Clement Anselm Evans.

Confederate military history; a library of Confederate States history online

. (page 25 of 153)
Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 25 of 153)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 2i7

officers of the army, not to take up arms again until prop-
erly exchanged. General Jackson issued no regular order
to perform this duty, but he frequently discussed with
Dr. McGuire, subsequently, the policy and humanity of
such a measure. This rule established, by this precedent,
was kept up by Dr. McGuire during his term of service
as medical director with Generals Jackson, Ewell, Early,
and Gordon, with whom he successively served as medi-
cal director until the close of the war. Near the end of
February, 1864, some Confederate scouts captured the
-medical inspector of Sheridan's army in the Valley. Dr.
McGuire promptly released him on his parole, and re-
turned him to his command. About a week after that.
Dr. McGuire was captured in the defeat of Early at
Waynesboro, when General Sheridan promptly released
him on the same terms he had accorded to his medical
inspector. In consequence of this action of General
Jackson and Dr. McGuire, a number of Confederate sur-
geons were released and sent back from Northern prisons.

The Confederates had another day of well-earned rest
on May 27th, while Jackson was busy providing for the
safety of the vast military stores he had captured at
Front Royal, Winchester and Martinsburg, and waiting
for instructions from Richmond, in response to dispatches
he had sent by a trusty aide immediately after the cap-
ture of Winchester, as to his future operations. He had
now shown the character of his military genius and estab-
lished his fame as an independent commander. He had
relieved Richmond from the danger of an immediate
attack by the overwhelming force of the army of the
Potomac, and the authorities were only too willing to
direct him to press the enemy still hovering in the de-
fense of Harper's Ferry, threaten an invasion of Mary-
land and an attack upon Washington, and thus still fur-
ther derange the plans of McClellan by stimulating the
fears of the Federal authorities and inducing them to
deplete the army of the Potomac for the defense of
their capital.

Ashby's tireless and everjMvhere-watching spies and
-scouts kept Jackson informed as to the movements of the
-enemy, and .he quickly divined their plans for intercept-
ing his way of retreat up the Valley, should the necessity
arise for so doing; but his cardinal rule of action in mili-
tary, as well as in other matters, was to "take no counsel



248 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

of his fears, " therefore, early on the morning of the 28th
he dispatched Winder with four regiments and two bat-
teries toward Charlestown by the direct road. Nearing
Charlestown and learning that the enemy held that place
in force, he notified Jackson, who promptly ordered Ewell
to move in the same direction. A small Federal force
had been holding Harper's Ferry, but when the defeat of
Banks became known, troops were hurried by rail to that
point from all directions, and by the morning of the 28th,
7,000 men and 18 cannon had been collected there, under
the command of General Saxton, who at once occupied
the commanding plateau of Bolivar heights, in front of
that place, and located a formidable battery on Maryland
heights, across the Potomac in its rear, which, from its
still more commanding position, dominated nearly all the
approaches from the Virginia way to Bolivar heights and
Harper's Ferry. Finding that it was only a reconnois-
sance that had advanced to Charlestown, Winder pressed
forward and drove the enemy back to Bolivar heights,
where Saxton had drawn up his main body in line of bat-
tle. Seeing he could accomplish nothing more. Winder
fell back to Charlestown and went into camp, having
marched 21 miles and had an engagement with the enemy
during the day. There Ewell joined him after dark and
Jackson in person, with the main body of his army, dur-
ing the next day, when he made a demonstration against
Bolivar heights and sent a part of his infantry force to
Loudoun heights. Saxton, being informed that Jackson
was crossing a division over the Potomac above Harper's
Ferry, moved a part of his infantry,' force to Maryland
heights to defend his rear, and withdrew his line in front
of Harper's Ferry to the crest of the plateau nearest that
town, thus not only shortening his line, but securing pro-
tection from his own batteries on Maryland heights
which could fire over his men at an approaching enemy.
Jackson having accomplished the object of his advance
to Harper's Ferry, which was to gain time for the removal
of the captured stores from Winchester, was now ready
to extricate his army from the seemingly perilous posi-
tion into which he had brought it, a position which in-
duced the Federal commanders, who were seeking to
intercept his line of retreat, to say to their men, to stim-
ulate their marching ability, that they now had Jackson
in a bottle, and all they had to do was to be in time



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 249

to close it with a stopper, at Strasburg, and so end
the war. They had not yet learned that Jackson was
not to be caught by any combination of movements they
could bring about, for while it was true that he only had
about 15,000 men to meet the 60,000 that were concen-
trating toward his rear, he knew the strategic advantages
that the great flank-protecting bulwarks of the mountains
placed at his disposal farther up the Valley, and had no
doubt of his ability to reach these, avail himself of their
impregnable protection of his flanks, and at the same time
divide the strategic forces of his enemy and enable him
to meet them on his own grounds with superior tactic
strength. While demonstrating in front of Harper's
Ferry, Jackson was definitely informed on the morning
of Friday, May 30th, that Fremont was marching his
15,000 men down the South Branch valley to Moorefleld
and had there turned toward Strasburg, and that his
advance had reached 10 miles east of Moorefield, where
he halted the 29th to rest his army, and on the 30th had
moved to the western foot of the Shenandoah mountain,
to within some 20 miles of Strasburg, and that McDow-
ell's advance was already crossing the Blue ridge and
not far from Front Royal. Thus advised of the strategic
situation, Jackson, on the morning of the 30th, ordered
all his troops back to Winchester except Winder's bri-
gade, the First Maryland, and a body of cavalry which he
left to continue threatening Harper's Ferry. After din-
ner at the home of Major Hawks, his chief commissary
in Charlestown, he took the railway train which he had
captured at Winchester, and with most of his staff
rode back to that town, reaching it late in the afternoon
of the 30th, where he received intelligence that McDow-
ell's advance had that morning reached Front Royal and
surprised the Twelfth Georgia, which had been left there
to guard the captured stores and the bridges across the
Shenandoah, and that he was now in force at that town,
within 12 miles of Strasburg by the direct road leading
past the northern end of the Massanutton mountains.
Fremont had reached Wardensville, 20 miles from Stras-
burg, and had telegraphed Lincoln that he would enter
that place by 5 p. m. of Saturday, May 31st. The main
body of Jackson's army had marched 25 miles on the 30th
and encamped in the vicinity of Winchester, 20 miles
from Strasburg ; Winder's brigade had spent most of the



250 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

day skirmishing with the Federals at Harper's Ferry and
collecting his men together, and late in the afternoon had
-encamped near Halltown, some 43 miles from Strasburg
by way of Winchester.

Fully apprised by Ashby of the movements of the enemy
.and of the points which they had reached in marching
from opposite directions toward Strasburg, Jackson pre-
pared with the utmost calmness to meet the threatening
emergency. At 10 that night he dispatched Captain
Hotchkiss, of his staff, to Harper's Ferry, with orders to
"bring "Winder's force to Strasburg with the utmost
dispatch, informing him of the points reached by
Fremont and McDowell at that time, and saying
that he would remain at Winchester as long as
he could. To the question of Captain Hotchkiss as
to what he should do if he found Winchester occu-
pied by the enemy before reaching that place, Jackson
replied, with a wave of his hand to the westward,
"Come 'round through the mountains." Winder was
reached at an early hour and hastened to bring in his
pickets, some of which were across the Shenandoah on
Loudoun heights, and then marched rapidly, passing
through Winchester late in the afternoon, to the vicinity
of Newtown, within about 10 miles of Strasburg, where
he encamped after dark after a march of 28 miles for the
main body, and of 35 miles for a portion of the brigade.
Early on the morning of the 31st, Jackson put everything
-in motion from Winchester for Strasburg. The 2,300
Federal prisoners marched first, guarded by the Twenty-
.first Virginia ; then followed, in double column, 7 miles of
wagons loaded with captured stores and the ordnance
and supplies of the army, the main body of which fol-
lowed these, and the whole reached and passed through
Strasburg late in the afternoon and the army bivouacked
^ust beyond, in line of battle, within the portal of the nar-
row western valley of the Shenandoah, with its flanks
•safely guarded by the Massanuttons on the right and the
North mountains on the left, and ready to meet either the
advance of Fremont from the northeast or that of Mc-
Dowell from the southeast, or of both combined; well
satisfied that in such a strong defensive position he
could easily defeat any force they could bring against
him.

The next morning, Sunday, June ist, the heavy rain-



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 251

storm that had been prevailing the previous day passed
by, and the encouraging and cheerful sun gladdened Jack-
son's men who were resting at Strasburg, and helped
Winder's men in their early march to the same place,
which they reached about noon and passed to the rear of
their comrades, who in line of battle had been waiting
for them. Maj. John Alexander Harman, Jackson's tire-
less quartermaster, was busy all day pushing the great
wagon train to the rear, while those in charge of the Fed-
eral prisoners made a full day's march in the same direc-
tion. Fremont's advance did not put in an appearance
in front of Strasburg until late in the afternoon, Ashby
■having contested the way in a series of remarkable
•engagements, in which hundreds contended with thou-
■sands, impeding the enemy's progress and keeping
them within the mountains until Jackson had safely
-passed his trains and his collected army to beyond Stras-
burg.

Once in the valley where he could deploy his forces,
Fremont drove in the cavalry, but Jackson supported
these with Ewell and other troops, who repulsed the
Federal attack and induced Fremont to withdraw to the
rear, where he remained idle the rest of the day, fearful
of results if he should bring on a general engagement
with Jackson while he was not certain of any support
from McDowell, whose advance, instead of marching
■directly to Strasburg as ordered, had by mistake taken
the road toward Winchester from Front Royal, and so
■did not appear upon the scene during the day, except a
•cavalry brigade under Bayard, which took the direct road
to Strasburg, but failed to reach it in time to be of any
-assistance to Fremont.

It is interesting to pause for a moment and review the
-movements of the past three dayS; Friday morning
Jackson was 50 miles from Strasburg, in front of Har-
per's Ferry; Fremont was at Moorefield, 38 miles from
Strasburg, with the head of his army 10 miles in advance ;
the main body of Shields' division of McDowell's army
-was not more than 20 miles from Strasburg, for his ad-
vance had entered Front Royal, but 12 miles away, be-
fore midday, while McDowell, in person, was following
with two divisions close in his rear ; yet, by Sunday night
Jackson, encumbered with prisoners and a long train of
-captured stores, had marched between 50 and 60 miles,



252 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

reached Strasburg before eitlier of his adversaries, and
passed safely between their converging armies, holding
Fremont at bay on the left by an offer of battle, and
blinding and bewildering McDowell on the right by the
celerity and secrecy of his movements.

Retiring on the afternoon of June ist from the front of
Strasburg, Jackson withdrew to Woodstock, 12 miles, for
the night, his cavalry holding the rear four miles from
Strasburg, followed by a small party of Federal cavalry,
which it repulsed in a slight engagement. Fremont biv-
ouacked on the Capon road, on the line of battle he had
chosen, and only entered Strasburg the next morning at
about the same time that Bayard's cavalry reached there
from Front Royal. Ordering these to take the advance,
Fremont followed after Jackson with quite a display of
vigor. McDowell held one division of his troops at
Front Royal and started another, under Shields, up the
valley of the South Fork, to co-operate with Fremont in
his pursuit of Jackson. The latter concluding, from what
he could learn, that a Federal force was moving up the
Luray or South Fork valley, dispatched a small body of
cavalry under Captain Boswell, of the engineers, by waj' of
New Market, to bum the three remaining bridges across
the South Fork, thus destroying the possibility of a junc-
tion between Fremont and Shields either at New Market
or near Luray, owing to the swollen condition of the
South Fork as well as of the other streams in the valley,
in consequence of the heavy and almost continuous rains
that characterized that season.

Jackson's strategy had now brought all the Federal
forces in the Valley or on either side of it into the lower
valley. Banks, with the shattered remnant of his army,
was still resting at Williamsport. Saxton, with his 7,000,
made a show of following after Winder, but soon returned
to his safe quarters at Harper's Ferry. Fremont and Mc-
Dowell had failed to combine before Strasburg, and now
they feared to do so and leave either the eastern or the
western valley open, and so each was pursuing his own
way up the Valley, Fremont following after Jackson, and
Shields following an objective the location of which he did
not know, and that Jackson knew he could not reach with
his army closed up, through the mud and quicksands of
the road leading up the South Fork valley, such as Jack-
son had encountered on his way to McDowell.



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 253

The military problem for Jackson, as it now presented
itself, was to get his trains and prisoners safely to Staun-
ton and find an opportunity to defeat his oncoming foes
separately, before they could form a junction in the
vicinity of Harrisonburg. The grand bulwark of the
Massanuttons had divided them, and it was for him now to
conquer and dispose of them. Knowing the road difficul-
ties in the way of Shields, Jackson felt secure in falling
back leisurely up the great macadam road leading to
Staunton. On the 2d he reached Mt. Jackson. Bayard's
cavalry force, which had not yet had a taste of Ashby's
tactics, pressed with unusual vigor on Jackson's rear
guard, which broke and was thrown into some confusion ;
but Ashby promptly rallied his men behind the bushes
and fences, and with the help of an infantry regiment that
filed to the roadside, sent the Federals back in confusion.
On the 3d, Jackson retired to New Market, Ashby de-
stroying the bridge across the North Fork of the Shenan-
doah near Mt. Jackson as he fell back, checking Fremont
there for a day. From his camp near New Market, Jack-
son sent Captain Hotchkiss in the night to the peak at
the southwestern end of the Massanuttons, accompanied
by signal men, to watch the movements of the two Fed-
eral armies from that commanding height and report
their progress to Jackson as he marched up the valley.
Harrisonburg was reached before midday of the 5th, and
a cavalry force was promptly sent to destroy the bridge
across the South Fork at Conrad's store, by which Shields
had hoped to cross and join Fremont near Harrisonburg,
thus anticipating the arrival of Federal cavalry which
Shields had hastened forward to seize that bridge and
which was already near at hand when Jackson's men
fired it. There .was now but one bridge left across the
swollen South Fork, that over its North river fork at
Port Republic.

Sending his sick and wounded on to Staunton, Jackson
tarried at Harrisonburg with his rear guard till about
midday of the 6th, being kept constantly informed by
Captain Hotchkiss from the peak signal station. He
then left the Valley turnpike and retired toward Port
Republic, that he might place himself on the shortest
line of communication with General Lee, through Brown's
^ap, which he had crossed when starting for McDowell
a little more than a month before. Upon the approach



254 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

of a body of Fremont's cavalry under Sir Percy Wynd-
ham, an English soldier of fortune, Ashby followed the
infantry toward Port Republic, halting in a body of woods
on a ridge about two miles south from the Valley turn-
pike. Wyndham moved through Harrisonburg at a rapid
trot and followed after Ashby, having in hand about 800
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut
cavalry. He advanced some little distance, but seeing no
enemy, halted and sent skirmishers ahead. These re-
turned after some time and reported no force of the
enemy visible. Impatient and fearing that he had lost
an opportunity to capture Ashby, a job he was said to
have undertaken, Wyndham again pushed forward con-
trary to his orders, and soon discovered the Confederate
cavalry drawn up across the road, but with its flanks con-
cealed in the woods and in a field of standing grain.
Making an impetuous dash on these forces, the Federals
were met by volleys in front and on their flanks, and were
quickly thrown into confusion and retreat. Sir Percy
himself, in a remarkable personal encounter with Cap-
tain Conrad of Ashby 's staff, and 63 of his men being
taken prisoners.

General Ewell, whose command was next to Ashby,
coming back at the sound of this engagement, responded
to a call for infantry by sending back Johnson's First
Maryland and Letcher's Fifty-eighth Virginia, Ashby
rightly concluding that the Federal attack would be re-
newed. This was soon done, and General Bayard, with
the Bucktail rifles, the First Pennsylvania cavalry, and
Cluseret's brigade of the Sixtieth Ohio and the Eighth
West Virginia infantry, was ordered forward, the first
to attack the Confederates and the second to hold the
farther end of the town and its approaches. The Ohio and
West Virginia regiments and the Pennsylvania Bucktails
moved forward and attacked the Confederates in a fierce
combat, especially with the Fifty-eighth Virginia, which
they had approached under cover of a heavy rail fence.
Seeing his men waver, Ashby galloped to the front and
ordered them to charge. At that moment his horse fell,
mortally wounded, and leaping from his saddle he shout-
ed, "Charge, men! For God's sake. Charge!" waving
his sword, when a bullet pierced him in the breast and
he fell dead. The Virginians heeded the command of
their dying general and rushed upon the front of the foe,



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 255

while the Marylanders dashed upon their flank. The
Federals gave way under this courageous attack and the
Confederates gained the fence which they had occupied,
and from that poured volleys into the retreating mass
until it got beyond musket range. The Federal left had^
in the meantime, driven in the Confederate skirmishers,
but the defeat of the right forced that to retreat also.
The Bucktails left their commander in the hands of the
Confederates, and lost 55 out of the 125 that went into
action. The Federals retired to Harrisonburg and the
Confederate guard followed the army toward Port Repub-
lic.

Jackson and his army, as well as the whole South,
mourned the loss of the brave, high-minded and noble
Ashby, who had just been promoted, at the instance of
his commander, brigadier-general, in command of the
cavalry of the Valley. Capable and able officers succeeded
him, but none was found who could take his place in
guarding the outposts or holding back, with a handful of
men and a few pieces of artillery, the advance of a whole
army of the enemy miles in the rear of the main body of
the army of the Valley district. He was the idol of his
men and the beloved of every one who had the honor of
knowing him intimately. His exploits have been em-
balmed in song and story, and his memory lives with that
of Stonewall Jackson.

Jackson's army enjoyed a well-earned and much-needed
rest on. the 6th and 7th beside the bright waters and in
the green pastures and park-like forests along the road
between Cross Keys, where Ewell held the rear, and the
north bank of the rivers at Port Republic, where the
advance encamped, the surplus trains having crossed the
North river and gone into camp just beyond Port Repub-
lic between the rivers and on the road to Staunton. A
small cavalry force scouted down the river, watching
Shields' slow and toilsome progress over the road through
which Jackson had so lately floundered for nearly three
days. Jackson established his headquarters at Port
Republic, on the line of communication with Staunton,
and with General Lee by way of Mechum River.

Fremont having ascertained that the rear of Jackson's
army was in position near Cross Keys, about six miles
from Harrisonburg on the road to Port Republic, and
having concentrated his army, gave orders to advance on



256 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

Sunday morning, June 8th, and attack the Confederates.
Ewell had made an excellent disposition of his division
on opposite sides of the road, on rising ground behind a
creek that ran along his front, and with his flanks extend-
ing into forests on either side, placing batteries in the
road in his center, which swept the open country between
him and the Keezletown road, which ran nearly parallel
to his line of battle, and along which Fremont deployed
his five brigades of infantry, a regiment of cavalry and
several batteries. Another brigade followed his trains
as rear guard. Bayard's cavalry, left as a guard at Harri-
sonburg, subsequently joined him. His entire force
present for duty on the field of battle was about 11,500
men. To resist these, Ewell had Trimble's brigade of
North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi regi-
ments ; Elzey's, of three Virginia and one Georgia regi-
ment; Steuart's, of one Maryland and three Virginia
regiments ; Taylor's, of four Louisiana regiments and a
Louisiana battalion ; besides five companies of artillery ;
about 5,000 present for duty on the field of action.

Ewell 's first position was nearly at right angles to Fre-
mont's; his right rested on the road to Port Republic,
about a mile from Cross Keys, thence his line extended
nearly parallel to the Port Republic road to within half a
mile of Cross Keys, with his left retired. Fremont ad-
vanced his left, turning on his right, and brought his
whole line into position, parallel to Ewell 's, on the hills
northeast of Mill creek, protecting his right with batteries
and a detached brigade. This movement, which was
Ijoldly and skillfully executed, brought his whole line into
a dangerous position, which he, apparently, did not com-
prehend in his ignorance of the topographic conditions of
,the field, but it gave Ewell an opportunity to detach
Trimble's brigade from his right, move it through a for-
est, and reform it opposite Fremont's left. This disposi-
tion made and reinforced with two Virginia regiments of
Elzey's brigade, under Col. James A. Walker, on his
right, he pressed forward and drove Blenker, of Fre-
mont's left, from his position, and forced him to retreat to
the Keezletown road, Walker advancing still further on
the right and by his desperate courage adding to the suc-
cess of Trimble's movement. During this time Fremont
advanced Milroy against the Confederate center, and
a fierce artillery duel followed, but with no results.



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 257

Schenck's brigade, of four Ohio regiments and two bat-
teries, arrived at i p. m , when Fremont placed him on
his right and advanced him cautiously through the woods
to attack the Confederate left. Detecting this movement,
Ewell strengthened that part of his line with his reserves,
extending it more to the left, and by so doing delayed



Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 25 of 153)