempt should be made to defeat Banks, but
under instructions from General Johnston I do not feel at liberty to
make an attack. Please answer by telegraph at once." To Ewell he gave
orders that he should suspend his movement until a reply was
received. "As you are in the Valley district," he wrote, "you
constitute part of my command...You will please move so as to encamp
between New Market and Mount Jackson on next Wednesday night, unless
you receive orders from a superior officer and of a date subsequent
to the 16th instant."

This order was written at Ewell's own suggestion. It was for this he
had ridden through the night to Jackson's camp.

(MAP. SITUATION, MAY 18, 1862. Showing West: McDowell, North:
Martinsburg, South: Richmond, East: West Point.)

May 18.

Lee's reply was satisfactory. Johnston had already summoned Branch to
Richmond, but Ewell was to remain; and the next morning, May 18, the
Confederates moved forward down the Valley. The two days' rest which
had been granted to Jackson's troops had fallen at a useful time.
They had marches to look back on which had tried their endurance to
the utmost. In three days, before and after Kernstown, they had
covered fifty-six miles, and had fought a severe engagement. The
struggle with the mud on the Port Republic was only surpassed by the
hardships of the march to Romney. From Elk Run to Franklin, and from
Franklin to Mount Solon, is just two hundred miles, and these they
had traversed in eighteen days. But the exertions which had been then
demanded from them were trifling in comparison with those which were
to come. From Mount Solon to Winchester is eighty miles by the Valley
pike; to Harper's Ferry one hundred and ten miles. And Jackson had
determined that before many days had passed the Confederate colours
should be carried in triumph through the streets of Winchester, and
that the gleam of his camp-fires should be reflected in the waters of
the Potomac.

Johnston believed that Banks, behind the earthworks at Strasburg, was
securely sheltered. Jackson saw that his enemy had made a fatal
mistake, and that his earthworks, skilfully and strongly constructed
as they were, were no more than a snare and a delusion.

Ashby had already moved to New Market; and a strong cordon of pickets
extended along Pugh's Run near Woodstock, within sight of the Federal
outposts, and cutting off all communication between Strasburg and the
Upper Valley. Ewell's cavalry regiments, the 2nd and 6th Virginia,
held the Luray Valley, with a detachment east of the Blue Ridge.

May 20.

On the 20th Jackson arrived at New Market, thirty miles from Mount
Solon. Ewell had meanwhile marched to Luray, and the two wings were
now on either side of the Massanuttons. On his way to New Market
Jackson had been joined by the Louisiana brigade of Ewell's division.
This detachment seems to have been made with the view of inducing
Banks to believe, should information filter through Ashby's pickets,
that the whole Confederate force was advancing direct on Strasburg.

The Army of the Valley numbered nearly 17,000 officers and men.* (*
This estimate is Colonel Allan's. Cf The Valley Campaign pages 92 and
93. Dabney gives 16,000 men.) Ewell's effective strength was 7500;
Johnson's 2500; Jackson's 6000; and there were eleven batteries.

The troops were now organised in two divisions:--


First (Stonewall) Brigade, General Winder: 2nd Virginia, 4th
Virginia, 5th Virginia, 27th Virginia, 33rd Virginia.

Second Brigade, Colonel Campbell: 21st Virginia, 42nd Virginia, 48th
Virginia, 1st Regulars (Irish).

Third Brigade, Colonel Taliaferro: 10th Virginia, 23rd Virginia, 37th

Cavalry, Colonel Ashby: 7th Virginia.

Artillery: 5 batteries (1 horse-artillery), 22 guns.


Taylor's Brigade: 6th Louisiana, 7th Louisiana, 8th Louisiana, 9th
Louisiana, Wheat's Battalion (Louisiana Tigers).

Trimble's Brigade: 21st North Carolina, 21st Georgia, 15th Alabama,
16th Mississippi.

Elzey's Brigade and Scott's Brigade: 13th Virginia, 31st Virginia,
25th Virginia, 12th Georgia.
(late Johnson's), 44th Virginia, 52nd Virginia, 58th Virginia.

Maryland Line: 1st Maryland.

Cavalry, General G.H. Steuart: 2nd Virginia, Colonel Munford: 6th
Virginia, Colonel Flournoy.

Artillery: 6 batteries, 26 guns.

For the first time in his career Jackson found himself in command of
a considerable force. The greater part of the troops were Virginians,
and with these he was personally acquainted. The strange contingents
were Taylor's and Trimble's brigades, and Steuart's cavalry. These
had yet to be broken to his methods of war and discipline. There was
no reason, however, to fear that they would prove less efficient than
his own division. They had as yet seen little fighting, but they were
well commanded. Ewell was a most able soldier, full of dash and
daring, who had seen much service on the Indian frontier. He was an
admirable subordinate, ready to take responsibility if orders were
not forthcoming, and executing his instructions to the letter. His
character was original. His modesty was only equalled by his
eccentricity. "Bright, prominent eyes, a bomb-shaped bald head, and a
nose like that of Francis of Valois, gave him a striking resemblance
to a woodcock; and this was increased by a bird-like habit of putting
his head on one side to utter his quaint speeches. He fancied that he
had some mysterious internal malady, and would eat nothing but
frumenty, a preparation of wheat; and his plaintive way of talking of
his disease, as if he were someone else, was droll in the extreme.
"What do you suppose President Davis made me a major-general for?"
beginning with a sharp accent, ending with a gentle lisp, was a usual
question to his friends. Superbly mounted, he was the boldest of
horsemen, invariably leaving the roads to take timber and water; and
with all his oddities, perhaps in some measure because of them, he
was adored by officers and men."* (* Destruction and Reconstruction,
General R. Taylor pages 38 and 39.) To Jackson he must have been
peculiarly acceptable; not indeed as an intimate, for Ewell, at this
period of the war, was by no means regenerate, and swore like a
cowboy: but he knew the value of time, and rated celerity of movement
as high as did Napoleon. His instructions to Branch, when the march
against Banks was first projected, might have emanated from Jackson
himself: "You cannot bring tents; tent-flies without poles, or tents
cut down to that size, and only as few as are indispensable. No
mess-chests, trunks, etc. It is better to leave these things where
you are than to throw them away after starting. We can get along
without anything but food and ammunition. The road to glory cannot be
followed with much baggage."* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 890.)

Trimble, too, was a good officer, an able tactician and a resolute
leader. He had hardly, however, realised as yet that the movements of
a brigade must be subordinated to those of the whole army, and he was
wont to grumble if his troops were held back, or were not allowed to
pursue some local success. Steuart was also a West Pointer, but with
much to learn. Taylor and his Louisianians played so important a part
in the ensuing operations that they deserve more detailed mention.
The command was a mixed one. One of the regiments had been recruited
from the roughs of New Orleans. The 7th and 9th were composed of
planters and sons of planters, the majority of them men of fortune.
"The 6th," writes the brigadier, "were Irishmen, stout, hardy
fellows, turbulent in camp and requiring a strong hand, but
responding to justice and kindness, and ready to follow their
officers to the death. The 8th were from the Attakapas--Acadians, the
race of whom Longfellow sings in "Evangeline"--a home-loving, simple
people; few spoke English, fewer still had ever moved ten miles from
their native cabanas; and the war to them was a liberal education.
They had all the light gaiety of the Gaul, and, after the manner of
their ancestors, were born cooks. A capital regimental band
accompanied them, and whenever weather and ground permitted, even
after long marches, they would waltz and polk in couples with as much
zest as if their arms encircled the supple waists of the Celestines
and Melazies of their native Teche. The Valley soldiers were largely
of the Presbyterian faith, and of a solemn, pious demeanour, and
looked askance at the caperings of my Creoles, holding them to be
"devices and snares.""* (* Destruction and Reconstruction pages 52
and 53.)

Taylor himself had been educated at West Point. He was a man of high
position, of unquestioned ability, an excellent disciplinarian, and a
delightful writer. More than other commanders he had paid great
attention to the marching of his men. He had an eye to those
practical details which a good regimental officer enforces with so
much effect. Boots were properly fitted; the troops were taught the
advantages of cold water, and how to heal abrasions; halts upon the
march were made at frequent intervals, and the men soon held that to
fall out on the march was a disgrace. Before a month "had passed," he
says, "the brigade had learned how to march, and in the Valley with
Jackson covered long distances without leaving a straggler behind."*
(* Ibid page 37.)

Jackson's first meeting with the Louisiana troops has been described
by their commander:--

"A mounted officer was dispatched to report our approach and select a
camp, which proved to be beyond Jackson's forces, then lying in the
fields on both sides of the Valley pike. Over 3000 strong, neat in
fresh clothing of grey with white gaiters, bands playing at the head
of their regiments--not a straggler, but every man in his place,
stepping jauntily as if on parade, though it had marched twenty miles
or more--in open column, with the rays of the declining sun flaming
on polished bayonets, the brigade moved down the hard smooth pike,
and wheeled on to the camping-ground. Jackson's men, by thousands,
had gathered on either side of the road to see us pass.

"After attending to necessary camp details, I sought Jackson, whom I
had never met. The mounted officer who had been sent on in advance
pointed out a figure perched on the topmost rail of a fence
overlooking the road and field, and said it was Jackson. Approaching,
I saluted and declared my name and rank, then waited for a response.
Before this came I had time to see a pair of cavalry boots covering
feet of gigantic size, a mangy cap with visor drawn low, a heavy dark
beard and weary eyes, eyes I afterwards saw filled with intense but
never brilliant light. A low gentle voice inquired the road and
distance marched that day. 'Keezleton road, six-and-twenty miles.'
'You seem to have no stragglers.' 'Never allow straggling.' 'You must
teach my people; they straggle badly.' A bow in reply. Just then my
Creoles started their band for a waltz. After a contemplative suck at
a lemon, 'Thoughtless fellows for serious work' came forth. I
expressed a hope that the work would not be less well done because of
the gaiety. A return to the lemon gave me the opportunity to retire.
Where Jackson got his lemons 'No fellow could find out,' but he was
rarely without one. To have lived twelve miles from that fruit would
have disturbed him as much as it did the witty dean."* (* Destruction
and Reconstruction pages 54 to 56.)

May 21.

The next day, marching in the grey of the morning, the force moved
north, the Louisianians in advance. Suddenly, after covering a short
distance, the head of the column was turned to the right; and the
troops, who had confidently expected that Strasburg would be the
scene of their next engagement, found themselves moving eastward and
crossing the Massanuttons. The men were utterly at sea as to the
intentions of their commander. Taylor's brigade had been encamped
near Conrad's Store, only a few miles distant, not many days before,
and they had now to solve the problem why they should have made three
long marches in order to return to their former position. No word
came from Jackson to enlighten them. From time to time a courier
would gallop up, report, and return to Luray, but the general,
absorbed in thought, rode silently across the mountain, perfectly
oblivious of inquiring glances.

At New Market the troops had been halted at crossroads, and they had
marched by that which they had least expected. The camp at Luray on
the 21st presented the same puzzle. One road ran east across the
mountains to Warrenton or Culpeper; a second north to Front Royal and
Winchester; and the men said that halting them in such a position was
an ingenious device of Jackson's to prevent them fathoming his
plans.* (* Compare instructions to Ewell, ante.)

May 22.

The next day, the 22nd, the army, with Ewell leading, moved quietly
down the Luray Valley, and the advanced guard, Taylor's Louisianians,
a six-pounder battery, and the 6th Virginia Cavalry, bivouacked that
night within ten miles of Front Royal, held by a strong detachment of
Banks' small army.

Since they had Left Mount Solon and Elk Run Valley on May 19 the
troops in four days had made just sixty miles. Such celerity of
movement was unfamiliar to both Banks and Stanton, and on the night
of the 22nd neither the Secretary nor the general had the faintest
suspicion that the enemy had as yet passed Harrisonburg. There was
serenity at Washington. On both sides of the Blue Ridge everything
was going well. The attack on Fremont had not been followed up; and
McClellan, though calling urgently for reinforcements, was sanguine
of success. Mr. Lincoln, reassured by Jackson's retreat from
Franklin, had permitted Shields to march to Falmouth; and McDowell,
with a portion of his troops, had already crossed the Rappahannock.
The President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, an important
personage at Washington, appears to have been alone in his
apprehension that a storm was gathering in the summer sky. "The
aspect of affairs in the Valley of Virginia," he wrote to Stanton,
"is becoming very threatening...The enterprise and vigour of Jackson
are well known...Under the circumstances will it not be more
judicious to order back General Shields to co-operate with General
Banks? Such a movement might be accomplished in time to prevent
disaster."* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 201.) The Secretary,
however, saw no reason for alarm. His strategical combinations were
apparently working without a hitch. Banks at Strasburg was in a
strong position; and McDowell was about to lend the aid which would
enable McClellan to storm the rebel capital. One of Fremont's
columns, under General Cox, a most able officer, which was making
good progress towards the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, had
certainly been compelled to halt when Milroy was driven back to
Franklin. Yet the defeated troops were rapidly reorganising, and
Fremont would soon resume his movement. Milroy's defeat was
considered no more than an incident of la petite guerre. Washington
seemed so perfectly secure that the recruiting offices had been
closed, and the President and Secretary, anticipating the immediate
fall of Richmond, left for Fredericksburg the next day. McDowell was
to march on the 26th, and the departure of his fine army was to be
preceded by a grand review.

Even Banks, though Shields had marched to Fredericksburg, reducing
his force by a half, believed that there was no immediate reason to
fear attack. "I regard it as certain," he wrote, "that Jackson will
move north as far as New Market...a position which enables him to
cooperate with General Ewell, who is still at Swift Run Gap." Yet he
took occasion to remind Mr. Stanton of the "persistent adherence of
Jackson to the defence of the Valley, and his well-known purpose to
expel the Government troops. This," he added, "may be assumed as
certain. There is probably no one more fixed and determined purpose
in the whole circle of the enemy's plans." Banks had certainly
learned something of Jackson by this time, but he did not yet know

So on this night of May 22 the President and his people were without
fear of what the morrow might bring forth. The end of the rebellion
seemed near at hand. Washington was full of the anticipated triumph.
The crowds passed to and fro in the broad avenues, exchanging
congratulations on the success of the Northern arms and the
approaching downfall of the slaveholders. The theatres were filled
with delighted audiences, who hailed every scoffing allusion to the
"Southern chivalry" with enthusiasm, and gaiety and confidence
reigned supreme. Little dreamt the light-hearted multitude that, in
the silent woods of the Luray Valley, a Confederate army lay asleep
beneath the stars. Little dreamt Lincoln, or Banks, or Stanton, that
not more than seventy miles from Washington, and less than thirty
from Strasburg, the most daring of their enemies, waiting for the
dawn to rise above the mountains, was pouring out his soul in prayer,

Appealing from his native sod
In forma pauperis to God:
"Lay bare Thine arm--stretch forth Thy rod.
Amen!" That's Stonewall's way.

It is not always joy that cometh in the morning, least of all to
generals as ignorant as Banks when they have to do with a skilful
foe. It was not altogether Banks' fault that his position was a bad
one. Stanton had given him a direct order to take post at Strasburg
or its vicinity, and to send two regiments to hold the bridges at
Front Royal. But Banks had made no remonstrance. He had either failed
to recognise, until it was too late, that the force at Front Royal
would be exposed to attack from the Luray Valley, and, if the post
fell, that his own communications with both Winchester and Washington
would be at once endangered; or he had lost favour with the
Secretary. For some time past Mr. Stanton's telegrams had been cold
and peremptory. There had been no more effusive praise of "cautious
vigour" and "interesting manoeuvres;" and Banks had gradually fallen
from the command of a large army corps to the charge of a single

His 10,000 men were thus distributed. At Strasburg were 4500
infantry, 2900 cavalry, and 16 guns. At Winchester 850 infantry and
600 cavalry. Two companies of infantry held Buckton station on the
Manassas Gap Railway, midway between Strasburg and Front Royal.* (*
O.R. volume 12 part 1 pages 523 and 560.) At Rectortown, east of the
Blue Ridge, nineteen miles from Front Royal, was General Geary with
2000 infantry and cavalry; these troops, however, were independent of

Front Royal, twelve miles east of Strasburg, was committed to the
charge of Colonel Kenly, of the 1st Maryland Regiment in the Federal
service, and 1000 rifles and 2 guns were placed at his disposal. The
post itself was indefensible. To the west and south-west, about three
miles distant, stand the green peaks of the Massanuttons, while to
the east the lofty spurs of the Blue Ridge look down into the village
streets. A mile and a half north the forks of the Shenandoah unite in
the broad river that runs to Harper's Ferry. The turnpike to
Winchester crosses both forks in succession, at a point where they
are divided by a stretch of meadows a mile in width. In addition to
these two bridges, a wooden viaduct carried the railway over the
South Fork, whence, passing between the North Fork and the
Massanuttons, it runs south of the stream to Strasburg. Kenly had
pitched his camp between the town and the river, covering the
bridges, and two companies were on picket beyond the houses.

In front were the dense forests which fill the Luray Valley and cover
the foothills of the mountains, and the view of the Federal sentries
was very limited. A strong patrol of 100 infantry and 30 troopers,
which had been sent out on the 20th, had marched eleven miles south,
had bivouacked in the woods, and had captured a Confederate

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