Clement Anselm Evans.

Confederate military history; a library of Confederate States history online

. (page 23 of 153)
Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 23 of 153)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

time to effectually cover his strategic movement, Jack-
son, after having had the roads examined and ascertained
that he could secure railway transportation, decided to
march his own army along the foot of the Blue ridge,
some 18 miles, to the vicinity of Port Republic, the
way for most of the distance leading through flat
woods, and there take the turnpike across the Blue
ridge to Meechum's River station of the Virginia Cen-
tral railroad, whence, by the aid of the railway, he could
speedily transfer his command to Staunton and join
Johnson, just beyond, in a rapid movement that would


unexpectedly fall upon and demoralize Fremont's
advance; arranging that Ewell's division should cross
the Blue ridge and occupy the camps at Elk run even
before he left their vicinity. To cover the changes
decided on and deceive Banks, Jackson, on the 39th of
April, sent Ashby, reinforced by infantry and artillery,
to make a demonstration in front of Harrisonburg, send-
ing Captain Hotchkiss, of the engineers, to the peak of
the Massanutton mountains during the previous night,
to observe the effect of the movement, as this outlook
commanded a full view of Banks' camp, and regulate the
movements of Ashby by signal. His whole army fol-
lowed after Ashby, thus clearing his camps, which
Ewell, crossing the Blue ridge the same day, occupied
immediately after. Banks sent his trains to the rear
and formed a line of battle on a very advantageous posi-
tion, but made no attack. His object accomplished, late
in the day Jackson countermarched to Conrad's store,
but instead of going into his former camps, as his men
expected, he turned up the river, just as a driving rain
began, and marched several miles in the direction of
Port Republic before going into camp. Jackson and his
staff rode a dozen miles to "Lewiston," the home of
Gen. S. H. Lewis, for the night. Ashby's cavalry cov-
ered and concealed the movement by advancing along
the roads on the western side of the Shenandoah.

During the whole of May ist and 2d all of Jackson's
command was engaged in an arduous struggle in getting
his trains and artillery through the rain, the mud and
the quicksands between their camp of the night of the-
30th and Port Republic, 12 miles distant. The 3d
proved a genuine sunny May day and- the troops marched
rapidly over the hard, well-graded road across the Blue
ridge, and Saturday night found their advance at
Meechum's River station of the Virginia Central railroad.
The next day, the troops that had reached the railway
were conveyed by train to Staunton, while those in the
rear marched to the nearer Afton station, to which the
cars returned for them. The artillery and army trains
took the country road to Staunton, recrossing the Blue
ridge at Rockfish gap. The despair of the citizens of
Staunton when apprised that Jackson had left the valley
was unexpectedly turned into joy, when, just as the
church bells were ringing for the Sunday morning serv-


ice, the trains rolled in with the advance of Jackson's
army, all of which was there concentrated by the after-
noon of the sth. Taking the next day for rest and to
settle with the Lord of the Sabbath for the day that had,
of necessity incurred from bad roads, been taken for a
march, Jackson was ready to move against the enemy on
the morning of the 7th. During the afternoon of the
previous day Johnson marched his brigade from his
camps at West View, through Buffalo gap and up the
eastern slope of Big North mountain, and at dusk rested
his advance, in bivouac, in Dry Branch gap or Notch,
of that mountain, 15 miles west of Staunton. Milroy's
advance was encamped near the eastern foot of
Shenandoah mountain, across the Big Calf Pasture val-
ley, in sight of Johnson's pickets. Jackson's engineers
had previously conferred with Johnson, after a reconnois-
sance of the Federal advance, and it had been agreed
that Johnson should send a flanking party, by a detour
to the left, in advance of his front attack, to fall upon
the rear of Milroy's camp.

Learning from his spies that a junction had been made
between the forces of Jackson and Johnson, Milroy
ordered his detachments to concentrate at McDowell, and
calling for reinforcements from Fremont, who was
advancing up the South Branch valley, he prepared to
make a stand. When Johnson's flanking party reached
Milroy's previous camp they fotmd there only a picket,
the most of which was captured. Jackson, by rapid rid-
ing from Staunton, was early on the ground at Rodgers',
at the foot of the Shenandoah mountain, 23 miles from
Staunton, and under his personal direction the pursuit
was continued across that mountain to Shaw's Fork, the
Federal artillery opposing a further advance from the
crest of Shaw's ridge. The march was resumed early on
the morning of the Sth, Johnson's regiments still in
advance. The enemy had retreated during the night,
and Jackson met with no opposition in crossing Shaw's
ridge, the Cow Pasture valley and the western slope of
Bull Pasture mountain, the summit of which was reached
early in the forenoon. From a projecting rock on the
right of the road Jackson was enabled to see the camp and
the position taken by the enemy across the Bull Pasture
river, on the terraces and bottoms of that valley in the
vicinity of McDowell ; while his engineer, who was f amil-


iar with the locality, sketched for him the topography and
the approaches to the Federal position, which were partly
concealed by a forest along the eastern bluffs of the
river. Generals Jackson and Johnson then rode up into
the fields on the undulating top of the mountain, on the
left, and from that locality further reconnoitered the
ground Milroy had chosen for defense, observing at the
same time arrangements for placing a battery on a
cleared spur to the northeast of McDowell. Noticing
this group of horsemen with but a line of skirmishers to
protect them, Milroy sent a flanking party up the mount-
ain side, through the woods on his right, to try and cap-
ture these officers. Johnson reinforced his skirmishers
and after a lively engagement the enemy retired. Con-
cluding from this, and the appearance of things in the
Federal camp, that no further attack would be made that
day, Jackson gave instructions for the posting of John-
son's brigade in rear of the fields on the summit of the
mountain south of the turnpike, and ordered the opening
of a road by which artillery could be taken to the same
position, expecting to attack the enemy the next morn-
ing unless they should attack him in his chosen position.
At the same time he desired to await the movements of
a flanking column which he had sent around to the left
into the Bull Pasture valley, to ascend that valley and
fall upon Milroy's right while he attacked in front. With
these arrangements made and Johnson's brigade in posi-
tion for attack or defense, and Taliaferro's and Camp-
bell's brigades near at hand, Jackson sent his staff back
to headquarters, at Wilson's on the Cow Pasture, intend-
ing himself soon to follow for refreshments and rest. In
the meantime Schenck's brigade, which had left Frank-
lin at 1 1 a, m. of the preceding day, had covered 34 miles
in twenty- three hours and reached McDowell at 10 a. m.
of the 8th, thus adding some 1,300 infantry, a battery of
artillery and about 250 cavalry to Milroy's command,
now in charge of the former as the senior in rank.

Informed by his scouts and skirmishers that the Con-
federate force was increasing and that there were indica-
tions of the moving of a flanking party, Milroy, with the
approval of Schenck, at about half past three in the
afternoon of the 8th, formed and moved forward a line
of battle, composed of portions of his own and of
Schenck's brigade, across the Bull Pasture and up the


slope of Sitlington's hill, as the part o£ the mountain held
by Johnson was called, to seize that hill and drive the
Confederates from it. A skirt of woods concealed his
initial movement, but as soon as his skirmishers
appeared in the bushy field, Jackson, who was still on
the lookout, ordered up four regiments of Johnson's bri-
gade which had been halted in concealment along the
turnpike. He deployed the Fifty-second Virginia as
skirmishers and advanced them to engage the enemy ;
posting in their rear, in the center of his position on the
summit of the hill, the Twelfth Georgia, and on its right
the Forty-fourth Virginia. The Fifty-eighth Virginia
was marched to the left to support the Fifty-second.
The Confederate line then formed an arc of a circle, with
its convexity toward the enemy so that its right was
nearly perpendicular to its left. As the Federal skir-
mishers, in line of battle, advancing up the mountain
side, came in sight they became engaged with Johnson's
skirmishers. Two Federal regiments attacked the Con-
federate left, advancing boldly and steadily and pushing
back the skirmish line until they became engaged with
the line of battle in a fierce struggle on the brow of the
hill. In the meantime, Milroy had sent two Ohio and a
West Virginia regiment to attack and attempt to turn
the Confederate right. The two Ohio regiments vigor-
ously attacked Johnson's right, while the West Virginia
one pushed up the turnpike to accomplish the purpose
for which it was sent. Anticipating such a movement,
Jackson had placed the Thirty-first Virginia on the turn-
pike below the point where the Confederates had climbed
to Sitlington's hill. The attack on Johnson's right led
Jackson to withdraw the Thirty-first from guarding the
turnpike and send that and the Twenty-fifth Virginia to
Johnson, who placed them in support of the Forty-fourth
on his right, thus extending his line not only across the
field on Sitlington's hill, but down the slope of that hill
northward toward the turnpike. Jackson then commit-
ted the guarding of the turnpike to the Twenty-first Vir-
ginia. Milroy next ordered two cannon and a force
along the turnpike, but their attack amounted to noth-
ing. The main contention was with Johnson's right by
the combined attack of all the Federal forces that had
climbed up the mountain side. 'Again and again were
the brave attacks of the Ohio and West Virginia troops


repulsed in their efforts to drive the Confederates from
the crest of the hill ; the issue being joined at close quar-
ters while the musketry firing was incessant. The Con-
federates had some little advantage of position, and the
uneven ground, such as is characteristic of most lime-
stone regions, gave them some advantage, but, on the
other hand, facing to the west as they did, they were
clearly outlined against the eastern sky, and so were
plain targets for the Federals, who were themselves
advancing not only up the slope but in the shadows of
the waning day ; consequently the Confederates suffered
terribly from the long range rifles of the Federals,
especially the Twelfth Georgia, which became the special
object of attack, but which unflinchingly held its position
and drove back its assailants.

The attack all along Johnson's line, even as extended
by some of Jackson's men, indicated that the Federal
leader was throwing all his force into this engagement.
This led Jackson to order Taliaferro's brigade to John-
son's aid ; when this reached him, he placed the Twenty-
third and Thirty-seventh Virginia regiments near the
center of his line, and advanced them to reinforce the gal-
lant Twelfth Georgia, just in time to promptly meet the
movement of the enemy on the Confederate right and
drive it back. To still further strengthen his right,
Johnson sent portions of the Twenty -fifth and Thirty-first
Virginia regiments to occupy an elevated piece of woods
on his right and rear, thus securing a commanding posi-
tion. Campbell's brigade, which Jackson had hastened
toward the field of carnage, came up about this time, and
that and the Tenth Virginia, from Taliaferro's rear, were
also ordered to support Johnson's right in the woods
down the slope of the spur toward the turnpike. These
arrangements thwarted all the enemy's movements, and
by securing the larger tactical force on the immediate
field of action made certain the result of the conflict.

The battle lasted from half past four until half past
eight of the afternoon. Every movement of the enemy
was promptly met and defeated, and Johnson held firmly
to his first position. Jackson had no hesitancy in leav-
ing the immediate field of contention in charge of the
hero of Alleghany mountain, but taking no chances, he
located himself on the turnpike, where it crosses the top
of the mountain, to watch the right, guard the roads


which were concealed from Johnson, and at the same
time hurry forward reinforcements, having promptly-
ordered his whole army forward to meet any emergency.
Late in the day General Johnson was wounded in the
arm and had to retire from the field, leaving Taliaferro in
immediate command. Learning from Johnson, as he
was taken, badly wounded, to the rear, the condition of
things on the field of battle, he quickly ordered Talia-
ferro, now left in command, through a staff officer, to
hold his position at all hazards, and he would soon be
there with the Stonewall brigade to help him, if neces-
sary. But the conflict was then over, and Milroy had
become satisfied that he was no match for his antagonist,
so in the coming darkness he withdrew to McDowell and
Schenck hastened to retreat toward Franklin, where he
expected to meet Fremont, with the main body of his
command, coming up the South Branch valley.

The Federal artillery placed on the terrace to the
south of McDowell was quite active, but uselessly so,
prior to the advance of its infantry, because of the eleva-
tion of the position held by the Confederates. A single
gun on Hull's hill, a spur of the mountain opposite the
Federal left, did a little damage but not much. The
Confederates that did the fighting were five Virginia
regiments and one Georgia of Johnson's brigade, and
three Virginia regiments of Taliaferro's brigade, about
4,500 men. They were supported by the three Virginia
regiments and the Irish battalion of Campbell's brigade,
but which did not become engaged ; making the Confed-
erate force on the immediate battlefield about 6,000 men.
Of these, 71 were killed and 390 wounded. Milroy's force
that took part in the battle was, parts of four Ohio
and two West Virginia regiments, and parts of two Ohio
batteries, in all about 2,500 men, who, considering the
disparity of forces, made a most determined and brave
fight. Schenck reported the losses as 28 killed, 225
wounded and 3 missing.

Jackson prepared himself to renew the conflict on the
morrow unless the Federals did it, arranging to have his
artillery in position on Sitlington's hill by daylight and
his whole army closed up and ready for action, issuing
strict orders to those in advance to be on the alert to
detect an}' movement of the enemy. Schenck, satisfied
that Jackson, from his position, could very soon make


McDowell untenable, evacuated that place early in the
night, after lighting his camp-fires and making a show of
remaining there, and fell back during the night in the
direction of Franklin.

On the morning of the gth, Jackson sent a laconic dis-
patch to General Cooper, the adjutant-general of the
Confederate States at Richmond, saying, "God blessed
our arms with victory at McDowell yesterday;" then
mounting his horse at dawn, he rode in the keen and
frosty air to the summit of the mountain, there to learn
from officers he had sent in advance to reconnoiter that
his enemy had fled. He at once took possession of
McDowell and proceeded to close up and ration his men
preparatory to a pursuit. Following the road to Mon-
terey for a few miles from McDowell, Schenck turned to-
the northeast, by the road to Franklin, resting his wearied
men for a short time when his rear guard reached the
junction of the two roads on the morning of the 9th, but
moving on before Jackson could close up on his rear. A
retreat is easily managed in a narrow valley and through
a wooded country like that which Schenck was travers-
ing, so he was able to make Jackson's pursuit on the loth
a slow one ; but the latter managed to press the Federal
rear, and on the nth came very near to it in the vicinity
of Franklin, although impeded by the smoke and flames-
from the forests that hemmed in the road, which his-
crafty foe had set on fire.

During the march on the loth, Jackson sent Captain
Hotchkiss, of the engineers, to ride rapidly back to the
Valley and there take a cavalry company which had been
left oJi guard, and blockade the North river and the Dry
river gaps of the Shenandoah mountain, by either of
which Fremont might cross from the South Branch valley
and join Banks in the Shenandoah valley, at or near
Harrisonburg, Jackson's positive orders being that these
roads must be blockaded by daylight of the nth. The
execution of this order required a ride of over 60 miles
during the afternoon and night of the loth, but the order
was executed, and when Lincoln telegraphed to Fremont
to make the move Jackson had said to his engineer he
should make (although he did not think he would), the
reply was, that the road was blockaded and he could not
do it.

Having advanced to within two miles of Franklin and


finding Schenck in a very strong position which could
only be reached by a combat at a disadvantage in a gap of
the mountain, and ascertaining that Fremont was near at
hand with large reinforcements, and being very desirous
of getting back to the Valley to look after Banks' army,
and that he might also be at hand to respond to a
call from General Lee, Jackson, after resting his army, fell
back toward the Valley on Monday, May 12th, leaving a
company of cavalry to look after Fremont's army of
from 15,000 to 20,000 men enveloped in the smoke of the
burning forests, which had now become Jackson's ally
instead of his foe.

Having used the previous Sunday, or a part of it, in
the pursuit of his enemy, Jackson devoted the forenoon
of Monday, May 12th, to Sunday observances as well as
to rest, and issued the following order to his troops :

Soldiers of the Army of the Valley and Northwest: 1 congratu-
late you on your recent victory at McDowell. I request you to unite
with me this morning in thanksgiving to Almighty God for thus
having crowned our arms with success, and in praying that He will
continue to lead you on from victory to victory until our independ-
ence shall be established and make us that people whose God is the
Lord. The chaplains will hold divine service at 10 a. m. this day in
their respective regiments.

Leaving the front of Franklin on the afternoon of May
12th, Jackson's army reached McDowell on the afternoon
of the 14th, at about the same time that Fremont arrived
in Franklin with reinforcements for Schenck, and where
he remained quietly for the next ten days, leaving Jackson
free to prosecute his intentions. Continuing his march
from McDowell, Jackson encamped on the night of the
15 th at Lebanon Springs, in the Big Calf Pasture valley,
where the Warm Springs and Harrisonburg turnpike
■crosses the Parkersburg and Staunton turnpike, giving his
troops opportunity to speculate as to his next movement
while he rested there on the i6th to observe the day of
fasting and prayer which had been proclaimed by the
President of the Confederate States.

While on his way back from Franklin, Jackson sent a
message to Ewell asking him to meet him for a confer-
ence, which took place at Mt. Solon on the evening of the
next day, the 17th, on which the army marched with
alacrity down the valley, its advance reaching North
river, opposite Bridgewater, the troops in high spirits in
anticipation of a victorious movement. Sunday, the


1 8th, was spent resting in camps in one of the most
delightsome portions of the Shenandoah valley, its
charms heightened by the full flush of springtime, and
in religious observances ; the general himself riding to
the camp of the Stonewall brigade, on the south bank of
North river, where his adjutant-general, Maj. R. L.
Dabney (a revered doctor of the Presbyterian church),
preached a soul-stirring sermon. _

Nineteen days had now elapsed since Jackson left
Ewell in his old camps in the Elk Run valley. Learn-
ing that Jackson had been reinforced by Ewell, although
probably not informed as to Jackson's movements to
attack Fremont's advance. Banks evacuated Harrison-
burg on the ist of May and withdrew to New Market,
whence, after detaching Shields' division to march
toward Luray, on the way to join McDowell's "on
to Richmond," he continued down the valley to
Strasburg, which he proceeded to fortify, in compliance
with his first orders from McClellan. Shields left New
Market May 12 th, after the departure of Banks, with
orders to march by way of Luray and Front Royal toward
Fredericksburg, taking with him about 11,000 men and
leaving Banks about 8,000; of this number, the latter
placed 1,000 at and near Front Royal, on May i6th, to
protect the Manassas Gap railroad, the bridges of
that road, and the bridges of the turnpike leading to Win-
chester, in that vicinity; in this also obeying McClellan 's
original orders.

With Fremont's large command safely disposed of at
Franklin and the large force of Shields removed from
the valley, Jackson found himself possessed of a larger
tactic force than Banks had in hand, after he had
arranged with Ewell, with the consent of General Lee,
to join him in a movement on Banks, holding now the
portal of the western part of the Shenandoah valley at
Strasburg with the aid of defensive works.

On May 1 7th, the day Jackson's advance reached North
river at Bridgewater and was again fairly in the Valley,
with Ewell's division only some 20 miles away to the
east, as the crow flies, the Federal authorities ordered
McDowell to move upon Richmond, as soon as Shields'
division should join him, to become the right wing of
McClellan's army, now in front and in sight of that city,
but always holding himself in position "to cover the cap-


ital of the nation asfainst the sudden dash by any large-
body of the rebel forces. ' '

On the morning of the 19th, Jackson advanced to the
vicinity of Harrisonburg, and on the 20th continued to
near New Market, a portion of Ewell's command, which
had marched around the southwest end of the Massa-
nutton mountains, joining him on the way while the rest,
of his division marched down the eastern, or Page valley,
to opposite New Market. Ashby, under instructions,
demonstrated all along Banks' front, which held the line
of Pugh's run with cavalry pickets, below Woodstock,
while Jackson proceeded, with urgent expedition to-
maneuver Banks from his position at Strasburg by cap-
turing his exposed left at Front Royal, and, that turned,
reaching his rear somewhere between Strasburg and
Winchester. The great Massanutton chain not only
screened, but absolutely concealed and protected this

On the 2 1 St, Jackson crossed the Massanuttons by the
turnpike leading from New Market to Luray, and being
joined on the road by the portion of Ewell's division
that had followed down the eastern valley, he, with be-
tween 16,000 and 17,000 men and 48 guns, encamped that
evening on the South Fork of the Shenandoah. On the
2 2d, with Ewell in advance, he marched quietly, but
rapidly, down the Luray valley and bivouacked his
advance within 10 miles of Front Royal.

On Friday morning. May 23d, the cavalry of Ashby
and Flournoy, which had preceded the army, crossed the
South Fork of the Shenandoah at McCoy's ford, and,
following along the eastern foot of the Massanuttons by
a road between that mountain and the river, soon reached
a fork of the road, where it divided into two bodies, one
under Flournoy proceeding down between the rivers to
capture the bridges at the fork and prevent a retreat of
the Federals at Front Royal toward Winchester, while
the other under Ashby, moving farther to the left, was to
cut the railroad and telegraph at Buckton, between Front
Royal and Strasburg, thus breaking communication
between those places and preventing the sending of rein-
forcements to the latter. In order to flank the enemy's

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 23 of 153)