Clement Anselm Evans.

Confederate military history; a library of Confederate States history online

. (page 24 of 153)
Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 24 of 153)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

position at Front Royal, concerning which he was well
informed through Ashby 's local scouts, and prevent a
retreat eastward across the Blue ridge, Jackson, when


lis advance reached Asbury chapel on the river road,
4j^ miles from Front Royal, turned the head of his
main body eastward, by a by-road up the slope of
-the Blue ridge, until he reached the turnpike leading
from Gooney Manor to Front Royal, which was well up
on the side of the mountain and led into the eastern side
-of the town. That road reached, the head of his column,
consisting of the First Maryland Confederate regiment
.and a Louisiana battalion, supported by Taylor's
Louisiana brigade, advanced rapidly into and through
the town to the camp of the Federal forces which
were mainly Maryland troops with two pieces of artil-
lery, on a hill between Front Royal and the Shenan-
doah, overlooking the forks of the river and near the rail-
way and turnpike bridges which they were specially
guarding. Two companies of cavalry had just arrived
from Strasburg in time to resist the Confederate
advance. The Federal opposition was spirited, but being
-attacked in front by the force that first reached them,
.and then in flank by one that Ewell had turned to the
left from his command, and discovering the advance of
Flournoy's Confederate cavalry between the rivers that
Avould soon block his way toward Winchester, Colonel
Kenly, the Federal commander, abandoned his position
before the infantry closed down upon him, and retreated
across the two rivers, firing his camp and attempting to
jire the bridges. The Confederates pressed him so closely
that he did but little damage to the bridge over the
South Fork, but did sufficient to that over the North
Fork to check the pursuit. Having gained the com-
manding bluff of Guard hill, beyond the rivers, which
the road to Winchester crosses, Kenly attempted to fur-
ther check the Confederate advance with the artillery
that he had brought off, but Flournoy's cavalry soon
■dashed through the river, after a few shots from a Con-
federate battery had driven off the Federal artillery, and
continued the pursuit. Covering his retreat with two
companies of New York cavalry, Kenly hurried toward
Winchester. With invincible ardor Flournoy pressed
after him with his four companies of cavalry, charged
and routed Kenly 's cavalry rear guard, and came upon
the rear of his infantry, which he found drawn up on
either side of the road with his artillery in the road to
meet him. Jackson had joined in the pursuit, and,


inspired by his presence and enthusiastic bearing, Flour-
noy did not hesitate to attack the enemy's artillery and
infantry in position, but dashed upon and routed them.
They rallied again and made a gallant stand in an orchard
in the rear of the position from which they had been
driven; but this stand was in vain; they had become
thoroughly demoralized and so magnified Floumoy's
troopers into an army of horsemen, when they dashed
among them with the assurance of victory and scattered
them, in wild disorder, but taking most of them prisoners
when they threw down their arms and surrendered.
Reinforced by the coming of two more of his companies,
Floumoy pushed the pursuit to within four miles of Win-
chester, capturing one gun near the fighting ground and
soon after the wagon train and the other gun, abandoned
in the road, sending the latter back with two plough
horses taken from a farmer's field.

The victory was complete. A large quantity of stores
was captured in Front Royal; the Federal camp was
taken; the wagon bridges across the two rivers were
saved for the passage of the Confederate army and its
trains and artillery, and 904 of the enemy made the list
of killed, wounded and captured, while the Confederate
loss was but 26 killed and wounded. Ashby's movement
had been successful, he having reached Buckton before
the enemy were aware of the move on Front Royal,
and cut the telegraph and railway, capturing the block-
house guarding that station, after a spirited resistance,
his attacking party being the troopers from that imme-
diate vicinity; his attack turned back a train of cars,
which was captured near Front Royal.

Late in the day Jackson established headquarters at
Cedarville, some 5 miles from Front Royal on the
road to Winchester, near the scene of the last conflict
between Flournoy and Kenly, where a country road
leaves the Front Royal and Winchester pike and leads to
the Valley turnpike at Middletown, some 8 miles in
the rear of Banks' position at Strasburg, which he was
firmly holding in anticipation of a front attack while
Jackson was successfully turning his left, at Front Royal,
routing and capturing his men and cutting his communi-
cations with Manassas and Washington, concerning which
he had no information until after nightiall, attaching
but little importance to the message which Kenly sent


him by a courier, informing him that an overwhelming
force had descended from the Blue ridge on his position
at Front Royal. Jackson and his staff slept near the
picket line, on the ground in the front yard of McCoy's
house at Cedarville, while his army bivouacked along the
road between that place and Front Royal.

By the dawn of Saturday, May 24th, Jackson was on
the alert, pushing his cavalry scouts forward toward
Winchester and to points along the Valley turnpike
between that place and Middletown, dispatching his
topographical engineer toward the latter place to find out
the movements of the enemy. That officer soon struck
the Federal' pickets, within less than a mile of where
Jackson had bivouacked, and following after these with
cavalry, infantry and artillery that he had successively
sent for, he reached the vicinity of Middletown early in
the day in time to cut Banks' retreating column just as
Jackson himself came up with a larger force, which he
formed into two bodies, one pushing after Banks' men
retreating toward Winchester, and the other following
those that fell back toward Strasburg when they found
their line of march interrupted at Middletown. This
latter body destroyed the bridge as they crossed Cedar
creek, thus checking the Confederate pursuit, and then
hastened through Strasburg and retreated by the Stras-
burg and Capon road and by the Winchester and Capon
road, through the mountains to Winchester, which they
reached during the night. These disposed of, Jackson
reunited his men and pressed toward Winchester, having
ordered Ewell's division forward along the Front Royal
and Winchester road on which he was constantly coming
nearer and nearer to Banks' line of retreat, as that road
and the Valley turnpike converged toward Winchester.
Brig. -Gen. George H. Steuart, who had been tempo-
rarily placed in command of the Second and Sixth Vir-
ginia cavalry, was sent in advance of Ewell to Newtown,
8 miles from Winchester, to observe the enemy's
movements. There he attacked the flank of Banks'
retreat and made some captures of prisoners, wagons and

Banks, now fully realizing his perilous situation, and
alarmed at the rapid and incomprehensible movements
of Jackson, and realizing that his only safety was in
flight, retreated, pressed in rear and flank, as rapidly as


possible toward Winchester, making vigorous efforts to
ward off the Confederate attacks ; constantly strengthen-
ing his rear guard and right flank for that purpose,
ordering back, among others, a New York and a Massa-
chusetts regiment, under the brave Col. George Gordon,
an intimate classmate of Jackson at West Point, with two
sections of artillery, from Bartonsville to Newtown.
Gordon checked the confusion in the rear and boldly
■drove back the Confederate advance, aided by the consid-
erable cavalry force that General Hatch brought around
the Confederate left to his assistance. Apprised of the
near presence of Ewell on his right flank and that the
Federal infantry cut off at Strasburg had escaped, Gor-
don fell back from Newtown at dusk, steadily resisting
Jackson's pursuit, burning loaded commissary wagons
and a pontoon train in and beyond Newtown, and reach-
ing Winchester about midnight, leaving the Second Mas-
sachusetts infantry as a rear guard. With this Jackson,
with regiment after regiment of the Stonewall brigade,
contended during all the night, its leader, Lieutenant-
Colonel Andrews, taking advantage of the darkness and
of the stone fences along the turnpike, hotly and coura-
geously disputed every mile of the way with Jackson's
advance, led by that indomitable leader in person, who
was anxious to occupy the heights overlooking Win-
chester before dawn of the next day. Ewell, keeping
even pace with Jackson's movements, but rather in ad-
vance of them, brought his command, on the Front Royal
road, to within two or three miles of Winchester, then
bivouacked along that road, thus preventing any retreat
of Banks to the eastward. Steuart's cavalry moved
still farther to the right and occupied the roads leading
to Millwood and Berryville from Winchester.

Banks was in a state of uncertainty, until he reached
Winchester, as to what had actually happened to him ;
but soon learning that all of his detachments had been
routed and that a large force was pressing after his main
column, he became satisfied that Jackson was upon him
with overwhelming numbers; and although the day
before he had concluded that his safety lay "in a foot
race," he decided, on the morning of May zsth, that he
would stand an attack "to test the substance and strength
of the enemy by actual collision." He had at Win
xihester about 6,400 men for duty, including infantry,


cavalry and artillery, while Jackson, by his magnificent
strategy, was confronting him with a tactic force of near
15,000 of all arms.

Banks selected a fine defensive position in front of
Winchester. The gallant Gordon, with his brave New
Englanders and western men and one Pennsylvania regi-
ment, was placed by Banks on a low ridge, sloping gently
to the south but abruptly to the north, just in front of
the town, with its left on the Valley turnpike and its
right extending westward along the ascending ridge in
front of Winchester, while skirmishers were thrown out
in advance and guns were placed on either flank.
Hatch's cavalry supported the center. Donnelly's brigade,
of Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania troops, was
placed on the left of the turnpike and extended around
to the eastward of Winchester, covering the Front Royal
and Millwood roads, with eight pieces of artillery in a
commanding position; the Federal line, forming the
arc of a circle, covering Winchester from the west around
by the south to the east.

Jackson, personally, had with his Valley men pressed,
with all the energy at his command, the pursuit of the
Federal army, and just at dawn he discovered the cov-
eted position in front of Winchester occupied by the
enemy. He promptly ordered Winder, of the Stonewall
brigade, to drive them from this position as speedily as
possible, first taking possession of a commanding crest in
the enemy's front, from which Gordon promptly moved
the Second Massachusetts further to his right to lengthen
his line and guard against the threatened flank attack.
Jackson massed his abundant artillery and opened fire
on the Federal guns in place, extended his left by order-
ing up Taylor with his Louisianians, who, passing behind
Winder, formed on his left, overlapping the Federal
right. He sent the Tenth Virginia to extend Taylor's
line still further to the left, and the Twenty-third to
promptly strengthen his right. This formidable battle
array soon moved forward, regardless of the enemy's
destructive fire of musketry and artillery, swept them
from the crest of the hill down the steep to the
northward and across the fields and through the town of
Winchester, bearing down all opposition, cheered for-
ward by old men and matrons, maidens and children
who crowded the sides of the streets as the Confederate

Va 16


veterans swept through them in pursuit of the retreat-
ing Federals. Jackson, cap in hand, dashed to the front,
cheering as wildly as the men that followed him, and
when cautioned that he was rushing into the midst of the
retreating foe, said to the officer who cautioned him, "Go
back, and tell the whole army to press forward to the
Potomac, ' ' in utter forgetfulness of the fact that that
army had been fighting and marching almost without
rest for the past thirty hours.

Ewell was not standing idly by while this contest was
raging. He had encamped in the immediate presence of
the enemy, and when daylight came, on the 25 th, he
moved forward, and at 5 a. m. his North Carolinians, un-
der Kirkland, boldly dashed on Donnelly's line, stretched
across the Front Royal road. These met with a hot
reception, for the Federals were posted behind stone
fences at right angles to the road, and Kirkland was
forced to retire with a large loss in killed and wounded ;
but in the meantime Col. B. T. Johnson, with the First
Maryland, moved forward between the Front Royal road
and the Valley turnpike and turned Donnelly's right,
while the Twenty-first Georgia turned his left, and by an
enfilade fire routed him from behind the stone fences.
Donnelly took a new line, nearer the town, but at Trim-
ble's suggestion, Ewell sent the Sixteenth Mississippi and
the Fifteenth Alabama, the remainder of Trimble's bri-
gade, still farther to the right, threatening Donnelly's
flank and rear just as Jackson's men broke in wild tri-
umph over the Federal center and right. These move-
ments caused the entire Federal line to give way and
retreat, as rapidly as possible, toward Martinsburg,
between 8 and 9 a. m. Elzey's brigade shared in the
attack by obeying Jackson's order and following the
Valley turnpike through the town as the enemy gave
way on each side. At first the Federals fell back in very
good order, but they were thrown into confusion in pass-
ing through the town, from which they were unable to
rally, especially as Jackson's pursuit with his infantry
was quick and vigorous, while his artillery promptly took
advantage of favorable positions and shelled the retreat-
ing enemy.

Never was there a better opportunity for capturing the
remnant of an army and all of its artillery and wagons
that had started in retreat, if a well organized and well


led cavalry force were at hand to reap the fruits of vic-
tory ; but, unfortunately, such was not the condition of
Jackson's cavalry at that time. Ashby's poorly disci-
plined cavalry had been diverted and demoralized by the
tempting sutlers' and other stores that had been scat-
tered along the Valley turnpike by Banks' retreating
army, many of them being unable to resist the tempta-
tion to secure many things that they had long been in
need of and which, now to be had for the taking, they
hastened to appropriate and conceal, thus greatly deplet-
ing his command. Ashby himself, with the few faithful
men who had remained with him, had ridden to the
enemy's right to prevent their retreat by way of Berry-
ville to Harper's Ferry, hoping to capture a part of
Banks' force by so doing. This movement delayed him
so that he did not reach the Martinsburg road and join
Steuart in the pursuit, some lo or 12 miles beyond Win-
chester, after Banks had passed that point. Steuart,
with the Second and Sixth Virginia cavalry, was under
the immediate command of Ewell and led the advance of
his movement. When he was ordered by Jackson,
through one of his aides, to pursue the retreating Fed-
erals, he refused to do so until ordered by General
Ewell, and so much time was lost and Banks had made
considerable distance in his rapid retreat before Steuart
took up the pursuit, which accomplished but little except
that he captured a large quantity of stores at Martins-
burg, 20 miles beyond Winchester, where Banks had
halted for an hour or two before he continued his retreat
to the Potomac, at Williamsport, which he reached about
sundown, after having fought the battle of Winchester
and marched 34 miles during daylight of the 25th. The
next morning he crossed the Potomac with two- thirds of
his previous command in a thoroughly disorganized con-
dition, thankful that he was safe from the blows of "^his
sturdy antagonist.

Jackson's immediate victory was a glorious one, even
if he had not accomplished all that his ardent desires and
unconquerable energy thought desirable. In two days
he had driven his enemy, that in fancied security dreamed
he had permanent possession of the lower valley of. the
Shenandoah, nearly 60 miles from Front Royal and
Strasburg to the Potomac, and freed the valley of his
presence. He had captured immense military storey of


all kinds; had sent to the rear some 2,300 prisoners,
besides leaving enough in hospitals to make a total Fed-
eral loss of 3,050 ; while his own loss was less than 400 iq
killed, wounded and missing, the killed being but 68.
But this is a narrow view of the results accomplished
with a force only about one-fourth that of his enemy in
the strategic field. The wider and more important result
was that affecting the movements of the entire Federal
army in and near Virginia. On May 23d, the day Jack-
son struck Banks' left at Front Royal, President Lincoln
visited McDowell at Fredericksburg, and wired McClel-
lan on the 24th that Shields, with his 10,000 men, had
joined McDowell, and that on the following Monday, the
26th, the 40,000 men of his command would march from
Fredericksburg to reinforce McClellan's right in front of
Richmond. Returning to Washington the night of the
23d, he heard of the attack on Front Royal. The next
day more alarming intelligence came, and Fremont was
ordered, by telegraph, to move from Franklin to Harri-
sonburg, to intercept Jackson and capture or destroy his
forces, and so relieve Banks ; McDowell was ordered to
lay aside his movement on Richmond and put 20,000 men
in motion for the Shenandoah valley, to capture Jackson,
either with or without the co-operation of Fremont,
informing McClellan of these orders at 4 p. m. of the
24th, adding, "the enemy are making a desperate push
on Harper's Ferry." On the 2Sth the alarm at Washing-
ton increased as Jackson drove Banks from Winchester,
and Lincoln again telegraphed McClellan : "I think the
time is near when you must either attack Richmond or
give up the job and come to the defense of Washington.
Let me hear from you instantly." Later, on the same
day, he again telegraphed: "Banks ran a race with the
rebels, beating them into Winchester yesterday morning.
This morning a battle ensued between the two forces, in
which Banks was beaten back into full retreat toward
Martinsburg, and probably is broken up into a total
rout. ' '

The news of Banks' defeat caused the Federal govern-
ment to call upon all the loyal States for all their militia
and other troops, to be forwarded immediately to Wash-
ington, and an order was issued taking military
possession of all the railways in the United States
for the transportation of these troops. The alarm


at Washington produced an almost indescribable
panic throughout the North, on Sunday, the 25th
and for several days thereafter. The governor
of Massachusetts, at 11 p. m. of the 25th, ordered
the whole active militia of that State to report on
Boston Common the next day, "to oppose with fierce
zeal and courageous patriotism the progress of the foe. ' '
The governor of Ohio proclaimed, on the same day,
"The seat of our belovod government is threatened with
invasion, and I am called upon by the secretary of war for
troops to repel and overwhelm the reckless invaders."
In consequence of Jackson's movements threatening to
pass through the gateway of the Potomac and attack
Washington, a half million men, within twenty-four
hours after the issue of Lincoln's proclamation, offered
themselves for the defense of the Federal capital. Mc-
Clellan's plans were all disconcerted, and although he
protested against the detachment of McDowell to inter-
cept Jackson, claiming that it could lead to no results
because of his distance from the field of operations, his
protests were of no avail, and McDowell's march toward
the Valley began while McClellan stood hesitating on the
banks of the Chickahominy, and the plans of the army of
the Potomac, in all of its departments, were thoroughly
demoralized by the boldness and results of Jackson's
grand strategic movements.

Jackson's infantry followed after Banks, on Sunday the
2Sth, as far as Stephenson's, five miles beyond Win-
chester, when he handed over the pursuit to the cavalry
and ordered his wearied men into camp, taking up his
own headquarters in Winchester, whose citizens, mostly
women, had first put out the fires which the retreating
Federals kindled in the warehouses where their great
army stores, including gunpowder and explosive shells,
were accumulated, and then cared for the wounded and
buried the dead.

A Sabbath having been appropriated in the pursuit of
Banks, Jackson ordered the observance of the 26th as a
day of rest and devotion, issuing this stirring order :

Within four weeks this army has made long and rapid marches,
fought six combats and two battles, signally defeating the enemy in
each one, captured several stands of colors and pieces of artillery,
with numerous prisoners, and vast medical, ordnance and army
stores ; and finally driven the boastful foe, which was ravaging our
beautiful country, into utter rout.


The general commanding would warmly exjjress to the officers
and men' of his command his joy in their achievements, and his
thanks for their brilliant gallantry in action and their patient obe-
dience unfler the hardships of forced marches, often more painful to
the brave\Soldier than the dangers of battle. The explanation of the
severe exeartions to which the commanding general called the army,
which were endured by them with such cheerful confidence in him,
is now given in the victory of yesterday. He receives this proof of
their confidence in the past with pride and gratitude, and only asks
a similar confidence in the future. .

But his chief duty to-day, and that of the army, is to recog^nize
devoutly the hand of a protecting Providence in the brilliant suc-
cesses of the last three days (which have given us the results of a
great victory without g^reat losses), and to make oblation of our
thanks to God for His mercies to us and our country in heartfelt
acts of religious worship. For this purpose the troops will remain
in camp to-day, suspending as far as possible all military exercises ;
and the chaplains of regiments will hold divine service in their sev-
eral charges at 4 o'clock p. m.

It is noteworthy that after this battle of Winchester
there was inaugurated a humanitarian movement, in ref-
erence to surgeons left in charge of wounded prisoners,
that has since become the rule among civilized nations
engaged in war. Immediately after Banks was driven
out of Winchester, Dr. Hunter McGuire, the medical
director of the army of the Valley district, visited the
Federal hospital, which had been established in the old
Union hotel, where he found among the captured prison-
ers eight Federal surgeons or assistant surgeons. He
reported this fact to General Jackson, and asked his per-
mission to unconditionally release these medical officers
upon their parole of honor that they would remain in
charge of the Federal sick and wounded in Winchester
for fifteen days, after which, by the terms of their paroles,
they would be permitted to report to their commanding
officers for duty. It was further understood that these
surgeons should use every effort to have released, on the
same terms, the medical officers of the Confederate States
who were then held as prisoners by the Federal govern-
ment, or who might thereafter be captured.

General Jackson readily assented to Surgeon McGuire's
proposition, and directed him to carry out his sugges-
tions. Accompanied by Dr. Daniel B. Conrad, of the
Second Virginia regiment, he then went to the Federal
hospital and released, on their paroles, the surgeons, assist-
ant surgeons, attendants and nurses, but not the sick and
TYOunded, who were afterward paroled by the regular

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 24 of 153)