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

Part 7 out of 19

straggler. The officer in command had obtained information, by
questioning civilians, that Confederate infantry was expected, and
this was confirmed by his prisoner. Banks, however, notwithstanding
this report, could not bring himself to believe that an attack was
imminent, and the cavalry was called back to Strasburg. For this
reason Kenly had been unable to patrol to any distance on the 22nd,
and the security of his camp was practically dependent on the
vigilance of his sentries.

May 23.

On the morning of May 23 there was no token of the approaching storm.
The day was intensely hot, and the blue masses of the mountains
shimmered in the summer haze. In the Luray Valley to the south was no
sign of life, save the buzzards sailing lazily above the slumbrous
woods. Suddenly, and without the least warning, a long line of
skirmishers broke forward from the forest. The clear notes of the
Confederate bugles, succeeded by the crash of musketry, woke the
echoes of the Blue Ridge, and the Federal pickets were driven in
confusion through the village. The long roll of the drums beat the
startled camp to arms, and Kenly hastily drew up his slender force
upon a ridge in rear.

The ground in front of his position was fairly open, and with his two
pieces of artillery he was able to check the first rush of the
Confederate infantry. The guns which had accompanied their advanced
guard were only smooth-bores, and it was some time before a battery
capable of making effective reply to the Federal pieces was brought
up. As soon as it opened fire the Southern infantry was ordered to
attack; and while one regiment, working round through the woods on
the enemy's left, endeavoured to outflank his guns, four others, in
successive lines, advanced across the plain against his front. The
Federals, undismayed by the disparity of numbers, were fighting
bravely, and had just been reinforced by a squadron of New York
regiment, when word was brought to their commander that a regiment of
Southern cavalry had appeared between the rivers to his right rear.
He at once gave the order to retire. The movement was carried out in
good order, under heavy musketry, and the tents and stores were given
to the flames; but an attempt to fire the bridges failed, for the
Louisiana infantry, rushing recklessly forward, darted into the
flames, and extinguished the burning brands. Sufficient damage was
done, however, to render the passage of the North Fork by the
Confederates slow and difficult; and Kenly took post on Guard Hill, a
commanding ridge beyond the stream. Again there was delay. The smoke
of the burning camp, rolling past in dense volumes, formed an
impenetrable screen; the river was deep and turbulent, with a strong
current; and the Federal guns commanded the single bridge. The
cavalry, however, were not long in discovering a practicable ford.
The river was soon alive with horsemen; and, forcing their way
through the swirling waters, four squadrons of the 6th Virginia,
accompanied by Jackson, gained the further bank, and formed up
rapidly for pursuit. The enemy had already retired, and the dust of
the retreating column warn receding fast down the road to Winchester.

Without waiting for reinforcements, and without artillery, Jackson
urged the 6th Virginia forward. The country through which the
turnpike runs is rolling and well-farmed, and the rail fences on
either hand made movement across the fields by no means easy. But the
Confederate advance was vigorous. The New York cavalry, pressed at
every point, were beginning to waver; and near the little hamlet of
Cedarville, some three miles from his last position, Kenly gave
orders for his infantry to check the pursuit.

The column had halted. Men were tearing down the fences, and the
companies were forming for battle in the fields, when there was a
sudden outcry, the rolling thunder of many hoofs, and the sharp
rattle of pistol-shots. A dense cloud of dust came whirling down the
turnpike, and emerging from the yellow canopy the New York troopers,
riding for their lives, dashed through the ranks of the startled
infantry, while the Confederate horsemen, extending far to right and
left, came surging on their traces.

The leading squadron, keeping to the high road, was formed four
abreast, and the deep mass was wedged tightly between the fences. The
foremost files were mowed down by a volley at close range, and here,
for a moment, the attack was checked. But the Virginians meant riding
home. On either flank the supporting squadrons galloped swiftly
forward, and up the road and across the fields, while the earth shook
beneath their tread, swept their charging lines, the men yelling in
their excitement and horses as frenzied as their riders. In vain the
Federal officers tried to deploy their companies. Kenly, calling on
them to rally round the colours, was cut down with a dreadful wound.
The grey troopers fell on them before they could fix bayonets or form
a front, and sabre and revolver found an easy mark in the crowded
masses of panic-stricken infantry. One of the guns was surrounded,
and the gunners were cut to pieces; the other escaped for the moment,
but was soon abandoned; and with the appearance of a fresh
Confederate squadron on the scene Kenly's whole force dispersed in
flight. Through woods and orchards the chase went on. Escape was
impossible. Hundreds laid down their arms; and 250 Virginia horsemen,
resolutely handled and charging at exactly the right moment, had the
honour of bringing in as prisoners 600 Federals, including 20
officers and a complete section of artillery. The enemy lost in
addition 32 killed and 122 wounded. The Confederate casualties were
11 killed and 15 wounded, and so sudden and vigorous was their attack
that a Federal colonel estimated their numbers at 3000.

Colonel Flournoy, a most daring officer, led the squadrons to the
charge; but that the opportunity was so instantly utilised was due to
Jackson. "No sooner," says Dabney, "did he see the enemy than he gave
the order to charge with a voice and air whose peremptory
determination was communicated to the whole party. His quick eye
estimated aright the discouragement of the Federals and their
wavering temper. Infusing his own spirit into his men, he struck the
hesitating foe at the decisive moment, and shattered them."* (*
Dabney volume 2 page 95.) Yet he took no credit to himself. He
declared afterwards to his staff that he had never, in all his
experience of warfare, seen so gallant and effective a charge of
cavalry, and such commendation, coming from his guarded lips, was the
highest honour that his troopers could have wished.

While these events were in progress the remainder of the Confederate
cavalry had also been busy. The 7th Virginia had moved to Buckton.
The railway was torn up, the telegraph line cut, and an urgent
message to Banks for reinforcements was intercepted. The two
companies of Pennsylvania infantry, on picket near the station,
occupied a log storehouse and the embankment. Dismounting his
command, Ashby, after a fierce fight, in which two of his best
officers were killed, stormed the building and drove out the
garrison. Two locomotives were standing on the rails with steam up,
and by this means the Federals attempted to escape. Twice they moved
out towards Strasburg, twice they were driven back by the Confederate
carbines, and eventually the two companies surrendered.

Jackson's measures had been carefully thought out. Kenly's patrols
had failed to discover his advance in the early morning, for at
Asbury Chapel, about three and a half miles south of the Federal
outpost line, he had turned to the right off the Luray road, and
plunging into the woods, had approached Front Royal by a circuitous
track, so rough that the enemy had thought it hardly worth while to
watch it. The main body of the cavalry left the Luray road at McCoy's
Ford, and crossing the South Fork of the Shenandoah, worked through
the forest at the foot of the Massanuttons. During the night Ashby
had withdrawn the 7th Virginia, with the exception of a few patrols,
from in front of Banks, and joining Jackson, by a rough track across
the mountains, before daybreak, had been directed to cut the
communication between Front Royal and Strasburg. The 6th Virginia had
accompanied Jackson, the 2nd, under Colonel Munford, destroyed the
railway bridges eastward of Front Royal. Had Kenly retreated on
Strasburg he would have found Ashby on his flank. Had reinforcements
been despatched from Strasburg they would have had to deal with Ashby
before they could reach Kenly. Had the Federals attempted to escape
by Manassas Gap they would have found Munford across their path.
Meanwhile another party of cavalry had cut the telegraph between
Front Royal and Washington; and a strong detachment, scouring the
country east of the Blue Ridge, checked Geary's patrols, and blocked
the entrance to the Gap from the direction of Manassas. Within an
hour after his pickets were surprised Kenly was completely isolated.*
(* The ingenuous report of a Federal officer engaged at Front Royal
is significant of the effect of the sudden attack of the
Confederates. He was sick at the time, but managed to escape. "By
considerable coaxing," he wrote, "I obtained an entrance to a house
near by. I was now completely broken down--so much so that the
gentleman prepared a liniment for me, and actually bound up some of
my bruises, while the female portion of the household actually
screamed for joy at our defeat! I was helped to bed, and next morning
was taken by Mr. Bitzer to Winchester in his carriage. He is a
gentleman in all particulars, but his family is the reverse (sic). On
reaching Winchester I found things decidedly squally, and concluded
to get out. I was carried to Martinsburg, and being offered by the
agent of a luggage train to take me to Baltimore, I concluded to
accept the offer, and took a sleeping bunk, arriving in Baltimore the
next afternoon." He then proceeded to Philadelphia, and sent for his
physician. Several of his officers whom he found in the town he
immediately sent back to the colours; but as he believed that "the
morale of his regiment was not as it should be" he remained himself
in Philadelphia.)

A failure in staff duties marred to some extent the Confederate
success. "A vicious usage," according to Dabney, "obtained at this
time in the Southern armies." This was the custom of temporarily
attaching to the staff of a general commanding a division or an army
a company of cavalry to do the work of orderlies. By this clumsy
contrivance the organisation of the cavalry regiments was broken up,
the men detached were deprived of all opportunity for drill, and the
general had no evidence whatever of their special fitness for the
responsible service confided to them. Nay, the colonel of cavalry
required to furnish them was most likely to select the least
serviceable company. At the time of the combat of Front Royal the
duty of orderlies was performed for General Jackson by a detachment
from one of Ashby's undisciplined companies, of whom many were raw
youths just recruited and never under fire. As soon as the Federal
pickets were driven in, orders were despatched to the rear brigades
to avoid the laborious route taken by the advance, and to pursue the
direct highway to the town, a level track of three miles, in place of
a steep byway of seven or eight. The panic-struck boy by whom the
orders were sent was seen no more. When Jackson sent orders to the
artillery and rear brigades to hurry the pursuit, instead of being
found near at hand, upon the direct road, they were at length
overtaken toiling over the hills of the useless circuit, spent with
the protracted march. Thus night overtook them by the time they
reached the village. This unfortunate incident taught the necessity
of a picked company of orderlies, selected for their intelligence and
courage, permanently attached to headquarters, and owing no
subordination to any other than the general and his staff. Such was
the usage that afterwards prevailed in the Confederate armies.* (*
Dabney volume 2 pages 93 and 94. It may be recalled that Wellington
found it necessary to form a corps of the same kind in the Peninsular
War; it is curious that no such organisation exists in regular

General Gordon has described with much minuteness how the news of the
disaster was received at Strasburg. The attack had begun at one
o'clock, but it was not till four that Banks was made aware that his
detachment was in jeopardy. Believing that Jackson was at
Harrisonburg, sixty miles distant, he had certainly no cause for
immediate apprehension. The Valley towards Woodstock never looked
more peaceful than on that sleepy summer afternoon; the sentries
dawdled on their posts, and officers and men alike resigned
themselves to its restful influence. Suddenly a mounted orderly
dashed violently through the camp, and Strasburg was aroused. By the
road to Buckton Banks hastily despatched a regiment and two guns.
Then came a lull, and many anxious inquiries: "What is it? Is it
Stonewall Jackson, or only a cavalry raid?"

A few hours later reports came in from the field of battle, and Banks
telegraphed to Stanton that 5000 rebels had driven Kenly back on
Middletown. "The force," he added, "has been gathering in the
mountains, it is said, since Wednesday."

But still the Federal general showed no undue alarm.

"Nothing was done," says Gordon, "towards sending away to Winchester
any of the immense quantities of public stores collected at
Strasburg; no movement had been made to place our sick in safety. It
did not seem as if Banks interpreted the attack to signify aught of
future or further movement by the enemy, or that it betokened any
purpose to cut us off from Winchester. I was so fully impressed,
however, with Jackson's purpose, that as soon as night set in I
sought Banks at his headquarters. I laboured long to impress upon him
what I thought a duty, to wit, his immediate retreat upon Winchester,
carrying all his sick and all his supplies that he could transport,
and destroying the remainder. Notwithstanding all my solicitations
and entreaties, he persistently refused to move, ever repeating, "I
must develop the force of the enemy.""* (* From Brook Farm to Cedar
Mountain pages 191 and 192.)

The force that had been sent out on the Buckton road had been soon
recalled, without securing further information than that the
Confederate pickets were in possession of every road which led west
or north from Front Royal.

Again did Gordon, at the request of Banks' chief of the staff,
endeavour to persuade the general to abandon Strasburg. "'It is not a
retreat,' he urged, 'but a true military movement to escape from
being cut off; to prevent stores and sick from falling into the hands
of the enemy.' Moved with an unusual fire, General Banks, who had met
all my arguments with the single reply, 'I must develop the force of
the enemy,' rising excitedly from his seat, with much warmth and in
loud tones exclaimed, 'By God, sir, I will not retreat! We have more
to fear, sir, from the opinions of our friends than the bayonets of
our enemies!' The thought," continues the brigadier, "so long the
subject of his meditations was at last out. Banks was afraid of being
thought afraid. I rose to take my leave, replying, 'This, sir, is not
a military reason for occupying a false position.' It was eleven
o'clock at night when I left him. As I returned through the town I
could not perceive that anybody was troubled with anticipation for
the morrow. The antlers were driving sharp bargains with those who
had escaped from or those who were not amenable to military
discipline. The strolling players were moving crowds to noisy
laughter in their canvas booths, through which the lights gleamed and
the music sounded with startling shrillness. I thought as I turned
towards my camp, how unaware are all of the drama Jackson is
preparing for us, and what merriment the morning will reveal!"

Fortunately for his own battalions, the brigadier had his camp
equipage and baggage packed and sent off then and there to
Winchester, and though his men had to spend the night unsheltered
under persistent rain, they had reason to bless his foresight a few
nights later.

At midnight a report was received from one of the Front Royal
fugitives: "Kenly is killed. First Maryland cut to pieces. Cavalry
ditto. The enemy's forces are 15,000 or 20,000 strong, and on the
march to Strasburg."

In forwarding this despatch to Washington Banks remarked that he
thought it much exaggerated. At 7 A.M. on the 24th he told Stanton
that the enemy's force was from 6000 to 10,000; that it was probably
Ewell's division, and that Jackson was still in his front on the
Valley turnpike.

Three hours later he wrote to Gordon, informing him that the enemy
had fallen back to Front Royal during the night, that ample
reinforcements had been promised from Washington, and that the
division would remain in Strasburg until further orders.

Up to this time he had been convinced that the attack on Front Royal
was merely a raid, and that Jackson would never dare to insert his
whole force between himself and McDowell.* (* Article in Harper's
Weekly by Colonel Strother, aide-de-camp to General Banks.) Suddenly,
by what means we are not told, he was made aware that the
Confederates were in overwhelming numbers, and that Jackson was in

Scarcely had General Gordon digested the previous communication when
an orderly, galloping furiously to his side, delivered a pencil note
from the chief of staff. "Orders have just been received for the
division to move at once to Middletown, taking such steps to oppose
the enemy, reported to be on the road between Front Royal and
Middletown, as may seem proper." Banks was electrified at last. Three
weeks previously, in writing to Mr. Stanton, he had expressed his
regret that he was "not to be included in active operations during
the summer." His regret was wasted. He was about to take part in
operations of which the activity, on his part at least, was more than

Such blindness as Banks had shown is difficult to explain. His latest
information, previous to the attack on Kenly, told him that Jackson's
trains were arriving at Harrisonburg on the 20th, and he should
certainly have inferred that Jackson was in advance of his waggons.
Now from Harrisonburg across the Massanuttons to Front Royal is
fifty-five miles; so it was well within the bounds of possibility
that the Confederates might reach the latter village at midday on the
23rd. Moreover, Banks himself had recognised that Strasburg was an
unfavourable position. It is true that it was fortified, but therein
lay the very reason that would induce the enemy to turn it by Front
Royal. Nor did the idea, which seems to have held possession of his
mind throughout the night, that Ewell alone had been sent to destroy
Kenly, and had afterwards fallen back, show much strategic insight.
Front Royal was the weak point in the Federal position. It was of all
things unlikely that a commander, energetic and skilful as Jackson
was well known to be, would, when he had once advertised his
presence, fail to follow up his first blow with his whole force and
the utmost vigour. It is only fair to add that the Federal
authorities were no wiser than their general. At two A.M. on the
morning of the 24th, although the news of Kenly's disaster had been
fully reported, they still thought that there was time to move fresh
troops to Strasburg from Baltimore and Washington. It seemed
incredible that Jackson could be at Front Royal. "Arrangements are
making," ran Stanton's telegram to Banks, "to send you ample
reinforcements. Do not give up the ship before succour can arrive."

We may now turn to Jackson.

Up to the present his operations had been perfectly successful. He
had captured over 700 of the enemy, with a loss of only 40 or 50 to
himself. He had seized stores to the value of three hundred thousand
dollars (60,000 pounds), and a large quantity had been burned by the
enemy. He had turned the intrenched position at Strasburg. He
threatened the Federal line of retreat. Banks was completely at his
mercy, and there seemed every prospect of inflicting on that
ill-starred commander a defeat so decisive as to spread panic in the
council chambers of the Northern capital.

But the problem was not so simple as it seemed. In the first place,
although the positions of the Federals had been thoroughly examined,
both by staff officers and scouts, the information as to their
numbers was somewhat vague. Banks had actually about 8000 effectives
at Strasburg; but so far as the Confederates knew it was quite
possible that he had from 12,000 to 15,000. There is nothing more
difficult in war than to get an accurate estimate of the enemy's
numbers, especially when civilians, ignorant of military affairs, are
the chief sources of information. The agents on whom Jackson depended
for intelligence from within the enemy's lines were not always
selected because of their military knowledge. "On the march to Front
Royal," says General Taylor, "we reached a wood extending from the
mountain to the river, when a mounted officer from the rear called
Jackson's attention, who rode back with him. A moment later there
rushed out of the wood a young, rather well-looking woman, afterwards
widely known as Belle Boyd. Breathless with speed and agitation, some
time elapsed before she found her voice. Then, with much volubility,
she said we were near Front Royal; that the town was filled with
Federals, whose camp was on the west side of the river, where they
had guns in position to cover the bridge; that they believed Jackson
to be west of the Massanuttons, near Harrisonburg; that General Banks
was at Winchester, where he was concentrating his widely scattered
forces to meet Jackson's advance, which was expected some days later.
All this she told with the precision of a staff officer making a
report, and it was true to the letter. Jackson was possessed of this
information before he left New Market, and based his movements on it;
but it was news to me."

In the second place, Banks had still the means of escape. He could
hardly prevent the Confederates from seizing Winchester, but he might
at least save his army from annihilation. Jackson's men were
exhausted and the horses jaded. Since the morning of the 19th the
whole army had marched over eighty, and Ewell's division over ninety
miles. And this average of seventeen miles a day had been maintained
on rough and muddy roads, crossed by many unbridged streams, and over
a high mountain. The day which had just passed had been especially
severe. Ewell, who was in bivouac at Cedarville, five miles north of
Front Royal on the Winchester turnpike, had marched more than twenty
miles; and Jackson's own division, which had made four-and-twenty,
was on foot from five in the morning till nine at night.

Banks' natural line of retreat led through Winchester, and the
Confederate advanced guard at Cedarville was two miles nearer that
town than were the Federals at Strasburg. But it was still possible
that Banks, warned by Kenly's overthrow, might withdraw by night; and
even if he deferred retreat until daylight he might, instead of
falling back on Winchester, strike boldly for Front Royal and escape
by Manassas Gap. Or, lastly, he might remain at Strasburg, at which
point he was in communication, although by a long and circuitous
road, with Fremont at Franklin.

Jackson had therefore three contingencies to provide against, and
during the night which followed the capture of Front Royal he evolved
a plan which promised to meet them all. Ashby, at daybreak, was to
move with the 7th Virginia cavalry in the direction of Strasburg; and
at the same hour a staff officer, with a small escort, supported by
Taylor's Louisianians, was to ride towards Middletown, a village five
miles north of Strasburg and thirteen from Winchester, and to report
frequently. The 2nd and 6th Virginia cavalry, under General Steuart,
were to advance to Newtown, also on the Valley turnpike, and eight
miles from Winchester; while Ewell, with Trimble's brigade and his
artillery, was to move to Nineveh, two miles north of Cedarville, and
there halt, awaiting orders. The remainder of the command was to
concentrate at Cedarville, preparatory to marching on Middletown; and
strong cavalry patrols were to keep close watch on the Strasburg to
Front Royal road.* (* Jackson's Report. O.R. volume 12 part 1 page

6 A.M.

From Cedarville to Middletown is no more than seven miles, and
Taylor's brigade is reported to have moved at six A.M., while Ashby
had presumably already marched. But notwithstanding the fact that
Banks' infantry did not leave Strasburg till ten A.M., and that it
had five miles to cover before reaching Middletown, when the
Confederates reached the turnpike at that village the Federal main
body had already passed, and only the rear-guard was encountered.

It seems evident, therefore, that it was not till near noon that
Jackson's patrols came in sight of Middletown, and that the
Confederate advanced guard had taken at least six hours to cover
seven miles. The country, however, between Cedarville and the Valley
turnpike was almost a continuous forest; and wood-fighting is very
slow fighting. The advance had met with strong resistance. General
Gordon had prudently sent the 29th Pennsylvania to Middletown at an
early hour, with orders to reconnoitre towards Front Royal, and to
cover Middletown until the army had passed through.

7 A.M.

Supported by a section of artillery, the regiment had moved eastward
till it struck the Confederate scouts some four miles out on the
Cedarville road. After a long skirmish it was withdrawn to
Middletown; but the 1st Maine cavalry, and a squadron of the 1st
Vermont, about 400 strong, which had been ordered by Banks to proceed
in the same direction, made a vigorous demonstration, and then fell
back slowly before the advanced guard, showing a bold front, using
their carbines freely, and taking advantage of the woods to impose
upon the enemy.

10.15 AM.

These manoeuvres succeeded in holding the Confederates in check till
after ten o'clock, for the heavy timber concealed the real strength
of the Federals, and although Ashby, with the 7th Virginia, had
marched to the scene of action, the infantry was not yet up. It is to
be remembered that at daybreak the Valley army was by no means
concentrated. Jackson had with him at Cedarville only Ewell's
division, his own division having halted near Front Royal. This last
division, it appears from the reports, did not leave Front Royal
until 8 A.M.; a sufficiently early hour, considering the condition of
the men and horses, the absence of the trains, and the fact that one
of the brigades had bivouacked four miles south of the village.* (*
The supply waggons were still eight miles south of Front Royal, in
the Luray Valley.) It was not, then, till between nine and ten that
the column cleared Cedarville, and Middletown was distant nearly
three hours' march, by an exceedingly bad road.

In all probability, if Jackson, at daybreak or soon afterwards, had
marched boldly on Middletown with Ewell's division, he would have
been able to hold Banks on the Valley turnpike until the rest of his
infantry and artillery arrived. But he had always to bear in mind
that the Federals, finding their retreat on Winchester compromised,
might make a dash for Manassas Gap. Now the road from Strasburg to
Manassas Gap was protected throughout its length by the North Fork of
the Shenandoah; and to attack the Federals on the march, should they
take this road, the Confederates would have to move through
Cedarville on Front Royal. This was the only road by which they could
reach the river, and the bridges at Front Royal were the only
available points of passage. Jackson, it appears, was therefore
reluctant to leave Cedarville, within easy reach of the bridges,
until he received information of his enemy's designs, and that
information, which had to be sought at a distance, was naturally long
in coming.

Criticism, after the event, is easy; but it certainly seems curious,
with his knowledge of Banks, that Jackson should have believed his
opponent capable of so bold a measure as retreat by way of Manassas
Gap. According to his own report, the feasibility of such a course
did cross Banks' mind; but it might seem that on this occasion
Jackson lost an opportunity through over-caution. Nevertheless, in
desperate situations even the most inert characters are sometimes
capable of desperate resolutions.

Although for the time being Banks was permitted to extricate his
infantry from the toils, the remainder of his command was less
fortunate. The general and his brigades reached Winchester in safety,
but the road between that town and Strasburg was a scene of dire

11.30 A.M.

Steuart, with the 2nd and 6th Virginia, had struck Newton before
noon, and found a convoy of waggons strung out on the Valley
turnpike. A few shots threw everything into confusion. Many of the
teamsters deserted their posts, and fled towards Winchester or
Strasburg. Waggons were upset, several were captured, and others
plundered. But the triumph of the Confederates was short-lived. The
Federal infantry had already reached Middletown; and Banks sent
forward a regiment of cavalry and a brigade of infantry to clear the
way. Steuart was speedily driven back, and the Northerners resumed
their march.

12.15 P.M.

At some distance behind the infantry came the Federal cavalry, about
2000 strong, accompanied by a battery and a small party of Zouaves;
but by the time this force reached Middletown, Ashby, supported by
the Louisiana brigade, had driven in the regiment hitherto opposed to
him, and, emerging from the forest, with infantry and guns in close
support, was bearing down upon the village. The batteries opened upon
the solid columns of the Federal horse. The Louisiana regiments,
deploying at the double, dashed forward, and the Northern squadrons,
penned in the narrow streets, found themselves assailed by a heavy
fire. A desperate attempt was made to escape towards Winchester, and
a whirling cloud of dust through which the sabres gleamed swept
northward up the turnpike. But Ashby's horsemen, galloping across
country, headed off the fugitives; some of the Confederate infantry
drew an abandoned waggon across the road, and others ran forward to
the roadside fences. At such close quarters the effect of the
musketry was terrible. "In a few moments the turnpike, which had just
before teemed with life, presented a most appalling spectacle of
carnage and destruction. The road was literally obstructed with the
mingled and confused mass of struggling and dying horses and riders.
Amongst the survivors the wildest confusion ensued, and they
scattered in disorder in various directions, leaving some 200
prisoners in the hands of the Confederates."* (* Jackson's Report.
O.R. volume 12 part 1 page 704.) Part dashed back to Strasburg, where
the teeming magazines of the Federal commissaries were already
blazing; and part towards the mountains, flying in small parties by
every country track. The rear regiments, however, still held
together. Drawing off westward, in the hope of gaining the Middle
road, and of making his way to Winchester by a circuitous route,
General Hatch, commanding the cavalry brigade, brought his guns into
action on a commanding ridge, about a mile west of the highway, and
still showed a front with his remaining squadrons. Infantry were with
them; more horsemen came thronging up; their numbers were unknown,
and for a moment they looked threatening. The Confederate batteries
trotted forward, and Taylor's brigade, with the Stonewall and
Campbell's in support, was ordered to attack; whilst Ashby,
accompanied by the Louisiana Tigers and two batteries, pursued the
train of waggons that was flying over the hills towards Winchester.

3 P.M.

The question now to be solved was whether the cavalry was the
advanced or the rear guard of the Federal army. No message had
arrived from Steuart. But the people of Middletown supplied the
information. They reported that in addition to the convoy a long
column of infantry had passed through the village; and Jackson,
directing his infantry to follow Ashby, sent a message to Ewell to
march on Winchester. Some delay took place before the three brigades,
which had now driven back the Federal cavalry, could be brought back
to the turnpike and reformed; and it was well on in the afternoon
when, with the Stonewall regiments leading, the Confederate infantry
pushed forward down the pike.

The troops had been on their legs since dawn; some of them, who had
bivouacked south of Front Royal, had already marched sixteen miles,
the Federals had more than two hours' start, and Winchester was still
twelve miles distant. But the enemy's cavalry had been routed, and
such as remained of the waggons were practically without a guard.
Ashby and Steuart, with three fine regiments of Virginia cavalry,
supported by the horse-artillery and other batteries, were well to
the front, and "there was every reason to believe," to use Jackson's
own words, "that if Banks reached Winchester, it would be without a
train, if not without an army."

But the irregular organisation of the Valley forces proved a bar to
the fulfilment of Jackson's hopes. On approaching Newtown he found
that the pursuit had been arrested. Two pieces of artillery were
engaging a Federal battery posted beyond the village, but the
Confederate guns were almost wholly unsupported. Ashby had come up
with the convoy. A few rounds of shell had dispersed the escort. The
teamsters fled, and the supply waggons and sutlers' carts of the
Federal army, filled with luxuries, proved a temptation which the
half-starving Confederates were unable to resist. "Nearly the whole
of Ashby's cavalry and a part of the infantry under his command had
turned aside to pillage. Indeed the firing had not ceased, in the
first onset upon the Federal cavalry at Middletown, before some of
Ashby's men might have been seen, with a quickness more suitable to
horse-thieves than to soldiers, breaking from their ranks, seizing
each two or three of the captured horses and making off across the
fields. Nor did the men pause until they had carried their illegal
booty to their homes, which were, in some instances, at the distance
of one or two days' journey. That such extreme disorders could
occur," adds Dabney, "and that they could be passed over without a
bloody punishment, reveals the curious inefficiency of officers in
the Confederate army."* (* Dabney volume 2 pages 101 and 102. "The
difficulty," says General Taylor, speaking of the Confederate
cavalry, "of converting raw men into soldiers is enhanced manifold
when they are mounted. Both man and horse require training, and
facilities for rambling, with temptation to do so, are increased.
There was little time, and it may be said less disposition, to
establish camps of instruction. Living on horseback, fearless and
dashing, the men of the South afforded the best possible material for
cavalry. They had every quality but discipline, and resembled Prince
Charming, whose manifold gifts were rendered useless by the malignant
fairy. Assuredly our cavalry rendered much excellent service,
especially when dismounted; and such able officers as Stuart,
Hampton, and the younger Lees in the east, Forrest, Green, and
Wheeler in the West, developed much talent for war; but their
achievements, however distinguished, fell far below the standard that
would have been reached had not the want of discipline impaired their
efforts." Destruction and Reconstruction pages 70 to 71. It is only
fair to add, however, that the Confederate troopers had to supply
their own horses, receiving no compensation for their loss by disease
or capture. This in some measure excuses their anxiety to loot as
many chargers as they could lay hands on.)

Banks, when the pursuit had so suddenly ceased, had determined to
save the remnant of his train. Three regiments and a couple of
batteries were ordered back from Bartonsville, with Gordon in
command; and this rearguard had not only shown a formidable front,
but had actually driven the infantry that still remained with Ashby
out of Newtown, and into the woods beyond. General Hatch, who had
regained the turnpike with part of his brigade, had now come up; and
the addition of six squadrons of cavalry rendered Gordon's force
capable of stout resistance. The Federals held a strong position. The
Confederates had present but 50 cavalry, 150 infantry, and 5 guns.
Nor was there any hope of immediate support, for the remainder of the
troops were still several miles in rear, and Steuart's two regiments
appear to have rejoined General Ewell on the road for Nineveh.
Shortly before sunset the Confederate artillery was reinforced. The
Stonewall Brigade had also arrived upon the scene; and Gordon, firing
such waggons as he could not carry off, as well as the pontoons, fell
back on Winchester as the night closed in.

The Confederates had now marched from sixteen to twenty miles, and
the men had not eaten since the early morning. But Jackson had
determined to press the march till he was within striking distance of
the hills which stand round Winchester to the south. It was no time
for repose. The Federals had a garrison at Harper's Ferry, a garrison
at Romney, detachments along the Baltimore and Ohio Railway; and
Washington, within easy distance of Winchester by rail, was full of
troops.* (* Twenty regiments of infantry and two regiments of
cavalry. O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 313.) A few hours' delay, and
instead of Banks' solitary division, a large army might bar the way
to the Potomac. So, with the remnant of Ashby's cavalry in advance,
and the Stonewall Brigade in close support, the column toiled onward
through the darkness. But the Federal rear-guard was exceedingly well
handled. The 2nd Massachusetts regiment held the post of honour, and,
taking advantage of stream and ridge, the gallant New Englanders
disputed every mile of road. At Bartonsville, where the Opequon, a
broad and marshy creek, crosses the turnpike, they turned stubbornly
at bay. A heavy volley, suddenly delivered, drove the Confederate
cavalry back in confusion on the infantry supports. The 33rd Virginia
was completely broken by the rush of flying horsemen; the guns were
overridden; and Jackson and his staff were left alone upon the
turnpike. In the pitch darkness it was difficult to ascertain the
enemy's numbers, and the flashes of their rifles, dancing along the
top of the stone walls, were the only clue to their position. The
Confederate column was ordered to deploy, and the Stonewall Brigade,
pushing into the fields on either flank, moved slowly forward over
the swampy ground. The stream proved an impassable obstacle both
below and above the Federal position; but the 27th Virginia,
attacking the enemy in front, drove them back and crossed to the
further bank.

The pursuit, however, had been much delayed; and the Massachusetts
regiment, although ridden into by their own cavalry, fell back in
good order, protected by a strong line of skirmishers on either side
of the turnpike. The Confederate order of march was now changed.
Three companies, who were recruited from the district and knew the
ground, were ordered to the front. The 5th Virginia, four or five
hundred yards from the skirmish line, were to follow in support. The
cavalry and guns were left in rear; and the troops once more took up
the line of march.

For more than an hour they tramped slowly forward. The darkness grew
more intense, and the chaff and laughter--for the soldiers, elated by
success, had hitherto shown no sign of fatigue--died gradually away.
Nothing was to be heard but the clang of accoutrements, the long
rumble of the guns, and the shuffle of weary feet. Men fell in the
ranks, overpowered by sleep or faint with hunger, and the
skirmishers, wading through rank fields of wheat and clover,
stumbling into ditches, and climbing painfully over high stone walls,
made tardy progress. Again and again the enemy's volleys flashed
through the darkness; but still there was no halt, for at the head of
the regiments, peering eagerly into the darkness, their iron-willed
commander still rode forward, as regardless of the sufferings of his
men as of the bullets of the Federal rear-guard, with but one thought
present to his mind--to bring Banks to battle, and so prevent his
escape from Winchester. The student of Napoleon had not forgotten the
pregnant phrase: "Ask me for anything but time!" The indiscipline of
Ashby's cavalry had already given Banks a respite; and, undisturbed
by his reverses, the Union general had shown himself capable of
daring measures. Had the Confederates halted at Newtown or at
Bartonsville, the troops would doubtless have been fresher for the
next day's work, but the morning might have seen Banks far on his way
to the Potomac, or possibly strongly reinforced.

When the Confederate infantry had met and overthrown their enemy it
would be time enough to think of food and rest. So long as the men
could stand they were to follow on his traces. "I rode with Jackson,"
says General Taylor, "through the darkness. An officer, riding hard,
overtook us, who proved to be the chief quartermaster of the army. He
reported the waggon trains far behind, impeded by a bad road in the
Luray Valley. "The ammunition waggons?" sternly. "All right, sir.
They were in advance, and I doubled teams on them and brought them
through." "Ah!" in a tone of relief.

"To give countenance to the quartermaster, if such can be given on a
dark night, I remarked jocosely, "Never mind the waggons. There are
quantities of stores in Winchester, and the general has invited one
to breakfast there tomorrow." Jackson took this seriously, and
reached out to touch me on the arm. Without physical wants himself,
he forgot that others were differently constituted, and paid little
heed to commissariat. But woe to the man who failed to bring up
ammunition. In advance his trains were left behind. In retreat he
would fight for a wheelbarrow."* (* Destruction and Reconstruction
page 65.)

May 25.

At Kernstown, behind Hogg Run, the Federal rear-guard halted for the
last time, but after a short engagement fell back on Winchester. It
was now three o'clock, an hour before dawn, and the Massachusetts men
became aware that the enemy had halted. Their skirmishers still
pressed slowly forward, and an occasional shot flashed out in the
darkness. But that noise which once heard on a still night is never
forgotten, the solid tramp of a heavy column on a hard road, like the
dull roar of a distant cataract, had suddenly died away. As the day
broke the Confederate advanced guard, passing Pritchard's Hill and
Kernstown battlefield, struck the Federal pickets on Parkin's Hill.
In front was a brook which goes by the name of Abraham's Creek;
beyond the brook rose the ridge which covers Winchester, and Jackson
at last permitted his men to rest. The coveted heights were within
easy grasp. The Federal army was still in Winchester, and nothing now
remained but to storm the hills, and drive the enemy in panic from
the town.

The Confederates, when the order was given to halt, had dropped where
they stood, and lay sleeping by the roadside. But their commander
permitted himself no repose. For more than an hour, without a cloak
to protect him from the chilling dews, listening to every sound that
came from the front, he stood like a sentinel over the prostrate
ranks. As the dawn rose, in a quiet undertone he gave the word to
march. The order was passed down the column, and, in the dim grey
light, the men, rising from their short slumbers, stiff, cold, and
hungry, advanced to battle.

Jackson had with him on the turnpike, for the most part south of
Kernstown, his own division, supported by the brigades of Scott and
Elzey and by nine batteries. About a mile eastward on the Front Royal
road was Ewell, with Trimble's brigade and ten guns. This detachment
had moved on Winchester the preceding evening, driving in the Federal
pickets, and had halted within three miles of the town. During the
night Jackson had sent a staff officer with instructions to Ewell.
The message, although the bearer had to ride nine-and-twenty miles,
by Newton and Nineveh, had reached its destination in good time; and
as the Stonewall Brigade moved silently past Pritchard's Hill,
Trimble's brigade advanced abreast of it beyond the intervening woods.

On both the Valley turnpike and the Front Royal road the Federals
were favoured by the ground, and their position, although the two
wings were widely separated, had been skilfully selected. On the
turnpike and west of it was Gordon's brigade of four regiments,
strengthened by eight guns, and by a strong force of cavalry in
reserve. Watching the Front Royal road was Donnelly's brigade, also
of four regiments, with eight guns and a few squadrons. The line of
defence ran along a broken ridge, lined in many places with stout
stone walls, and protected in front by the winding reaches of
Abraham's Creek.

Still, strong as was the Federal position, there was little chance of
holding it. Banks had been joined during the night by the larger
portion of his army, and by the garrison of Winchester, but he was
heavily outnumbered. At Front Royal and at Middletown he had lost
over 1500 men; part of his rear-guard had scattered in the mountains,
and it was doubtful if he could now muster more than 6500 effective
soldiers. In infantry and artillery the Confederates were more than
twice his strength; in cavalry alone were they inferior.

Jackson's plan of action was simple. His advanced guard was to hold
Gordon in position; and when Ewell fell on Donnelly, a heavy column
would move round Gordon's right.

5 A.M.

The Stonewall regiments led the way. The line of heights, west of the
turnpike and commanding Abraham's Creek, was occupied by the Federal
outposts, and a general advance of the whole brigade, sweeping across
the brook and up the slopes, quickly drove in the pickets.

But the enemy, whether by skill or good fortune, had occupied with
his main line a position admirably adapted for an inferior force.
Four hundred yards beyond the ridge which the Confederates had seized
rose a second swell of ground; and eight rifled guns, supported by
the 2nd Massachusetts, swept the opposite height at effective range.

Jackson immediately ordered up three batteries, posting them behind
the crest; and as the sun rose, drawing up the mist from the little
stream, a fierce duel of artillery began the battle.

6.30 A.M.

The Confederate gunners, harassed by the enemy's skirmishers, and
overwhelmed with shells, suffered heavily; one battery was compelled
to retire with a loss of 17 men and 9 horses; a second lost all its
officers; and it was not till near seven o'clock that the enemy's
eight guns, with their infantry escort, were finally driven back.

Ewell, meanwhile, had come into action on the right; but the mist was
heavy, and his advanced guard, received with a heavy fire from behind
the stone walls, was driven back with a loss of 80 officers and men.
Then the fog rose heavily, and for nearly an hour the engagement on
this wing died away.

8 A.M.

About eight o'clock Ewell's batteries again came into action, and
Trimble moved round to take the enemy in flank. But Jackson,
meanwhile, was bringing matters to a crisis on the left. The Federals
still held fast in front; but the Louisiana, Taliaferro's, and
Scott's brigades, retained hitherto with Elzey in reserve, were now
ordered to turn the enemy's flank. Moving to the left in rear of the
Stonewall Brigade, these eleven regiments, three forming a second
line, faced to the front and climbed the heights.

General Gordon, in anticipation of such a movement, had already
transferred two regiments to his right. The fire of this force,
though delivered at close range, hardly checked the Confederate
onset. Closing the many gaps, and preserving an alignment that would
have been creditable on parade, Taylor and Taliaferro moved swiftly
forward over rocks and walls. The Federal infantry gave way in great
disorder. The cavalry in support essayed a charge, but the
Confederates, as the squadrons rode boldly towards them, halted where
they stood, and the rolling volleys of the line of battle drove back
the horsemen with many empty saddles. Then, as Taylor resumed his
advance, the Stonewall regiments, with Elzey in close support, rose
suddenly from their covert, and the whole line swept forward across
the ridges. The bright sun of the May morning, dispersing the mists
which veiled the field, shone down upon 10,000 bayonets; and for the
first time in the Valley the rebel yell, that strange fierce cry
which heralded the Southern charge, rang high above the storm of

(MAP OF THE BATTLE OF WINCHESTER, VA. Sunday, May 25th, 1862.)

It was impossible, before so strong an onset, for the Federals to
hold their ground. Infantry, artillery, and cavalry gave way. From
east, west, and south the grey battalions converged on Winchester;
and as the enemy's columns, covered by the heavy smoke, disappeared
into the streets, Jackson, no longer the imperturbable tactician,
moving his troops like the pieces on a chess-board, but the very
personification of triumphant victory, dashed forward in advance of
his old brigade. Riding recklessly down a rocky slope he raised
himself in his stirrups, and waving his cap in the direction of the
retreating foe, shouted to his officers to "Press forward to the
Potomac!" Elzey's, the reserve brigade, was ordered to take up the
pursuit; and within the town, where the storehouses had been already
fired, the battle was renewed. The Federal regiments, with the
exception of the 2nd Massachusetts, lost all order in the narrow
streets.* (* Banks' aide-de-camp, Colonel Strother, says, "For
several minutes it looked like the commencement of a Bull Run panic.
The stragglers," he adds, "rapidly increased in numbers, and many
threw down their arms." Harper's Weekly. See also Jackson's Report,
O.R. volume 12 part 1 page 706.) The roar of battle followed close;
and with the rattle of musketry, the crash of shells, and the loud
cries of the victors speeding their rapid flight, the Northern
infantry dispersed across the fields. As the Confederates passed
through the town, the people of Winchester, frantic with triumph
after their two months of captivity, rushed out from every doorway to
meet the troops; and with weeping and with laughter, with the
blessings of women and the fierce shouts of men, the soldiers of the
Valley were urged forward in hot pursuit.

10 A.M.

As they emerged from the town, and looked down upon the open pastures
through which the Martinsburg turnpike runs, they saw the country
before them covered with crowds of fugitives. Jackson, still in
advance, turned round to seek his cavalry. From the head of every
street eager columns of infantry were pouring, and, deploying without
waiting orders, were pushing hastily across the fields. But not a
squadron was in sight. Ashby, with the handful of men that still
remained with him, had ridden to Berryville, expecting that the enemy
would attempt to escape by Snicker's Gap. Steuart, with the two
regiments that had done such service at Front Royal, was with Ewell
and Trimble; but although Donnelly's regiments could be seen retiring
in good order, they were not followed by a single sabre.

Despatching an aide-de-camp to order Steuart to the front, Jackson
called up his batteries. The infantry, too, was hurried forward, in
order to prevent the Federals rallying. But after a rapid march of
two hours the interval between the Confederates and the enemy was
still increasing; and it was evident that without cavalry it was
useless to continue the pursuit. Not only was the infantry utterly
exhausted, but the horses of the artillery were worn out; and about
five miles out of Winchester the troops were ordered to halt and
bivouac.* (* The greater part of the troops had marched over thirty
miles in thirty hours, during which time they had been almost
continuously engaged.) The Federals, relieved from the pressure of
the hostile fire, gradually reformed their ranks; and Jackson,
notwithstanding the extraordinary exertions he had demanded from his
troops, his own skilful manoeuvres, and the high spirit of his men,
saw his opportunity pass away. His impatience was almost
uncontrollable. His staff was dispatched in all directions to urge
forward the remainder of the batteries. "We must press them to the
Potomac!" "Forward to the Potomac!" Such was the tenor of every
order; and at length, as the Federals disappeared in the far
distance, he ordered the artillery teams to be unhitched, and the
gunners, thus mounted, to pursue the enemy. But before this strange
substitute for cavalry had moved out, the lagging squadrons arrived,
and with a few fiery words they were sent at speed down the Valley
turnpike. But it was too late. Banks, for the second time, was more
fortunate than he deserved.

To the misconduct of Ashby's troopers, and to the pedantic folly of
General Steuart, the escape of the Federal army must be attributed.

"Never have I seen an opportunity when it was in the power of cavalry
to reap a richer harvest of the fruits of victory. Had the cavalry
played its part in this pursuit as well as the four companies under
Colonel Flournoy two days before in the pursuit from Front Royal, but
a small portion of Banks' army would have made its escape to the

So runs Jackson's official report, and when the disorganised
condition of the Federal battalions, as they fled north from
Winchester, is recalled, it is difficult to question the opinion
therein expressed. The precipitate retreat from Strasburg,
accompanied by the loss of waggons and of stores; the concentrated
attack of overwhelming numbers, followed by the disorderly rush
through the streets of Winchester, had, for the time being, dissolved
the bonds of discipline. It is true that some of the Federal
regiments held together; but many men were missing; some fell into
the hands of the Confederates, others sought safety by devious roads,
and there can be little doubt but that those who fled to the Potomac
were for the time being utterly demoralised. Had they been resolutely
charged before they had reformed their ranks, their rifles would no
more have saved them from annihilation than they had saved Kenly's
command at Cedarville.

But where was the cavalry? Ashby's 50 men, all that he had been able
to collect, were far away upon the right; out of reach of orders, and
in any case too few for effective use. The two regiments under
Steuart, 600 or 700 strong, were the force on which Jackson had
depended, and Steuart had shown himself incapable of command. He had
received Jackson's message with the reply that he could obey no
orders unless they came through his immediate superior.* (* Jackson's
Report.) Before Ewell could be found, precious time was wasted, and
two hours elapsed before the cavalry took up the chase. But the
Federals had now established strong rear-guards. The whole of their
cavalry, supported by artillery, had been ordered to cover the
retreat; and Steuart, although he picked up numerous prisoners, and
followed as far as Martinsburg, twenty-two miles north of Winchester,
found no opportunity for attack.

Halting for two and a half hours at Martinsburg, the Federals
continued their retreat at sunset, abandoning the magazines in the
town to their pursuers. Before midnight 3000 or 4000 men had arrived
at Williamsport, and by the ford and ferry, supplemented by a few
pontoon boats, the remnant of Banks' army crossed the broad Potomac.

Although not a single Confederate squadron had followed him from
Martinsburg, the Northern general, elated by his unexpected escape,
spoke of this operation as if it had been carried out under heavy
fire. "It is seldom," he reported, "that a river-crossing of such
magnitude is achieved (sic) with greater success." But he added, with
more candour, "there were never more grateful hearts, in the same
number of men, than when at mid-day on the 26th we stood on the
opposite shore;" and then, with the loss of 2000 men, a hundred
waggons, the regimental transport of his cavalry, nearly 800 sick,
and a vast quantity of stores, to traverse his assertion, he stated
that his command "had not suffered an attack or rout, but had
accomplished a premeditated march of near sixty miles in the face of
the enemy, defeating his plans, and giving him battle wherever he was
found!"* (* Some of Banks' officers shared his opinion. The captain
of the Zouaves d'Afrique, the general's body-guard, who had been cut
off at Strasburg, but rejoined on the Potomac, reported that,
"incredible as it may appear, my men marched 141 miles in 47 hours,
as measured by Captain Abert," and concluded by congratulating Banks
upon the success of his "unparalleled retreat." The Zouaves, at all
events, could not complain that they had been excluded from "active
operations." Another officer declared that "we have great reason to
be grateful to kind Providence, and applaud the skill and energy of
our commanding officers for the miraculous escape of our men from
utter annihilation." O.R. volume 12 part 1 pages 573 and 611.)

But the Northern people were not to be deceived. The truth was but
too apparent; and long before Banks had found leisure to write his
report, terror had taken possession of the nation. While the soldiers
of the Valley lay round Winchester, reposing from their fatigues, and
regaling themselves on the captured stores, the Governors of thirteen
States were calling on their militia to march to the defence of
Washington. Jackson had struck a deadly blow. Lincoln and Stanton
were electrified even more effectually than Banks. They issued an
urgent call for more troops. "There is no doubt," wrote Stanton to
the Governor of Massachusetts, "that the enemy in great force are
marching on Washington." In the cities of the North the panic was
indescribable. As the people came out of church the newsboys were
crying, "Defeat of General Banks! Washington in danger!" The
newspaper offices were surrounded by anxious crowds. In the morning
edition of the New York Herald a leader had appeared which was headed
"Fall of Richmond." The same evening it was reported that the whole
of the rebel army was marching to the Potomac. Troops were hurried to
Harper's Ferry from Baltimore and Washington. The railways were
ordered to place their lines at the disposal of the Government.
McDowell, on the eve of starting to join McClellan, was ordered to
lay aside the movement, and to send half his army to the Valley.* (*
Shields' and Ord's divisions of infantry, and Bayard's brigade of
cavalry, numbering all told 21,200 officers and men.) Fremont, who
was about to join his column from the Great Kanawha, was called upon
to support Banks. McClellan was warned, by the President himself,
that the enemy was making a general movement northward, and that he
must either attack Richmond forthwith or come to the defence of
Washington. A reserve corps of 50,000 men was ordered to be organised
at once, and stationed permanently near the capital; and in one day
nearly half a million American citizens offered their services to
save the Union.

Jackson's success was as complete as it was sudden. The second
diversion against Washington was as effective as the first, and the
victory at Winchester even more prolific of results than the defeat
at Kernstown. Within four-and-twenty hours the storm-cloud which had
been gathering about Fredericksburg was dispersed. McDowell's army of
40,000 men and 100 guns was scattered beyond the hope of speedy
concentration. McClellan, who had pushed forward his left wing across
the Chickahominy, suddenly found himself deprived of the support on
which he counted to secure his right; and Johnston, who had
determined to attack his opponent before that support should arrive,
was able to postpone operations until the situation should become
more favourable.

Immediately after his victory Jackson had sent an officer to Richmond
with dispatches explaining his views, and asking for instructions.
Lee, in reply, requested him to press the enemy, to threaten an
invasion of Maryland, and an assault upon the Federal capital.

May 28.

Early on the 28th, the Stonewall Brigade advanced towards Harper's
Ferry. At that point, crowded with stores of every description, 7000
men and 18 guns, under General Saxton, had already been assembled. At
Charlestown, Winder's advanced guard struck a reconnoitring
detachment, composed of two regiments, a section of artillery, and a
cavalry regiment. Within twenty minutes the Federals, already
demoralised by the defeat of Banks, were retiring in disorder,
abandoning arms, blankets, and haversacks, along the road, and the
pursuit was continued until their reserves were descried in strong
force on the Bolivar Heights, a low ridge covering Harper's Ferry
from the south. The same evening Ewell advanced in support of Winder;
and, on the 29th, the Valley army was concentrated near Halltown,
with the exception of the Louisiana brigade, posted near Berryville,
the 12th Georgia, with 2 guns, in occupation of Front Royal, and
Ashby, on the road to Wardensville, watching Fremont.

During the afternoon the 2nd Virginia Infantry was sent across the
Shenandoah, and occupying the Loudoun Heights, threatened the enemy's
position on the ridge below. Saxton, in consequence, withdrew a part
of his troops the same night to the left bank of the Potomac; but
Jackson, although Harper's Ferry and its magazines might easily have
been taken, made no attempt to follow. His scouts, riding far to east
and west, had already informed him that McDowell and Fremont were in
motion to cut off his retreat. Shields' division, leading McDowell's
advance from Fredericksburg, was approaching Manassas Gap; while
Fremont, hurrying from Franklin through the passes of the North
Mountain, was ten miles east of Moorefield. Lee's instructions had
already been carried to the extreme point consistent with safety, and
Jackson determined to retreat by the Valley turnpike. Not only was it
the one road which was not yet closely threatened, but it was the one
road over which the enormous train of captured stores could be
rapidly withdrawn.* (* Jackson, although the harvest was in full
swing, had given orders that all waggons in the valley were to be
impressed and sent to Winchester and Martinsburg.)

May 29.

The next morning, therefore, the main body of the army marched back
to Winchester; Winder, with the Stonewall Brigade and two batteries,
remaining before Harper's Ferry to hold Saxton in check. Jackson
himself returned to Winchester by the railway, and on the way he was
met by untoward news. As the train neared Winchester a staff officer,
riding at a gallop across the fields, signalled it to stop, and the
general was informed that the 12th Georgia had been driven from Front
Royal, burning the stores, but not the bridges, at Front Royal, and
that Shields' division was in possession of the village.

The situation had suddenly become more than critical. Front Royal is
but twelve miles from Strasburg. Not a single Confederate battalion
was within five-and-twenty miles of that town, and Winder was just
twice as far away. The next morning might see the Valley turnpike
blocked by 10,000 Federals under Shields. Another 10,000, McDowell's
Second Division, under General Ord, were already near Front Royal;
Fremont, with 15,000, was pressing forward from the west; and Banks
and Saxton, with the same number, were moving south from the Potomac.
With resolute management it would seem that 35,000 Federals might
have been assembled round Strasburg by midday of the 31st, and that
this force might have been increased to 50,000 by the evening of June
1.* (* For the distribution of the different forces during this
period see Note at end of chapter.) Desperate indeed appeared the
Confederate chances. The waggons which conveyed the spoils of
Martinsburg and Charlestown were still at Winchester, and with them
were more than 2000 prisoners. With the utmost expedition it seemed
impossible that the Valley army, even if the waggons were abandoned,
could reach Strasburg before the evening of the 31st; and the
Stonewall Brigade, with fifty miles to march, would be
four-and-twenty hours later. Escape, at least by the Valley turnpike,
seemed absolutely impossible. Over Pharaoh and his chariots the
waters were already closing.

But there is a power in war more potent than mere numbers. The moral
difficulties of a situation may render the proudest display of
physical force of no avail. Uncertainty and apprehension engender
timidity and hesitation, and if the commander is ill at ease the
movements of his troops become slow and halting. And when several
armies, converging on a single point, are separated by distance or by
the enemy, when communication is tedious, and each general is
ignorant of his colleagues' movements, uncertainty and apprehension
are inevitable. More than ever is this the case when the enemy has a
character for swiftness and audacity, and some unfortunate detachment
is still reeling under the effects of a crushing and unexpected blow.

Regarding, then, like Napoleon, the difficulties rather than the
numbers of his enemies, Jackson held fast to his purpose, and the
capture of Front Royal disturbed him little. "What news?" he asked
briefly as the staff officer rode up to the carriage door. "Colonel
Connor has been driven back from Front Royal." Jackson smiled grimly,
but made no reply. His eyes fixed themselves apparently upon some
distant object. Then his preoccupation suddenly disappeared. He read
the dispatch which he held in his hand, tore it in pieces, after his
accustomed fashion, and, leaning forward, rested his head upon his
hands and apparently fell asleep. He soon roused himself, however,
and turning to Mr. Boteler, who tells the story, said: "I am going to
send you to Richmond for reinforcements. Banks has halted at
Williamsport, and is being reinforced from Pennsylvania. Dix (Saxton)
is in my front, and is being reinforced by the Baltimore and Ohio
Railway. I have just received a dispatch informing me of the advance
of the enemy upon Front Royal, which is captured, and Fremont is now
advancing towards Wardensville. Thus, you see, I am nearly surrounded
by a very large force."

"What is your own, General?" asked his friend.

"I will tell you, but you must not repeat what I say, except at
Richmond. To meet this attack I have only 15,000 effective men."

"What will you do if they cut you off, General?"

A moment's hesitation, and then the cool reply: "I will fall back
upon Maryland for reinforcements."

"Jackson," says Cooke, "was in earnest. If his retreat was cut off he
intended to advance into Maryland, and doubtless make his way
straight to Baltimore and Washington, depending on the Southern
sentiment in that portion of the State to bring him reinforcements."
That the Federal Government was apprehensive of some such movement is
certain. The wildest rumours were everywhere prevalent. Men
throughout the North wore anxious faces, and it is said that one
question, "Where is Jackson? Has he taken Washington?" was on every
lip. The best proof, however, that a movement on Washington was
actually anticipated by the Federals is the dispatch of the Secretary
of War to the Governors of the different States: "Send forward all
the troops that you can, immediately. Banks completely routed.
Intelligence from various quarters leaves no doubt that the enemy, in
great force, are advancing on Washington. You will please organise
and forward immediately all the volunteer and militia force in your
State." Further, on receiving the news of Banks' defeat, the
President had called King's division of McDowell's army corps to
defend the capital; and his telegram of May 25 to McClellan, already
alluded to, in which that general was warned that he might have to
return to Washington, is significant of what would have happened had
the Confederates entered Maryland.* (* O.R. volume 11 part 1 page 81.
King's division, when it was found that Jackson had halted near
Winchester, was ordered to Front Royal. The fourth division,
McCall's, was left to defend Fredericksburg.) McClellan's vast army,
in all human probability, would have been hurriedly re-embarked, and
Johnston have been free to follow Jackson.

May 31.

On the night of the 30th the whole Army of the Valley was ordered
back to Strasburg; and early next morning the prisoners, escorted by
the 21st Virginia, and followed by the convoy of waggons in double
column, covering seven miles of road, led the way. Captain Hotchkiss
was sent with orders to Winder to hasten back to Winchester, and not
to halt till he had made some distance between that place and
Strasburg. "I want you to go to Charlestown," were Jackson's
instructions to his staff officer, "and bring up the First Brigade. I
will stay in Winchester until you get here, if I can, but if I
cannot, and the enemy gets here first, you must conduct it around
through the mountains."

The march, however, as the general had expected, was made without
molestation, and during the afternoon the main body reached
Strasburg, and camped there for the night. The Stonewall Brigade,
meanwhile, had passed through Winchester, halting near Newtown; the
2nd Virginia Regiment having marched thirty-five miles, and all the
remainder twenty-eight. Little had been seen of the enemy. Fremont
had passed Wardensville, and, marching through heavy rain, had halted
after nightfall at Cedar Creek, six miles west of Strasburg. On the
road to Front Royal, only a few scouts had been encountered by the
Confederate patrols, for Shields, deceived by a demonstration which
the Louisiana Brigade had made from Winchester, had let the day pass
by without a decisive movement. The difficulties on which Jackson had
counted had weighted the feet of his adversaries with lead.* (* Up to
the time that they arrived within striking distance of Jackson they
had acted vigorously, Shields marching eighty miles in five days, and
Fremont seventy over a mountain road.) Fremont, with two-and-twenty
miles to march, had suffered Ashby to delay his progress; and
although he had promised Lincoln that he would be in Strasburg at
five o'clock that evening, he had halted on the mountains six miles
distant. Shields, far ahead of the next division, had done nothing
more than push a brigade towards Winchester, and place strong pickets
on every road by which the enemy might approach. Neither Federal
general could communicate with the other, for the country between
them was held by the enemy. Both had been informed of the other's
whereabouts, but both were uncertain as to the other's movements; and
the dread of encountering, unsupported, the terrible weight of
Jackson's onset had sapped their resolution. Both believed the enemy
far stronger than he really was. The fugitives from Winchester had
spread exaggerated reports of the Confederate numbers, and the
prisoners captured at Front Royal had by no means minimised them.* (*
According to the Official Records, 156 men were taken by General
Shields. It is said that when Colonel Connor, in command of the 12th
Georgia Regiment, reported to Jackson at Winchester, and gave rather
a sensational account of his defeat, the General looked up, and asked
in his abrupt manner: "Colonel, how many men had you killed?" "None,
I am glad to say, General." "How many wounded?" "Few or none, sir."
"Do you call that fighting, sir?" said Jackson, and immediately
placed him under arrest, from which he was not released for several
months.) Banks, impressed by the long array of bayonets that had
crowned the ridge at Winchester, rated them at 20,000 infantry, with
cavalry and artillery in addition. Geary, who had retired in hot
haste from Rectortown, burning his tents and stores, had learned, he
reported, from numerous sources that 10,000 cavalry were passing
through Manassas Gap. There were constant rumours that strong
reinforcements were coming up from Richmond, and even McDowell
believed that the army of invasion consisted of 25,000 to 30,000 men.
Fremont's scouts, as he approached Strasburg, represented the
Confederate force at 30,000 to 60,000. Shields, before he crossed
the Blue Ridge and found himself in the vicinity of his old opponent,
had condemned the panic that had seized his brother generals, and had
told McDowell that he would clear the Valley with his own division.
But when he reached Front Royal the force that he had scornfully
described as insignificant had swelled to 20,000 men. Troops from
Richmond, he telegraphed, were marching down the Luray Valley; and he
urged that he should be at once supported by two divisions. It cannot
be said that Lincoln and Stanton were to blame for the indecision of
the generals. They had urged Fremont forward to Strasburg, and
Shields to Front Royal. They had informed them, by the telegraph, of
each other's situation, and had passed on such intelligence of the
enemy's movements as had been acquired at Harper's Ferry; and yet,
although the information was sufficiently exact, both Shields and
Fremont, just as Jackson anticipated, held back at the decisive
moment. The waters had been held back, and the Confederates had
passed through them dry-shod. Such is the effect of uncertainty in
war; a mighty power in the hands of a general who understands its

June 1.

On the morning of June 1, Jackson's only remaining anxiety was to
bring Winder back, and to expedite the retreat of the convoy. Ewell
was therefore ordered to support Ashby, and to hold Fremont in check
until the Stonewall Brigade had passed through Strasburg. The task
was easily accomplished. At seven in the morning the Confederate
pickets were driven in. As they fell back on their supports, the
batteries on both sides came rapidly into action, and the Federal
infantry pressed forward. But musketry replied to musketry, and
finding the road blocked by a line of riflemen, Fremont ordered his
troops to occupy a defensive position on Cedar Creek. "I was entirely
ignorant," he says, "of what had taken place in the Valley beyond,
and it was now evident that Jackson, in superior force, was at or
near Strasburg." His men, also, appear to have caught the spirit of
irresolution, for a forward movement on the part of the Confederates
drove in Blenker's Germans with the greatest ease. "Sheep," says
General Taylor, "would have made as much resistance as we met. Men
decamped without firing, or threw down their arms and surrendered.
Our whole skirmish line was, advancing briskly. I sought Ewell and
reported. We had a fine game before us, and the temptation to play it
was great; but Jackson's orders were imperative and wise. He had his
stores to save, Shields to guard against, Lee's grand strategy to
promote. He could not waste time chasing Fremont."* (* Destruction
and Reconstruction page 78.)

Winder reached Strasburg about noon. The troops that had been facing
Fremont were then withdrawn; and the whole force, now reunited, fell
back on Woodstock; Ashby, with the cavalry, holding his old position
on Tom's Brook. The retreat was made in full view of the Federal
scouts. On the Confederates retiring from before him, Fremont had
pushed forward a reconnaissance, and Bayard's cavalry brigade, of
McDowell's army, came up in the evening on the other flank. But
attack was useless. The Confederate trains were disappearing in the
distance, and heavy masses of all arms were moving slowly south. The
Federal horsemen were unsupported save by a single battery. McDowell,
who had reached Front Royal with part of his Second Division in the
morning, had endeavoured to push Shields forward upon Strasburg. But
Shields, fearing attack, had dispersed his troops to guard the
various roads; and when at last they were assembled, misled by
erroneous information, he had directed them on Winchester. Before the
mistake was discovered the day had passed away. It was not until the
next morning that the Federal columns came into communication, and
then Jackson was already south of Woodstock.

On Friday morning, May 29, says Allan, "Jackson was in front of
Harper's Ferry, fifty miles from Strasburg. Fremont was at Fabius,
twenty miles from Strasburg; and Shields was not more than twenty
miles from Strasburg, for his advance entered Front Royal, which is
but twelve miles distant, before mid-day, while McDowell was
following with two divisions. Yet by Sunday night Jackson had marched
between fifty and sixty miles, though encumbered with prisoners and
captured stores, had reached Strasburg before either of his
adversaries, and had passed safely between their armies, while he
held Fremont at bay by a show of force, and blinded and bewildered
Shields by the rapidity of his movements."

From the morning of May 19 to the night of June 1, a period of
fourteen days, the Army of the Valley had marched one hundred and
seventy miles, had routed a force of 12,500 men, had threatened the
North with invasion, had drawn off McDowell from Fredericksburg, had
seized the hospitals and supply depots at Front Royal, Winchester,*
(* Quartermaster's stores, to the value of 25,000 pounds, were
captured at Winchester alone, and 9,354 small arms, besides two guns,
were carried back to Staunton.) and Martinsburg, and finally,
although surrounded on three sides by 60,000 men, had brought off a
huge convoy without losing a single waggon.

This remarkable achievement, moreover, had been comparatively
bloodless. The loss of 618 officers and men was a small price to pay
for such results.* (* 68 killed; 386 wounded; 3 missing; 156

That Jackson's lucky star was in the ascendant there can be little
doubt. But fortune had far less to do with his success than skill and
insight; and in two instances--the misconduct of his cavalry, and the
surprise of the 12th Georgia--the blind goddess played him false. Not
that he trusted to her favours. "Every movement throughout the whole
period," says one of his staff officers, "was the result of profound
calculation. He knew what his men could do, and to whom he could
entrust the execution of important orders."* (* Letter from Major
Hotchkiss.) Nor was his danger of capture, on his retreat from
Harper's Ferry, so great as it appeared.

May 31 was the crisis of his operations. On that morning, when the
prisoners and the convoy marched out of Winchester, Shields was at
Front Royal. But Shields was unsupported; Ord's division was fifteen
miles in rear, and Bayard's cavalry still further east. Even had he
moved boldly on Strasburg he could hardly have seized the town. The
ground was in Jackson's favour. The only road available for the
Federals was that which runs south of the North Fork and the bridges
had been destroyed. At that point, three miles east of Strasburg, a
small flank-guard might have blocked the way until the main body of
the Confederates had got up. And had Fremont, instead of halting that
evening at Cedar Creek, swept Ashby aside and pushed forward to join
his colleague, the Valley army might easily have effected its
retreat. Winder alone would have been cut off, and Jackson had
provided for that emergency.

When the embarrassments under which the Federals laboured are laid
bare, the passage of the Confederates between the converging armies
loses something of its extraordinary character. Nevertheless, the
defeat of the Front Royal garrison and the loss of the bridges was
enough to have shaken the strongest nerves. Had Jackson then burnt
his convoy, and released his prisoners, few would have blamed him;
and the tenacity with which he held to his original purpose, the
skill with which he imposed on both Shields and Fremont, are no less
admirable than his perception of his opponents' difficulties. Well
has it been said: "What gross ignorance of human nature do those
declaimers display who assert that the employing of brute force is
the highest qualification of a general!"



Night of May 29


McDowell (Shields, 10,200, Rectorstown.
(Ord, 9000, Thoroughfare Gap.
(Bayard, 2000. Catlett's Station.
Fremont, 15,000, Fabius.
Saxton, 7000, Harper's Ferry.
Banks, 7000, Williamsport.
Geary, 2000, Middleburg.


Jackson's Division, 7200, Halltown.
Ewell's Division, 5000, Halltown
Ashby. 300, Wardensville road.
Taylor's Brigade, 8000, Berryville.
12th Georgia Regiment, 450, Front Royal.
2nd Virginia Regiment, 350, Loudoun Heights.

Night of May 30


McDowell (Shields, 10,200, Front Royal.
(Ord, 9000, Piedmont.
(Bayard, 2000, Thoroughfare Gap.
(King, 10,000, near Catlett's Station.
Saxton, 7000, Harper's Ferry.
Banks, 8,600, Williamsport.
Fremont, 15,000, Wardensville.
Geary, 2000, Upperville.


Army of Valley, 13,850, Winchester.
Stonewall Brigade, 1600, Halltown.
2nd Virginia Regiment, 380, Loudoun Heights.
Ashby, 300, Wardensville Road.

Night of May 31


McDowell (Shields, Front Royal.
(Ord, Manassas Gap.
(King, Catlett's Station.
(Bayard, Manassas Gap.
Saxton, Harper's Ferry.
Banks, Williamsport.
Fremont, Cedar Creek.
Geary, Snicker's and Ashby's Gaps.


Army of Valley, Strasburg.
Stonewall Brigade, Newtown.
Ashby, Cedar Creek,

Night of June 1


McDowell (Shields, ten miles south of Front Royal.
(Ord, Front Royal.
(King, Haymarket.
(Bayard, Buckton.
Saxton, Harper's Ferry.
Banks, Williamsport.
Fremont, Cedar Creek.
Geary, Snicker's and Ashby's Gaps.


Army of Valley, Woodstock.
Ashby, Tom's Brook.

Total strength Federal 62,000
Confederate 16,000


By the ignorant and the envious success in war is easily explained
away. The dead military lion, and, for that matter, even the living,
is a fair mark for the heels of a baser animal. The greatest captains
have not escaped the critics. The genius of Napoleon has been
belittled on the ground that each one of his opponents, except
Wellington, was only second-rate. French historians have attributed
Wellington's victories to the mutual jealousy of the French marshals;
and it has been asserted that Moltke triumphed only because his
adversaries blundered. Judged by this rule few reputations would
survive. In war, however, it is as impossible to avoid error as it is
to avoid loss of life; but it is by no means simple either to detect
or to take advantage of mistakes. Before both Napoleon and Wellington
an unsound manoeuvre was dangerous in the extreme. None were so quick
to see the slip, none more prompt to profit by it. Herein, to a very
great extent, lay the secret of their success, and herein lies the
true measure of military genius. A general is not necessarily
incapable because he makes a false move; both Napoleon and
Wellington, in the long course of their campaigns, gave many openings
to a resolute foe, and both missed opportunities. Under ordinary
circumstances mistakes may easily escape notice altogether, or at all
events pass unpunished, and the reputation of the leader who commits
them will remain untarnished. But if he is pitted against a master of
war a single false step may lead to irretrievable ruin; and he will
be classed as beneath contempt for a fault which his successful
antagonist may have committed with impunity a hundred times over.

So Jackson's escape from Winchester was not due simply to the
inefficiency of the Federal generals, or to the ignorance of the
Federal President. Lincoln was wrong in dispatching McDowell to Front
Royal in order to cut off Jackson. When Shields, in execution of this
order, left Fredericksburg, the Confederates were only five miles
north of Winchester, and had they at once retreated McDowell must
have missed them by many miles. McDowell, hotly protesting, declared,
and rightly, that the movement he had been ordered to execute was
strategically false. "It is impossible," he said, "that Jackson can
have been largely reinforced. He is merely creating a diversion, and
the surest way to bring him from the lower Valley is for me to move
rapidly on Richmond. In any case, it would be wiser to move on
Gordonsville."* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 pages 220, 229 (letter of S.
P. Chase).) His arguments were unavailing. But when Jackson pressed
forward to the Potomac, it became possible to intercept him, and the
President did all he could to assist his generals. He kept them
constantly informed of the movements of the enemy and of each other.
He left them a free hand, and with an opponent less able his
instructions would have probably brought about complete success. Nor
were the generals to blame. They failed to accomplish the task that
had been set them, and they made mistakes. But the task was
difficult; and, if at the critical moment the hazard of their
situation proved too much for their resolution, it was exactly what
might have been expected. The initial error of the Federals was in
sending two detached forces, under men of no particular strength of
character, from opposite points of the compass, to converge upon an
enemy who was believed to be superior to either of them. Jackson at
once recognised the blunder, and foreseeing the consequences that
were certain to ensue, resolved to profit by them. His escape, then,
was the reward of his own sagacity.

When once the actual position of the Confederates had been
determined, and the dread that reinforcements were coming down the
Valley had passed away, the vigour of the Federal pursuit left
nothing to be desired.

June 1.

Directly it was found that the Confederates had gone south, on the
afternoon of June 1, Shields was directed on Luray, and that night
his advanced guard was ten miles beyond Front Royal; on the other
side of the Massanuttons, Fremont, with Bayard's cavalry heading his
advance, moved rapidly on Woodstock.

The Federal generals, however, had to do with a foe who never relaxed
his vigilance. Whilst Ashby and Ewell, on May 31, were engaged with
Fremont at Cedar Creek, Jackson had expected that Shields would
advance on Strasburg. But not a single infantry soldier was observed
on the Front Royal road throughout the day. Such inaction was
suspicious, and the probability to which it pointed had not escaped
the penetration of the Confederate leader. His line of retreat was
the familiar route by New Market and Harrisonburg to Port Republic,
and thence to the Gaps of the Blue Ridge. There he could secure an
unassailable position, within reach of the railway and of Richmond.
But, during the movement, danger threatened from the valley of the
South Fork. Should Shields adopt that line of advance the White House
and Columbia bridges would give him easy access to New Market; and
while Fremont was pressing the Confederates in rear, their flank
might be assailed by fresh foes from the Luray Gap. And even if the
retiring column should pass New Market in safety, Shields, holding
the bridges at Conrad's Store and Port Republic, might block the
passage to the Blue Ridge. Jackson, looking at the situation from his
enemy's point of view, came to the conclusion that a movement up the
valley of the South Fork was already in progress, and that the aim of
the Federal commander would be to secure the bridges. His conjectures
hit the mark.

Before leaving Front Royal Shields ordered his cavalry to march
rapidly up the valley of the South Fork, and seize the bridge at
Conrad's Store; the White House and Columbia bridges he intended to
secure himself. But Jackson was not to be so easily overreached.

June 2.

On the night of June 2 the Federal cavalry reached Luray, to find
that they had come too late. The White House and Columbia bridges had
both been burned by a detachment of Confederate horse, and Shields
was thus cut off from New Market. At dawn on the 4th, after a forced
night march, his advanced guard reached Conrad's Store to find that
bridge also gone,* (* Of the existence of the bridge at Port
Republic, held by a party of Confederate cavalry, the Federals do not
appear to have been aware.) and he was once more foiled. On his
arrival at Luray, the sound of cannon on the other side of the
Massanuttons was plainly heard. It seemed probable that Jackson and
Fremont were already in collision; but Shields, who had written a few
hours before to Mr. Stanton that with supplies and forage he could
"stampede the enemy to Richmond," was unable to stir a foot to assist
his colleague.

Once again Jackson had turned to account the strategic possibilities
of the Massanuttons and the Shenandoah; and, to increase General
Shields' embarrassment, the weather had broken. Heavy and incessant
rain-storms submerged the Virginia roads. He was ahead of his
supplies; much hampered by the mud; and the South Fork of the
Shenandoah, cutting him off from Fremont, rolled a volume of rushing
water which it was impossible to bridge without long delay.

Meanwhile, west of the great mountain, the tide of war, which had
swept with such violence to the Potomac, came surging back. Fremont,
by the rapidity of his pursuit, made full amends for his lack of
vigour at Cedar Creek. A cloud of horsemen filled the space between
the hostile columns. Day after day the quiet farms and sleepy
villages on the Valley turnpike heard the thunder of Ashby's guns.
Every stream that crossed the road was the scene of a fierce
skirmish; and the ripening corn was trampled under the hoofs of the
charging squadrons. On June 2, the first day of the pursuit, between
Strasburg and Woodstock the Federals, boldly led by Bayard, gained a
distinct advantage. A dashing attack drove in the Confederate
rear-guard, swept away the horse artillery, and sent Ashby's and
Steuart's regiments, exhausted by hunger and loss of sleep, flying up
the Valley. Many prisoners were taken, and the pursuit was only
checked by a party of infantry stragglers, whom Ashby had succeeded
in rallying across the road.

Next day, June 3, the skirmishing was continued; and the
Confederates, burning the bridges across the roads, retreated to
Mount Jackson.

June 4.

On the 4th the bridge over the North Fork was given to the flames,
Ashby, whose horse was shot under him, remaining to the last; and the
deep and turbulent river placed an impassable obstacle between the
armies. Under a deluge of rain the Federals attempted to launch their
pontoons; but the boats were swept away by the rising flood, and it
was not till the next morning that the bridge was made.

June 5.

The Confederates had thus gained twenty-four hours' respite, and
contact was not resumed until the 6th. Jackson, meanwhile,
constructing a ferry at Mount Crawford, had sent his sick and wounded
to Staunton, thus saving them the long detour by Port Republic; and
dispatching his stores and prisoners by the more circuitous route,
had passed through Harrisonburg to Cross Keys, a clump of buildings
on Mill Creek, where, on the night of the 5th, his infantry and
artillery, with the exception of a brigade supporting the cavalry,
went into bivouac.

June 6.

On the afternoon of the 6th the Federal cavalry followed Ashby. Some
three miles from Harrisonburg is a tract of forest, crowning a long
ridge; and within the timber the Confederate squadrons occupied a
strong position. The enemy, 800 strong, pursued without precaution,
charged up a gentle hill, and were repulsed by a heavy fire. Then
Ashby let loose his mounted men on the broken ranks, and the Federals
were driven back to within half a mile of Harrisonburg, losing 4
officers and 30 men.

Smarting under this defeat, Fremont threw forward a still stronger
force of cavalry, strengthened by two battalions of infantry. Ashby
had already called up a portion of the brigade which supported him,
and met the attack in a clearing of the forest. The fight was fierce.
The Confederates were roughly handled by the Northern riflemen, and
the ranks began to waver. Riding to the front, where the opposing
lines were already at close range, Ashby called upon his infantry to

As he gave the order his horse fell heavily to the ground. Leaping to
his feet in an instant, again he shouted, "Charge, men! for God's
sake, charge!" The regiments rallied, and inspired by his example
swept forward from the wood. But hardly had they left the covert when
their leader fell, shot through the heart. He was speedily avenged.
The men who followed him, despite the heavy fire, dashed at the enemy
in front and flank, and drove them from their ground. The cavalry,
meanwhile, had worked round in rear; the horse artillery found an
opportunity for action; and under cover of the night the Federals
fell back on Harrisonburg.

The losses of the Union troops were heavy; but the Confederate
victory was dearly purchased. The death of Ashby was a terrible blow
to the Army of the Valley. From the outbreak of the war he had been
employed on the Shenandoah, and from Staunton to the Potomac his was
the most familiar figure in the Confederate ranks. His daring rides
on his famous white charger were already the theme of song and story;
and if the tale of his exploits, as told in camp and farm, sometimes
bordered on the marvellous, the bare truth, stripped of all
exaggeration, was sufficient in itself to make a hero. His reckless
courage, his fine horsemanship, his skill in handling his command,
and his power of stimulating devotion, were not the only attributes
which incited admiration. "With such qualities," it is said, "were
united the utmost generosity and unselfishness, and a delicacy of
feeling equal to a woman's." His loss came home with especial force
to Jackson. After the unfortunate episode in the pursuit from
Middletown, he had rated his cavalry leader in no measured terms for
the indiscipline of his command; and for some days their intercourse,
usually most cordial, had been simply official. Sensitive in the
extreme to any reflection upon himself or his troops, Ashby held
aloof; and Jackson, always stern when a breach of duty was concerned,
made no overtures for a renewal of friendly intercourse. Fortunately,
before the fatal fight near Harrisonburg, they had been fully
reconciled; and with no shadow of remorse Jackson was able to offer
his tribute to the dead. Entering the room in Port Republic, whither
the body had been brought, he remained for a time alone with his old
comrade; and in sending an order to his cavalry, added, "Poor Ashby
is dead. He fell gloriously--one of the noblest men and soldiers in
the Confederate army." A more public testimony was to come. In his
official report he wrote: "The close relation General Ashby bore to
my command for most of the previous twelve months will justify me in
saying that as a partisan officer I never knew his superior. His
daring was proverbial, his powers of endurance almost incredible, his
character heroic, and his sagacity almost intuitive in divining the
purposes and movements of the enemy."

On the 6th and 7th the Confederate infantry rested on the banks of
Mill Creek, near Cross Keys. The cavalry, on either flank of the
Massanuttons, watched both Fremont's camps at Harrisonburg and the
slow advance of Shields; and on the southern peak of the mountains a
party of signallers, under a staff officer, looked down upon the
roads which converged on the Confederate position.

June 7.

June 7 was passed in unwonted quiet. For the first time for fifteen
days since the storming of Front Royal the boom of the guns was
silent. The glory of the summer brooded undisturbed on hill and
forest; and as the escort which followed Ashby to his grave passed
down the quiet country roads, the Valley lay still and peaceful in
the sunshine. Not a single Federal scout observed the melancholy
cortege. Fremont's pursuit had been roughly checked. He was uncertain
in which direction the main body of the Confederates had retreated;
and it was not till evening that a strong force of infantry,
reconnoitring through the woods, struck Jackson's outposts near the
hamlet of Cross Keys. Only a few shots were exchanged.

Shields, meanwhile, had concentrated his troops at Columbia Bridge on
the 6th, and presuming that Jackson was standing fast on the strong
position at Rude's Hill, was preparing to cross the river. Later in
the day a patrol, which had managed to communicate with Fremont,
informed him that Jackson was retreating, and the instructions he
thereupon dispatched to the officer commanding his advanced guard are
worthy of record:

"The enemy passed New Market on the 5th; Blenker's division on the
6th in pursuit. The enemy has flung away everything, and their
stragglers fill the mountain. They need only a movement on the flank
to panic-strike them, and break them into fragments. No man has had
such a chance since the war commenced. You are within thirty miles of
a broken, retreating enemy, who still hangs together. 10,000 Germans
are on his rear, who hang on like bull-dogs. You have only to throw
yourself down on Waynesborough before him, and your cavalry will
capture them by the thousands, seize his train and abundant
supplies."* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 352.)

In anticipation, therefore, of an easy triumph, and, to use his own
words, of "thundering down on Jackson's rear," Shields, throwing
precaution to the winds, determined to move as rapidly as possible on
Port Republic. He had written to Fremont urging a combined attack on
"the demoralised rebels," and he thought that together they "would
finish Jackson." His only anxiety was that the enemy might escape,
and in his haste he neglected the warning of his Corps commander.
McDowell, on dispatching him in pursuit, had directed his attention
to the importance of keeping his division well closed up. Jackson's
predilection for dealing with exposed detachments had evidently been
noted. Shields' force, however, owing to the difficulties of the
road, the mud, the quick-sands, and the swollen streams, was already
divided into several distinct fractions. His advanced brigade was
south of Conrad's Store; a second was some miles in rear, and two
were at Luray, retained at that point in consequence of a report that
8000 Confederates were crossing the Blue Ridge by Thornton's Gap. To
correct this faulty formation before advancing he thought was not
worth while. On the night of June 7 he was sure of his prey.

The situation at this juncture was as follows: Shields was stretched
out over five-and-twenty miles of road in the valley of the South
Fork; Fremont was at Harrisonburg; Ewell's division was near Cross
Keys, and the main body of the Valley Army near Port Republic.

During his retreat Jackson had kept his attention fixed on Shields.
That ardent Irishman pictured his old enemy flying in confusion,
intent only on escape. He would have been much astonished had he
learned the truth. From the moment Jackson left Strasburg, during the
whole time he was retreating, with the "bull-dogs" at his heels, he
was meditating a counter-stroke, and his victim had already been
selected. When Shields rushed boldly up the valley of the South Fork
it seemed that an opportunity of avenging Kernstown was about to
offer. On June 4, the day that the enemy reached Luray, Ewell was
ordered to provide his men with two days' cooked rations and to
complete their ammunition "for active service." The next day,
however, it was found that Shields had halted. Ewell was ordered to
stand fast, and Jackson wrote despondently to Lee: "At present I do
not see that I can do much more than rest my command and devote its
time to drilling." On the 6th, however, he learned that Shields'
advanced guard had resumed its march; and, like a tiger crouching in
the jungle, he prepared to spring upon his prey. But Fremont was
close at hand, and Shields and Fremont between them mustered nearly
25,000 men. They were certainly divided by the Shenandoah; but they
were fast converging on Port Republic; and in a couple of marches, if
not actually within sight of each other's camps, they would come
within hearing of each other's guns. Yet, notwithstanding their
numbers, Jackson had determined to deal with them in detail.

A few miles from the camp at Port Republic was a hill honeycombed
with caverns, known as the Grottoes of the Shenandoah. In the heart
of the limestone Nature has built herself a palace of many chambers,
vast, silent, and magnificent. But far beyond the beauty of her
mysterious halls was the glorious prospect which lay before the eyes
of the Confederate sentries. Glimmering aisles and dark recesses,
where no sunbeam lurks nor summer wind whispers, compared but ill
with those fruitful valleys, watered by clear brown rivers, and
steeped in the glow of a Virginian June. To the north stood the
Massanuttons, with their forests sleeping in the noon-day; and to the
right of the Massanuttons, displaying, in that transparent
atmosphere, every shade of that royal colour from which it takes its
name, the Blue Ridge loomed large against the eastern sky. Summit
after summit, each more delicately pencilled than the last, receded
to the horizon, and beneath their feet, still, dark, and unbroken as
the primeval wilderness, broad leagues of woodland stretched far away
over a lonely land.

No battle-field boasts a fairer setting than Port Republic; but,
lover of Nature as he was, the region was attractive to Jackson for
reasons of a sterner sort. It was eminently adapted for the purpose
he had at heart.

1. The South Fork of the Shenandoah is formed by the junction of two
streams, the North and South Rivers; the village of Port Republic
lying on the peninsula between the two.

2. The bridge crosses the North River just above the junction,
carrying the Harrisonburg road into Port Republic; but the South
River, which cuts off Port Republic from the Luray Valley, is
passable only by two difficult fords.

3. North of the village, on the left bank of the Shenandoah, a line
of high bluffs, covered with scattered timber, completely commands
the tract of open country which lies between the river and the Blue
Ridge, and across this tract ran the road by which Shields was

4. Four miles north-west of Port Republic, near the village of Cross
Keys, the road to Harrisonburg crosses Mill Creek, a strong position
for defence.

By transferring his army across the Shenandoah, and burning the
bridge at Port Republic, Jackson could easily have escaped Fremont,
and have met Shields in the Luray Valley with superior force. But the
plain where the battle must be fought was commanded by the bluffs on
the left bank of the Shenandoah; and should Fremont advance while an
engagement was in progress, even though he could not cross the
stream, he might assail the Confederates in flank with his numerous
batteries. In order, then, to gain time in which to deal with
Shields, it was essential that Fremont should be held back, and this
could only be done on the left bank. Further, if Fremont could be
held back until Shields' force was annihilated, the former would be
isolated. If Jackson could hold the bridge at Port Republic, and also
prevent Fremont reaching the bluffs, he could recross when he had
done with Shields, and fight Fremont without fear of interruption.

To reverse the order, and to annihilate Fremont before falling upon
Shields, was out of the question. Whether he advanced against Fremont
or whether he stood still to receive his attack, Jackson's rear and
communications, threatened by Shields, must be protected by a strong
detachment. It would be thus impossible to meet Fremont with superior
or even equal numbers, and an army weaker on the battlefield could
not make certain of decisive victory.

Jackson had determined to check Fremont at Mill Creek. But the
situation was still uncertain. Fremont had halted at Harrisonburg,
and it was possible that he might advance no further. So the
Confederates were divided, ready to meet either adversary; Ewell
remaining at Cross Keys, and the Stonewall division encamping near
Port Republic.

June 8.

On the morning of June 8, however, it was found that Fremont was
moving. Ewell's division was already under arms. At 8.30 A.M. his
pickets, about two miles to the front, became engaged, and the
Confederate regiments moved leisurely into position.

The line ran along the crest of a narrow ridge, commanding an open
valley, through which Mill Creek, an insignificant brook, ran
parallel to the front. The further slopes, open and unobstructed
except for scattered trees and a few fences, rose gently to a lower
ridge, about a mile distant. The ground held by the Confederates was
only partially cleared, and from the Port Republic road in the
centre, at a distance of six hundred yards on either flank, were
woods of heavy timber, enclosing the valley, and jutting out towards
the enemy. The ridge beyond the valley was also thickly wooded; but
here, too, there were open spaces on which batteries might be
deployed; and the forest in rear, where Ashby had been killed,
standing on higher ground, completely concealed the Federal approach.
The pickets, however, had given ample warning of the coming attack;
and when, at 10 A.M., the hostile artillery appeared on the opposite
height, it was received with a heavy fire. "Eight and a half
batteries," says Fremont, "were brought into action within thirty
minutes." Against this long array of guns the Confederates massed
only five batteries; but these commanded the open ground, and were
all in action from the first.

Ewell had with him no more than three brigades. The Louisiana
regiments had bivouacked near Port Republic, and were not yet up. The
whole strength of the troops which held the ridge was no more than
6000 infantry, and perhaps 500 cavalry. Fremont had at least 10,000
infantry, twelve batteries, and 2000 cavalry.

It was then against overwhelming numbers that Ewell was asked to hold
his ground, and the remainder of the army was four miles in rear.
Jackson himself was still absent from the field. The arrangements for
carrying out his ambitious plans had met with an unexpected hitch. In
the Luray Valley, from Conrad's Store northwards, the space between
the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah was covered for the most part with
dense forest, and through this forest ran the road. Moving beneath
the spreading foliage of oak and hickory, Shields' advanced brigade
was concealed from the observation of the Confederate cavalry; and
the signallers on the mountain, endangered by Fremont's movement, had
been withdrawn.

North of Port Republic, between the foot-hills of the Blue Ridge and
the Shenandoah, lies a level tract of arable and meadow, nearly a
mile wide, and extending for nearly three miles in a northerly
direction. On the plain were the Confederate pickets, furnished by
three companies of Ashby's regiment, with their patrols on the roads
towards Conrad's Store; and there seemed little chance that Shields
would be able to reach the fords over the South River, much less the
Port Republic bridge, without long notice being given of his
approach. The cavalry, however, as had been already proved, were not
entirely to be depended on. Jackson, whose headquarters were within
the village, had already mounted his horse to ride forward to Cross
Keys, when there was a distant fire, a sudden commotion in the
streets, and a breathless messenger from the outposts reported that
not only had the squadrons on picket been surprised and scattered,
but that the enemy was already fording the South River.

Between the two rivers, south-west of Port Republic, were the
Confederate trains, parked in the open fields. Here was Carrington's
battery, with a small escort; and now the cavalry had fled there were
no other troops, save a single company of the 2nd Virginia, on this
side the Shenandoah. The squadron which headed the Federal advanced
guard was accompanied by two guns. One piece was sent towards the
bridge; the other, unlimbering on the further bank, opened fire on
the church, and the horsemen trotted cautiously forward into the
village street. Jackson, warned of his danger, had already made for
the bridge, and crossing at a gallop escaped capture by the barest
margin of time. His chief of artillery, Colonel Crutchfield, was made
prisoner, with Dr. McGuire and Captain Willis,* (* All three of these
officers escaped from their captors.) and his whole staff was
dispersed, save Captain Pendleton, a sterling soldier, though hardly
more than a boy in years. And the danger was not over. With the
trains was the whole of the reserve ammunition, and it seemed that a
crushing disaster was near at hand. The sudden appearance of the
enemy caused the greatest consternation amongst the teamsters;
several of the waggons went off by the Staunton road; and, had the
Federal cavalry come on, the whole would have been stampeded. But
Carrington's battery was called to the front by Captain Moore,
commanding the company of infantry in the village. The picket,
promptly put into position, opened with a well-aimed volley, and a
few rounds checked the enemy's advance; the guns came rapidly and
effectively into action, and at this critical moment Jackson
intervened with his usual vigour.* (* According to General Shields'
account his cavalry had reported to him that the bridge at Port
Republic had been burned, and he had therefore ordered his advanced
guard to take up a defensive position and prevent the Confederates
crossing the Shenandoah River. It was the head of the detachment
which had dispersed the Confederate squadrons.) From the left bank of
the North River he saw a gun bearing on the bridge, the village
swarming with blue uniforms, and more artillery unlimbering across
the river. He had already sent orders for his infantry to fall in,
and a six-pounder was hurrying to the front. "I was surprised," said
the officer to whose battery this piece belonged, "to see a gun
posted on the opposite bank. Although I had met a cavalry man who
told me that the enemy were advancing up the river, still I did not
think it possible they could have brought any guns into the place in
so short a time. It thereupon occurred to me that the piece at the
bridge might be one of Carrington's, whose men had new uniforms
something like those we saw at the bridge. Upon suggesting this to
the general, he reflected a moment, and then riding a few paces to
the left and front, he called out, in a tone loud enough to be heard
by the enemy, "Bring that gun up here!" but getting no reply, he
raised himself in his stirrups, and in a most authoritative and
seemingly angry tone he shouted, "Bring that gun up here, I say!" At
this they began to move the trail of the gun so as to bring it to
bear on us, which, when the general perceived, he turned quickly to
the officer in charge of my gun, and said in his sharp, quick way,
"Let 'em have it!" The words had scarcely left his lips when
Lieutenant Brown, who had his piece charged and aimed, sent a shot
right among them, so disconcerting them that theirs in reply went far
above us."* (* Related by Colonel Poague, C.S.A.)

The Confederate battalions, some of which had been formed up for
inspection, or for the Sunday service, when the alarm was given, had
now come up, and the 87th Virginia was ordered to capture the gun,
and to clear the village. Without a moment's hesitation the regiment
charged with a yell across the bridge, and so sudden was the rush
that the Federal artillerymen were surprised. The gun was
double-shotted with canister, and the head of the column should have
been swept away. But the aim was high and the Confederates escaped.
Then, as the limber came forward, the horses, terrified by the heavy
fire and the yells of the charging infantry, became unmanageable; and
the gunners, abandoning the field-piece, fled through the streets of
Port Republic. The 87th rushed forward with a yell. The hostile
cavalry, following the gunners, sought safety by the fords; and as
the rout dashed through the shallow water, the Confederate batteries,
coming into action on the high bluffs west of the Shenandoah, swept
the plain below with shot and shell.

The hostile artillery beyond the stream was quickly overpowered;
horses were shot down wholesale; a second gun was abandoned on the
road; a third, which had only two horses and a driver left, was
thrown into a swamp; and a fourth was found on the field without
either team or men.

The Federal infantry was not more fortunate. Carroll's brigade of
four regiments was close in rear of the artillery when the
Confederate batteries opened fire. Catching the contagion from the
flying cavalry, it retreated northward in confusion. A second brigade
(Tyler's) came up in support; but the bluffs beyond the river were
now occupied by Jackson's infantry; a stream of fire swept the plain;
and as Shields' advanced guard, followed by the Confederate cavalry,


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