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Title: Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War

Author: G. F. R. Henderson

Author of introduction, etc.: Viscount Garnet Wolseley Wolseley

Release date: May 1, 2004 [eBook #12233]
Most recently updated: August 23, 2020

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Produced by Derek Thompson and Sue Asscher


[Illustration: Portrait of Stonewall Jackson]

Stonewall Jackson

and the

by the late
Colonel G. F. R. HENDERSON, C.B.


with an introduction by

K.P., G.C.B., G.C.M.G., &c.







Chapter II. MEXICO. 1846–47
Chapter III. LEXINGTON. 1851–61
Chapter IV. SECESSION. 1860–61
Chapter IX. M’DOWELL
Chapter XVII. THE SECOND MANASSAS (continued)
Chapter XXIV. CHANCELLORSVILLE (continued)



STONEWALL JACKSON AT THE AGE OF 24 (from a daguerreotype)


SITUATION, MAY 18, 1862.


Before the great Republic of the West had completed a century of independent national existence, its political fabric was subjected to the strain of a terrible internecine war. That the true cause of conflict was the antagonism between the spirit of Federalism and the theory of “States’ Rights” is very clearly explained in the following pages, and the author exactly expresses the feeling with which most Englishmen regard the question of Secession, when he implies that had he been a New Englander he would have fought to the death to preserve the Union, while had he been born in Virginia he would have done as much in defence of a right the South believed inalienable. The war thus brought about dragged on its weary length from the spring of 1861 to the same season of 1865. During its progress reputations were made that will live for ever in American history, and many remarkable men came to the front. Among these not the least prominent was “Stonewall Jackson,” who to the renown of a great soldier and unselfish patriot added the brighter fame of a Christian hero; and to those who would know what manner of man this Stonewall Jackson was, and why he was so universally revered, so beloved, so trusted by his men, I can cordially recommend Colonel Henderson’s delightful volumes. From their perusal I have derived real pleasure and sound instruction. They have taught me much; they have made me think still more; and I hope they may do the same for many others in the British Army. They are worth the closest study, for few military writers have possessed Colonel Henderson’s grasp of tactical and strategical principles, or his knowledge of the methods which have controlled their application by the most famous soldiers, from Hannibal to Von Moltke. Gifted with a rare power of describing not only great military events but the localities where they occurred, he places clearly before his readers, in logical sequence, the circumstances which brought them about. He has accomplished, too, the difficult task of combining with a brilliant and critical history of a great war the life-story of a great commander, of a most singular and remarkable man. The figure, the character, the idiosyncrasies of the famous Virginian, as well as the lofty motives which influenced him throughout, are most sympathetically portrayed.

There have been few more fitted by natural instincts, by education, by study, and by self-discipline to become leaders of men than Stonewall Jackson. From the day he joined that admirable school at West Point he may be said to have trained himself mentally, morally, and physically, for the position to which he aspired, and which it would seem he always believed he would reach. Shy as a lad, reserved as a man, speaking little but thinking much, he led his own life, devouring the experiences of great men, as recorded in military history, in order that when his time came he should be capable of handling his troops as they did. A man of very simple tastes and habits, but of strong religious principles, drawn directly from the Bible; a child in purity; a child in faith; the Almighty always in his thoughts, his stay in trouble, his guide in every difficulty, Jackson’s individuality was more striking and more complete than that of all others who played leading parts in the great tragedy of Secession. The most reckless and irreligious of the Confederate soldiers were silent in his presence, and stood awestruck and abashed before this great God-fearing man; and even in the far-off Northern States the hatred of the formidable “rebel” was tempered by an irrepressible admiration of his piety, his sincerity, and his resolution. The passions then naturally excited have now calmed down, and are remembered no more by a reunited and chivalrous nation. With that innate love of virtue and real worth which has always distinguished the American people, there has long been growing up, even among those who were the fiercest foes of the South, a feeling of love and reverence for the memory of this great and true-hearted man of war, who fell in what he firmly believed to be a sacred cause. The fame of Stonewall Jackson is no longer the exclusive property of Virginia and the South; it has become the birthright of every man privileged to call himself an American.

Colonel Henderson has made a special study of the Secession War, and it would be difficult, in my opinion, to find a man better qualified in every respect for the task he has undertaken. I may express the hope that he will soon give us the history of the war from the death of Stonewall Jackson to the fall of Richmond. Extending as it did over a period of four years, and marked by achievements which are a lasting honour to the Anglo-Saxon name, the struggle of the South for independence is from every point of view one of the most important events in the second half of the century, and it should not be left half told. Until the battle where Stonewall Jackson fell, the tide of success was flowing, and had borne the flag of the new Confederacy within sight of the gates of Washington. Colonel Henderson deals only with what I think may be called the period of Southern victories, for the tide began to ebb when Jackson fell; and those who read his volumes will, I am convinced, look forward eagerly to his story of the years which followed, when Grant, with the skill of a practised strategist, threw a net round the Confederate capital, drawing it gradually together until he imprisoned its starving garrison, and compelled Lee, the ablest commander of his day, to surrender at discretion.

But the application of strategical and tactical principles, and the example of noble lives, are not the only or even the most valuable lessons of great wars. There are lessons which concern nations rather than individuals; and there are two to be learnt from the Secession War which are of peculiar value to both England and the United States, whose armies are comparatively small and raised by voluntary enlistment. The first is the necessity of maintaining at all times (for it is impossible to predict what tomorrow may have in store for us) a well-organised standing army in the highest state of efficiency, and composed of thoroughly-trained and full-grown men. This army to be large enough for our military requirements, and adapted to the character, the habits, and the traditions of the people. It is not necessary that the whole force should be actually serving during peace: one half of it, provided it is periodically drilled and exercised, can be formed into a Reserve; the essential thing is that it should be as perfect a weapon as can be forged.

The second lesson is that to hand over to civilians the administration and organisation of the army, whether in peace or in war, or to allow them to interfere in the selection of officers for command or promotion, is most injurious to efficiency; while, during war, to allow them, no matter how high their political capacity, to dictate to commanders in the field any line of conduct, after the army has once received its commission, is simply to ensure disaster.

The first of these lessons is brought home to us by the opening events of this unreasonably protracted war. As I have elsewhere said, most military students will admit that had the United States been able, early in 1861, to put into the field, in addition to their volunteers, one Army Corps of regular troops, the war would have ended in a few months. An enormous expenditure of life and money, as well as a serious dislocation and loss of trade, would have been thus avoided. Never have the evil consequences which follow upon the absence of an adequate and well-organised army been more forcibly exemplified.

But, alas! when this lesson is preached in a country governed alternately by rival political parties, and when there is no immediate prospect of national danger, it falls on deaf ears. The demands made by the soldiers to put the army on a thoroughly efficient footing are persistently ignored, for the necessary means are almost invariably required for some other object, more popular at the moment and in a parliamentary—or party—sense more useful. The most scathing comment on such a system of administration is furnished in the story told by Colonel Henderson. The fearful trials to which the United States were subjected expose the folly and self-deception of which even well-meaning party leaders are too often capable. Ministers bluster about fighting and yet refuse to spend enough money on the army to make it fit for use; and on both sides of the Atlantic the lessons taught by the Peninsula, the Crimea, and the Secession War are but seldom remembered.

The pleasing notion that, whenever war comes, money can obtain for the nation all that it requires is still, it would seem, an article of at least lip-faith with the politicians of the English-speaking race throughout the world. Gold will certainly buy a nation powder, pills, and provisions; but no amount of wealth, even when supported by a patriotic willingness to enlist, can buy discipline, training, and skilful leading. Without these there can be no such thing as an efficient army, and success in the field against serious opposition is merely the idle dream of those who know not war.

If any nation could improvise an army at short notice it would be the United States, for its men, all round, are more hardy, more self-reliant, and quicker to learn than those of older communities. But, notwithstanding this advantage, both in 1861 and 1898 the United States failed to create the thoroughly efficient armies so suddenly required, and in both instances the unnecessary sufferings of the private soldier were the price paid for the weakness and folly of the politicians. In 1861 the Governors of the several Northern States were ordered to call for volunteers to enlist for ninety days, the men electing their own officers. It was generally believed throughout the North that all Southern resistance would collapse before the great armies that would thus be raised. But the troops sent out to crush the rebellion, when they first came under fire, were soldiers only in outward garb, and at Bull Run, face to face with shot and shell, they soon lapsed into the condition of a terrified rabble, and ran away from another rabble almost equally demoralised; and this, not because they were cowards, for they were of the same breed as the young regular soldiers who retreated from the same field in such excellent order, but because they neither understood what discipline was nor the necessity for it, and because the staff and regimental officers, with few exceptions, were untrained and inexperienced.

Mr. Davis, having prevented the Southern army from following up the victory at Bull Run, gave the Northern States some breathing time. Mr. Lincoln was thus able to raise a new army of over 200,000 men for the projected advance on Richmond.

The new army was liberally supplied with guns, pontoons, balloons, hospitals, and waggons; but, with the exception of a few officers spared from the regular army, it was without trained soldiers to lead it, or staff officers to move and to administer its Divisions. It must be admitted, I think, that General McClellan did all that a man could do in the way of training this huge mass. But when the day came for it to move forward, it was still unfit for an offensive campaign against a regular army. To the practised eye of an able and experienced soldier who accompanied McClellan, the Federal host was an army only in name. He likened it to a giant lying prone upon the earth, in appearance a Hercules, but wanting the bone, the muscle, and the nervous organisation necessary to set the great frame in motion. Even when the army was landed in the Peninsula, although the process of training and organisation had been going on for over six months, it was still a most unwieldy force. Fortunately for the Union, the Confederate army, except as regards the superior leaders and the cavalry, was hardly more efficient.

The United States, fully realising their need of a larger regular army, are now on the point of increasing their existing force to treble its present strength. Their troops, like our own, are raised by voluntary enlistment for a short period of service with the colours. England has always very great difficulty in filling the ranks even with undeveloped youths. The United States obtain as many full-grown men as they require, because they have the wisdom to pay their men well, on a scale corresponding to the market rate of wages. Here they are fortunate; but men are not everything, and I will still draw the moral that a nation is more than blind when it deliberately elects to entrust its defence to an army that is not as perfect as training and discipline can make it, that is not led by practised officers, staff and regimental, and that is not provided with a powerful and efficient artillery. Overwhelming disaster is in store for such nation if it be attacked by a large regular army; and when it falls there will be none to pity. To hang the ministers who led them astray, and who believed they knew better than any soldier how the army should be administered, will be but poor consolation to an angry and deluded people.

Let me now dwell briefly upon the second of the two great national lessons taught by the Secession War. I shall say nothing here upon civilian meddling with army organisation and with the selection of officers for command, but I wish particularly to point out the result of interference on the part of a legislative assembly or minister with the plans and dispositions of the generals commanding in the field. Take first the notorious instance of Mr. Lincoln’s interference with McClellan in the spring of 1862. McClellan, who was selected to command the army which was to capture Richmond and end the war, was a soldier of known ability, and, in my opinion, if he had not been interfered with by the Cabinet in Washington, he would probably have succeeded. It is true, as Colonel Henderson has said, that he made a mistake in not playing up to Lincoln’s susceptibilities with regard to the safety of the Federal capital. But Lincoln made a far greater mistake in suddenly reducing McClellan’s army by 40,000 men, and by removing Banks from his jurisdiction, when the plan of campaign had been approved by the Cabinet, and it was already too late to change it. It is possible, considering the political situation, that the garrison of Washington was too small, and it was certainly inefficient; but the best way of protecting Washington was to give McClellan the means of advancing rapidly upon Richmond. Such an advance would have made a Confederate counterstroke against the Northern capital, or even a demonstration, impossible. But to take away from McClellan 40,000 men, the very force with which he intended to turn the Yorktown lines and drive the enemy back on Richmond, and at the same time to isolate Banks in the Shenandoah Valley, was simply playing into the enemy’s hands. What Lincoln did not see was that to divide the Federal army into three portions, working on three separate lines, was to run a far greater risk than would be incurred by leaving Washington weakly garrisoned. I cannot bring myself to believe that he in the least realised all that was involved in changing a plan of operations so vast as McClellan’s.

Again, look at the folly of which Mr. Benjamin, the Confederate Secretary of War, was guilty at the same period. The reader should carefully study the chapter in which Colonel Henderson describes Stonewall Jackson’s resignation of his command when his arrangements in the field were altered, without his cognizance, by the Secretary of War.

I should like to emphasise his words: “That the soldier,” he says, “is but the servant of the statesman, as war is but an instrument of diplomacy, no educated soldier will deny. Politics must always exercise a supreme influence on strategy; yet it cannot be gainsaid that interference with the commander in the field is fraught with the gravest danger.”[1]

The absolute truth of this remark is proved, not only by many instances in his own volumes, but by the history of war in all ages, and the principle for which Jackson contended when he sent in his resignation would seem too well founded to be open to the slightest question. Yet there are those who, oblivious of the fact that neglect of this principle has been always responsible for protracted wars, for useless slaughter, and costly failures, still insist on the omniscience of statesmen; who regard the protest of the soldier as the mere outcome of injured vanity, and believe that politics must suffer unless the politician controls strategy as well as the finances. Colonel Henderson’s pages supply an instructive commentary on these ideas. In the first three years of the Secession War, when Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Stanton practically controlled the movements of the Federal forces, the Confederates were generally successful. Further, the most glorious epoch of the Confederacy was the critical period of 1862, when Lee was allowed to exercise the full authority of Commander-in-Chief; and lastly, the Northern prospects did not begin to brighten until Mr. Lincoln, in March 1864, with that unselfish intelligence which distinguished him, abdicated his military functions in favour of General Grant. And yet while Lee and Grant had a free hand over the military resources of their respective nations the political situation suffered no harm whatever, no extravagant demands were made upon the exchequer, and the Government derived fresh strength from the successes of the armies.

The truth is that a certain class of civilians cannot rid themselves of the suspicion that soldiers are consumed by an inordinate and bloodthirsty ambition. They cannot understand that a man brought up from his youth to render loyal obedience is less likely than most others to run counter to constituted authority. They will not see that a soldier’s pride in his own army and in the manhood of his own race tends to make him a devoted patriot. They do not realise that a commander’s familiarity with war, whether gained by study or experience, must, unless his ability be limited, enable him to accommodate his strategy to political exigencies. Nor will they admit that he can possess a due sense of economy, although none knows better than an educated soldier the part played in war by a sound and thrifty administration of the national resources.

The soldier, on the other hand, knows that his art is most difficult, that to apply strategical principles correctly experience, study, knowledge of men, and an intimate acquaintance with questions of supply, transport, and the movement of masses, are absolutely necessary. He is aware that what may seem matters of small moment to the civilian—such as the position of a brigade, the strength of a garrison, the command of a detachment—may affect the whole course of a campaign; and consequently, even if he had not the historical examples of Aulic Councils and other such assemblies to warn him, he would rebel against the meddling of amateurs. Let it not be forgotten that an enormous responsibility rests on the shoulders of a commander in the field: the honour of army committed to his charge, the lives of the brave men under him, perhaps the existence of his country; and that failure, even if he can plead that he only obeyed the orders of his Government, or that he was supplied with inadequate means, will be laid at his door. McDowell received no mercy after Bull Run, although he had protested against attacking the Confederates; and it was long before the reputation of Sir John Moore was cleared in the eyes of the English people.

Such, to my mind, are the most important lessons to be drawn from this history of the first period of the Secession War. But it is not alone to draw attention to the teaching on these points that I have acceded, as an old friend, to Colonel Henderson’s request that I should write an Introduction to his second edition. In these days of sensational literature and superficial study there is a prejudice against the story that fills more than one volume. But the reader who opens these pages is so carried away by the intense interest of the subject, clothed as it is in forcible and yet graceful language, that he closes them with regret; and I am only too glad to ask others to share the very great pleasure I have myself enjoyed in reading them. I know of no book which will add more largely to the soldier’s knowledge of strategy and the art of war; and the ordinary reader will find in this Life of Stonewall Jackson, true and accurate as it is, all the charm and fascination of a great historical romance.

[1] Vol. i, p. 206.


To write the life of a great general, to analyse his methods of war and discipline, to appraise the weight of his responsibilities, and to measure the extent of his capacity, it would seem essential that the experience of the writer should have run on parallel lines. An ordinary soldier, therefore, who notwithstanding his lack of such experience attempts the task, may be justly accused of something worse than presumption. But if we were to wait for those who are really qualified to deal with the achievements of famous captains, we should, as a rule, remain in ignorance of the lessons of their lives, for men of the requisite capacity are few in a generation. So the task, if it is to be done at all, must perforce be left to those who have less knowledge but more leisure.

In the present case, however, the mass of contemporary testimony is so large that any initial disadvantages, I venture to think, will be less conspicuous than they might otherwise have been. The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion contain every dispatch, letter, and message, public or confidential, which has been preserved; and in the daily correspondence of the generals on both sides, together with the voluminous reports of officers of all grades, the tale of the campaigns is written so plain that none can fail to read. Again, Stonewall Jackson’s military career, either in full or in part, has been narrated by more than one of his staff officers, whose intercourse with him was necessarily close and constant; and, in addition, the literature of the war abounds with articles and sketches contributed by soldiers of all ranks who, at one time or another, served under his command. It has been my privilege, moreover, to visit the battle-fields of Virginia with men who rode by his side when he won his victories, to hear on the spot the description of his manœuvres, of his bearing under fire, and of his influence over his troops. I can thus make fairly certain that my facts are accurate. But in endeavouring to ascertain the strength of the armies at different periods I have been less fortunate. For the most part I have rested on the Official Records;[1] it is to be regretted, however, that, so far as the Confederates are concerned, there are several gaps in the series of returns, and I have found it extremely difficult to arrive at a fair estimate of the approximate strength at any period within these intervals. For instance, the numbers at Lee’s disposal at the end of August 1862 rest on the basis of a return dated July 20, and in the meantime several regiments and batteries had been transferred elsewhere, while others had been added. I have done my best, however, to trace all such changes; and where officers and employed men are not included in the returns, I have been careful to add a normal percentage to the official totals.

As regards Jackson’s place in history, my labours have been greatly facilitated by the published opinions of many distinguished soldiers—American, English, French, and German; and I have endeavoured, at every step, as the surest means of arriving at a just conclusion, to compare his conduct of military affairs with that of the acknowledged masters of war. His private life, from his boyhood onwards, has been so admirably depicted by his widow,[2] that I have had nothing more to do than to select from her pages such incidents and letters as appear best suited to illustrate his character, and to add a few traits and anecdotes communicated by his personal friends.

Several biographies have already been published, and that written by the late Reverend R. L. Dabney, D.D., sometime Major in the Confederate army, and Jackson’s Chief of the Staff for several months, is so complete and powerful that the need of a successor is not at once apparent. This work, however, was brought out before the war had ceased, and notwithstanding his intimate relations with his hero, it was impossible for the author to attain that fulness and precision of statement which the study of the Official Records can alone ensure. Nor was Dr. Dabney a witness of all the events he so vigorously described. It is only fitting, however, that I should acknowledge the debt I owe to a soldier and writer of such conspicuous ability. Not only have I quoted freely from his pages, but he was good enough, at my request, to write exhaustive memoranda on many episodes of Jackson’s career.

Cooke’s Life of Jackson is still popular, and deservedly so; but Cooke, like Dr. Dabney, had no access to the Official Records, and his narrative of the battles, picturesque and lifelike as it is, can hardly be accepted as sober history. On the other hand, the several works of the late Colonel William Allan, C.S.A., in collaboration with Major Hotchkiss, C.S.A., are as remarkable for their research and accuracy as for their military acumen; while the volumes of the Southern Historical Society, together with the remarkable series of articles entitled “Battles and Leaders of the Civil War,” written by the leading participants on either side, are a perfect mine of wealth to the historical student. I need hardly add that the memoirs and biographies of both the Federal and Confederate generals, of Lee, Grant, Stuart, Sherman, Johnston, Longstreet, Beauregard, McClellan, Hancock, Pendleton and others, are a necessary complement to the Official Records.

Nevertheless, with all this mass of information at my command, had it not been for the exceeding kindness of the friends and comrades of Stonewall Jackson, I much doubt whether I should have been able to complete my task. To the late Major Hotchkiss, his trusted staff officer, whatever of value these volumes may contain is largely due. Not only did he correct the topographical descriptions, but he investigated most carefully many disputed points; and in procuring the evidence of eye-witnesses, and thus enabling me to check and amplify the statements of previous writers, he was indefatigable. Dr. Hunter McGuire, Medical Director of Jackson’s successive commands, has given me much of his valuable time. The Reverend J. P. Smith, D.D., Jackson’s aide-de-camp, has rendered me great assistance; and from many officers and men of the Stonewall Brigade, of Jackson’s Division, and of the Second Army Corps, I have received contributions to this memorial of their famous chief. Generals Gustavus Smith, Fitzhugh Lee, Stephen D. Lee, and N. G. Harris, Colonel Williams, Colonel Poague, and R. E. Lee, Esquire, of Washington, D.C., all formerly of the Confederate States Army, have supplied me with new matter. Colonel Miller, U.S.A., most courteously responded to my request for a copy of the services of his regiment, the First Artillery, in the Mexican war. The late General John Gibbon, U.S.A., wrote for me his reminiscences of Jackson as a cadet at West Point, and as a subaltern in Mexico; and many officers who fought for the Union have given me information as to the tactics and discipline of the Federal armies. The Reverend J. Graham, D.D., of Winchester, Virginia; Dr. H. A. White, of Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, author of an admirable life of General Lee; and the Hon. Francis Lawley, once Special Correspondent of the Times in the Confederate States, have been most kind in replying to my many questions. To Major-General Hildyard, C.B., late Commandant of the Staff College, I am indebted for much valuable criticism on the campaigns of 1862; and my warmest thanks are here tendered to the Commander-in-Chief, Field-Marshal Lord Wolseley, for much information and more encouragement.

I cannot conceal from myself, however, that notwithstanding the numerous authorities I have been enabled to consult, as well as the intrinsic interest of my subject, many of the following chapters will be found excessively dull by civilian readers. Stonewall Jackson’s military career was not all hard fighting; nor was it on the battlefield alone that his supreme ability for war was made manifest. His time and thoughts were more occupied by strategy, that is, by combinations made out of the enemy’s sight, than by tactics, that is, by manœuvres executed in the enemy’s presence. But strategy, unfortunately, is an unpopular science, even among soldiers, requiring both in practice and in demonstration constant and careful study of the map, the closest computation of time and space, a grasp of many factors, and the strictest attention to the various steps in the problems it presents. At the same time, it is a science which repays the student, although he may have no direct concern with military affairs; for not only will a comprehension of its immutable principles add a new interest to the records of stirring times and great achievements, but it will make him a more useful citizen.

In free countries like Great Britain, her colonies, and the United States, the weight of intelligent opinion, in all matters of moment, generally turns the scale; and if it were generally understood that, in regular warfare, success depends on something more than rank and experience, no Government would dare entrust the command of the army to any other than the most competent soldier. The campaigns of the Civil War show how much may be achieved, even with relatively feeble means, by men who have both studied strategy and have the character necessary for its successful practice; and they also show, not a whit less forcibly, what awful sacrifices may be exacted from a nation ignorant that such a science exists. And such ignorance is widespread. How seldom do we hear a knowledge of strategy referred to as an indispensable acquirement in those who aspire to high command? How often is it repeated, although in so doing the speakers betray their own shortcomings, that strategy is a mere matter of common-sense? Yet the plain truth is that strategy is not only the determining factor in civilised warfare, but that, in order to apply its principles, the soundest common-sense must be most carefully trained. Of all the sciences connected with war it is the most difficult. If the names of the great captains, soldiers and sailors, be recalled, it will be seen that it is to the breadth of their strategical conceptions rather than to their tactical skill that they owe their fame. An analysis of the great wars shows that their course was generally marked by the same vicissitudes. First we have the great strategist, a Hannibal, or a Napoleon, or a Lee, triumphing with inferior numbers over adversaries who are tacticians and nothing more. Then, suddenly, the tide of victory is checked, and brilliant manœuvres no longer avail. Fabius and Scipio, Wellington, Nelson, and St. Vincent, Grant, Sherman, and Farragut, have replaced the mere tacticians; and the superior resources, wielded with strategical skill, exert their inevitable effect. Or it may be that fortune is constant throughout to her first favourite; and that a Marlborough, a Frederick, a Washington, a Moltke, opposed only by good fighting men, never by an accomplished strategist, marches from victory to victory. It is impossible, then, to estimate the ability of any general without considering his strategy. Moreover, in this age of inventions, of rapid movement, and of still more rapid communication, the science is more complicated and even more important than heretofore; and it is deserving, therefore, of far closer attention, from both soldiers and civilians, than it has hitherto received. It is for these reasons that I have described and discussed in such minute detail the strategy of the campaigns with which Jackson had to do.

I have only to add that should anything in these pages wound the susceptibilities of any one of those splendid soldiers and gallant gentlemen who took part in the Civil War, whether he be Northerner or Southerner, I here tender him my humblest apologies; assuring him, at the same time, that while compiling these pages I have always borne in mind the words of General Grant: “I would like to see truthful history written. Such history will do full credit to the courage, endurance, and ability of the American citizen, no matter what section he hailed from, or in what ranks he fought.” I am very strongly of opinion that any fair-minded man may feel equal sympathy with both Federal and Confederate. Both were so absolutely convinced that their cause was just, that it is impossible to conceive either Northerner or Southerner acting otherwise than he did. If Stonewall Jackson had been a New Englander, educated in the belief that secession was rebellion, he would assuredly have shed the last drop of his blood in defence of the Union; if Ulysses Grant had been a Virginian, imbibing the doctrine of States’ rights with his mother’s milk, it is just as certain that he would have worn the Confederate grey. It is with those Northerners who would have allowed the Union to be broken, and with those Southerners who would have tamely surrendered their hereditary rights, that no Englishman would be willing to claim kinship.

[1] Referred to in the text as O.R.

[2] Memoirs of Stonewall Jackson. The Prentice Press, Louisville, Kentucky.

Chapter I

In the first quarter of the century, on the hills which stand above the Ohio River, but in different States of the Union, were born two children, destined, to all appearance, to lives of narrow interests and thankless toil. They were the sons of poor parents, without influence or expectations; their native villages, deep in the solitudes of the West, and remote from the promise and possibilities of great cities, offered no road to fortune. In the days before the railway, escape from the wilderness, except for those with long purses, was very difficult; and for those who remained, if their means were small, the farm and the store were the only occupations. But a farmer without capital was little better than a hired hand; trade was confined to the petty dealings of a country market; and although thrift and energy, even under such depressing conditions, might eventually win a competence, the most ardent ambition could hardly hope for more. Never was an obscure existence more irretrievably marked out than for these children of the Ohio; and yet, before either had grown grey, the names of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, and of Stonewall Jackson, Lieutenant-General in the Confederate Army, were household words in both America and Europe. Descendants of the pioneers, those hardy borderers, half soldiers and half farmers, who held and reclaimed, through long years of Indian warfare, the valleys and prairies of the West, they inherited the best attributes of a frank and valiant race. Simple yet wise, strong yet gentle, they were gifted with all the qualities which make leaders of men. Actuated by the highest principles, they both ennobled the cause for which they fought; and while the opposition of such kindred natures adds to the dramatic interest of the Civil War, the career of the great soldier, although a theme perhaps less generally attractive, may be followed as profitably as that of the great statesmen. Providence dealt with them very differently. The one was struck down by a mortal wound before his task was well begun; his life, to all human seeming, was given in vain, and his name will ever be associated with the mournful memories of a lost cause and a vanished army. The other, ere he fell beneath the assassin’s stroke, had seen the abundant fruits of his mighty labours; his sun set in a cloudless sky. And yet the resemblance between them is very close. Both dared

For that sweet mother-land which gave them birth
Nobly to do, nobly to die. Their names,
Graven on memorial columns, are a song
Heard in the future; . . . more than wall
And rampart, their examples reach a hand
Far thro’ all years, and everywhere they meet
And kindle generous purpose, and the strength
To mould it into action pure as theirs.

Jackson, in one respect, was more fortunate than Lincoln. Although born to poverty, he came of a Virginia family which was neither unknown nor undistinguished, and as showing the influences which went to form his character, its history and traditions may be briefly related.

It is an article of popular belief that the State of Virginia, the Old Dominion of the British Crown, owes her fame to the blood of the English Cavaliers. The idea, however, has small foundation in fact. Not a few of her great names are derived from a less romantic source, and the Confederate general, like many of his neighbours in the western portion of the State, traced his origin to the Lowlands of Scotland. An ingenious author of the last century, himself born on Tweed-side, declares that those Scotch families whose patronymics end in “son,” although numerous and respectable, and descended, as the distinctive syllable denotes, from the Vikings, have seldom been pre-eminent either in peace or war. And certainly, as regards the Jacksons of bygone centuries, the assertion seems justified. The name is almost unknown to Border history. In neither lay nor legend has it been preserved; and even in the “black lists” of the wardens, where the more enterprising of the community were continually proclaimed as thieves and malefactors, it is seldom honoured with notice. The omission might be held as evidence that the family was of peculiar honesty, but, in reality, it is only a proof that it was insignificant. It is not improbable that the Jacksons were one of the landless clans, whose only heritages were their rude “peel” towers, and who, with no acknowledged chief of their own race, followed, as much for protection as for plunder, the banner of some more powerful house. In course of time, when the Marches grew peaceful and morals improved, when cattle-lifting, no longer profitable, ceased to be an honourable occupation, such humbler marauders drifted away into the wide world, leaving no trace behind, save the grey ruins of their grim fortalices, and the incidental mention of some probably disreputable scion in a chapman’s ballad. Neither mark nor memory of the Jacksons remains in Scotland. We only know that some members of the clan, impelled probably by religious persecution, made their way to Ulster, where a strong colony of Lowlanders had already been established.

Under a milder sky and a less drastic government the expatriated Scots lost nothing of their individuality. Masterful and independent from the beginning, masterful and independent they remained, inflexible of purpose, impatient of justice, and staunch to their ideals. Something, perhaps, they owed to contact with the Celt. Wherever the Ulster folk have made their home, the breath of the wholesome North has followed them, preserving untainted their hereditary virtues. Shrewd, practical, and thrifty, prosperity has consistently rewarded them; and yet, in common with the Irishmen of English stock, they have found in the trade of arms the most congenial outlet for their energies. An abiding love of peace can hardly be enumerated amongst their more prominent characteristics; and it is a remarkable fact, which, unless there is some mysterious property in the air, can only be explained by the intermixture of races, that Ireland “within the Pale” has been peculiarly prolific of military genius. As England has bred admirals, so the sister isle has bred soldiers. The tenacious courage of the Anglo-Saxon, blended with the spirit of that people which above all others delights in war, has proved on both sides of the Atlantic a most powerful combination of martial qualities. The same mixed strain which gave England Wolfe and Wellington, the Napiers and the Lawrences, has given America some of her greatest captains; and not the least famous of her Presidents is that General Jackson who won the battle of New Orleans in 1814. So, early in the century the name became known beyond the seas; but whether the same blood ran in the veins of the Confederate general and of the soldier President is a matter of some doubt. The former, in almost every single respect, save his warm heart, was the exact converse of the typical Irishman, the latter had a hot temper and a ready wit. Both, however, were undeniably fond of fighting, and a letter still preserved attests that their ancestors had lived in the same parish of Londonderry.[2]

1748   John Jackson, the great-grandfather of our hero, landed in America in 1748, and it was not long before he set his face towards the wilderness. The emigrants from Ulster appear as a rule to have moved westward. The States along the coast were already colonised, and, despite its fertility, the country was little to their taste. But beyond the border, in the broad Appalachian valley which runs from the St. Lawrence to Alabama, on the banks of the great rivers, the Susquehanna, the Ohio, the Cumberland, and the Tennessee, they found a land after their own heart, a soil with whose properties they were familiar, the sweet grasses and soft contours of their native hills. Here, too, there was ample room for their communities, for the West was as yet but sparsely tenanted. No inconsiderable number, penetrating far into the interior, settled eventually about the headwaters of the Potomac and the James. This highland region was the debatable ground of the United States. So late as 1756 the State of Virginia extended no further than the crests of the Blue Ridge. Two hundred miles westward forts flying French colours dominated the valley of the Ohio, and the wild and inhospitable tract, a very labyrinth of mountains, which lay between, was held by the fierce tribes of the “Six Nations” and the Leni-Lenape. Two years later the French had been driven back to Canada; but it was not till near the close of the century that the savage was finally dispossessed of his spacious hunting grounds.

It was on these green uplands, where fight and foray were as frequent as once on the Scottish border, that John Jackson and his wife, a fellow passenger to America, by name Elizabeth Cummins, first pitched their camp, and here is still the home of their descendants.

January 21, 1824   In the little town of Clarksburg, now the county-seat of Harrison, but then no more than a village in the Virginia backwoods, Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born on January 21, 1824. His father was a lawyer, clever and popular, who had inherited a comfortable patrimony. The New World had been generous to the Jacksons. The emigrant of 1748 left a valuable estate, and his many sons were uniformly prosperous. Nor was their affluence the reward of energy and thrift alone, for the lands reclaimed by axe and plough were held by a charter of sword and musket. The redskin fought hard for his ancestral domains. The stockaded forts, which stood as a citadel of refuge in every settlement, were often the scene of fierce attack and weary leaguer, and the nursing mothers of the frontier families were no strangers to war and bloodshed. The last great battle with the Indians east of the Ohio was fought in 1774, but the military experience of the pioneers was not confined to the warfare of the border. John Jackson and his sons bore arms in the War of Independence, and the trained riflemen of West Virginia were welcome recruits in the colonial ranks. With the exception of the Highlanders of the ’45, who had been deported in droves to the plantations, no race had less cause to remain loyal to the Crown than the men of Ulster blood. Even after the siege of Londonderry they had been proscribed and persecuted; and in the War of Independence the fiercest enemies of King George were the descendants of the same Scotch-Irish who had held the north of Ireland for King William.

In Washington’s campaigns more than one of the Jacksons won rank and reputation; and when peace was established they married into influential families. Nor was the next generation less successful. Judges, senators, and soldiers upheld the honour of the name, and proved the worth of the ancestral stock. They were marked, it is said, by strong and characteristic features, by a warm feeling of clanship, a capacity for hard work, and a decided love of roving. Some became hunters, others explorers, and the race is now scattered from Virginia to Oregon. A passion for litigation was a general failing, and none of them could resist the fascination of machinery. Every Jackson owned a mill or factory of some sort—many of them more than one—and their ventures were not always profitable. Jackson’s father, among others, found it easier to make money than to keep it. Generous and incautious, he became deeply involved by becoming security for others; high play increased his embarrassments; and when he died in 1827 every vestige of his property was swept away. His young widow, left with three small children, two sons and a daughter, became dependent on the assistance of her kinsfolk for a livelihood, and on the charity of the Freemasons for a roof. When Thomas, her second son, was six years old, she married a Captain Woodson; but her second matrimonial venture was not more fortunate than her first. Her husband’s means were small, and necessity soon compelled her to commit her two boys to the care of their father’s relatives.

1831   Within a year the children stood round her dying bed, and at a very early age our little Virginian found himself a penniless orphan. But, as he never regretted his poverty, so he never forgot his mother. To the latest hour of his life he loved to recall her memory, and years after she had passed away her influence still remained. Her beauty, her counsels, their last parting, and her happy death, for she was a woman of deep religious feeling, made a profound impression on him. To his childhood’s fancy she was the embodiment of every grace; and so strong had been the sympathy between them, that even in the midst of his campaigns she was seldom absent from his thoughts. After her death the children found a home with their father’s half-brother, who had inherited the family estates, and was one of the largest slave-owners in the district. Their surroundings, however, could hardly be called luxurious. Life on the Ohio was very different from life on the coast. The western counties of Virginia were still practically on the frontier of the United States. The axe had thinned the interminable woods; mills were busy on each mountain stream, and the sunny valleys were rich in fruit and corn. But as yet there was little traffic. Steam had not yet come to open up the wilderness. The population was small and widely scattered; and the country was cut off as much by nature as by distance from the older civilisation of the East. The parallel ranges of the Alleghenies, with their pathless forests and great canyons, were a formidable barrier to all intercourse. The West was a world in itself. The only outlets eastward were the valleys of the Potomac and the James, the one leading to Washington, the other to Richmond; and so seldom were they used that the yeomen of the Ohio uplands were almost as much opposed, both in character and in mode of life, to the planters beyond the Blue Ridge, as the Covenanters of Bothwell Brig to the gentlemen of Dundee’s Life Guards.

Although the sturdy independence and simple habits of the borderers were not affected by contact with wealthier communities, isolation was not in every way a blessing. Served by throngs of slaves, the great landowners of East Virginia found leisure to cultivate the arts which make life more pleasant. The rambling houses on the banks of the James, the Rappahannock, and the Potomac, built on the model of English manors, had their libraries and picture-galleries. A classical academy was the boast of every town, and a university training was considered as essential to the son of a planter as to the heir of an English squire. A true aristocracy, in habit and in lineage, the gentlemen of Virginia long swayed the councils of the nation, and among them were many who were intimate with the best representatives of European culture. Beyond the Alleghenies there were no facilities for education; and even had opportunities offered few would have had the leisure to enjoy them. Labour was scarce, either slave or hired. The owners of farms were their own managers and overseers, and young men had to serve a practical apprenticeship to lumbering and agriculture. To this rule, despite his uncle’s wealth, Jackson was no exception. He had to fight his own battle, to rub shoulders with all sorts and conditions of men, and to hold his own as best he could.

It was a hard school, then, in which he grew to manhood. But for that very reason it was a good school for the future soldier. For a man who has to push his own way in the world, more especially if he has to carve it with his sword, a boyhood passed amidst surroundings which boast of no luxury and demand much endurance, is the best probation. Von Moltke has recorded that the comfortless routine of the Military Academy at Copenhagen inured him to privation, and Jackson learned the great lesson of self-reliance in the rough life of his uncle’s homestead.

The story of his early years is soon told. As a blue-eyed child, with long fair hair, he was curiously thoughtful and exceedingly affectionate. His temper was generous and cheerful. His truthfulness was proverbial, and his little sister found in him the kindest of playmates and the sturdiest of protectors. He was distinguished, too, for his politeness, although good manners were by no means rare in the rustic West. The manly courtesy of the true American is no exotic product; nor is the universal deference to woman peculiar to any single class. The farmer of the backwoods might be ignorant of the conventionalities, but the simplicity and unselfishness which are the root of all good breeding could be learned in West Virginia as readily as in Richmond.

Once, tempted by his brother, the boy left his adopted home, and the two children, for the elder was no more than twelve, wandered down the Ohio to the Mississippi, and spent the summer on a lonely and malarious island, cutting wood for passing steamers. No one opposed their going, and it seems to have been considered quite natural in that independent community that the veriest urchins should be allowed to seek their fortunes for themselves. Returning, ragged and fever-stricken, the little adventurers submitted once more to the routine of the farm and to the intermittent studies of a country school. After his failure as a man of business, our small hero showed no further inclination to seek his fortunes far afield. He was fond of his home. His uncle, attracted by his steadiness and good sense, treated him more as a companion than a child; and in everything connected with the farm, as well as in the sports of the country side, the boy took the keenest interest. Delicate by nature, with a tendency to consumption inherited from his mother, his physique and constitution benefited by a life of constant exercise and wholesome toil. At school he was a leader in every game, and his proficiency in the saddle proved him a true Virginian. Fox-hunting and horse-racing were popular amusements, and his uncle not only kept a stable of well-bred horses, but had a four-mile race-course on his own grounds. As a light-weight jockey the future general was a useful member of the household, and it was the opinion of the neighbourhood that “if a horse had any winning qualities whatever in him, young Jackson never failed to bring them out.”

In the management of the estate he learned early to put his shoulder to the wheel. Transporting timber from the forest to the saw-mill was one of his most frequent tasks, and tradition records that if a tree were to be moved from ground of unusual difficulty, or if there were one more gigantic than the rest, the party of labourers was put under his control, and the work was sure to be effected.

One who knew him well has described his character. “He was a youth of exemplary habits, of indomitable will and undoubted courage. He was not what is nowadays termed brilliant, but he was one of those untiring, matter-of-fact persons who would never give up an undertaking until he accomplished his object. He learned slowly, but what he got into his head he never forgot. He was not quick to decide, except when excited, and then, when he made up his mind to do a thing, he did it on short notice and in quick time. Once, while on his way to school, an overgrown rustic behaved rudely to one of the school-girls. Jackson fired up, and told him he must apologise at once or he would thrash him. The big fellow, supposing that he was more than a match for him, refused, whereupon Jackson pitched into him, and gave him a severe pounding.”

His surroundings, then, although neither refined nor elevating, were not unwholesome; but of the moral influences to which he was subjected, so much cannot be said, while the stock of piety that the original settlers brought with them had not entirely vanished. There was much irregularity of life; few men gave any thought to religion, and young Jackson drifted with the tide. Yet there was something that preserved him from contamination. His uncle, kindest of guardians, though irreligious and a sportsman, was scrupulously exacting in matters of integrity and veracity. His associates included the most respectable, yet the morals of the sporting fraternity of a frontier settlement are not likely to have been edifying. That his nephew, as he himself declares, was an ardent frequenter of races, “house-raisings,”[3] and country dances is hardly surprising, and it is assuredly no ground whatever for reproach. Nor is it strange that, amid much laxity, he should have retained his integrity, that his regard for truth should have remained untarnished, and that he should have consistently held aloof from all that was mean and vile. His mother was no mere memory to that affectionate nature.

His good qualities, however, would scarcely of themselves have done more than raise him to a respectable rank amongst the farmers of West Virginia. A spur was wanting to urge him beyond the limits of so contracted an existence, and that spur was supplied by an honourable ambition. Penniless and dependent as he was, he still remembered that his ancestors had been distinguished beyond the confines of their native county, and this legitimate pride in his own people, a far-off reflection, perhaps, of the traditional Scottish attitude towards name and pedigree, exercised a marked influence on his whole career. “To prove himself worthy of his forefathers was the purpose of his early manhood. It gives us a key to many of the singularities of his character; to his hunger for self-improvement; to his punctilious observance, from a boy, of the essentials of gentlemanly bearing, and to the uniform assertion of his self-respect.”[4]

1841   It was his openly expressed wish for larger advantages than those offered by a country school that brought about his opportunity. In 1841, at the age of seventeen, he became a constable of the county. A sort of minor sheriff, he had to execute the decrees of the justices, to serve their warrants, to collect small debts, and to summon witnesses. It was a curious office for a boy, but a year or two before he had been seized with some obscure form of dyspepsia, and the idea that a life on horseback, which his duties necessitated, might restore his health, had induced his relatives to obtain the post for him. Jackson himself seems to have been influenced by the hope that his salary would help towards his education, and by the wish to become independent of his uncle’s bounty. His new duties were uncongenial, but, despite his youth, he faced his responsibilities with a determination which men of maturer years might well have envied. In everything he was scrupulously exact. His accounts were accurately kept; he was punctuality itself, and his patience was inexhaustible. For two years he submitted cheerfully to the drudgery of his position, re-establishing his health, but without advancing a single step towards the goal of his ambition. But before he was nineteen his hopes were unexpectedly realised.

1842   The Military Academy at West Point not only provided, at the expense of the nation, a sound and liberal education, but offered an opening to an honourable career. Nominations to cadetships were made by the Secretary of War, on the recommendation of members of Congress, and in 1842 a vacancy occurred which was to be filled by a youth from the Congressional District in which Clarksburg was included. Jackson, informed of the chance by a friendly blacksmith, eagerly embraced it, and left no stone unturned to attain his object. Every possible influence that could be brought to bear on the member for the district was immediately enlisted. To those who objected that his education was too imperfect to enable him even to enter the Academy, he replied that he had the necessary application, that he hoped he had the capacity, and that he was at least determined to try. His earnestness and courage won upon all. His application was strongly backed by those who had learned to value his integrity and exactness, and Mr. Hays, the member for the district, wrote that he would do all in his power to secure the appointment. No sooner had the letter been read than Jackson determined to go at once to Washington, in order that he might be ready to proceed to West Point without a moment’s delay. Packing a few clothes into a pair of saddlebags, he mounted his horse, and accompanied by a servant, who was to bring the animal home, rode off to catch the coach at Clarksburg. It had already passed, but galloping on, he overtook it at the next stage, and on his arrival at Washington, Mr. Hays at once introduced him to the Secretary of War. On presenting him, he explained the disadvantages of his education, but begged indulgence for him on account of his pluck and determination. The Secretary plied him with questions, but Jackson was not to be diverted from his purpose; and so good was the impression which he made that he then and there received his warrant, accompanied by some excellent advice. “Sir,” said the Secretary, “you have a good name. Go to West Point, and the first man who insults you, knock him down, and have it charged to my account!”

Mr. Hays proposed that the new-fledged cadet should stay with him for a few days in order to see the sights of Washington. But as the Academy was already in session, Jackson, with a strong appreciation of the value of time, begged to decline. He was content to ascend to the roof of the Capitol, then still building, and look once on the magnificent panorama of which it is the centre.

At his feet lay the city, with its busy streets and imposing edifices. To the south ran the Potomac, bearing on its ample tide the snowy sails of many merchantmen, and spanned by a bridge more than a mile in length. Over against the Capitol, looking down on that wide-watered shore, stood the white porch of Arlington, once the property of Washington, and now the home of a young officer of the United States army, Robert Edward Lee. Beyond Arlington lay Virginia, Jackson’s native State, stretching back in leafy hills and verdant pastures, and far and low upon the western horizon his own mountains loomed faintly through the summer haze. It was a strange freak of fortune that placed him at the very outset of his career within sight of the theatre of his most famous victories. It was a still stranger caprice that was to make the name of the simple country youth, ill-educated and penniless, as terrible in Washington as the name of the Black Douglas was once in Durham and Carlisle.

1842   It was in July 1842 that one of America’s greatest soldiers first answered to his name on the parade-ground at West Point. Shy and silent, clad in Virginia homespun, with the whole of his personal effects carried in a pair of weather-stained saddle bags, the impression that he made on his future comrades, as the Secretary of War appears to have anticipated, was by no means favourable. The West Point cadets were then, as now, remarkable for their upright carriage, the neatness of their appointments, and their soldierly bearing towards their officers and towards each other. The grey coatee, decorated with bright buttons and broad gold lace, the shako with tall plumes, the spotless white trousers, set off the trim young figures to the best advantage; and the full-dress parade of the cadet battalion, marked by discipline and precision in every movement, is still one of the most attractive of military spectacles.

These natty young gentlemen were not slow to detect the superficial deficiencies of the newcomer. A system of practical joking, carried to extremes, had long been a feature of West Point life. Jackson, with the rusticity of the backwoods apparent at every turn, promised the highest sport. And here it may be written, once for all, that however nearly in point of character the intended victim reached the heroic standard, his outward graces were few. His features were well cut, his forehead high, his mouth small and firm, and his complexion fresh. Yet the ensemble was not striking, nor was it redeemed by grave eyes and a heavy jaw, a strong but angular frame, a certain awkwardness of movement, and large hands and feet. His would-be tormentors, however, soon found they had mistaken their man. The homespun jacket covered a natural shrewdness which had been sharpened by responsibility. The readiness of resource which had characterised the whilom constable was more than a match for their most ingenious schemes; and baffled by a temper which they were powerless to disturb, their attempts at persecution, apparently more productive of amusement to their victim than to themselves, were soon abandoned.

Rough as was the life of the Virginia border, it had done something to fit this unpromising recruit for the give and take of his new existence. Culture might be lacking in the distant West, but the air men breathed was at least the blessed breath of independence. Each was what he made himself. A man’s standing depended on his success in life, and success was within the reach of all. There, like his neighbours, Jackson had learned to take his own part; like them he acknowledged no superiority save that of actual merit, and believing that the richest prize might be won by energy and perseverance, without diffidence or misgiving he faced his future. He knew nothing of the life of the great nation of which he was so insignificant an atom, of the duties of the army, of the manners of its officers. He knew only that even as regards education he had an uphill task before him. He was indeed on the threshold of a new world, with his own way to make, and apparently no single advantage in his favour. But he came of a fighting race; he had his own inflexible resolution to support him, and his determination expressed itself in his very bearing. Four cadets, three of whom were afterwards Confederate generals,[5] were standing together when he first entered the gates of the Academy. “There was about him,” says one of them, “so sturdy an expression of purpose that I remarked, ‘That fellow looks as if he had come to stay.’”

Jackson’s educational deficiencies were more difficult of conquest than the goodwill of his comrades. His want of previous training placed him at a great disadvantage. He commenced his career amongst “the Immortals” (the last section of the class), and it was only by the most strenuous efforts that he maintained his place. His struggles at the blackboard were often painful to witness. In the struggle to solve a problem he invariably covered both his face and uniform with chalk, and he perspired so freely, even in the coldest weather, that the cadets, with boyish exaggeration, declared that whenever “the General,” as he had at once been dubbed in honour of his namesake, the victor of New Orleans, got a difficult proposition he was certain to flood the classroom. It was all he could do to pass his first examination.[6]

“We were studying,” writes a classmate, “algebra and analytical geometry that winter, and Jackson was very low in his class. Just before the signal lights out he would pile up his grate with anthracite coal, and lying prone before it on the floor, would work away at his lessons by the glare of the fire, which scorched his very brain, till a late hour of the night. This evident determination to succeed not only aided his own efforts directly, but impressed his instructors in his favour. If he could not master the portion of the text-book assigned for the day, he would not pass it over, but continued to work at it till he understood it. Thus it often happened that when he was called out to repeat his task, he had to reply that he had not yet reached the lesson of the day, but was employed upon the previous one. There was then no alternative but to mark him as unprepared, a proceeding which did not in the least affect his resolution.”

Despite all drawbacks, his four years at the Academy were years of steady progress. “The Immortals” were soon left far behind. At the end of the first twelve months he stood fifty-first in a class of seventy-two, but when he entered the first class, and commenced the study of logic, that bugbear to the majority, he shot from near the foot of the class to the top. In the final examination he came out seventeenth, notwithstanding that the less successful years were taken into account, and it was a frequent remark amongst his brother cadets that if the course had been a year longer he would have come out first. His own satisfaction was complete. Not only was his perseverance rewarded by a place sufficiently high to give him a commission in the artillery, but his cravings for knowledge had been fully gratified. West Point was much more than a military school. It was a university, and a university under the very strictest discipline, where the science of the soldier formed only a portion of the course. Subjects which are now considered essential to a military education were not taught at all. The art of war gave place to ethics and engineering; and mathematics and chemistry were considered of far more importance than topography and fortification. Yet with French, history, and drawing, it will be admitted that the course was sufficiently comprehensive. No cadet was permitted to graduate unless he had reached a high standard of proficiency. Failures were numerous. In the four years the classes grew gradually smaller, and the survival of the fittest was a principle of administration which was rigidly observed.

The fact, then, that a man had passed the final examination at West Point was a sufficient certificate that he had received a thorough education, that his mental faculties had been strengthened by four years of hard work, and that he was well equipped to take his place amongst his fellow men. And it was more than this. Four years of the strictest discipline, for the cadets were allowed only one vacation during their whole course, were sufficient to break in even the most careless and the most slovenly to neatness, obedience, and punctuality. Such habits are not easily unlearned, and the West Point certificate was thus a guarantee of qualities that are everywhere useful. It did not necessarily follow that because a cadet won a commission he remained a soldier. Many went to civil life, and the Academy was an excellent school for men who intended to find a career as surveyors or engineers. The great railway system of the United States was then in its infancy; its development offered endless possibilities, and the work of extending civilisation in a vast and rapidly improving country had perhaps more attraction for the ambitious than the career of arms. The training and discipline of West Point were not, then, concentrated in one profession, but were disseminated throughout the States; and it was with this purpose that the institution of the Academy had been approved by Congress.

In the wars with England the militia of the different States had furnished the means both of resistance and aggression, but their grave shortcomings, owing principally to the lack of competent officers, had been painfully conspicuous. After 1814, the principle that the militia was the first line of defence was still adhered to, and the standing army was merely maintained as a school for generals and a frontier guard. It was expected, however, that in case of war the West Point graduates would supply the national forces with a large number of officers who, despite their civil avocations, would at least be familiar with drill and discipline. This fact is to be borne in mind in view of the Civil War. The demands of the enormous armies then put into the field were utterly unprecedented, and the supply of West Pointers was altogether inadequate to meet them; but the influence of the Military Academy was conspicuous throughout. Not a few of the most able generals were little more than boys; and yet, as a rule, they were far superior to those who came from the militia or volunteers. Four years of strict routine, of constant drill, and implicit subordination, at the most impressionable period of life, proved a far better training for command than the desultory and intermittent service of a citizen army.

During his stay at West Point Jackson’s development was not all in one direction. He gained in health and strength. When he joined he had not yet attained his full height, which fell short of six feet by two inches. The constant drilling developed his frame. He grew rapidly, and soon acquired the erect bearing of the soldier; but notwithstanding the incessant practice in riding, fencing and marching, his anatomical peculiarities still asserted themselves. It was with great difficulty that he mastered the elementary process of keeping step, and despite his youthful proficiency as a jockey, the regulation seat of the dragoon, to be acquired on the back of a rough cavalry trooper, was an accomplishment which he never mastered. If it be added that his shyness never thawed, that he was habitually silent, it is hardly surprising to find that he had few intimates at the Academy. Caring nothing for the opinion of others, and tolerant of association rather than seeking it, his self-contained nature asked neither sympathy nor affection. His studious habits never left him. His only recreation was a rapid walk in the intervals of the classes. His whole thoughts and his whole energy were centred on doing his duty, and passing into the army with all the credit he could possibly attain. Although he was thoroughly happy at West Point, life to him, even at that early age, was a serious business, and most seriously he set about it.

Still, unsociable and irresponsive as he was, there were those in whose company he found pleasure, cadets who had studied subjects not included in the West Point course, and from whom there was something to be learned. It was an unwritten law of the Academy that those of the senior year should not make companions of their juniors. But Jackson paid no heed to the traditionary code of etiquette. His acquaintances were chosen regardless of standing, as often from the class below him as his own; and in yet another fashion his strength of character was displayed. Towards those who were guilty of dishonourable conduct he was merciless almost to vindictiveness. He had his own code of right and wrong, and from one who infringed it he would accept neither apology nor excuse. His musket, which was always scrupulously clean, was one day replaced by another in most slovenly order. He called the attention of his captain to his loss, and described the private mark by which it was to be identified. That evening, at the inspection of arms, it was found in the hands of another cadet, who, when taxed with his offence, endeavoured to shield himself by falsehood. Jackson’s anger was unbounded, and for the moment his habitual shyness completely disappeared. He declared that such a creature should not continue a member of the Academy, and demanded that he should be tried by court-martial and expelled. It was only by means of the most persevering remonstrances on the part of his comrades and his officers that he could be induced to waive his right of pressing the charge. His regard for duty, too, was no less marked than his respect for truth. During one half-year his room-mate was orderly-sergeant of his company, and this good-natured if perfunctory young gentleman often told Jackson that he need not attend the réveille roll-call, at which every cadet was supposed to answer to his name. Not once, however, did he avail himself of the privilege.[7]

At the same time he was not altogether so uncompromising as at first sight he appeared. At West Point, as in after years, those who saw him interested or excited noticed that his smile was singularly sweet, and the cadets knew that it revealed a warm heart within. Whenever, from sickness or misfortune, a comrade stood in need of sympathy, Jackson was the first to offer it, and he would devote himself to his help with a tenderness so womanly that it sometimes excited ridicule. Sensitive he was not, for of vanity he had not the slightest taint; but of tact and sensibility he possessed more than his share. If he was careless of what others thought of him, he thought much of them. Though no one made more light of pain on his own account, no one could have more carefully avoided giving pain to others, except when duty demanded it; and one of his classmates[8] testifies that he went through the trying ordeal of four years at West Point without ever having a hard word or bad feeling from cadet or professor.

Nor did his comrades fail to remember that when he was unjustly blamed he chose to bear the imputation silently rather than expose those who were really at fault. And so, even in that lighthearted battalion, his sterling worth compelled respect. All honoured his efforts and wished him God-speed. “While there were many,” says Colonel Turnley, “who seemed to surpass him in intellect, in geniality, and in good-fellowship, there was no one of our class who more absolutely possessed the respect and confidence of all; and in the end Old Jack, as he was always called, with his desperate earnestness, his unflinching straightforwardness, and his high sense of honour, came to be regarded by his comrades with something very like affection.”

One peculiarity cannot be passed by.

When at study he always sat bolt upright at his table with his book open before him, and when he was not using pencil and paper to solve a problem, he would often keep his eyes fixed on the wall or ceiling in the most profound abstraction. “No one I have ever known,” says a cadet who shared his barrack-room, “could so perfectly withdraw his mind from surrounding objects or influences, and so thoroughly involve his whole being in the subject under consideration. His lessons were uppermost in his mind, and to thoroughly understand them was always his determined effort. To make the author’s knowledge his own was ever the point at which he aimed. This intense application of mind was naturally strengthened by constant exercise, and month by month, and year by year, his faculties of perception developed rapidly, until he grasped with unerring quickness the inceptive points of all ethical and mathematical problems.”

This power of abstraction and of application is well worth noting, for not only was it remarkable in a boy, but, as we shall see hereafter, it had much to do with the making of the soldier.

At West Point Jackson was troubled with the return of the obscure complaint which had already threatened him, and he there began that rigid observance of the laws of health which afterwards developed to almost an eccentricity. His peculiar attitude when studying was due to the fear that if he bent over his work the compression of his internal organs might increase their tendency to disease.

And not only did he lay down rules for his physical regimen. A book of maxims which he drew up at West Point has been preserved, and we learn that his scrupulous exactness, his punctilious courtesy, and his choice of companions were the outcome of much deliberation.

Nothing in this curious volume occurs to show that his thoughts had yet been turned to religion. It is as free from all reference to the teachings of Christianity as the maxims of Marcus Aurelius.

Every line there written shows that at this period of Jackson’s life devotion to duty was his guiding rule; and, notwithstanding his remarkable freedom from egotism, the traces of an engrossing ambition and of absolute self-dependence are everywhere apparent. Many of the sentiments he would have repudiated in after-life as inconsistent with humility; but there can be no question that it was a strong and fearless hand that penned on a conspicuous page the sentence: “You can be what you resolve to be.”

Jackson was already a man in years when he passed his final examination, and here the record of his boyhood may fitly close. He had made no particular mark at the Academy.

1846   His memory, in the minds of his comrades, was associated with his gravity, his silence, his kind heart, and his awkward movements. No one suspected him of nobler qualities than dogged perseverance and a strict regard for truth. The officers and sergeants of the cadet battalion were supplied by the cadets themselves; but Jackson was never promoted. In the mimic warfare of the playground at Brienne Napoleon was master of the revels. His capacity for command had already been detected; but neither comrade nor teacher saw beneath the unpromising exterior of the West Point student a trace of aught save what was commonplace.

And yet there is much in the boyhood of Stonewall Jackson that resembles the boyhood of Napoleon, of all great soldiers the most original. Both were affectionate. Napoleon lived on bread and water that he might educate his brothers; Jackson saved his cadet’s pay to give his sister a silk dress. Both were indefatigable students, impressed with the conviction that the world was to be conquered by force of intellect. Jackson, burning his lessons into his brain, is but the counterpart of the young officer who lodged with a professor of mathematics that he might attend his classes, and who would wait to explain the lectures to those who had not clearly understood them. Both were provincial, neither was prepossessing. If the West Point cadets laughed at Jackson’s large hands and feet, was not Napoleon, with his thin legs thrust into enormous boots, saluted by his friend’s children, on his first appearance in uniform, with the nickname of Le Chat Botté? It is hard to say which was the more laughable: the spare and bony figure of the cadet, sitting bolt upright like a graven image in a tight uniform, with his eyes glued to the ceiling of his barrack-room, or the young man, with gaunt features, round shoulders, and uncombed hair, who wandered alone about the streets of Paris in 1795.

They had the same love of method and of order. The accounts of the Virginian constable was not more scrupulously kept than the ledgers of Napoleon’s household, nor could they show a greater regard for economy than the tailor’s bill, still extant, on which the future Emperor gained a reduction of four sous. But it was not on such trivial lines alone that they run parallel. An inflexibility of purpose, an absolute disregard of popular opinion, and an unswerving belief in their own capacity, were predominant in both. They could say “No.” Neither sought sympathy, and both felt that they were masters of their own fate. “You can be whatever you resolve to be” may be well placed alongside the speech of the brigadier of five-and-twenty: “Have patience. I will command in Paris presently. What should I do there now?”

But here the parallel ends. In Jackson, even as a cadet, self was subordinate to duty. Pride was foreign to his nature. He was incapable of pretence, and his simplicity was inspired by that disdain of all meanness which had been his characteristic from a child. His brain was disturbed by no wild visions; no intemperate ambition confused his sense of right and wrong. “The essence of his mind,” as has been said of another of like mould, “was clearness, healthy purity, incompatibility with fraud in any of its forms.” It was his instinct to be true and straightforward as it was Napoleon’s to be false and subtle. And, if, as a youth, he showed no trace of marked intellectual power; if his instructors saw no sign of masterful resolution and a genius for command, it was because at West Point, as elsewhere, his great qualities lay dormant, awaiting the emergency that should call them forth.

[1] Copyright 1897 by Longmans, Green, & Co.

[2] This letter is in the possession of Thomas Jackson Arnold, Esquire, of Beverly, West Virginia, nephew of General “Stonewall” Jackson.

[3] Anglicè, “house-warmings.”

[4] Dabney, vol. i, p. 29.

[5] A. P. Hill, G. E. Pickett, and D. H. Maury.

[6] Communicated by General John Gibbon, U.S.A.

[7] Communicated by Colonel P. T. Turnley.

[8] Colonel Turnley.

Chapter II

1846  On June 30, 1846, Jackson received the brevet rank of second lieutenant of artillery. He was fortunate from the very outset of his military career. The officers of the United States army, thanks to the thorough education and Spartan discipline of West Point, were fine soldiers; but their scope was limited. On the western frontier, far beyond the confines of civilisation, stood a long line of forts, often hundreds of miles apart, garrisoned by a few troops of cavalry or companies of infantry. It is true that there was little chance of soldierly capacity rusting in these solitary posts. From the borders of Canada to the banks of the Rio Grande swarmed thousands of savage warriors, ever watchful for an opportunity to pay back with bloody interest the aggression of the whites. Murder, robbery, and massacre followed each other in rapid succession, and the troops were allowed few intervals of rest. But the warfare was inglorious—a mere series of petty incidents, the punishment of a raid, or the crushing of an isolated revolt. The scanty butcher’s bills of the so-called battles made small appeal to the popular imagination, and the deeds of the soldiers in the western wilderness, gallant as they might be, aroused less interest in the States than the conflicts of the police with the New York mob. But although pursuits which carried the adversaries half across the continent, forays which were of longer duration than a European war, and fights against overwhelming odds, where no quarter was asked or given, kept the American officers constantly employed, their training was hardly sufficient for the needs of a great campaign. In the running fights against Apache or Blackfoot the rules of strategy and tactics were of small account. The soldier was constrained to acknowledge the brave and the trapper as his teachers; and Moltke himself, with all his lore, would have been utterly baffled by the cunning of the Indian. Before the war of 1845–6 the strength of the regular army was not more than 8,500 men; and the whole of this force, with the exception of a few batteries, was scattered in small detachments along the frontier. The troops were never brought together in considerable bodies; and although they were well drilled and under the strictest discipline, neither the commanders nor the staff had the least experience of handling men in masses. Many of the infantry officers had never drilled with a whole battalion since they left West Point. A brigade of cavalry—that is, two or three regiments working together as a single unit—had never been assembled; and scarcely a single general had ever commanded a force composed of the three arms, either on service or on parade. “During my twenty years of service on the frontier,” said one of the most famous of the Confederate leaders,[2] “I learned all about commanding fifty United States dragoons and forgot everything else.”

Nevertheless, this life of enterprise and hard work, the constant struggle against nature, for the illimitable space of the inhospitable wilderness was a more formidable antagonist than the stealthy savage, benefited the American soldier in more ways than one. He grew accustomed to danger and privation. He learned to use his wits; to adapt his means to his end; to depend on his intelligence rather than on rule. Above all, even the most junior had experience of independent command before the enemy. A ready assumption of responsibility and a prompt initiative distinguished the regular officers from the very outset of the Civil War; and these characteristics had been acquired on the western prairies.

But the warfare of the frontier had none of the glamour of the warfare which is waged with equal arms against an equal enemy, of the conflict of nation against nation. To bring the foe to bay was a matter of the utmost difficulty. A fight at close quarters was of rare occurrence, and the most successful campaign ended in the destruction of a cluster of dirty wigwams, or the surrender of a handful of starving savages. In such unsatisfactory service Jackson was not called upon to take a part. It is doubtful if he ever crossed the Mississippi. His first experience of campaigning was to be on a field where gleams of glory were not wanting. The ink on his commission was scarcely dry when the artillery subaltern was ordered to join his regiment, the First Artillery, in Mexico. The war with the Southern Republic had blazed out on the Texan border in 1845, and the American Government had now decided to carry it into the heart of the hostile territory. With the cause of quarrel we have no concern. General Grant has condemned the war as “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”[3] Be this as it may, it is doubtful whether any of Grant’s brother officers troubled themselves at all with the equity of invasion. It was enough for them that the expedition meant a struggle with a numerous enemy, armed and organised on the European model, and with much experience of war; that it promised a campaign in a country which was the very region of romance, possessing a lovely climate, historic cities, and magnificent scenery. The genius of Prescott had just disentombed from dusty archives the marvellous story of the Spanish conquest, and the imagination of many a youthful soldier had been already kindled by his glowing pages. To follow the path of Cortez, to traverse the golden realms of Montezuma, to look upon the lakes and palaces of Mexico, the most ancient city of America, to encamp among the temples of a vanished race, and to hear, while the fireflies flitted through the perfumed night, the music of the black-eyed maidens of New Spain—was ever more fascinating prospect offered to a subaltern of two-and-twenty?

The companies of the First Artillery which had been detailed for foreign service were first transferred to Point Isabel, at the mouth of the Rio Grande. Several engagements had already taken place. Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and Monterey were brilliant American victories, won by hard fighting over superior numbers; and a vast extent of territory had been overrun. But the Mexicans were still unconquered. The provinces they had lost were but the fringe of the national domains; the heart of the Republic had not yet felt the pressure of war, and more than six hundred miles of difficult country intervened between the invaders and the capital. The American proposals for peace had been summarily rejected. A new President, General Santa Anna, had been raised to power, and under his vigorous administration the war threatened to assume a phase sufficiently embarrassing to the United States.

Jackson had been attached to a heavy battery, and his first duty was to transport guns and mortars to the forts which protected Point Isabel. The prospect of immediate employment before the enemy was small. Operations had come to a standstill. It was already apparent that a direct advance upon the capital, through the northern provinces, was an enterprise which would demand an army much larger than the Government was disposed to furnish. It seemed as if the First Artillery had come too late. Jackson was fearful that the war might come to an end before his regiment should be sent to the front. The shy cadet had a decided taste for fighting. “I envy you men,” he said to a comrade more fortunate than himself,[4] “who have been in battle. How I should like to be in one battle!” His longing for action was soon gratified. Mexico had no navy and a long sea-board. The fleet of the United States was strong, their maritime resources ample, and to land an army on a shorter route to the distant capital was no difficult undertaking.

General Winfield Scott, who had been sent out as commander-in-chief, was permitted, early in 1847, to organise a combined naval and military expedition for the reduction of Vera Cruz, the principal port of the Republic, whence a good road leads to Mexico. The line of advance would be thus reduced to two hundred and sixty miles; and the natural obstacles, though numerous enough, were far less serious than the deserts which barred invasion from the north.

1847  For this enterprise most of the regular regiments were withdrawn from the Rio Grande; and General Taylor, the hero of Palo Alto and Monterey, was left with a small army, composed principally of volunteers, to hold the conquered provinces. Scott’s troops assembled in the first instance at Tampico. The transports, eighty in number, having embarked their freight, were directed to rendezvous in the road stead of Lobos, one hundred and twenty miles north of Vera Cruz; and when the whole had assembled, the fleet set sail for Los Sacrificios, the island where Cortez had landed in 1520, three miles south of the city. The army of invasion, in which the First Regiment of Artillery was included, consisted of 13,000 men.

March 9  On the morning of March 9 the sun shone propitiously on the expedition. The surf-boats, each holding from seventy to eighty men, were quickly arrayed in line. Then, dashing forward simultaneously, with the strains of martial music sweeping over the smooth waters of the bay, they neared the shore. The landing was covered by seven armed vessels, and as the boats touched the beach the foremost men leaped into the water and ran up the sandy shore. In one hour General Worth’s division, numbering 4,500 men, was disembarked; and by the same precise arrangements the whole army was landed in six hours without accident or confusion. To the astonishment of the Americans the enemy offered no resistance, and the troops bivouacked in line of battle on the beach.

Little more than a mile north, across a waste of sand-hills, rose the white walls of Vera Cruz. The city was held by 4,000 men, and its armament was formidable. The troops, however, but partially organised, were incapable of operations in the open field. The garrison had not been reinforced. Santa Anna, on learning that the American army on the Rio Grande had been reduced, had acted with commendable promptitude. Collecting all the troops that were available he had marched northwards, expecting, doubtless, to overwhelm Taylor and still to be in time to prevent Scott from seizing a good harbour. But distance was against him, and his precautions were inadequate. Even if he defeated Taylor, he would have to march more than a thousand miles to encounter Scott, and Vera Cruz was ill provided for a siege. It was difficult, it is true, for the Mexican general to anticipate the point at which the Americans would disembark. An army that moves by sea possesses the advantage that its movements are completely veiled. But Vera Cruz was decidedly the most probable objective of the invaders, and, had it been made secure, the venture of the Americans would have been rendered hazardous. As it was, with Santa Anna’s army far away, the reduction of the fortress presented little difficulty. An immediate assault would in all likelihood have proved successful. Scott, however, decided on a regular siege. His army was small, and a march on the capital was in prospect. The Government grudged both men and money, and an assault would have cost more lives than could well be spared. On March 18 the trenches were completed. Four days later, sufficient heavy ordnance having been landed, the bombardment was begun.

March 27   On the 27th the town surrendered; the garrison laid down their arms, and 400 cannon, many of large calibre, fell into the hands of the Americans.

The fall of Vera Cruz was brought about by the heavy artillery, aided by the sailors, and the First Regiment was continuously engaged. The Mexican fire, notwithstanding their array of guns, was comparatively harmless. The garrison attempted no sortie; and only 64 of the investing force were killed or wounded. Nevertheless, Jackson’s behaviour under fire attracted notice, and a few months later he was promoted to first lieutenant “for gallant and meritorious conduct at the siege of Vera Cruz.”[5]

Scott had now secured an admirable line of operations; but the projected march upon the city of Mexico was a far more arduous undertaking than the capture of the port. The ancient capital of Montezuma stands high above the sea. The famous valley which surrounds it is embosomed in the heart of a vast plateau, and the roads which lead to this lofty region wind by steep gradients over successive ranges of rugged and precipitous mountains. Between Vera Cruz and the upland lies a level plain, sixty miles broad, and covered with tropical forest. Had it been possible to follow up the initial victory by a rapid advance, Cerro Gordo, the first, and the most difficult, of the mountain passes, might have been occupied without a blow. Santa Anna, defeated by Taylor at Buena Vista, but returning hot foot to block Scott’s path, was still distant, and Cerro Gordo was undefended. But the progress of the Americans was arrested by the difficulties inherent in all maritime expeditions.

An army landing on a hostile coast has to endure a certain period of inactivity. Under ordinary circumstances, as at Vera Cruz, the process of disembarking men is rapidly accomplished. The field-guns follow with but little delay, and a certain proportion of cavalry becomes early available. But the disembarkation of the impedimenta—the stores, waggons, hospitals, ammunition, and transport animals—even where ample facilities exist, demands far more time than the disembarkation of the fighting force. In the present case, as all the animals had to be requisitioned in the country, it was not till the middle of April that supplies and transport sufficient to warrant further movement had been accumulated; and meanwhile General Santa Anna, halting in the mountains, had occupied the pass of Cerro Gordo with 13,000 men and 42 pieces of artillery. The Mexican position was exceedingly strong. The right rested on a deep ravine, with precipitous cliffs; the left, on the hill of Cerro Gordo, covered with batteries, and towering to the height of several hundred feet above the surrounding ridges; while the front, strongly intrenched, and commanding the road which wound zigzag fashion up the steep ascent, followed the crest of a lofty ridge.

The Americans reached the foot of the pass without difficulty. The enemy had made no attempt to check their passage through the forest. Confident in the inaccessibility of his mountain crags, in his numerous guns and massive breastworks, Santa Anna reserved his strength for battle on ground of his own selection.

Several days were consumed in reconnaissance. The engineers, to whom this duty was generally assigned in the American army, pushed their explorations to either flank. At length the quick eye of a young officer, Captain Robert Lee, already noted for his services at Vera Cruz, discovered a line of approach, hidden from the enemy, by which the position might be turned. In three days a rough road was constructed by which guns could be brought to bear on the hill of Cerro Gordo, and infantry marched round to strike the Mexicans in rear.

April 18   The attack, delivered at daylight on April 18, was brilliantly successful. The enemy was completely surprised. Cerro Gordo was stormed with the bayonet, and Santa Anna’s right, assaulted from a direction whence he confessed that he had not believed a goat could approach his lines, was rolled back in confusion on his centre. 1,200 Mexicans were killed and wounded, and 3,000 captured, together with the whole of their artillery.[6] The next day the pursuit was pushed with uncompromising resolution. Amidst pathless mountains, 6,000 feet above the sea, where every spur formed a strong position, the defeated army was permitted neither halt nor respite. The American dragoons, undeterred by numbers, pressed forward along the road, making hundreds of prisoners, and spreading panic in the broken ranks.

May 15   The infantry followed, sturdily breasting the long ascent; a second intrenched position, barring the La Hoya pass, was abandoned on their approach; the strong castle of Perote, with an armament of 60 guns and mortars, opened its gates without firing a shot, and on May 15 the great city of Puebla, surrounded by glens of astonishing fertility, and only eighty miles from Mexico, was occupied without resistance.

At Cerro Gordo the First Artillery were employed as infantry. Their colours were amongst the first to be planted on the enemy’s breastworks. But in none of the reports does Jackson’s name occur.[7] The battle, however, brought him good luck. Captain Magruder, an officer of his own regiment, who was to win distinction on wider fields, had captured a Mexican field battery, which Scott presented to him as a reward for his gallantry. Indian wars had done but little towards teaching American soldiers the true use of artillery. Against a rapidly moving enemy, who systematically forebore exposing himself in mass, and in a country where no roads existed, only the fire-arm was effective. But already, at Palo Alto and Resaca, against the serried lines and thronging cavalry of the Mexicans, light field-guns had done extraordinary execution. The heavy artillery, hitherto the more favoured service, saw itself eclipsed. The First Regiment, however, had already been prominent on the fighting line. It had won reputation with the bayonet at Cerro Gordo, and before Mexico was reached there were other battles to be fought, and other positions to be stormed. A youth with a predilection for hard knocks might have been content with the chances offered to the foot-soldier. But Jackson’s partiality for his own arm was as marked as was Napoleon’s, and the decisive effect of a well-placed battery appealed to his instincts with greater force than the wild rush of a charge of infantry. Skilful manœuvring was more to his taste than the mere bludgeon work of fighting at close quarters.

Two subalterns were required for the new battery. The position meant much hard work, and possibly much discomfort. Magruder was restless and hot-tempered, and the young officers of artillery showed no eagerness to go through the campaign as his subordinates. Not so Jackson. He foresaw that service with a light battery, under a bold and energetic leader, was likely to present peculiar opportunities; and with his thorough devotion to duty, his habits of industry, and his strong sense of self-reliance, he had little fear of disappointing the expectations of the most exacting superior. “I wanted to see active service,” he said in after years, “to be near the enemy in the fight; and when I heard that John Magruder had got his battery I bent all my energies to be with him, for I knew if any fighting was to be done, Magruder would be ‘on hand.’” His soldierly ambition won its due reward. The favours of fortune fall to the men who woo more often than to those who wait. The barrack-room proverb which declares that ill-luck follows the volunteer must assuredly have germinated in a commonplace brain. It is characteristic of men who have cut their way to fame that they have never allowed the opportunity to escape them. The successful man pushes to the front and seeks his chance; those of a temper less ardent wait till duty calls and the call may never come. Once before, when, despite his manifold disadvantages, he secured his nomination to West Point, Jackson had shown how readily he recognised an opening; now, when his comrades held back, he eagerly stepped forward, to prove anew the truth of the vigorous adage, “Providence helps those who help themselves.”

The American army was delayed long at Puebla. Several regiments of volunteers, who had engaged only for a short term of service, demanded their discharge, and reinforcements were slow in arriving.

August 7   It was not until the first week in August that Scott was able to move upon the capital. The army now numbered 14,000 men. Several hundred were sick in hospital, and 600 convalescents, together with 600 effectives, were left to garrison Puebla. The field force was organised in four divisions: the first, under Major-General Worth; the second, under Major-General Twiggs; the third, to which Magruder’s battery was attached, under Major-General Pillow; the fourth (volunteers and marines), under Major-General Pierce. Four field batteries, a small brigade of dragoons, and a still smaller siege train[8] made up a total of 11,500 officers and men. During the three months that his enemy was idle at Puebla, Santa Anna had reorganised his army; and 30,000 Mexicans, including a formidable body of cavalry, fine horsemen and well trained,[9] and a large number of heavy batteries, were now ready to oppose the advance of the invaders.

On August 10 the American army crossed the Rio Frio Mountains, 10,000 feet above the sea, the highest point between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and as the troops descended the western slopes the valley of Mexico first broke upon their view. There, beneath the shadow of her mighty mountains, capped with eternal snows, stood

The Imperial city, her far circling walls,
Her garden groves, and stately palaces.

There lay the broad plain of Tenochtitlan, with all its wealth of light and colour, the verdure of the forest, the warmer hues of the great corn-fields, ripening to the harvest, and the sheen and sparkle of the distant lakes. There it lay, as it burst upon the awe-struck vision of Cortez and his companions, “bathed in the golden sunshine, stretched out as it were in slumber, in the arms of the giant hills.”

On every hand were the signs of a teeming population. White villages and substantial haciendas glistened in the woodlands; roads broad and well-travelled crossed the level; and in the clear atmosphere of those lofty altitudes the vast size of the city was plainly visible. The whole army of Mexico formed the garrison; hills crowned with batteries commanded the approaches, while a network of canals on either flank and a broad area of deep water enhanced the difficulties of manœuvre. The line of communication, far too long to be maintained by the small force at Scott’s disposal, had already been abandoned. The army depended for subsistence on what it could purchase in the country; the sick and wounded were carried with the troops, and there was no further reserve of ammunition than that which was packed in the regimental waggons. Cortez and his four hundred when they essayed the same enterprise were not more completely isolated, for, while the Spaniard had staunch allies in the hereditary foes of the Aztecs, Scott’s nearest supports were at Puebla, eighty miles from Mexico, and these numbered only 1,200 effective soldiers. The most adventurous of leaders might well have hesitated ere he plunged into the great valley, swarming with enemies, and defended by all the resources of a civilised State. But there was no misgiving in the ranks of the Americans. With that wholesome contempt for a foreign foe which has wrought more good than evil for the Anglo-Saxon race, the army moved forward without a halt. “Recovering,” says Scott, “from the trance into which the magnificent spectacle had thrown them, probably not a man in the column failed to say to his neighbour or himself, ‘That splendid city shall soon be ours!’”

The fortifications which protected Mexico on the east were found to be impregnable. The high ridge of El Penon, manned by nearly the whole of Santa Anna’s army, blocked the passage between the lakes, and deep morasses added to the difficulties of approach. To the south, however, on the far side of Lake Chalco, lay a more level tract, but accessible only by roads which the Mexicans deemed impracticable. Despite the difficulties of the route, the manœuvre of Cerro Gordo was repeated on a grander scale.

August 16–18   After a toilsome march of seven-and-twenty miles from Ayotla, over the spurs of the sierras, the troops reached the great road which leads to the capital from the south. Across this road was more than one line of fortifications, to which the Mexican army had been hurriedly transferred. The hacienda of San Antonio, six miles from the city, strengthened by field-works and defended by heavy guns, commanded the highway. To the east was a morass, and beyond the morass were the blue waters of Lake Chalco; while to the west the Pedregal, a barren tract of volcanic scoriæ, over whose sharp rocks and deep fissures neither horse nor vehicle could move, flanked the American line of march. The morass was absolutely impassable. The gloomy solitude of the Pedregal, extending to the mountains, five miles distant, seemed equally forbidding; but the engineer officers came once more to the rescue. A road across the Pedregal, little better than a mule track, was discovered by Captain Lee.

August 19   Under cover of a strong escort it was rapidly improved, and Pillow’s and Worth’s divisions, accompanied by Magruder’s battery, were directed to cross the waste of rocks. Beyond the Pedregal was a good road, approaching the city from the south-west; and by this road the post of San Antonio might be assailed in rear.

Overlooking the road, however, as well as the issues from the Pedregal, was a high ridge, backed by the mountains, and held by 6,000 Mexicans. Opposite this ridge the Americans came out on cultivated ground, but all further progress was completely checked. Shortly after midday the leading brigade, with Magruder’s battery on hand, reached the summit of a hill within a thousand yards of the enemy’s breastworks. Magruder came at once into action, and the infantry attempted to push forward. But the Mexican artillery was far superior, both in number of pieces and weight of metal, and the ground was eminently unfavourable for attack. Two-and-twenty heavy cannon swept the front; the right of the position was secured by a deep ravine; masses of infantry were observed in rear of the intrenchments, and several regiments of lancers were in close support. For three hours the battle raged fiercely. On the right the Americans pushed forward, crossing with extreme difficulty an outlying angle of the Pedregal, covered with dense scrub, and occupied the village of Contreras. But elsewhere they made no impression. They were without cavalry, and Magruder’s guns were far too few and feeble to keep down the fire of the hostile batteries. “The infantry,” says Scott, “could not advance in column without being mowed down by grape and canister, nor advance in line without being ridden down by the enemy’s numerous horsemen.” Nor were the Mexicans content on this occasion to remain passively in their works. Both infantry and cavalry attempted to drive the assailants back upon the Pedregal; and, although these counterstrokes were successfully repulsed, when darkness fell the situation of the troops was by no means favourable. Heavy columns of Mexicans were approaching from the city; the remainder of the American army was opposite San Antonio, five miles distant, on the far side of the Pedregal, and no support could be expected. To add to their discomfort, it rained heavily; the thunder crashed in the mountains, and torrents of water choked the streams. The men stood in the darkness drenched and dispirited, and an attack made by a Mexican battalion induced General Pillow to withdraw Magruder’s battery from the ridge. The senior subaltern had been killed. 15 gunners and as many horses had fallen. The slopes were covered with huge boulders, and it was only by dint of the most strenuous exertions that the guns were brought down in safety to the lower ground.

A council of war was then held in Contreras Church, and, contrary to the traditionary conduct of such conventions, a most desperate expedient was adopted. The Mexican reinforcements, 12,000 strong, had halted on the main road, their advanced guard within a few hundred yards of the village. Leaving two regiments to hold this imposing force in check, it was determined to make a night march and turn the rear of the intrenchments on the ridge. The Commander-in-Chief was beyond the Pedregal, opposite San Antonio, and it was necessary that he should be informed of the projected movement.

“I have always understood,” says an officer present in this quarter of the field, “that what was devised and determined on was suggested by Captain Lee; at all events the council was closed by his saying that he desired to return to General Scott with the decision, and that, as it was late, the decision must be given as soon as possible, since General Scott wished him to return in time to give directions for co-operation. During the council, and for hours after, the rain fell in torrents, whilst the darkness was so intense that one could move only by groping.”

The Pedregal was infested by straggling bands of Mexicans; and yet, over those five miles of desolation, with no guide but the wind, or an occasional flash of lightning, Lee, unaccompanied by a single orderly, made his way to Scott’s headquarters. This perilous adventure was characterised by the Commander-in-Chief as “the greatest feat of physical and moral courage performed by any individual during the entire campaign.”

The night march, although it entailed the passage of a deep ravine, and was so slow that one company in two hours made no more than four hundred yards, was completely successful. The Mexicans, trusting to the strength of their position, and to the presence of the reinforcements, had neglected to guard their left. The lesson of Cerro Gordo had been forgotten. The storming parties, guided by the engineers, Lee, Beauregard, and Gustavus Smith, established themselves, under cover of the darkness, within five hundred paces of the intrenchments, and as the day broke the works were carried at the first rush.

August 20   Seventeen minutes after the signal had been given, the garrison, attacked in front and rear simultaneously, was completely dispersed. 800 Mexicans were captured, and nearly as many killed.[10] The reinforcements, unable to intervene, and probably demoralised by this unlooked-for defeat, fell back to the village of Churubusco, and San Antonio was evacuated. The pursuit was hotly pressed. Churubusco was heavily bombarded. For two hours the American batteries played upon the church and hacienda, both strongly fortified, and after a counterstroke had been beaten back a vigorous onslaught, made by the whole line of battle, compelled the enemy to give way. A brilliant charge of General Shields’ brigade dispersed their last reserves, and the whole of the hostile army fled in confusion to the city. The American cavalry followed at speed, using their sabres freely on the panic-stricken masses, and one squadron, not hearing the recall, dashed up to the very gates of the city. Scott’s losses amounted to 1,053, including 76 officers. The Mexican casualties were 3,000 prisoners, and 3,250 killed and wounded. 37 field-guns were abandoned, and, a still more valuable capture, a large supply of ammunition fell into the hands of the victors.

Magruder’s battery, it appears, was retained in reserve throughout the battle of Churubusco, and Jackson’s share in the victory was confined to the engagement of the previous day. But his small charge of three guns had been handled with skill and daring. Magruder was more than satisfied. “In a few moments,” ran his official report, “Lieutenant Jackson, commanding the second section of the battery, who had opened fire upon the enemy’s works from a position on the right, hearing our fire still further in front, advanced in handsome style, and kept up the fire with equal briskness and effect. His conduct was equally conspicuous during the whole day, and I cannot too highly commend him to the Major-General’s favourable consideration.”

The extreme vigour with which the Americans had prosecuted their operations now came to an untimely pause. After his double victory at Contreras and Churubusco, General Scott proposed an armistice. The whole of the Mexican army had been encountered. It had been decisively defeated. Its losses, in men and matériel, had been very heavy. The troops were utterly demoralised. The people were filled with consternation, and a rapid advance would probably have been followed by an immediate peace. But Scott was unwilling to drive his foes to desperation, and he appears to have believed that if they were spared all further humiliation they would accede without further resistance to his demands.

The Mexicans, however, were only playing for time. During the negotiations, in direct defiance of the terms of the armistice, Santa Anna strengthened his fortifications, rallied his scattered army, and prepared once more to confront the invader. Scott’s ultimatum was rejected, and on September 5 hostilities were renewed.

September 8   Three days later the position of Molino del Rey, garrisoned by the choicest of the Mexican troops, was stormed at dawn. But the enemy had benefited by his respite. The fighting was desperate. 800 Americans were killed and wounded before the intrenchments and strong buildings were finally carried; and although the Mexicans again lost 3,000 men, including two generals, their spirit of resistance was not yet wholly crushed.

Driven from their outworks, they had fallen back on a still more formidable line. Behind the Molino del Rey rose the hill of Chapultepec, crowned by the great castle which had been the palace of Montezuma and of the Spanish viceroys, now the military college of the Republic and the strongest of her fortresses. Three miles from the city walls, the stronghold completely barred the line of advance on the San Cosme Gate. Heavy guns mounted on the lofty bastions which encircled the citadel, commanded every road, and the outflanking movements which had hitherto set at nought the walls and parapets of the Mexicans were here impracticable. Still, careful reconnaissance had shown that, with all its difficulties, this was the most favourable approach for the invading army. The gates of Belen and San Antonio were beset by obstacles even more impracticable. The ground over which the troops would advance to storm the fortress was far firmer than elsewhere, there was ample space for the American batteries, and if the hill were taken, the Mexicans, retreating along two narrow causeways, with deep marshes on either hand, might easily be deprived of all opportunity of rallying.

On the night of the 11th four batteries of heavy guns were established within easy range. On the 12th they opened fire; and the next morning the American army, covered by the fire of the artillery, advanced to the assault.

September 13   In the victory of Molino del Rey, Magruder’s battery had taken little part. Jackson, posted with his section on the extreme flank of the line, had dispersed a column of cavalry which threatened a charge; but, with this brief interlude of action, he had been merely a spectator. At Chapultepec he was more fortunate. Pillow’s division, to which the battery was attached, attacked the Mexicans in front, while Worth’s division assailed them from the north. The 14th Infantry, connecting the two attacks, moved along a road which skirts the base of the hill, and Magruder was ordered to detach a section of his battery in support. Jackson was selected for the duty, and as he approached the enemy’s position dangers multiplied at every step. The ground alongside was so marshy that the guns were unable to leave the road. A Mexican fieldpiece, covered by a breastwork, raked the causeway from end to end, while from the heights of Chapultepec cannon of large calibre poured down a destructive fire. The infantry suffered terribly. It was impossible to advance along the narrow track; and when the guns were ordered up the situation was in no way bettered. Nearly every horse was killed or wounded. A deep ditch, cut across the road, hindered effective action, and the only position where reply to the enemy’s fire was possible lay beyond this obstacle. Despite the losses of his command Jackson managed to lift one gun across by hand. But his men became demoralised. They left their posts. The example of their lieutenant, walking up and down on the shot-swept road and exclaiming calmly, “There is no danger: see! I am not hit,” failed to inspire them with confidence. Many had already fallen. The infantry, with the exception of a small escort, which held its ground with difficulty, had disappeared; and General Worth, observing Jackson’s perilous situation, sent him orders to retire. He replied it was more dangerous to withdraw than to stand fast, and if they would give him fifty veterans he would rather attempt the capture of the breastwork. At this juncture Magruder, losing his horse as he galloped forward, reached the road.

The ditch was crowded with soldiers; many wounded; many already dead; many whose hearts had failed them. Beyond, on the narrow causeway, the one gun which Jackson had brought across the ditch was still in action.

Deserted by his gunners, and abandoned by the escort which had been ordered to support him, the young subaltern still held his ground. With the sole assistance of a sergeant, of stauncher mettle than the rest, he was loading and firing his solitary field-piece, rejoicing, as became the son of a warrior race, in the hot breath of battle, and still more in the isolation of his perilous position. To stand alone, in the forefront of the fight, defying the terrors from which others shrank, was the situation which of all others he most coveted; and under the walls of Chapultepec, answering shot for shot, and plying sponge and handspike with desperate energy, the fierce instincts of the soldier were fully gratified. Nor was Magruder the man to proffer prudent counsels. A second gun was hoisted across the ditch; the men rallied; the Mexican artillery was gradually overpowered, and the breastwork stormed. The crisis of the struggle was already past. Pillow’s troops had driven the enemy from their intrenchments at the base of the hill, and beneath the shadows of the majestic cypresses, which still bear the name of the Grove of Montezuma, and up the rugged slopes which tower above them, pressed the assaulting columns. A redoubt which stood midway up the height was carried. The Mexicans fell back from shelter to shelter; but amid smoke and flame the scaling ladders were borne across the castle ditch, and reared against the lofty walls were soon covered with streams of men. The leaders, hurled from the battlements on to the crowd below, failed to make good their footing, but there were others to take their places. The supports came thronging up; the enemy, assailed in front and flank, drew back disheartened, and after a short struggle the American colours, displayed upon the keep, announced to the citizens of Mexico that Chapultepec had been captured. Yet the victory was not complete. The greater part of the garrison had fled from their intrenchments before the castle had been stormed; and infantry, cavalry, and artillery, in wild confusion, were crowding in panic on the causeways. But their numbers were formidable, and the city, should the army be rallied, was capable of a protracted defence. Not a moment was to be lost if the battle was to be decisive of the war. The disorder on Chapultepec was hardly less than that which existed in the ranks of the defeated Mexicans. Many of the stormers had dispersed in search of plunder, and regiments and brigades had become hopelessly intermingled in the assault of the rocky hill. Still the pursuit was prompt. Towards the San Cosme Gate several of the younger officers, a lieutenant by name Ulysses Grant amongst the foremost, followed the enemy with such men as they could collect, and Jackson’s guns were soon abreast of the fighting line. His teams had been destroyed by the fire of the Mexican batteries. Those of his waggons, posted further to the rear, had partially escaped. To disengage the dead animals from the limbers and to replace them by others would have wasted many minutes, and he had eagerly suggested to Magruder that the guns should be attached to the waggon-limbers instead of to their own. Permission was given, and in a few moments his section was thundering past the cliffs of Chapultepec. Coming into action within close range of the flying Mexicans, every shot told on their demoralised masses; but before the San Cosme Gate the enemy made a last effort to avert defeat. Fresh troops were brought up to man the outworks; the houses and gardens which lined the road were filled with skirmishers; from the high parapets of the flat house-tops a hail of bullets struck the head of the pursuing column; and again and again the American infantry, without cover and with little space for movement, recoiled from the attack.

The situation of the invading army, despite the brilliant victory of Chapultepec, was not yet free from peril. The greater part of the Mexican forces was still intact. The city contained 180,000 inhabitants, and General Scott’s battalions had dwindled to the strength of a small division. In the various battles before the capital nearly 3,000 officers and men had fallen, and the soldiers who encompassed the walls of the great metropolis were spent with fighting.[11] One spark of the stubborn courage which bore Cortez and his paladins through the hosts of Montezuma might have made of that stately city a second Saragossa. It was eminently defensible. The churches, the convents, the public buildings, constructed with that solidity which is peculiarly Spanish, formed each of them a fortress. The broad streets, crossing each other at right angles, rendered concentration at any threatened point an easy matter, and beyond the walls were broad ditches and a deep canal.

Nor was the strength of the city the greatest of Scott’s difficulties. Vera Cruz, his base of operations, was two hundred and sixty miles distant; Puebla, his nearest supply-depot, eighty miles. He had abandoned his communications. His army was dependent for food on a hostile population. In moving round Lake Chalco, and attacking the city from the south, he had burned his boats. A siege or an investment were alike impossible. A short march would place the enemy’s army across his line of retreat, and nothing would have been easier for the Mexicans than to block the road where it passes between the sierras and the lake. Guerillas were already hovering in the hills; one single repulse before the gates of the capital would have raised the country in rear; and hemmed in by superior numbers, and harassed by a cavalry which was at least equal to the task of cutting off supplies, the handful of Americans must have cut their way through to Puebla or have succumbed to starvation.

Such considerations had doubtless been at the root of the temporising policy which had been pursued after Churubusco. But the uselessness of half-measures had then been proved. The conviction had become general that a desperate enterprise could only be pushed to a successful issue by desperate tactics, and every available battalion was hurried forward to the assault. Before the San Cosme Gate the pioneers were ordered up, and within the suburb pick and crowbar forced a passage from house to house. The guns, moving slowly forward, battered the crumbling masonry at closest range. The Mexicans were driven back from breastwork to breastwork; and a mountain howitzer, which Lieutenant Grant had posted on the tower of a neighbouring church, played with terrible effect, at a range of two or three hundred yards, on the defenders of the Gate.

By eight o’clock in the evening the suburb had been cleared, and the Americans were firmly established within the walls. To the south-east, before the Belen Gate, another column had been equally successful. During the night Santa Anna withdrew his troops, and when day dawned the white flag was seen flying from the citadel. After a sharp fight with 2,000 convicts whom the fugitive President had released, the invaders occupied the city, and the war was virtually at an end. From Cerro Gordo to Chapultepec the power of discipline had triumphed. An army of 30,000 men, fighting in their own country, and supported by a numerous artillery, had been defeated by an invading force of one-third the strength. Yet the Mexicans had shown no lack of courage. “At Chapultepec and Molino del Rey, as on many other occasions,” says Grant, “they stood up as well as any troops ever did.”[12] But their officers were inexperienced; the men were ill-instructed; and against an army of regular soldiers, well led and obedient, their untutored valour, notwithstanding their superior numbers, had proved of no avail. They had early become demoralised. Their strongest positions had been rendered useless by the able manœuvres of their adversaries. Everywhere they had been out-generalled. They had never been permitted to fight on the ground which they had prepared, and in almost every single engagement they had been surprised. Nor had the Government escaped the infection which had turned the hearts of the troops to water.

September 14   The energy of the pursuit after the fall of Chapultepec had wrought its full effect, and on September 14 the city of Mexico was surrendered, without further parley, to a force which, all told, amounted to less than 7,000 men.[13]

With such portion of his force as had not disbanded Santa Anna undertook the siege of Puebla; and the guerillas, largely reinforced from the army, waged a desultory warfare in the mountains. But these despairing efforts were without effect upon the occupation of the capital. The Puebla garrison beat back every attack; and the bands of irregular horse men were easily dispersed. During these operations Magruder’s battery remained with headquarters near the capital, and so far as Jackson was concerned all opportunities for distinction were past.

February 1848   The peace negotiations were protracted from September to the following February, and in their camps beyond the walls the American soldiers were fain to content themselves with their ordinary duties.

It cannot be said that Jackson had failed to take advantage of the opportunities which fortune had thrown in his way. As eagerly as he had snatched at the chance of employment in the field artillery he had welcomed the tactical emergency which had given him sole command of his section at Chapultepec. It was a small charge; but he had utilised it to the utmost, and it had filled the cup of his ambition to the brim. Ambitious he certainly was. “He confessed,” says Dabney, “to an intimate friend that the order of General Pillow, separating his section on the day of Chapultepec from his captain, had excited his abiding gratitude; so much so that while the regular officers were rather inclined to depreciate the general as an unprofessional soldier, he loved him because he gave him an opportunity to win distinction.” His friends asked him, long after the war, if he felt no trepidation when so many were falling round him. He replied: “No; the only anxiety of which I was conscious during the engagements was a fear lest I should not meet danger enough to make my conduct conspicuous.”

[Illustration: Map of the City of Mexico and environs.]

His share of the glory was more than ample. Contreras gave him the brevet rank of captain. For his conduct at Chapultepec he was mentioned in the Commander-in-Chief’s dispatches, and publicly complimented on his courage. Shortly after the capture of the city, General Scott held a levée, and amongst others presented to him was Lieutenant Jackson. When he heard the name, the general drew himself up to his full height, and, placing his hands behind him, said with affected sternness, “I don’t know that I shall shake hands with Mr. Jackson.” Jackson, blushing like a girl, was overwhelmed with confusion. General Scott, seeing that he had called the attention of every one in the room, said, “If you can forgive yourself for the way in which you slaughtered those poor Mexicans with your guns, I am not sure that I can,” and then held out his hand. “No greater compliment,” says General Gibbon, “could have been paid a young officer, and Jackson apparently did not know he had done anything remarkable till his general told him so.”[14] Magruder could find no praise high enough for his industry, his capacity, and his gallantry, and within eighteen months of his first joining his regiment he was breveted major. Such promotion was phenomenal even in the Mexican war, and none of his West Point comrades made so great a stride in rank. His future in his profession was assured. He had acquired something more than the spurs of a field officer in his seven months of service. A subaltern, it has been said, learns but little of the higher art of war in the course of a campaign. His daily work so engrosses his attention that he has little leisure to reflect on the lessons in strategy and tactics which unfold themselves before him. Without maps, and without that information of the enemy’s numbers and dispositions which alone renders the manœuvres intelligible, it is difficult, even where the inclination exists, to discuss or criticise the problems, tactical and strategical, with which the general has to deal. But siege and battle, long marches and rough roads, gave the young American officers an insight into the practical difficulties of war. It is something to have seen how human nature shows itself under fire; how easily panics may be generated; how positions that seem impregnable may be rendered weak; to have witnessed the effect of surprise, and to have realised the strength of a vigorous attack. It is something, too, if a man learns his own worth in situations of doubt and danger; and if he finds, as did Jackson, that battle sharpens his faculties, and makes his self-control more perfect, his judgment clearer and more prompt, the gain in self-confidence is of the utmost value.

Moreover, whether a young soldier learns much or little from his first campaign depends on his intellectual powers and his previous training. Jackson’s brain, as his steady progress at West Point proves, was of a capacity beyond the average. He was naturally reflective. If, at the Military Academy, he had heard little of war; if, during his service in Mexico, his knowledge was insufficient to enable him to compare General Scott’s operations with those of the great captains, he had at least been trained to think. It is difficult to suppose that his experience was cast away. He was no thoughtless subaltern, but already an earnest soldier; and in after times, when he came to study for himself the campaigns of Washington and Napoleon, we may be certain that the teaching he found there was made doubly impressive when read by the light of what he had seen himself. Nor is it mere conjecture to assert that in his first campaign his experience was of peculiar value to a future general of the Southern Confederacy. Some of the regiments who fought under Scott and Taylor were volunteers, civilians, like their successors in the great Civil War, in all but name, enlisted for the war only, or even for a shorter term, and serving under their own officers. Several of these regiments had fought well; others had behaved indifferently; and the problem of how discipline was to be maintained in battle amongst these unprofessional soldiers obtruded itself as unpleasantly in Mexico as it had in the wars with England. Amongst the regular officers, accustomed to the absolute subordination of the army, the question provoked perplexity and discussion.

So small was the military establishment of the States that in case of any future war, the army, as in Mexico, would be largely composed of volunteers; and, despite the high intelligence and warlike enthusiasm of the citizen battalions, it was evident that they were far less reliable than the regulars. Even General Grant, partial as he was to the volunteers, admitted the superiority conferred by drill, discipline, and highly trained officers. “A better army,” he wrote, “man for man, probably never faced an enemy than the one commanded by General Taylor in the earlier engagements of the Mexican war.”[15] These troops were all regulars, and they were those who carried Scott in triumph from the shores of the Gulf to the palace of Santa Anna. The volunteers had proved themselves exceedingly liable to panic. Their superior intelligence had not enabled them to master the instincts of human nature, and, although they had behaved well in camp and on the march, in battle their discipline had fallen to pieces.[16] It could hardly be otherwise. Men without ingrained habits of obedience, who have not been trained to subordinate their will to another’s, cannot be expected to render implicit obedience in moments of danger and excitement; nor can they be expected, under such circumstances, to follow officers in whom they can have but little confidence. The ideal of battle is a combined effort, directed by a trained leader. Unless troops are thoroughly well disciplined such effort is impossible; the leaders are ignored, and the spasmodic action of the individual is substituted for the concentrated pressure of the mass. The cavalry which dissolves into a mob before it strikes the enemy but seldom attains success; and infantry out of hand is hardly more effective. In the Mexican campaign the volunteers, although on many occasions they behaved with admirable courage, continually broke loose from control under the fire of the enemy. As individuals they fought well; as organised bodies, capable of manœuvring under fire and of combined effort, they proved to be comparatively worthless.

So Jackson, observant as he was, gained on Mexican battle-fields some knowledge of the shortcomings inherent in half-trained troops. And this was not all. The expedition had demanded the services of nearly every officer in the army of the United States, and in the toils of the march, in the close companionship of the camp, in the excitement of battle, the shrewder spirits probed the characters of their comrades to the quick. In the history of the Civil War there are few things more remarkable than the use which was made of the knowledge thus acquired. The clue to many an enterprise, daring even to foolhardiness, is to be found in this. A leader so intimately acquainted with the character of his opponent as to be able to predict with certainty what he will do under any given circumstances may set aside with impunity every established rule of war. “All the older officers, who became conspicuous in the rebellion,” says Grant, “I had also served with and known in Mexico. The acquaintance thus formed was of immense service to me in the War of the Rebellion—I mean what I learned of the characters of those to whom I was afterwards opposed. I do not pretend to say that all my movements, or even many of them, were made with special reference to the characteristics of the commander against whom they were directed. But my appreciation of my enemies was certainly affected by this knowledge.”[17]

Many of the generals with whom Jackson became intimately connected, either as friends or enemies, are named in Scott’s dispatches. Magruder, Hooker, McDowell, and Ambrose Hill belonged to his own regiment. McClellan, Beauregard, and Gustavus Smith served on the same staff as Lee. Joseph E. Johnston, twice severely wounded, was everywhere conspicuous for dashing gallantry. Shields commanded a brigade with marked ability. Pope was a staff officer. Lieutenant D. H. Hill received two brevets. Lieutenant Longstreet, struck down whilst carrying the colours at Chapultepec, was bracketed for conspicuous conduct with Lieutenant Pickett. Lieutenant Edward Johnson is mentioned as having specially distinguished himself in the same battle. Captain Huger, together with Lieutenants Porter and Reno, did good service with the artillery, and Lieutenant Ewell had two horses killed under him at Churubusco.

So having proved his mettle and “drunk delight of battle with his peers,” Jackson spent nine pleasant months in the conquered city. The peace negotiations were protracted. The United States coveted the auriferous provinces of California and New Mexico, a tract as large as a European kingdom, and far more wealthy. Loth to lose their birthright, yet powerless to resist, the Mexicans could only haggle for a price. The States were not disposed to be ungenerous, but the transfer of so vast a territory could not be accomplished in a moment, and the victorious army remained in occupation of the capital.

Beneath the shadow of the Stars and Stripes conqueror and conquered lived in harmony. Mexico was tired of war. Since the downfall of Spanish rule revolution had followed revolution with startling rapidity. The beneficent despotism of the great viceroys had been succeeded by the cruel exactions of petty tyrants, and for many a long year the country had been ravaged by their armies. The capital itself had enjoyed but a few brief intervals of peace, and now, although the bayonets of an alien race were the pledge of their repose, the citizens revelled in the unaccustomed luxury. Nor were they ungrateful to those who brought them a respite from alarms and anarchy. Under the mild administration of the American generals the streets resumed their wonted aspect. The great markets teemed with busy crowds. Across the long causeways rolled the creaking waggons, laden with the produce of far-distant haciendas. Trade was restored, and even the most patriotic merchants were not proof against the influence of the American dollar. Between the soldiers and the people was much friendly intercourse. Even the religious orders did not disdain to offer their hospitality to the heretics. The uniforms of the victorious army were to be seen at every festive gathering, and the graceful Mexicañas were by no means insensible to the admiration of the stalwart Northerners. Those blue-eyed and fair-haired invaders were not so very terrible after all; and the beauties of the capital, accustomed to be wooed in liquid accents and flowery phrases, listened without reluctance to harsher tones and less polished compliments. Travellers of many races have borne willing witness to the charms and virtues of the women of Mexico. “True daughters of Spain,” it has been said, “they unite the grace of Castile to the vivacity of Andalusia; and more sterling qualities are by no means wanting. Gentle and refined, unaffectedly pleasing in manners and conversation, they evince a warmth of heart which wins for them the respect and esteem of all strangers.” To the homes made bright by the presence of these fair specimens of womanhood Scott’s officers were always welcome; and Jackson, for the first time in his life, found himself within the sphere of feminine attractions. The effect on the stripling soldier, who, stark fighter as he was, had seen no more of life than was to be found in a country village or within the precincts of West Point, may be easily imagined. Who the magnet was he never confessed; but that he went near losing his heart to some charming señorita of sangre azul he more than once acknowledged, and he took much trouble to appear to advantage in her eyes. The deficiencies in his education which prevented his full enjoyment of social pleasures were soon made up. He not only learned to dance, an accomplishment which must have taxed his perseverance to the utmost, but he spent some months in learning Spanish; and it is significant that to the end of his life he retained a copious vocabulary of those tender diminutives which fall so gracefully from Spanish lips.

But during his stay in Mexico other and more lasting influences were at work. Despite the delights of her delicious climate, where the roses bloom the whole year round, the charms of her romantic scenery, and the fascinations of her laughter-loving daughters, Jackson’s serious nature soon asserted itself. The constant round of light amusements and simple duties grew distasteful. The impress of his mother’s teachings and example was there to guide him; and his native reverence for all that was good and true received an unexpected impulse. There were not wanting in the American army men who had a higher ideal of duty than mere devotion to the business of their profession. The officer commanding the First Artillery, Colonel Frank Taylor, possessed that earnest faith which is not content with solitude. “This good man,” says Dabney, “was accustomed to labour as a father for the religious welfare of his young officers, and during the summer campaign his instructions and prayers had produced so much effect as to awake an abiding anxiety and spirit of inquiry in Jackson’s mind.” The latter had little prejudice in favour of any particular sect or church. There was no State Establishment in the United States. His youth had been passed in a household where Christianity was practically unknown, and with characteristic independence he determined to discover for himself the rule that he should follow. His researches took a course which his Presbyterian ancestors would assuredly have condemned. But Jackson’s mind was singularly open, and he was the last man in the world to yield to prejudice. Soon after peace was declared, he had made the acquaintance of a number of priests belonging to one of the great religious orders of the Catholic Church. They had invited him to take up his quarters with them, and when he determined to examine for himself into the doctrine of the ancient faith, he applied through them for an introduction to the Archbishop of Mexico. Several interviews took place between the aged ecclesiastic and the young soldier. Jackson departed unsatisfied. He acknowledged that the prelate was a sincere and devout Christian, and he was impressed as much with his kindness as his learning. But he left Mexico without any settled convictions on the subject which now absorbed his thoughts.

June 12   On June 12, peace having been signed at the end of May, the last of the American troops marched out of the conquered capital. Jackson’s battery was sent to Fort Hamilton, on Long Island, seven miles below New York, and there, with his honours thick upon him, he settled down to the quiet life of a small garrison. He had gone out to Mexico a second lieutenant; he had come back a field-officer. He had won a name in the army, and his native State had enrolled him amongst her heroes. He had gone out an unformed youth; he had come back a man and a proved leader of men. He had been known merely as an indefatigable student and a somewhat unsociable companion. He had come back with a reputation for daring courage, not only the courage which glories in swift action and the excitement of the charge, but courage of an enduring quality. And in that distant country he had won more than fame. He had already learned something of the vanity of temporal success. He had gone out with a vague notion of ruling his life in accordance with moral precepts and philosophic maxims; but he was to be guided henceforward by loftier principles than even devotion to duty and regard for honour, and from the path he had marked out for himself in Mexico he never deviated.

[1] Copyright 1897 by Longmans, Green, & Co.

[2] General R. S. Ewell.

[3] Grant’s Memoirs, vol. i, p. 53.

[4] Lieutenant D. H. Hill, afterwards his brother-in-law.

[5] He had been promoted second lieutenant on March 3. Records of the First Regiment of Artillery.

[6] The Americans had about 8,500 men upon the field, and their loss was 431, including two generals. Memoirs of Lieut.-General Scott.

[7] According to the Regimental Records his company (K) was not engaged in the battle, but only in the pursuit.

[8] Two 24-pounders, two 8-inch howitzers, and two light pieces. Ripley’s History of the Mexican War.

[9] It is said, however, that their horses were little more than ponies, and far too light for a charge. Semmes’ Campaign of General Scott.

[10] 4,500 Americans (rank and file) were engaged, and the losses did not exceed 50. Scott’s Memoirs.

[11] 862 officers and men fell at Chapultepec. Scott’s Memoirs.

[12] Grant’s Memoirs, vol. i, p. 169.

[13] The total loss in the battles before the capital was 2,703, including 383 officers. Scott’s Memoirs.

[14] Letter to the author.

[15] Grant’s Memoirs, vol. i, p. 168.

[16] Ripley’s History of the Mexican War, vol. ii, p. 73 &c.)

[17] Grant’s Memoirs, vol. i, p. 192.

Chapter III
LEXINGTON. 1851–1861

1848   Of Jackson’s life at Fort Hamilton there is little to tell. His friend and mentor, Colonel Taylor, was in command. The chaplain, once an officer of dragoons, was a man of persuasive eloquence and earnest zeal; and surrounded by influences which had now become congenial, the young major of artillery pursued the religious studies he had begun in Mexico. There was some doubt whether he had been baptised as a child. He was anxious that no uncertainty should exist as to his adhesion to Christianity, but he was unwilling that the sacrament should bind him to any particular sect.

1849   On the understanding that no surrender of judgment would be involved, he was baptised and received his first communion in the Episcopal Church.

Two years passed without incident, and then Jackson was transferred to Florida. In his new quarters his stay was brief.

1851   In March 1851 he was appointed Professor of Artillery Tactics and Natural Philosophy at the Virginia Military Institute. His success, for such he deemed it, was due to his own merit. One of his Mexican comrades, Major D. H. Hill, afterwards his brother-in-law, was a professor in a neighbouring institution, Washington College, and had been consulted by the Superintendent of the Institute as to the filling of the vacant chair.

Hill remembered what had been said of Jackson at West Point: “If the course had been one year longer he would have graduated at the head of his class.” This voluntary testimonial of his brother cadets had not passed unheeded. It had weight, as the best evidence of his thoroughness and application, with the Board of Visitors, and Jackson was unanimously elected.

The Military Institute, founded twelve years previously on the model of West Point, was attended by several hundred youths from Virginia and other Southern States. At Lexington, in the county of Rockbridge, a hundred miles west of Richmond, stand the castellated buildings and the wide parade ground which formed the nursery of so many Confederate soldiers. To the east rise the lofty masses of the Blue Ridge. To the north successive ranges of rolling hills, green with copse and woodland, fall gently to the lower levels; and stretching far away at their feet, watered by that lovely river which the Indians in melodious syllables called Shenandoah, “bright daughter of the Stars,” the great Valley of Virginia,

Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows,

lies embosomed within its mountain walls. Of all its pleasant market towns, Lexington is not the least attractive; and in this pastoral region, where the great forests stand round about the corn-fields, and the breezes blow untainted from the uplands, had been built the College which Washington, greatest of Virginians and greatest of American soldiers, had endowed. Under the shadow of its towers the State had found an appropriate site for her military school.

The cadets of the Institute, although they wore a uniform, were taught by officers of the regular army, were disciplined as soldiers, and spent some months of their course in camp, were not destined for a military career. All aspirants for commissions in the United States army had to pass through West Point; and the training of the State colleges—for Virginia was not solitary in the possession of such an institution—however much it may have benefited both the minds and bodies of the rising generation, was of immediate value only to those who became officers of the State militia. Still in all essential respects the Military Institute was little behind West Point. The discipline was as strict, the drill but little less precise. The cadets had their own officers and their own sergeants, and the whole establishment was administered on a military footing. No pains were spared either by the State or the faculty to maintain the peculiar character of the school; and the little battalion, although the members were hardly likely to see service, was as carefully trained as if each private in the ranks might one day become a general officer. It was fortunate indeed for Virginia, when she submitted her destinies to the arbitrament of war, that some amongst her statesmen had been firm to the conviction that to defend one’s country is a task not a whit less honourable than to serve her in the ways of peace. She was unable to avert defeat. But she more than redeemed her honour; and the efficiency of her troops was in no small degree due to the training so many of her officers had received at the Military Institute.

Still, notwithstanding its practical use to the State, the offer of a chair at Lexington would probably have attracted but few of Jackson’s contemporaries. But while campaigning was entirely to his taste, life in barracks was the reverse. In those unenlightened days to be known as an able and zealous soldier was no passport to preferment. So long as an officer escaped censure his promotion was sure; he might reach without further effort the highest prizes the service offered, and the chances of the dull and indolent were quite as good as those of the capable and energetic. The one had no need for, the other no incentive to, self-improvement, and it was very generally neglected. Unless war intervened—and nothing seemed more improbable than another campaign—even a Napoleon would have had to submit to the inevitable. Jackson caught eagerly at the opportunity of freeing himself from an unprofitable groove.

“He believed,” he said, “that a man who had turned, with a good military reputation, to pursuits of a semi-civilian character, and had vigorously prosecuted his mental improvement, would have more chance of success in war than those who had remained in the treadmill of the garrison.”

It was with a view, then, of fitting himself for command that Jackson broke away from the restraints of regimental life; not because those restraints were burdensome or distasteful in themselves, but because he felt that whilst making the machine they might destroy the man. Those responsible for the efficiency of the United States army had not yet learned that the mind must be trained as well as the body, that drill is not the beginning and the end of the soldier’s education, that unless an officer is trusted with responsibility in peace he is but too apt to lose all power of initiative in war. That Jackson’s ideas were sound may be inferred from the fact that many of the most distinguished generals in the Civil War were men whose previous career had been analogous to his own.[1]

His duties at Lexington were peculiar. As Professor of Artillery he was responsible for little more than the drill of the cadets and their instruction in the theory of gunnery. The tactics of artillery, as the word is understood in Europe, he was not called upon to impart. Optics, mechanics, and astronomy were his special subjects, and he seems strangely out of place in expounding their dry formulas.

In the well-stocked library of the Institute he found every opportunity of increasing his professional knowledge. He was an untiring reader, and he read to learn. The wars of Napoleon were his constant study. He was an enthusiastic admirer of his genius; the swiftness, the daring, and the energy of his movements appealed to his every instinct. Unfortunately, both for the Institute and his popularity, it was not his business to lecture on military history. We can well imagine him, as a teacher of the art of war, describing to the impressionable youths around him the dramatic incidents of some famous campaign, following step by step the skilful strategy that brought about such victories as Austerlitz and Jena. The advantage would then have been with his pupils; in the work assigned to him it was the teacher that benefited. He was by no means successful as an instructor of the higher mathematics. Although the theories of light and motion were doubtless a branch of learning which the cadets particularly detested, his methods of teaching made it even more repellent. A thorough master of his subject, he lacked altogether the power of aiding others to master it. No flashes of humour relieved the tedium of his long and closely-reasoned demonstrations. He never descended to the level of his pupils’ understanding, nor did he appreciate their difficulties. Facts presented themselves to his intellect in few lights. As one of his chief characteristics as a commander was the clearness with which he perceived the end to be aimed at and the shortest way of reaching it, so, in his explanations to his stumbling class, he could only repeat the process by which he himself had solved the problem at issue. We may well believe that his self-reliant nature, trained to intense application, overlooked the fact that others, weaker and less gifted, could not surmount unaided the obstacles which only aroused his own masterful instincts. Nevertheless, his conscientious industry was not entirely thrown away. To the brighter intellects in his class he communicated accurate scholarship; and although the majority lagged far behind, the thoroughness of his mental drill was most useful, to himself perhaps even more than to the cadets.

1854–57   The death of his first wife, daughter of the reverend Dr. Junkin, President of Washington College, after they had been married but fourteen months, the solution of his religious difficulties, and his reception into the Presbyterian Church; a five months’ tour in Europe, through Scotland, England, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy; his marriage to Miss Morrison, daughter of a North Carolina clergyman: such were the chief landmarks of his life at Lexington. Ten years, with their burden of joy and sorrow, passed away, of intense interest to the individual, but to the world a story dull and commonplace. Jackson was by no means a man of mark in Rockbridge county. Although his early shyness had somewhat worn off, he was still as reserved as he had been at West Point. His confidence was rarely given outside his own home. Intimates he had few, either at the Institute or elsewhere. Still he was not in the least unsociable, and there were many houses where he was always welcome. The academic atmosphere of Lexington did not preclude a certain amount of gaiety. The presence of Washington College and the Military Institute drew together a large number of families during the summer, and fair visitors thronged the leafy avenues of the little town. During these pleasant months the officers and cadets, as became their cloth, were always well to the fore. Recreation was the order of the day, and a round of entertainments enlivened the “Commencements.” Major Jackson attended these gatherings with unfailing regularity, but soon after his arrival he drew the line at dancing, and musical parties became the limit of his dissipation. He was anything but a convivial companion. He never smoked, he was a strict teetotaller, and he never touched a card. His diet, for reasons of health, was of a most sparing kind; nothing could tempt him to partake of food between his regular hours, and for many years he abstained from both tea and coffee. In those peaceful times, moreover, there was nothing either commanding or captivating about the Professor of Artillery. His little romance in Mexico had given him no taste for trivial pleasures; and his somewhat formal manner was not redeemed by any special charm of feature. The brow and jaw were undoubtedly powerful; but the eyes were gentle, and the voice so mild and soft as to belie altogether the set determination of the thin straight lips. Yet, at the same time, if Jackson was not formed for general society, he was none the less capable of making himself exceedingly agreeable in a restricted and congenial circle. Young and old, when once they had gained his confidence, came under the spell of his noble nature; and if his friends were few they were very firm.

Why Jackson should have preferred the Presbyterian denomination to all others we are nowhere told. But whatever his reasons may have been, he was a most zealous and hardworking member of his church. He was not content with perfunctory attendances at the services. He became a deacon, and a large portion of his leisure time was devoted to the work which thus devolved on him. His duties were to collect alms and to distribute to the destitute, and nothing was permitted to interfere with their exact performance. He was exceedingly charitable himself—one tenth of his income was laid aside for the church, and he gave freely to all causes of benevolence and public enterprise. At the church meetings, whether for business or prayer, he was a regular attendant, and between himself and his pastor existed the most confidential relations. Nor did he consider that this was all that was demanded of him. In Lexington, as in other Southern towns, there were many poor negroes, and the condition of these ignorant and helpless creatures, especially of the children, excited his compassion. Out of his own means he established a Sunday school, in which he and his wife were the principal teachers. His friends were asked to send their slaves, and the experiment was successful. The benches were always crowded, and the rows of black, bright-eyed faces were a source of as much pride to him as the martial appearance of the cadet battalion.

Jackson’s religion entered into every action of his life. No duty, however trivial, was begun without asking a blessing, or ended without returning thanks. “He had long cultivated,” he said, “the habit of connecting the most trivial and customary acts of life with a silent prayer.” He took the Bible as his guide, and it is possible that his literal interpretation of its precepts caused many to regard him as a fanatic. His observance of the Sabbath was hardly in accordance with ordinary usage. He never read a letter on that day, nor posted one; he believed that the Government in carrying the mails were violating a divine law, and he considered the suppression of such traffic one of the most important duties of the legislature. Such opinions were uncommon, even amongst the Presbyterians, and his rigid respect for truth served to strengthen the impression that he was morbidly scrupulous. If he unintentionally made a misstatement—even about some trifling matter—as soon as he discovered his mistake he would lose no time and spare no trouble in hastening to correct it. “Why, in the name of reason,” he was asked, “do you walk a mile in the rain for a perfectly unimportant thing?” “Simply because I have discovered that it was a misstatement, and I could not sleep comfortably unless I put it right.”

He had occasion to censure a cadet who had given, as Jackson believed, the wrong solution of a problem. On thinking the matter over at home he found that the pupil was right and the teacher wrong. It was late at night and in the depth of winter, but he immediately started off to the Institute, some distance from his quarters, and sent for the cadet. The delinquent, answering with much trepidation the untimely summons, found himself to his astonishment the recipient of a frank apology. Jackson’s scruples carried him even further. Persons who interlarded their conversation with the unmeaning phrase “you know” were often astonished by the blunt interruption that he did not know; and when he was entreated at parties or receptions to break through his dietary rules, and for courtesy’s sake to accept some delicacy, he would always refuse with the reply that he had “no genius for seeming.” But if he carried his conscientiousness to extremes, if he laid down stringent rules for his own governance, he neither set himself up for a model nor did he attempt to force his convictions upon others. He was always tolerant; he knew his own faults, and his own temptations, and if he could say nothing good of a man he would not speak of him at all. But he was by no means disposed to overlook conduct of which he disapproved, and undue leniency was a weakness to which he never yielded. If he once lost confidence or discovered deception on the part of one he trusted, he withdrew himself as far as possible from any further dealings with him; and whether with the cadets, or with his brother-officers, if an offence had been committed of which he was called upon to take notice, he was absolutely inflexible. Punishment or report inevitably followed. No excuses, no personal feelings, no appeals to the suffering which might be brought upon the innocent, were permitted to interfere with the execution of his duty.

Such were the chief characteristics of the great Confederate as he appeared to the little world of Lexington. The tall figure, clad in the blue uniform of the United States army, always scrupulously neat, striding to and from the Institute, or standing in the centre of the parade-ground, while the cadet battalion wheeled and deployed at his command, was familiar to the whole community. But Jackson’s heart was not worn on his sleeve. Shy and silent as he was, the knowledge that even his closest acquaintances had of him was hardly more than superficial. A man who was always chary of expressing his opinions, unless they were asked for, who declined argument, and used as few words as possible, attracted but little notice. A few recognised his clear good sense; the majority considered that if he said little it was because he had nothing worth saying. Because he went his own way and lived by his own rules he was considered eccentric; because he was sometimes absent-minded, and apt to become absorbed in his own thoughts, he was set down as unpractical; his literal accuracy of statement was construed as the mark of a narrow intellect, and his exceeding modesty served to keep him in the background.

At the Institute, despite his reputation for courage, he was no favourite even with the cadets. He was hardly in sympathy with them. His temper was always equable. Whatever he may have felt he never betrayed irritation, and in the lecture-room or elsewhere he was kindness itself; but his own life had been filled from boyhood with earnest purpose and high ambition. Hard work was more to his taste than amusement. Time, to his mind, was far too valuable to be wasted, and he made few allowances for the thoughtlessness and indolence of irresponsible youth. As a relief possibly to the educational treadmill, his class delighted in listening to the story of Contreras and Chapultepec; but there was nothing about Jackson which corresponded with a boy’s idea of a hero. His aggressive punctuality, his strict observance of military etiquette, his precise interpretation of orders, seemed to have as little in common with the fierce excitement of battle as the uninteresting occupations of the Presbyterian deacon, who kept a Sunday school for negroes, had with the reckless gaiety of the traditional sabreur.

“And yet,” says one who know him, “they imbibed the principles he taught. Slowly and certainly were they trained in the direction which the teacher wished. Jackson justly believed that the chief value of the Institute consisted in the habits of system and obedience which it impressed on the ductile characters of the cadets, and regarded any relaxation of the rules as tending to destroy its usefulness. His conscientiousness seemed absurd to the young gentlemen who had no idea of the importance of military orders or of the implicit obedience which a good soldier deems it his duty to pay to them. But which was right—the laughing young cadet or the grave major of artillery? Let the thousands who in the bitter and arduous struggle of the Civil War were taught by stern experience the necessity of strict compliance with all orders, to the very letter, answer the question.”[2]

[Illustration: Stonewall Jackson]

“As exact as the multiplication table, and as full of things military as an arsenal,” was the verdict passed on Jackson by one of his townsmen, and it appears to have been the opinion of the community at large.

Jackson, indeed, was as inarticulate as Cromwell. Like the great Protector he “lived silent,” and like him he was often misunderstood. Stories which have been repeated by writer after writer attribute to him the most grotesque eccentricities of manner, and exhibit his lofty piety as the harsh intolerance of a fanatic. He has been represented as the narrowest of Calvinists; and so general was the belief in his stern and merciless nature that a great poet did not scruple to link his name with a deed which, had it actually occurred, would have been one of almost unexampled cruelty. Such calumnies as Whittier’s “Barbara Frichtie” may possibly have found their source in the impression made upon some of Jackson’s acquaintances at Lexington, who, out of all sympathy with his high ideal of life and duty, regarded him as morose and morbid; and when in after years the fierce and relentless pursuit of the Confederate general piled the dead high upon the battle-field, this conception of his character was readily accepted. As he rose to fame, men listened greedily to those who could speak of him from personal knowledge; the anecdotes which they related were quickly distorted; the slightest peculiarities of walk, speech, or gesture were greatly exaggerated; and even Virginians seemed to vie with one another in representing the humble and kind-hearted soldier as the most bigoted of Christians and the most pitiless of men.

But just as the majority of ridiculous stories which cluster round his name rest on the very flimsiest foundation, so the popular conception of his character during his life at Lexington was absolutely erroneous. It was only within the portals of his home that his real nature disclosed itself. The simple and pathetic pages in which his widow has recorded the story of their married life unfold an almost ideal picture of domestic happiness, unchequered by the faintest glimpse of austerity or gloom. That quiet home was the abode of much content; the sunshine of sweet temper flooded every nook and corner; and although the pervading atmosphere was essentially religious, mirth and laughter were familiar guests.

“Those who knew General Jackson only as they saw him in public would have found it hard to believe that there could be such a transformation as he exhibited in his domestic life. He luxuriated in the freedom and liberty of his home, and his buoyancy and joyousness often ran into a playfulness and abandon that would have been incredible to those who saw him only when he put on his official dignity.”[3] It was seldom, indeed, except under his own roof, or in the company of his intimates, that his reserve was broken through; in society he was always on his guard, fearful lest any chance word might be misconstrued or give offence. It is no wonder, then, that Lexington misjudged him. Nor were those who knew him only when he was absorbed in the cares of command before the enemy likely to see far below the surface. The dominant trait in Jackson’s character was his intense earnestness, and when work was doing, every faculty of his nature was engrossed in the accomplishment of the task on hand. But precise, methodical, and matter-of-fact as he appeared, his was no commonplace and prosaic nature. He had “the delicacy and the tenderness which are the rarest and most beautiful ornament of the strong.”[4] Beneath his habitual gravity a vivid imagination, restrained indeed by strong sense and indulging in no vain visions, was ever at work; and a lofty enthusiasm, which seldom betrayed itself in words, inspired his whole being. He was essentially chivalrous. His deference to woman, even in a land where such deference was still the fashion, was remarkable, and his sympathy with the oppressed was as deep as his loyalty to Virginia. He was an ardent lover of nature. The autumnal glories of the forest, the songs of the birds, the splendours of the sunset, were sources of unfailing pleasure. More than all, the strength of his imagination carried him further than the confines of the material world, and he saw with unclouded vision the radiant heights that lie beyond.

Jackson, then, was something more than a man of virile temperament; he was gifted with other qualities than energy, determination, and common sense. He was not witty. He had no talent for repartee, and the most industrious collector of anecdotes will find few good things attributed to him. But he possessed a kindly humour which found vent in playful expressions of endearment, or in practical jokes of the most innocent description; and if these outbursts of high spirits were confined to the precincts of his own home, they proved at least that neither by temperament nor principle was he inclined to look upon the darker side. His eye for a ludicrous situation was very quick, and a joke which told against himself always caused him the most intense amusement. It is impossible to read the letters which Mrs. Jackson has published and to entertain the belief that his temper was ever in the least degree morose. To use her own words, “they are the overflow of a heart full of tenderness;” it is true that they seldom omit some reference to that higher life which both husband and wife were striving hand in hand to lead, but they are instinct from first to last with the serene happiness of a contented mind.

Even more marked than his habitual cheerfulness was his almost feminine sympathy with the poor and feeble. His servants, as was the universal rule in Virginia, were his slaves; but his relations with his black dependents were of almost a paternal character, and his kindness was repaid by that childlike devotion peculiar to the negro race. More than one of these servants—so great was his reputation for kindness—had begged him to buy them from their former owners. Their interests were his special care; in sickness they received all the attention and comfort that the house afforded; to his favourite virtues, politeness and punctuality, they were trained by their master himself, and their moral education was a task he cheerfully undertook. “There was one little servant in the family,” says Mrs. Jackson, “whom my husband took under his sheltering roof at the solicitations of an aged lady; to whom the child became a care after having been left an orphan. She was not bright, but he persevered in drilling her into memorising a child’s catechism, and it was a most amusing picture to see her standing before him with fixed attention, as if she were straining every nerve, and reciting her answers with the drop of a curtsey at each word. She had not been taught to do this, but it was such an effort for her to learn that she assumed the motion involuntarily.”

Jackson’s home was childless. A little daughter, born at Lexington, lived only for a few weeks, and her place remained unfilled. His sorrow, although he submitted uncomplainingly, was very bitter, for his love for children was very great. “A gentleman,” says Mrs. Jackson, “who spent the night with us was accompanied by his daughter, but four years of age. It was the first time the child had been separated from her mother, and my husband suggested that she should be committed to my care during the night, but she clung to her father. After our guests had both sunk in slumber, the father was aroused by someone leaning over his little girl and drawing the covering more closely round her. It was only his thoughtful host, who felt anxious lest his little guest should miss her mother’s guardian care under his roof, and could not go to sleep himself until he was satisfied that all was well with the child.”

These incidents are little more than trivial. The attributes they reveal seem of small import. They are not such as go towards building up a successful career either in war or politics. And yet to arrive at a true conception of Jackson’s character it is necessary that such incidents should be recorded. That character will not appear the less admirable because its strength and energy were tempered by softer virtues; and when we remember the great soldier teaching a negro child, or ministering to the comfort of a sick slave, it becomes easy to understand the feelings with which his veterans regarded him. The quiet home at Lexington reveals more of the real man than the camps and conflicts of the Civil War, and no picture of Stonewall Jackson would be complete without some reference to his domestic life.

“His life at home,” says his wife, “was perfectly regular and systematic. He arose about six o’clock, and first knelt in secret prayer; then he took a cold bath, which was never omitted even in the coldest days of winter. This was followed by a brisk walk, in rain or shine.

“Seven o’clock was the hour for family prayers, which he required all his servants to attend promptly and regularly. He never waited for anyone, not even his wife. Breakfast followed prayers, after which he left immediately for the Institute, his classes opening at eight o’clock and continuing to eleven. Upon his return home at eleven o’clock he devoted himself to study until one. The first book he took up daily was his Bible, which he read with a commentary, and the many pencil marks upon it showed with what care he bent over its pages. From his Bible lesson he turned to his text-books. During those hours of study he would permit no interruption, and stood all the time in front of a high desk. After dinner he gave himself up for half an hour or more to leisure and conversation, and this was one of the brightest periods in his home life. He then went into his garden, or out to his farm to superintend his servants, and frequently joined them in manual labour. He would often drive me to the farm, and find a shady spot for me under the trees, while he attended to the work of the field. When this was not the case, he always returned in time to take me, if the weather permitted, for an evening walk or drive. In summer we often took our drives by moonlight, and in the beautiful Valley of Virginia the queen of night seemed to shine with more brightness than elsewhere. When at home he would indulge himself in a season of rest and recreation after supper, thinking it was injurious to health to go to work immediately. As it was a rule with him never to use his eyes by artificial light, he formed the habit of studying mentally for an hour or so without a book. After going over his lessons in the morning, he thus reviewed them at night, and in order to abstract his thoughts from surrounding objects—a habit which he had cultivated to a remarkable degree—he would, if alone with his wife, ask that he might not be disturbed by any conversation; he would then take his seat with his face to the wall, and remain in perfect abstraction until he finished his mental task. He was very fond of being read to, and much of our time in the evening was passed in my ministering to him in this way. He had a library, which, though small, was select, composed chiefly of scientific, historical, and religious books, with some of a lighter character, and some in Spanish and French. Nearly all of them were full of his pencil marks, made with a view to future reference.” Next to the Bible, history, both ancient and modern, was his favourite study. Plutarch, Josephus, Rollin, Robertson, Hallam, Macaulay, and Bancroft were his constant companions. Shakespeare held an honoured place upon his shelves; and when a novel fell into his hands he became so absorbed in the story that he eventually avoided such literature as a waste of time. “I am anxious,” he wrote to a relative, “to devote myself to study until I shall become master of my profession.”

The Jacksons were far from affluent. The professor had nothing but his salary, and his wife, one of a large family, brought no increase to their income. But the traditional hospitality of Virginia was a virtue by no means neglected. He was generous but unostentatious in his mode of living, and nothing gave him more pleasure than to bid his friends welcome to his own home.

His outdoor recreations were healthful but not exciting. The hills round Lexington teemed with game, the rivers with fish, and shooting and fishing were the favourite amusements of his colleagues. But Jackson found no pleasure in rod or gun; and although fond of riding and a good horseman, he never appears to have joined in any of those equestrian sports to which the Virginians were much addicted. He neither followed the hunt nor tilted at the ring. His exercise was taken after more utilitarian fashion, in the garden or the farm.

It need hardly be said that such a lover of order and method was strictly economical, and the wise administration of the farm and household permitted an annual expenditure on travel. Many of the most beautiful localities and famous cities of the east and north were visited in these excursions. Sometimes he wandered with his wife in search of health; more often the object of their journey was to see with their own eyes the splendid scenery of their native land. The associations which were ever connected in Jackson’s mind with his tour through Europe show how intensely he appreciated the marvels both of nature and of art.

“I would advise you,” he wrote to a friend, “never to name my European trip to me unless you are blest with a superabundance of patience, as its very mention is calculated to bring up with it an almost inexhaustible assemblage of grand and beautiful associations. Passing over the works of the Creator, which are far the most impressive, it is difficult to conceive of the influences which even the works of His creatures exercise over the mind of one who lingers amidst their master productions. Well do I remember the influence of sculpture upon me during my short stay in Florence, and how there I began to realise the sentiment of the Florentine: ‘Take from me my liberty, take what you will, but leave me my statuary, leave me these entrancing productions of art.’ And similar to this is the influence of painting.”

But delightful as were these holiday expeditions, the day of Jackson’s return to Lexington and his duties never came too soon. In the quiet routine of his home life, in his work at the Institute, in the supervision of his farm and garden, in his evenings with his books, and in the services of his church, he was more than contented. Whatever remained of soldierly ambition had long been eradicated. Man of action as he essentially was, he evinced no longing for a wider sphere of intellectual activity or for a more active existence. Under his own roof-tree he found all that he desired. “There,” says his wife, “all that was best in his nature shone forth;” and that temper was surely of the sweetest which could utter no sterner rebuke than “Ah! that is not the way to be happy!”

Nor was it merely his own gentleness of disposition and the many graces of his charming helpmate that secured so large a degree of peace and happiness. Jackson’s religion played even a greater part. It was not of the kind which is more concerned with the terrors of hell than the glories of paradise. The world to him was no place of woe and lamentation, its beauties vanity, and its affections a snare. As he gazed with delight on the gorgeous tints of the autumnal forests, and the lovely landscapes of his mountain home, so he enjoyed to the utmost the life and love which had fallen to his lot, and thanked God for that capacity for happiness with which his nature was so largely gifted. Yet it cannot be said that he practised no self-denial. His life, in many respects, was one of constant self-discipline, and when his time came to sacrifice himself, he submitted without a murmur. But in his creed fear had no place. His faith was great. It was not, however, a mere belief in God’s omnipotence and God’s justice, but a deep and abiding confidence in His infinite compassion and infinite love; and it created in him an almost startling consciousness of the nearness and reality of the invisible world. In a letter to his wife it is revealed in all its strength:

“You must not be discouraged at the slowness of recovery. Look up to Him who giveth liberally for faith to be resigned to His divine will, and trust Him for that measure of health which will most glorify Him, and advance to the greatest extent your own real happiness. We are sometimes suffered to be in a state of perplexity that our faith may be tried and grow stronger. See if you cannot spend a short time after dark in looking out of your window into space, and meditating upon heaven, with all its joys unspeakable and full of glory. . . . ‘All things work together for good’ to God’s children. Try to look up and be cheerful, and not desponding. Trust our kind Heavenly Father, and by the eye of faith see that all things are right and for your best interests. The clouds come, pass over us, and are followed by bright sunshine; so in God’s moral dealings with us, He permits to have trouble awhile. But let us, even in the most trying dispensations of His Providence, be cheered by the brightness which is a little ahead.”

It would serve no useful purpose to discuss Jackson’s views on controversial questions. It may be well, however, to correct a common error. It has been asserted that he was a fatalist, and therefore careless of a future over which he believed he had no control. Not a word, however, either in his letters or in his recorded conversations warrants the assumption. It is true that his favourite maxim was “Duty is ours, consequences are God’s,” and that knowing “all things work together for good,” he looked forward to the future without misgiving or apprehension.

But none the less he believed implicitly that the destiny of men and of nations is in their own hands. His faith was as sane as it was humble, without a touch of that presumptuous fanaticism which stains the memory of Cromwell, to whom he has been so often compared. He never imagined, even at the height of his renown, when victory on victory crowned his banners, that he was “the scourge of God,” the chosen instrument of His vengeance. He prayed without ceasing, under fire as in the camp; but he never mistook his own impulse for a revelation of the divine will. He prayed for help to do his duty, and he prayed for success. He knew that:

“More things are wrought by prayer
  Than this world dreams of;”

but he knew, also, that prayer is not always answered in the way which man would have it. He went into battle with supreme confidence, not, as has been alleged, that the Lord had delivered the enemy into his hands, but that whatever happened would be the best that could happen. And he was as free from cant as from self-deception. It may be said of Jackson, as has been said so eloquently of the men whom, in some respects, he closely resembled, that “his Bible was literally food to his understanding and a guide to his conduct. He saw the visible finger of God in every incident of life. . . . That which in our day devout men and women feel in their earnest moments of prayer, the devout Puritan felt, as a second nature, in his rising up and in his lying down; in the market-place and in the home; in society and in business; in Parliament, in Council, and on the field of battle. And feeling this, the Puritan had no shame in uttering the very words of the Bible wherein he had learned so to feel; nay, he would have burned with shame had he faltered in using the words. It is very hard for us now to grasp what this implies. . . . But there was a generation in which this phraseology was the natural speech of men.”[5] Of this generation, although later in time, was Stonewall Jackson. To him such language as he used in his letters to his wife, in conversation with his intimates, and not rarely in his official correspondence, was “the literal assertion of truths which he felt to the roots of his being,” which absorbed his thoughts, which coloured every action of his life, and which, from the abundance of his heart, rose most naturally to his lips.

There is no need for further allusion to his domestic or religious life. If in general society Jackson was wanting in geniality; if he was so little a man of the world that his example lost much of the influence which, had he stood less aloof from others, it must have exercised, it was the fruit of his early training, his natural reserve, and his extreme humility. It is impossible, however, that so pure a life should have been altogether without reflex upon others. If the cadets profited but indirectly, the slaves had cause to bless his practical Christianity; the poor and the widow knew him as a friend, and his neighbours looked up to him as the soul of sincerity, the enemy of all that was false and vile. And for himself—what share had those years of quiet study, of self-communing, and of self-discipline, in shaping the triumphs of the Confederate arms? The story of his military career is the reply.

Men of action have before now deplored the incessant press of business which leaves them no leisure to think out the problems which may confront them in the future. Experience is of little value without reflection, and leisure has its disadvantages. “One can comprehend,” says Dabney, referring to Jackson’s peculiar form of mental exercise, “how valuable was the training which his mind received for his work as a soldier. Command over his attention was formed into a habit which no tempest of confusion could disturb. His power of abstraction became unrivalled. His imagination was trained and invigorated until it became capable of grouping the most extensive and complex considerations. The power of his mind was drilled like the strength of an athlete, and his self-concentration became unsurpassed.”

Such training was undoubtedly the very best foundation for the intellectual side of a general’s business. War presents a constant succession of problems to be solved by mental processes. For some experience and resource supply a ready solution. Others, involving the movements of large bodies, considerations of time and space, and the thousand and one circumstances, such as food, weather, roads, topography, and morale, which a general must always bear in mind, are composed of so many factors, that only a brain accustomed to hard thinking can deal with them successfully. Of this nature are the problems of strategy—those which confront a general in command of an army or of a detached portion of an army, and which are worked out on the map. The problems of the battle-field are of a different order. The natural characteristics which, when fortified by experience, carry men through any dangerous enterprise, win the majority of victories. But men may win battles and be very poor generals. They may be born leaders of men, and yet absolutely unfitted for independent command. Their courage, coolness, and common sense may accomplish the enemy’s overthrow on the field, but with strategical considerations their intellects may be absolutely incapable of grappling. In the great wars of the early part of the century Ney and Blucher were probably the best fighting generals of France and Prussia. But neither could be trusted to conduct a campaign. Blucher, pre-eminent on the battle-field, knew nothing of the grand combinations which prepare and complete success. If he was the strong right hand of the Prussian army, his chief of staff was the brain. “Gneisenau,” said the old Marshal, “makes the pills which I administer.” “Ney’s best qualities,” says Jomini, who served long on his staff, “his heroic valour, his quick coup d’œil, and his energy, diminished in the same proportion that the extent of his command increased his responsibility. Admirable on the field of battle, he displayed less assurance, not only in council, but whenever he was not actually face to face with the enemy.” It is not of such material as Ney and Blucher, mistrustful of their own ability, that great captains are made. Marked intellectual capacity is the chief characteristic of the most famous soldiers. Alexander, Hannibal, Cæsar, Marlborough, Washington, Frederick, Napoleon, Wellington, and Nelson were each and all of them something more than mere fighting men. Few of their age rivalled them in strength of intellect. It was this, combined with the best qualities of Ney and Blucher, that made them masters of strategy, and lifted them high above those who were tacticians and nothing more; and it was strength of intellect that Jackson cultivated at Lexington.

So, in that quiet home amidst the Virginian mountains, the years sped by, peaceful and uneventful, varied only by the holiday excursions of successive summers. By day, the lecture at the Institute, the drill of the cadet battery, the work of the church, the pleasant toil of the farm and garden. When night fell, and the curtains were drawn across the windows that looked upon the quiet street, there in that home where order reigned supreme, where, as the master wished, “each door turned softly on a golden hinge,” came those hours of thought and analysis which were to fit him for great deeds.

The even tenor of this calm existence was broken, however, by an incident which intensified the bitter feeling which already divided the Northern and Southern sections of the United States. During the month of January, 1859, Jackson had marched with the cadet battalion to Harper’s Ferry, where, on the northern frontier of Virginia, the fanatic, John Brown, had attempted to raise an insurrection amongst the negroes, and had been hung after trial in presence of the troops. By the South Brown was regarded as a madman and a murderer; by many in the North he was glorified as a martyr; and so acute was the tension that early in 1860, during a short absence from Lexington, Jackson wrote in a letter to his wife, “What do you think about the state of the country? Viewing things at Washington from human appearances, I think we have great reason for alarm.” A great crisis was indeed at hand. But if to her who was ever beside him, while the storm clouds were rising dark and terrible over the fair skies of the prosperous Republic, the Christian soldier seemed the man best fitted to lead the people, it was not so outside. None doubted his sincerity or questioned his resolution, but few had penetrated his reserve. As the playful tenderness he displayed at home was never suspected, so the consuming earnestness, the absolute fearlessness, whether of danger or of responsibility, the utter disregard of man, and the unquestioning faith in the Almighty, which made up the individuality which men called Stonewall Jackson, remained hidden from all but one.

To his wife his inward graces idealised his outward seeming; but others, noting his peculiarities, and deceived by his modesty, saw little that was remarkable and much that was singular in the staid professor. Few detected, beneath that quiet demeanour and absent manner, the existence of energy incarnate and an iron will; and still fewer beheld, in the plain figure of the Presbyterian deacon, the potential leader of great armies, inspiring the devotion of his soldiers, and riding in the forefront of victorious battle.

[1] Amongst these may be mentioned Grant, Sherman, and McClellan. Lee himself, as an engineer, had but small acquaintance with regimental life. The men who saved India for England in the Great mutiny were of the same type.

[2] Cooke, p. 28.

[3] Memoirs of Stonewall Jackson, p. 108.

[4] Marion Crawford.

[5] Oliver Cromwell, by Frederic Harrison, p. 29.

Chapter IV
SECESSION. 1860–61

1861   Jackson spent ten years at Lexington, and he was just five-and-thirty when he left it. For ten years he had seen no more of military service than the drills of the cadet battalion. He had lost all touch with the army. His name had been forgotten, except by his comrades of the Mexican campaign, and he had hardly seen a regular soldier since he resigned his commission. But, even from a military point of view, those ten years had not been wasted. His mind had a wider grasp, and his brain was more active. Striving to fit himself for such duties as might devolve on him, should he be summoned to the field, like all great men and all practical men he had gone to the best masters. In the campaigns of Napoleon he had found instruction in the highest branch of his profession, and had made his own the methods of war which the greatest of modern soldiers both preached and practised. Maturer years and the search for wisdom had steadied his restless daring; and his devotion to duty, always remarkable, had become a second nature. His health, under careful and self-imposed treatment, had much improved, and the year 1861 found him in the prime of physical and mental vigour. Already it had become apparent that his life at Lexington was soon to end. The Damascus blade was not to rust upon the shelf. During the winter of 1860–61 the probability of a conflict between the free and slave-holding States, that is, between North and South, had become almost a certainty. South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, had formally seceded from the Union; and establishing a Provisional Government, with Jefferson Davis as President, at Montgomery in Alabama, had proclaimed a new Republic, under the title of the Confederate States of America. In order to explain Jackson’s attitude at this momentous crisis, it will be necessary to discuss the action of Virginia, and to investigate the motives which led her to take the side she did.

Forces which it was impossible to curb, and which but few detected, were at the root of the secession movement. The ostensible cause was the future status of the negro.

Slavery was recognised in fifteen States of the Union. In the North it had long been abolished, but this made no difference to its existence in the South. The States which composed the Union were semi-independent communities, with their own legislatures, their own magistracies, their own militia, and the power of the purse. How far their sovereign rights extended was a matter of contention; but, under the terms of the Constitution, slavery was a domestic institution, which each individual State was at liberty to retain or discard at will, and over which the Federal Government had no control whatever. Congress would have been no more justified in declaring that the slaves in Virginia were free men than in demanding that Russian conspirators should be tried by jury. Nor was the philanthropy of the Northern people, generally speaking, of an enthusiastic nature. The majority regarded slavery as a necessary evil; and, if they deplored the reproach to the Republic, they made little parade of their sentiments. A large number of Southerners believed it to be the happiest condition for the African race; but the best men, especially in the border States, of which Virginia was the principal, would have welcomed emancipation. But neither Northerner nor Southerner saw a practicable method of giving freedom to the negro. Such a measure, if carried out in its entirety, meant ruin to the South. Cotton and tobacco, the principal and most lucrative crops, required an immense number of hands, and in those hands—his negro slaves—the capital of the planter was locked up. Emancipation would have swept the whole of this capital away. Compensation, the remedy applied by England to Jamaica and South Africa, was hardly to be thought of. Instead of twenty millions sterling, it would have cost four hundred millions. It was doubtful, too, if compensation would have staved off the ruin of the planters. The labour of the free negro, naturally indolent and improvident, was well known to be most inefficient as compared with that of the slave. For some years, to say the least, after emancipation it would have been impossible to work the plantations except at a heavy loss. Moreover, abolition, in the judgment of all who knew him, meant ruin to the negro. Under the system of the plantations, honesty and morality were being gradually instilled into the coloured race. But these virtues had as yet made little progress; the Christianity of the slaves was but skin-deep; and if all restraint were removed, if the old ties were broken, and the influence of the planter and his family should cease to operate, it was only too probable that the four millions of Africans would relapse into the barbaric vices of their original condition. The hideous massacres which had followed emancipation in San Domingo had not yet been forgotten. It is little wonder, then, that the majority shrank before a problem involving such tremendous consequences.

A party, however, conspicuous both in New England and the West, had taken abolition for its watchword. Small in numbers, but vehement in denunciation, its voice was heard throughout the Union. Zeal for universal liberty rose superior to the Constitution. That instrument was repudiated as an iniquitous document. The sovereign rights of the individual States were indignantly denied. Slavery was denounced as the sum of all villainies, the slave-holder as the worst of tyrants; and no concealment was made of the intention, should political power be secured, of compelling the South to set the negroes free. In the autumn of 1860 came the Presidential election. Hitherto, of the two great political parties, the Democrats had long ruled the councils of the nation, and nearly the whole South was Democratic. The South, as regards population, was numerically inferior to the North; but the Democratic party had more than held its own at the ballot-boxes, for the reason that it had many adherents in the North. So long as the Southern and Northern Democrats held together, they far outnumbered the Republicans. In 1860, however, the two sections of the Democratic party split asunder. The Republicans, favoured by the schism, carried their own candidate, and Abraham Lincoln became President. South Carolina at once seceded and the Confederacy was soon afterwards established.

It is not at first sight apparent why a change of government should have caused so sudden a disruption of the Union. The Republican party, however, embraced sections of various shades of thought. One of these, rising every day to greater prominence, was that which advocated immediate abolition; and to this section, designated by the South as “Black Republicans,” the new President was believed to belong. It is possible that, on his advent to office, the political leaders of the South, despite the safeguards of the Constitution, saw in the near future the unconditional emancipation of the slaves; and not only this, but that the emancipated slaves would receive the right of suffrage, and be placed on a footing of complete equality with their former masters.[1] As in many districts the whites were far outnumbered by the negroes, this was tantamount to transferring all local government into the hands of the latter, and surrendering the planters to the mercies of their former bondsmen.

It is hardly necessary to say that an act of such gross injustice was never contemplated, except by hysterical abolitionists and those who truckled for their votes. It was certainly not contemplated by Mr. Lincoln; and it was hardly likely that a President who had been elected by a minority of the people would dare, even if he were so inclined, to assume unconstitutional powers. The Democratic party, taking both sections together, was still the stronger; and the Northern Democrats, temporarily severed as they were from their Southern brethren, would most assuredly have united with them in resisting any unconstitutional action on the part of the Republicans.

If, then, it might be asked, slavery ran no risk of unconditional abolition, why should the Southern political leaders have acted with such extraordinary precipitation? Why, in a country in which, to all appearances, the two sections had been cordially united, should the advent to power of one political party have been the signal for so much disquietude on the part of the other? Had the presidential seat been suddenly usurped by an abolitionist tyrant of the type of Robespierre the South could hardly have exhibited greater apprehension. Few Americans denied that a permanent Union, such as had been designed by the founders of the Republic, was the best guarantee of prosperity and peace. And yet because a certain number of misguided if well-meaning men clamoured for emancipation, the South chose to bring down in ruin the splendid fabric which their forefathers had constructed. In thus refusing to trust the good sense and fair dealing of the Republicans, it would seem, at a superficial glance, that the course adopted by the members of the new Confederacy, whether legitimate or not, could not possibly be justified.[2]

Unfortunately, something more than mere political rancour was at work. The areas of slave and of free labour were divided by an artificial frontier. “Mason and Dixon’s line,” originally fixed as the boundary between Pennsylvania on the north and Virginia and Maryland on the south, cut the territory of the United States into two distinct sections; and, little by little, these two sections, geographically as well as politically severed, had resolved themselves into what might almost be termed two distinct nations.

Many circumstances tended to increase the cleavage. The South was purely agricultural; the most prosperous part of the North was purely industrial. In the South, the great planters formed a landed aristocracy; the claims of birth were ungrudgingly admitted; class barriers were, to a certain extent, a recognised part of the social system, and the sons of the old houses were accepted as the natural leaders of the people. In the North, on the contrary, the only aristocracy was that of wealth; and even wealth, apart from merit, had no hold on the respect of the community. The distinctions of caste were slight in the extreme. The descendants of the Puritans, of those English country gentlemen who had preferred to ride with Cromwell rather than with Rupert, to pray with Baxter rather than with Laud, made no parade of their ancestry; and among the extreme Republicans existed an innate but decided aversion to the recognition of social grades. Moreover, divergent interests demanded different fiscal treatment. The cotton and tobacco of the South, monopolising the markets of the world, asked for free trade. The manufacturers of New England, struggling against foreign competition, were strong protectionists, and they were powerful enough to enforce their will in the shape of an oppressive tariff. Thus the planters of Virginia paid high prices in order that mills might flourish in Connecticut; and the sovereign States of the South, to their own detriment, were compelled to contribute to the abundance of the wealthier North. The interests of labour were not less conflicting. The competition between free and forced labour, side by side on the same continent, was bound in itself, sooner or later, to breed dissension; and if it had not yet reached an acute stage, it had at least created a certain degree of bitter feeling. But more than all—and the fact must be borne in mind if the character of the Civil War is to be fully appreciated—the natural ties which should have linked together the States on either side of Mason and Dixon’s line had weakened to a mere mechanical bond. The intercourse between North and South, social or commercial, was hardly more than that which exists between two foreign nations. The two sections knew but little of each other, and that little was not the good points but the bad.

For more than fifty years after the election of the first President, while as yet the crust of European tradition overlaid the young shoots of democracy, the supremacy, social and political, of the great landowners of the South had been practically undisputed. But when the young Republic began to take its place amongst the nations, men found that the wealth and talents which led it forward belonged as much to the busy cities of New England as to the plantations of Virginia and the Carolinas; and with the growing sentiment in favour of universal equality began the revolt against the dominion of a caste. Those who had carved out their own fortunes by sheer hard work and ability questioned the superiority of men whose positions were no guarantee of personal capacity, and whose wealth was not of their own making. Those who had borne the heat and burden of the day deemed themselves the equals and more than equals of those who had loitered in the shade; and, esteeming men for their own worth and not for that of some forgotten ancestor, they had come to despise those who toiled not neither did they spin. Tenaciously the Southerners clung to the supremacy they had inherited from a bygone age. The contempt of the Northerner was repaid in kind. In the political arena the struggle was fierce and keen. Mutual hatred, fanned by unscrupulous agitators, increased in bitterness; and, hindering reconciliation, rose the fatal barrier of slavery.

It is true that, prior to 1860, the abolitionists were not numerous in the North; and it is equally true that by many of the best men in the South the institution which had been bequeathed to them was thoroughly detested. Looking back over the years which have elapsed since the slaves were freed, the errors of the two factions are sufficiently manifest. If, on the one hand, the abolitionist, denouncing sternly, in season and out of season, the existence of slavery on the free soil of America, was unjust and worse to the slave-owner, who, to say the least, was in no way responsible for the inhuman and shortsighted policy of a former generation; on the other hand the high-principled Southerner, although in his heart deploring the condition of the negro, and sometimes imitating the example of Washington, whose dying bequest gave freedom to his slaves, made no attempt to find a remedy.[3]

The latter had the better excuse. He knew, were emancipation granted, that years must elapse before the negro could be trained to the responsibilities of freedom, and that those years would impoverish the South. It appears to have been forgotten by the abolitionists that all races upon earth have required a protracted probation to fit them for the rights of citizenship and the duties of free men. Here was a people, hardly emerged from the grossest barbarism, and possibly, from the very beginning, of inferior natural endowment, on whom they proposed to confer the same rights without any probation whatsoever. A glance at the world around them should have induced reflection. The experience of other countries was not encouraging. Hayti, where the blacks had long been masters of the soil, was still a pandemonium; and in Jamaica and South Africa the precipitate action of zealous but unpractical philanthropists had wrought incalculable mischief. Even Lincoln himself, redemption by purchase being impracticable, saw no other way out of the difficulty than the wholesale deportation of the negroes to West Africa.

In time, perhaps, under the influence of such men as Lincoln and Lee, the nation might have found a solution of the problem, and North and South have combined to rid their common country of the curse of human servitude. But between fanaticism on the one side and helplessness on the other there was no common ground. The fierce invectives of the reformers forbade all hope of temperate discussion, and their unreasoning denunciations only provoked resentment. And this resentment became the more bitter because in demanding emancipation, either by fair means or forcible, and in expressing their intention of making it a national question, the abolitionists were directly striking at a right which the people of the South held sacred.

It had never been questioned, hitherto, that the several States of the Union, so far at least as concerned their domestic institutions, were each and all of them, under the Constitution, absolutely self-governing. But the threats which the Black Republicans held out were tantamount to a proposal to set the Constitution aside. It was their charter of liberty, therefore, and not only their material prosperity, which the States that first seceded believed to be endangered by Lincoln’s election. Ignorant of the temper of the great mass of the Northern people, as loyal in reality to the Constitution as themselves, they were only too ready to be convinced that the denunciations of the abolitionists were the first presage of the storm that was presently to overwhelm them, to reduce their States to provinces, to wrest from them the freedom they had inherited, and to make them hewers of wood and drawers of water to the detested plutocrats of New England.

But the gravamen of the indictment against the Southern people is not that they seceded, but that they seceded in order to preserve and to perpetuate slavery; or, to put it more forcibly, that the liberty to enslave others was the right which most they valued. This charge, put forward by the abolitionists in order to cloak their own revolt against the Constitution, is true as regards a certain section, but as regards the South as a nation it is quite untenable, for three-fourths of the population derived rather injury than benefit from the presence in their midst of four million serfs.[4] “Had slavery continued, the system of labour,” says General Grant, “would soon have impoverished the soil and left the country poor. The non-slave-holder must have left the country, and the small slave-holder have sold out to his more fortunate neighbour.”[5] The slaves neither bought nor sold. Their wants were supplied almost entirely by their own labour; and the local markets of the South would have drawn far larger profit from a few thousand white labourers than they did from the multitude of negroes. It is true that a party in the South, more numerous perhaps among the political leaders than among the people at large, was averse to emancipation under any form or shape. There were men who looked upon their bondsmen as mere beasts of burden, more valuable but hardly more human than the cattle in their fields, and who would not only have perpetuated but have extended slavery. There were others who conscientiously believed that the negro was unfit for freedom, that he was incapable of self-improvement, and that he was far happier and more contented as a slave. Among these were ministers of the Gospel, in no small number, who, appealing to the Old Testament, preached boldly that the institution was of divine origin, that the coloured race had been created for servitude, and that to advocate emancipation was to impugn the wisdom of the Almighty.

But there were still others, including many of those who were not slave-owners, who, while they acquiesced in the existence of an institution for which they were not personally accountable, looked forward to its ultimate extinction by the voluntary action of the States concerned. It was impossible as yet to touch the question openly, for the invectives and injustice of the abolitionists had so wrought upon the Southern people, that such action would have been deemed a base surrender to the dictation of the enemy; but they trusted to time, to the spread of education, and to a feeling in favour of emancipation which was gradually pervading the whole country.[6]

The opinions of this party, with which, it may be said, the bulk of the Northern people was in close sympathy,[7] are perhaps best expressed in a letter written by Colonel Robert Lee, the head of one of the oldest families in Virginia, a large landed proprietor and slave-holder, and the same officer who had won such well-deserved renown in Mexico. “In this enlightened age,” wrote the future general-in-chief of the Confederate army, “there are few, I believe, but will acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it a greater evil to the white than to the coloured race, and while my feelings are strongly interested in the latter, my sympathies are more deeply engaged for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa—morally, socially, and physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race, and, I hope, will prepare them for better things. How long their subjection may be necessary is known and ordered by a merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild and melting influence of Christianity than from the storms and contests of fiery controversy. This influence, though slow, is sure. The doctrines and miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years to convert but a small part of the human race, and even among Christian nations what gross errors still exist! While we see the course of the final abolition of slavery is still onward, and we give it the aid of our prayers and all justifiable means in our power, we must leave the progress as well as the result in His hands, who sees the end and who chooses to work by slow things, and with whom a thousand years are but as a single day. The abolitionist must know this, and must see that he has neither the right nor the power of operating except by moral means and suasion; if he means well to the slave, he must not create angry feelings in the master. Although he may not approve of the mode by which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same; and the reason he gives for interference in what he has no concern holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbours when we disapprove of their conduct.”

With this view of the question Jackson was in perfect agreement. “I am very confident,” says his wife, “that he would never have fought for the sole object of perpetuating slavery. . . . He found the institution a responsible and troublesome one, and I have heard him say that he would prefer to see the negroes free, but he believed that the Bible taught that slavery was sanctioned by the Creator Himself, who maketh all men to differ, and instituted laws for the bond and free. He therefore accepted slavery, as it existed in the South, not as a thing desirable in itself, but as allowed by Providence for ends which it was not his business to determine.”

It may perhaps be maintained that to have had no dealings with “the accursed thing,” and to have publicly advocated some process of gradual emancipation, would have been the nobler course. But, setting aside the teaching of the Churches, and the bitter temper of the time, it should be remembered that slavery, although its hardships were admitted, presented itself in no repulsive aspect to the people of the Confederate States. They regarded it with feelings very different from those of the abolitionists, whose acquaintance with the condition they reprobated was small in the extreme. The lot of the slaves, the Southerners were well aware, was far preferable to that of the poor and the destitute of great cities, of the victims of the sweater and the inmates of fever dens. The helpless negro had more hands to succour him in Virginia than the starving white man in New England. The children of the plantation enjoyed a far brighter existence than the children of the slums. The worn and feeble were maintained by their masters, and the black labourer, looking forward to an old age of ease and comfort among his own people, was more fortunate than many a Northern artisan. Moreover, the brutalities ascribed to the slave-owners as a class were of rare occurrence. The people of the South were neither less humane nor less moral than the people of the North or of Europe, and it is absolutely inconceivable that men of high character and women of gentle nature should have looked with leniency on cruelty, or have failed to visit the offender with something more than reprobation. Had the calumnies[8] which were scattered broadcast by the abolitionists possessed more than a vestige of truth, men like Lee and Jackson would never have remained silent. In the minds of the Northern people slavery was associated with atrocious cruelty and continual suffering. In the eyes of the Southerners, on the other hand, it was associated with great kindness and the most affectionate relations between the planters and their bondsmen. And if the Southerners were blind, it is most difficult to explain the remarkable fact that throughout the war, although thousands of plantations and farms, together with thousands of women and children, all of whose male relatives were in the Confederate armies, were left entirely to the care of the negroes, both life and property were perfectly secure.

Such, then, was the attitude of the South towards slavery. The institution had many advocates, uncompromising and aggressive, but taking the people as a whole it was rather tolerated than approved; and, even if no evidence to the contrary were forthcoming, we should find it hard to believe that a civilised community would have plunged into revolution in order to maintain it. There can be no question but that secession was revolution; and revolutions, as has been well said, are not made for the sake of “greased cartridges”. To bring about such unanimity of purpose as took possession of the whole South, such passionate loyalty to the new Confederacy, such intense determination to resist coercion to the bitter end, needed some motive of unusual potency, and the perpetuation of slavery was not a sufficient motive. The great bulk of the population neither owned slaves nor was connected with those who did; many favoured emancipation; and the working men, a rapidly increasing class, were distinctly antagonistic to slave-labour. Moreover, the Southerners were not only warmly attached to the Union, which they had done so much to establish, but their pride in their common country, in its strength, its prestige, and its prosperity, was very great. Why, then, should they break away? History supplies us with a pertinent example.

Previous to 1765 the honour of England was dear to the people of the American colonies. King George had no more devoted subjects; his enemies no fiercer foes. And yet it required very little to reverse the scroll. The right claimed by the Crown to tax the colonists hardly menaced their material prosperity. A few shillings more or less would neither have added to the burdens nor have diminished the comforts of a well-to-do and thrifty people, and there was some justice in the demand that they should contribute to the defence of the British Empire. But the demand, as formulated by the Government, involved a principle which they were unwilling to admit, and in defence of their birthright as free citizens they flew to arms. So, in defence of the principle of States’ Rights the Southern people resolved upon secession with all its consequences.

It might be said, however, that South Carolina and her sister States seceded under the threat of a mere faction; that there was nothing in the attitude of the Federal Government to justify the apprehension that the Constitution would be set aside; and that their action, therefore, was neither more nor less than rank rebellion. But, whether their rights had been infringed or not, a large majority of the Southern people believed that secession, at any moment and for any cause, was perfectly legitimate. The several States of the Union, according to their political creed, were each and all of them sovereign and independent nations. The Constitution, they held, was nothing more than a treaty which they had entered into for their own convenience, and which, in the exercise of their sovereign powers, individually or collectively, they might abrogate when they pleased. This interpretation was not admitted in the North, either by Republicans or Democrats; yet there was nothing in the letter of the Constitution which denied it, and as regards the spirit of that covenant North and South held opposite opinions. But both were perfectly sincere, and in leaving the Union, therefore, and in creating for themselves a new government, the people of the seceding States considered that they were absolutely within their right.[9]

It must be admitted, at the same time, that the action of the States which first seceded was marked by a petulant haste; and it is only too probable that the people of these States suffered themselves to be too easily persuaded that the North meant mischief. It is impossible to determine how far the professional politician was responsible for the Civil War. But when we recall the fact that secession followed close on the overthrow of a faction which had long monopolised the spoils of office, and that this faction found compensation in the establishment of a new government, it is not easy to resist the suspicion that the secession movement was neither more nor less than a conspiracy, hatched by a clever and unscrupulous cabal.

It would be unwise, however, to brand the whole, or even the majority, of the Southern leaders as selfish and unprincipled. Unless he has real grievances on which to work, or unless those who listen to him are supremely ignorant, the mere agitator is powerless; and it is most assuredly incredible that seven millions of Anglo-Saxons, and Anglo-Saxons of the purest strain—English, Lowland Scottish, and North Irish—should have been beguiled by silver tongues of a few ambitious or hare-brained demagogues. The latter undoubtedly had a share in bringing matters to a crisis. But the South was ripe for revolution long before the presidential election. The forces which were at work needed no artificial impulse to propel them forward. It was instinctively recognised that the nation had outgrown the Constitution; and it was to this, and not to the attacks upon slavery, that secession was really due. The North had come to regard the American people as one nation, and the will of the majority as paramount.[10] The South, on the other hand, holding, as it had always held, that each State was a nation in itself, denied in toto that the will of the majority, except in certain specified cases, had any power whatever; and where political creeds were in such direct antagonism no compromise was possible. Moreover, as the action of the abolitionists very plainly showed, there was a growing tendency in the North to disregard altogether the rights of the minority. Secession, in fact, was a protest against mob rule. The weaker community, hopeless of maintaining its most cherished principles within the Union, was ready to seize the first pretext for leaving it; and the strength of the popular sentiment may be measured by the willingness of every class, gentle and simple, rich and poor, to risk all and to suffer all, in order to free themselves from bonds which must soon have become unbearable. It is always difficult to analyse the motives of those by whom revolution is provoked; but if a whole people acquiesce, it is a certain proof of the existence of universal apprehension and deep-rooted discontent. The spirit of self-sacrifice which animated the Confederate South has been characteristic of every revolution which has been the expression of a nation’s wrongs, but it has never yet accompanied mere factious insurrection.

When, in process of time, the history of Secession comes to be viewed with the same freedom from prejudice as the history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it will be clear that the fourth great Revolution of the English-speaking race differs in no essential characteristic from those which preceded it. It was not simply because the five members were illegally impeached in 1642, the seven bishops illegally tried in 1688, men shot at Lexington in 1775, or slavery threatened in 1861, that the people rose. These were the occasions, not the causes of revolt. In each case a great principle was at stake: in 1642 the liberty of the subject; in 1688 the integrity of the Protestant faith; in 1775 taxation only with consent of the taxed; in 1861 the sovereignty of the individual States.[11]

The accuracy of this statement, as already suggested, has been consistently denied. That the only principle involved in Secession was the establishment of slavery on a firmer basis, and that the cry of States’ Rights was raised only by way of securing sympathy, is a very general opinion. But before it can be accepted, it is necessary to make several admissions; first, that the Southerners were absolutely callous to the evils produced by the institution they had determined to make permanent; second, that they had persuaded themselves, in face of the tendencies of civilisation, that it was possible to make it permanent; and third, that they conscientiously held their progress and prosperity to be dependent on its continued existence. Are we to believe that the standard of morals and intelligence was so low as these admissions would indicate? Are we to believe that if they had been approached in a charitable spirit, that if the Republican party, disclaiming all right of interference, had offered to aid them in substituting, by some means which would have provided for the control of the negro and, at the same time, have prevented an entire collapse of the social fabric, a system more consonant with humanity, the Southerners would have still preferred to leave the Union, and by creating a great slave-power earn the execration of the Christian world?

Unless the South be credited with an unusual measure of depravity and of short-sightedness, the reply can hardly be in the affirmative. And if it be otherwise, there remains but one explanation of the conduct of the seceding States—namely the dread that if they remained in the Union they would not be fairly treated.

It is futile to argue that the people were dragooned into secession by the slave-holders. What power had the slave-holders over the great mass of the population, over the professional classes, over the small farmer, the mechanic, the tradesman, the labourer? Yet it is constantly asserted by Northern writers, although the statement is virtually an admission that only the few were prepared to fight for slavery, that the Federal sentiment was so strong among the Southerners that terrorism must have had a large share in turning them into Separatists. The answer, putting aside the very patent fact that the Southerner was not easily coerced, is very plain. Undoubtedly, throughout the South there was much affection for the Union; but so in the first Revolution there was much loyalty to the Crown, and yet it has never been asserted that the people of Virginia or of New England were forced into sedition against their will. The truth is that there were many Southerners who, in the vain hope of compromise, would have postponed the rupture; but when the right of secession was questioned, and the right of coercion was proclaimed, all differences of opinion were swept away, and the people, thenceforward, were of one heart and mind. The action of Virginia is a striking illustration.

The great border State, the most important of those south of Mason and Dixon’s line, was not a member of the Confederacy when the Provisional Government was established at Montgomery. Nor did the secession movement secure any strong measure of approval. In fact, the people of Virginia, owing to their closer proximity to, and to their more intimate knowledge of, the North, were by no means inclined to make of the Black Republican President the bugbear he appeared to the States which bordered on the Gulf of Mexico. Whilst acknowledging that the South had grievances, they saw no reason to believe that redress might not be obtained by constitutional means. At the same time, although they questioned the expediency, they held no half-hearted opinion as to the right, of secession, and in their particular case the right seems undeniable. When the Constitution of the United States was ratified, Virginia, by the mouth of its Legislature, had solemnly declared “that the powers granted [to the Federal Government] under the Constitution, being truly derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them whenever the same shall be perverted to their injury and oppression.” And this declaration had been more than once reaffirmed. As already stated, this view of the political status of the Virginia citizen was not endorsed by the North. Nevertheless, it was not definitely rejected. The majority of the Northern people held the Federal Government paramount, but, at the same time, they held that it had no power either to punish or coerce the individual States. This had been the attitude of the founders of the Republic, and it is perfectly clear that their interpretation of the Constitution was this: although the several States were morally bound to maintain the compact into which they had voluntarily entered, the obligation, if any one State chose to repudiate it, could not be legally enforced. Their ideal was a Union based upon fraternal affection; and in the halcyon days of Washington’s first presidency, when the long and victorious struggle against a common enemy was still fresh in men’s minds, and the sun of liberty shone in an unclouded sky, a vision so Utopian perhaps seemed capable of realisation. At all events, the promise of a new era of unbroken peace and prosperity was not to be sullied by cold precautions against civil dissensions and conflicting interests. The new order, under which every man was his own sovereign, would surely strengthen the links of kindly sympathy, and by those links alone it was believed that the Union would be held together. Such was the dream of the unselfish patriots who ruled the destinies of the infant Republic. Such were the ideas that so far influenced their deliberations that, with all their wisdom, they left a legacy to their posterity which deluged the land in blood.

Mr. Lincoln’s predecessor in the presidential chair had publicly proclaimed that coercion was both illegal and inexpedient; and for the three months which intervened between the secession of South Carolina and the inauguration of the Republican President, the Government made not the slightest attempt to interfere with the peaceable establishment of the new Confederacy. Not a single soldier reinforced the garrisons of the military posts in the South. Not a single regiment was recalled from the western frontiers; and the seceded States, without a word of protest, were permitted to take possession, with few exceptions, of the forts, arsenals, navy yards and custom houses which stood on their own territory. It seemed that the Federal Government was only waiting until an amicable arrangement might be arrived at as to the terms of separation.

If, in addition to the words in which she had assented to the Constitution, further justification were needed for the belief of Virginia in the right of secession, it was assuredly to be found in the apparent want of unanimity on so grave a question even in the Republican party, and in the acquiescent attitude of the Federal Government.

The people of Virginia, however, saw in the election of a Republican President no immediate danger of the Constitution being “perverted to their injury and oppression.” The North, generally speaking, regarded the action of the secessionists with that strange and good-humoured tolerance with which the American citizen too often regards internal politics. The common sense of the nation asserted itself in all its strength. A Union which could only be maintained by force was a strange and obnoxious idea to the majority. Amid the storm of abuse and insult in which the two extreme parties indulged, the abolitionists on the one side, the politicians on the other, Lincoln,

“The still strong man in a blatant land,”

stood calm and steadfast, promising justice to the South, and eager for reconciliation. And Lincoln represented the real temper of the Northern people.

So, in the earlier months of 1861, there was no sign whatever that the Old Dominion might be compelled to use the alternative her original representatives had reserved. The question of slavery was no longer to the fore. While reprobating the action of the Confederates, the President, in his inaugural address (March 4, 1861), had declared that the Government had no right to interfere with the domestic institutions of the individual States; and throughout Virginia the feeling was strong in favour of the Union. Earnest endeavours were made to effect a compromise, under which the seceded communities might renew the Federal compact. The Legislature called a Convention of the People to deliberate on the part that the State should play, and the other States were invited to join in a Peace Conference at Washington.

It need hardly be said that during the period of negotiation excitement rose to the highest pitch. The political situation was the sole theme of discussion. In Lexington as elsewhere the one absorbing topic ousted all others, and in Lexington as elsewhere there was much difference of opinion. But the general sentiment was strongly Unionist, and in the election of members of the Convention an overwhelming majority had pronounced against secession. Between the two parties, however, there were sharp conflicts. A flagstaff flying the national ensign had been erected in Main Street, Lexington. The cadets fired on the flag, and substituting the State colours placed a guard over them. Next morning a report reached the Institute that the local company of volunteers had driven off the guard, and were about to restore the Stars and Stripes. It was a holiday, and there were no officers present. The drums beat to arms. The boys rushed down to their parade-ground, buckling on their belts, and carrying their rifles. Ammunition was distributed, and the whole battalion, under the cadet officers, marched out of the Institute gates, determined to lower the emblem of Northern tyranny and drive away the volunteers. A collision would certainly have ensued had not the attacking column been met by the Commandant.

In every discussion on the action of the State Jackson had spoken strongly on the side of the majority. In terse phrase he had summed up his view of the situation. He was no advocate of secession. He deprecated the hasty action of South Carolina. “It is better,” he said, “for the South to fight for her rights in the Union than out of it.” But much as they loved the Union, the people of Virginia revered still more the principles inculcated by their forefathers, the right of secession and the illegality of coercion. And when the proposals of the Peace Conference came to nothing, when all hope of compromise died away, and the Federal Government showed no sign of recognising the Provisional Government, it became evident even to the staunchest Unionist that civil war could no longer be postponed. From the very first no shadow of a doubt had existed in Jackson’s mind as to the side he should espouse, or the course he should pursue. “If I know myself,” he wrote, “all I am and all I have is at the service of my country.”

According to his political creed his country was his native State, and such was the creed of the whole South. In conforming to the Ordinance of Secession enacted by the legislatures of their own States, the people, according to their reading of the Constitution, acted as loyal and patriotic citizens; to resist that ordinance was treason and rebellion; and in taking up arms “they were not, in their own opinion, rebels at all; they were defending their States—that is, the nations to which they conceived themselves to belong, from invasion and conquest.”[12]

When, after the incident described above, the cadets marched back to barracks, it was already so certain that the Stars and Stripes would soon be torn down from every flagstaff in Virginia that their breach of discipline was easily condoned. They were addressed by the Commandant, and amid growing excitement officer after officer, hardly concealing his sympathy with their action, gave vent to his opinions on the approaching crisis. Jackson was silent. At length, perhaps in anticipation of some amusement, for he was known to be a stumbling speaker, the cadets called on him by name. In answer to the summons he stood before them, not, as was his wont in public assemblies, with ill-dissembled shyness and awkward gesture, but with body erect and eyes sparkling. “Soldiers,” he said, “when they make speeches should say but few words, and speak them to the point, and I admire, young gentlemen, the spirit you have shown in rushing to the defence of your comrades; but I must commend you particularly for the readiness with which you listened to the counsel and obeyed the commands of your superior officer. The time may come,” he continued, and the deep tones, vibrating with unsuspected resolution, held his audience spellbound, “when your State will need your services; and if that time does come, then draw your swords and throw away the scabbards.”

The crisis was not long postponed. Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbour, the port of South Carolina, was held by a Federal garrison. The State had demanded its surrender, but no reply had been vouchsafed by Lincoln. On April 8 a message was conveyed to the Governor of the State that an attempt would be made to supply the troops with provisions. This message was telegraphed to Montgomery, still the capital of the Confederacy, and the Government ordered the reduction of the fort. On the morning of April 12 the Southern batteries opened fire, and the next day, when the flames were already scorching the doors of the magazine, the standard of the Union was hauled down.

Two days later Lincoln spoke with no uncertain voice. 75,000 militia were called out to suppress the “rebellion.” The North gave the President loyal support. The insult to the flag set the blood of the nation, of Democrat and Republican, aflame. The time for reconciliation was passed. The Confederates had committed an unpardonable crime. They had forfeited all title to consideration; and even in the minds of those Northerners who had shared their political creed the memory of their grievances was obliterated.

So far Virginia had given no overt sign of sympathy with the revolution. But she was now called upon to furnish her quota of regiments for the Federal army. To have acceded to the demand would have been to abjure the most cherished principles of her political existence. As the Federal Government, according to her political faith, had no jurisdiction whatever within the boundaries of States which had chosen to secede, it had not the slightest right to maintain a garrison in Fort Sumter. The action of the Confederacy in enforcing the withdrawal of the troops was not generally approved of, but it was held to be perfectly legitimate; and Mr. Lincoln’s appeal to arms, for the purpose of suppressing what, in the opinion of Virginia, was a strictly constitutional movement, was instantly and fiercely challenged.

Neutrality was impossible. She was bound to furnish her tale of troops, and thus belie her principles; or to secede at once, and reject with a clean conscience the President’s mandate. On April 17 she chose the latter, deliberately and with her eyes open, knowing that war would be the result, and knowing the vast resources of the North. She was followed by Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.[13]

The world has long since done justice to the motives of Cromwell and of Washington, and signs are not wanting that before many years have passed it will do justice to the motives of the Southern people. They were true to their interpretation of the Constitution; and if the morality of secession may be questioned, if South Carolina acted with undue haste and without sufficient provocation, if certain of the Southern politicians desired emancipation for themselves that they might continue to enslave others, it can hardly be denied that the action of Virginia was not only fully justified, but beyond suspicion. The wildest threats of the Black Republicans, their loudly expressed determination, in defiance of the Constitution, to abolish slavery, if necessary by the bullet and the sabre, shook in no degree whatever her loyalty to the Union. Her best endeavours were exerted to maintain the peace between the hostile sections; and not till her liberties were menaced did she repudiate a compact which had become intolerable. It was to preserve the freedom which her forefathers had bequeathed her, and which she desired to hand down unsullied to future generations, that she acquiesced in the revolution.

The North, in resolving to maintain the Union by force of arms, was upheld by the belief that she was acting in accordance with the Constitution. The South, in asserting her independence and resisting coercion, found moral support in the same conviction, and the patriotism of those who fought for the Union was neither purer nor more ardent than the patriotism of those who fought for States’ Rights. Long ago, a parliament of that nation to which Jackson and so many of his compatriots owed their origin made petition to the Pope that he should require the English king “to respect the independence of Scotland, and to mind his own affairs. So long as a hundred of us are left alive,” said the signatories, “we will never in any degree be subjected to the English. It is not for glory, or for riches, or for honour that we fight, but for liberty alone, which no good man loses but with his life.” More than five hundred years later, for the same noble cause and in the same uncompromising spirit, the people of Virginia made appeal to the God of battles.

[1] Grant’s Memoirs, vol. i, p. 214.

[2] I have been somewhat severely taken to task for attaching the epithets “misguided,” “unpractical,” “fanatical,’ to the abolitionists. I see no reason, however, to modify my language. It is too often the case that men of the loftiest ideals seek to attain them by the most objectionable means, and the maxim “Fiat justitia ruat cœlum” cannot be literally applied to great affairs. The conversion of the Mahomedan world to Christianity would be a nobler work than even the emancipation of the negro, but the missionary who began with reviling the faithful, and then proceeded to threaten them with fire and the sword unless they changed their creed, would justly be called a fanatic. Yet the abolitionists did worse than this, for they incited the negroes to insurrection. Nor do I think that the question is affected by the fact that many of the abolitionists were upright, earnest, and devout. A good man is not necessarily a wise man, and I remember that Samuel Johnson and John Wesley supported King George against the American colonists.

[3] On the publication of the first edition my views on the action of the abolitionists were traversed by critics whose opinions demand consideration. They implied that in condemning the unwisdom and violence of the anti-slavery party, I had not taken into account the aggressive tendencies of the Southern politicians from 1850 onwards, that I had ignored the attempts to extend slavery to the Territories, and that I had overlooked the effect of the Fugitive Slave Law. A close study of abolitionist literature, however, had made it very clear to me that the advocates of emancipation, although actuated by the highest motives, never at any time approached the question in a conciliatory spirit; and that long before 1850 their fierce cries for vengeance had roused the very bitterest feelings in the South. In fact they had already made war inevitable. Draper, the Northern historian, admits that so early as 1844 “the contest between the abolitionists on one side and the slave-holders on the other hand had become a mortal duel.” It may be argued, perhaps, that the abolitionists saw that the slave-power would never yield except to armed force, and that they therefore showed good judgment in provoking the South into secession and civil war. But forcing the hand of the Almighty is something more than a questionable doctrine.

[4] Of 8.3 million whites in the fifteen slave-holding States, only 346,000 were slave-holders, and of these 69,000 owned only one negro.

[5] Battles and Leaders, vol. iii, p. 689.

[6] There is no doubt that a feeling of aversion to slavery was fast spreading among a numerous and powerful class in the South. In Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri the number of slaves was decreasing, and in Delaware the institution had almost disappeared.

[7] Grant’s Memoirs, p. 214.

[8] Uncle Tom’s Cabin to wit.

[9] For an admirable statement of the Southern doctrine, see Ropes’ History of the Civil War, vol. i, chap. i.

[10] “The Government had been Federal under the Articles of Confederation (1781), but the [Northern] people quickly recognised that that relation was changing under the Constitution (1789). They began to discern that the power they thought they had delegated was in fact surrendered, and that henceforth no single State could meet the general Government as sovereign and equal.” Draper’s History of the American Civil War, vol. i, p. 286.

[11] It has been remarked that States’ Rights, as a political principle, cannot be placed on the same plane as those with which it is here grouped. History, however, proves conclusively that, although it may be less vital to the common weal, the right of self-government is just as deeply cherished. A people that has once enjoyed independence can seldom be brought to admit that a Union with others deprives it of the prerogatives of sovereignty, and it would seem that the treatment of this instinct of nationality is one of the most delicate and important tasks of statesmanship.

[12] History of the Civil War, Ropes, chap. i, p. 3.

[13] Kentucky and Missouri attempted to remain neutral. Maryland was held in check by the Federal Government, and Delaware sided with the North. The first three, however, supplied large contingents to the Confederate armies.

Chapter V

1861   Immediately it became apparent that the North was bent upon re-conquest Jackson offered his sword to his native State. He was determined to take his share in defending her rights and liberties, even if it were only as a private soldier. Devotion to Virginia was his sole motive. He shrank from the horrors of civil strife. The thought that the land he loved so well was to be deluged with the blood of her own children, that the happy hearths of America were to be desecrated by the hideous image of war, stifled the promptings of professional ambition. “If the general Government,” he said, “should persist in the measures now threatened, there must be war. It is painful enough to discover with what unconcern they speak of war, and threaten it. They do not know its horrors. I have seen enough of it to make me look upon it as the sum of all evils.”

The methods he resorted to in order that the conflict might be averted were characteristic. He proposed to the minister of his church that all Christian people should be called upon to unite in prayer; and in his own devotions, says his wife, he asked with importunity that, if it were God’s will, the whole land might be at peace.

His work, after the Ordinance of Secession had been passed, was constant and absorbing. The Governor of Virginia had informed the Superintendent of the Institute that he should need the services of the more advanced classes as drill-masters, and that they must be prepared to leave for Richmond, under the command of Major Jackson, at a moment’s notice.

The Lexington Presbytery was holding its spring meeting in the church which Jackson attended, and some of the members were entertained at his house; but he found no time to attend a single service—every hour was devoted to the duty he had in hand.

On the Saturday of that eventful week he expressed the hope that he would not be called upon to leave till Monday; and, bidding his wife dismiss from her thoughts everything pertaining to the war and his departure, they spent that evening as they had been accustomed, reading aloud from religious magazines, and studying together the lesson which was to be taught on the morrow in the Sunday-school.

But at dawn the next morning came a telegram, directing Major Jackson to bring the cadets to Richmond immediately. He repaired at once to the Institute; and at one o’clock, after divine service, at his request, had been held at the head of the command, the cadet battalion marched to Staunton, on the Virginia Central Railway, and there took train.

Camp Lee, the rendezvous of the Virginia army, presented a peculiar if animated scene. With few exceptions, every man capable of serving in the field belonged either to the militia or the volunteers. Some of the companies had a smattering of drill, but the majority were absolutely untaught, and the whole were without the slightest conception of what was meant by discipline. And it was difficult to teach them. The non-commissioned officers and men of the United States army were either Irish or Germans, without State ties, and they had consequently no inducement to join the South. With the officers it was different. They were citizens first, and soldiers afterwards; and as citizens, their allegiance, so far as those of Southern birth were concerned, was due to their native States. Out of the twelve hundred graduates of West Point who, at the beginning of 1861, were still fit for service, a fourth were Southerners, and these, almost without exception, at once took service with the Confederacy. But the regular officers were almost all required for the higher commands, for technical duties, and the staff; thus very few were left to instruct the volunteers. The intelligence of the men was high, for every profession and every class was represented in the ranks, and many of the wealthiest planters preferred, so earnest was their patriotism, to serve as privates; but as yet they were merely the elements of a fine army, and nothing more. Their equipment left as much to be desired as their training. Arms were far scarcer than men. The limited supply of rifles in the State arsenals was soon exhausted. Flintlock muskets, converted to percussion action, were then supplied; but no inconsiderable numbers of fowling-pieces and shot-guns were to be seen amongst the infantry, while the cavalry, in default of sabres, carried rude lances fabricated by country blacksmiths. Some of the troops wore uniform, the blue of the militia or the grey of the cadet; but many of the companies drilled and manœuvred in plain clothes; and it was not till three months later, on the eve of the first great battle, that the whole of the infantry had received their bayonets and cartridge boxes.

An assemblage so motley could hardly be called an army; and the daring of the Government, who, with this levée en masse as their only bulwark against invasion, had defied a great power, seems at first sight strongly allied to folly. But there was little cause for apprehension. The Federal authorities were as yet powerless to enforce the policy of invasion on which the President had resolved. The great bulk of the Northern troops were just as far from being soldiers as the Virginians, and the regular army was too small to be feared.

The people of the United States had long cherished the Utopian dream that war was impossible upon their favoured soil. The militia was considered an archæological absurdity. The regular troops, admirable as was their work upon the frontier, were far from being a source of national pride. The uniform was held to be a badge of servitude. The drunken loafer, bartering his vote for a dollar or a dram, looked down with the contempt of a sovereign citizen upon men who submitted to the indignity of discipline; and, in denouncing the expense of a standing army, unscrupulous politicians found a sure path to popular favour. So, when secession became something more than a mere threat, the armed forces of the commonwealth had been reduced almost to extinction; and when the flag was fired upon, the nation found itself powerless to resent the insult. The military establishment mustered no more than 16,000 officers and men. There was no reserve, no transport, no organisation for war, and the troops were scattered in distant garrisons. The navy consisted of six screw-frigates, only one of which was in commission, of five steam sloops, some twenty sailing ships, and a few gun-boats. The majority of the vessels, although well armed, were out of date. 9,000 officers and men were the extent of the personnel, and several useful craft, together with more than 1,200 guns, were laid up in Norfolk dockyard, on the coast of Virginia, within a hundred miles of Richmond.[1]

The cause of the Confederacy, although her white population of seven million souls was smaller by two-thirds than that of the North, was thus far from hopeless. The North undoubtedly possessed immense resources. But an efficient army, even when the supply of men and arms be unlimited, cannot be created in a few weeks, or even in a few months, least of all an army of invasion. Undisciplined troops, if the enemy be ill-handled, may possibly stand their ground on the defensive, as did Jackson’s riflemen at New Orleans, or the colonials at Bunker’s Hill. But fighting behind earthworks is a very different matter to making long marches, and executing complicated manœuvres under heavy fire. Without a trained staff and an efficient administration, an army is incapable of movement. Even with a well-organised commissariat it is a most difficult business to keep a marching column supplied with food and forage; and the problem of transport, unless a railway or a river be available, taxes the ability of the most experienced leader. A march of eighty or one hundred miles into an enemy’s country sounds a simple feat, but unless every detail has been most carefully thought out, it will not improbably be more disastrous than a lost battle. A march of two or three hundred miles is a great military operation; a march of six hundred an enterprise of which there are few examples. To handle an army in battle is much less difficult than to bring it on to the field in good condition; and the student of the Civil War may note with profit how exceedingly chary were the generals, during the first campaigns, of leaving their magazines. It was not till their auxiliary services had gained experience that they dared to manœuvre freely; and the reason lay not only in deficiencies of organisation, but in the nature of the country. Even for a stationary force, standing on the defensive, unless immediately backed by a large town or a railway, the difficulties of bringing up supplies were enormous. For an invading army, increasing day by day the distance from its base, they became almost insuperable. In 1861, the population of the United States, spread over a territory as large as Europe, was less than that of England, and a great part of that territory was practically unexplored. Even at the present day their seventy millions are but a handful in comparison with the size of their dominions, and their extraordinary material progress is not much more than a scratch on the surface of the continent. In Europe Nature has long since receded before the works of man. In America the struggle between them has but just begun; and except upon the Atlantic seaboard man is almost lost to sight in the vast spaces he has yet to conquer. In many of the oldest States of the Union the cities seem set in clearings of the primeval forest. The wild woodland encroaches on the suburbs, and within easy reach of the very capital are districts where the Indian hunter might still roam undisturbed. The traveller lands in a metropolis as large as Paris; before a few hours have passed he may find himself in a wilderness as solitary as the Transvaal; and although within the boundaries of the townships he sees little that differs from the England of the nineteenth century—beyond them there is much that resembles the England of the Restoration. Except over a comparatively small area an army operating in the United States would meet with the same obstacles as did the soldiers of Cromwell and Turenne. Roads are few and indifferent; towns few and far between; food and forage are not easily obtainable, for the country is but partially cultivated; great rivers, bridged at rare intervals, issue from the barren solitudes of rugged plateaus; in many low-lying regions a single storm is sufficient to convert the undrained alluvial into a fetid swamp, and tracts as large as an English county are covered with pathless forest. Steam and the telegraph, penetrating even the most lonely jungles, afford, it is true, such facilities for moving and feeding large bodies of men that the difficulties presented by untamed Nature have undoubtedly been much reduced. Nevertheless the whole country, even to-day, would be essentially different from any European theatre of war, save the steppes of Russia; and in 1861 railways were few, and the population comparatively insignificant.

The impediments, then, in the way of military operations were such as no soldier of experience would willingly encounter with an improvised army. It was no petty republic that the North had undertaken to coerce. The frontiers of the Confederacy were far apart. The coast washed by the Gulf of Mexico is eight hundred miles south of Harper’s Ferry on the Potomac; the Rio Grande, the river boundary of Texas, is seventeen hundred miles west of Charleston on the Atlantic. And over this vast expanse ran but six continuous lines of railway:—

From the Potomac.

1.  [Washington,] Richmond, Lynchburg, Chattanooga, Memphis, New Orleans.
2.  [Washington,] Richmond, Weldon, Greensboro, Columbia, Atlanta, New Orleans.
   (These connected Richmond with the Mississippi.)

From the Ohio.

3.  Cairo, Memphis, New Orleans.
4.  Cairo, Corinth, Mobile.
5.  Louisville, Nashville, Dalton, Atlanta, Mobile.
   (These connected the Ohio with the Gulf of Mexico.)
6. Richmond, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah.
   (This connected Richmond with the ports on the Atlantic.)

Although in the Potomac and the Ohio the Federals possessed two excellent bases of invasion, on which it was easy to accumulate both men and supplies, the task before them, even had the regular army been large and well equipped, would have been sufficiently formidable. The city of Atlanta, which may be considered as the heart of the Confederacy, was sixty days’ march from the Potomac, the same distance as Vienna from the English Channel, or Moscow from the Niemen. New Orleans, the commercial metropolis, was thirty-six days’ march from the Ohio, the same distance as Berlin from the Moselle. Thus space was all in favour of the South; even should the enemy overrun her borders, her principal cities, few in number, were far removed from the hostile bases, and the important railway junctions were perfectly secure from sudden attack. And space, especially when means of communication are scanty, and the country affords few supplies, is the greatest of all obstacles. The hostile territory must be subjugated piecemeal, state by state, province by province, as was Asia by Alexander; and after each victory a new base of supply must be provisioned and secured, no matter at what cost of time, before a further advance can be attempted. Had Napoleon in the campaign against Russia remained for the winter at Smolensko, and firmly established himself in Poland, Moscow might have been captured and held during the ensuing summer. But the occupation of Moscow would not have ended the war. Russia in many respects was not unlike the Confederacy. She had given no hostages to fortune in the shape of rich commercial towns; she possessed no historic fortresses; and so offered but few objectives to an invader. If defeated or retreating, her armies could always find refuge in distant fastnesses. The climate was severe; the internal trade inconsiderable; to bring the burden of war home to the mass of the population was difficult, and to hold the country by force impracticable. Such were the difficulties which the genius of Napoleon was powerless to overcome, and Napoleon invaded Russia with half a million of seasoned soldiers.

And yet with an army of 75,000 volunteers, and without the least preparation, the Federal Government was about to attempt an enterprise of even greater magnitude. The Northern States were not bent merely on invasion, but on re-conquest; not merely on defeating the hostile armies, on occupying their capital, and exacting contributions, but on forcing a proud people to surrender their most cherished principles, to give up their own government, and to submit themselves, for good and all, to what was practically a foreign yoke. And this was not all. It has been well said by a soldier of Napoleon, writing of the war in Spain, that neither the government nor the army are the real bulwarks against foreign aggression, but the national character. The downfall of Austria and of Prussia was practically decided by the first great battle. The nations yielded without further struggle. Strangers to freedom, crushed by military absolutism, the prostration of each and all to an irresponsible despot had paralysed individual energy. Spain, on the other hand, without an army and without a ruler, but deriving new strength from each successive defeat, first taught Napoleon that he was not invincible. And the same spirit of liberty which inspired the people of the Peninsula inspired, to an even higher degree, the people of the Confederate States.

[Illustration: Map of the United States 1861.]

For larger view click on image.

The Northern States, moreover, were about to make a new departure in war. The manhood of a country has often been called upon to defend its borders; but never before had it been proposed to invade a vast territory with a civilian army, composed, it is true, of the best blood in the Republic, but without the least tincture of military experience. Nor did the senior officers, professionals though they were, appear more fitted for the enterprise than the men they led. The command of a company or squadron against the redskins was hardly an adequate probation for the command of an army,[2] or even a brigade, of raw troops against a well-armed foe. Had the volunteers been associated with an equal number of trained and disciplined soldiers, as had been the case in Mexico,[3] they would have derived both confidence from their presence, and stability from their example; had there been even an experienced staff, capable of dealing with large forces, and an efficient commissariat, capable of rapid expansion, they might have crushed all organised opposition. But only 3,000 regulars could be drawn from the Western borders; the staff was as feeble as the commissariat; and so, from a purely military point of view, the conquest of the South appeared impossible. Her self-sustaining power was far greater than has been usually imagined. On the broad prairies of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana ranged innumerable herds. The area under cultivation was almost equal to that north of the Potomac and the Ohio. The pastoral districts—the beautiful Valley of Virginia, the great plains of Georgia, the fertile bottoms of Alabama, were inexhaustible granaries. The amount of live stock—horses, mules, oxen, and sheep—was actually larger than in the North; and if the acreage under wheat was less extensive, the deficiency was more than balanced by the great harvests of rice and maize.[4] Men of high ability, but profoundly ignorant of the conditions which govern military operations, prophesied that the South would be brought back to the Union within ninety days; General Winfield Scott, on the other hand, Commander-in-Chief of the Federal armies, declared that its conquest might be achieved “in two or three years, by a young and able general—a Wolfe, a Desaix, a Hoche—with 300,000 disciplined men kept up to that number.”

Nevertheless, despite the extent of her territory and her scanty means of communication, the South was peculiarly vulnerable. Few factories or foundries had been established within her frontiers. She manufactured nothing; and not only for all luxuries, but for almost every necessary of life, she was dependent upon others. Her cotton and tobacco brought leather and cloth in exchange from England. Metals, machinery, rails, rolling stock, salt, and even medicines came, for the most part, from the North. The weapons which she put into her soldiers’ hands during the first year of the war, her cannon, powder, and ammunition, were of foreign make. More than all, her mercantile marine was very small. Her foreign trade was in the hands of Northern merchants. She had ship-yards, for Norfolk and Pensacola, both national establishments, were within her boundaries; but her seafaring population was inconsiderable, and shipbuilding was almost an unknown industry. Strong on land, she was powerless at sea, and yet it was on the sea that her prosperity depended. Cotton, the principal staple of her wealth, demanded free access to the European markets. But without a navy, and without the means of constructing one, or of manning the vessels that she might easily have purchased, she was unable to keep open her communications across the Atlantic.

Nor was it on the ocean alone that the South was at a disadvantage. The Mississippi, the main artery of her commerce, which brought the harvests of the plantations to New Orleans, and which divided her territory into two distinct portions, was navigable throughout; while other great rivers and many estuaries, leading into the heart of her dominions, formed the easiest of highways for the advance of an invading army. Very early had her fatal weakness been detected. Immediately Fort Sumter fell, Lincoln had taken measures to isolate the seceding States, to close every channel by which they could receive either succour or supplies, and if need be to starve them into submission. The maritime resources of the Union were so large that the navy was rapidly expanded. Numbers of trained seamen, recruited from the merchant service and the fisheries, were at once available.

The Northern shipbuilders had long been famous; and both men and vessels, if the necessity should arise, might be procured in Europe. Judicious indeed was the policy which, at the very outset of the war, brought the tremendous pressure of the sea-power to bear against the South; and, had her statesmen possessed the knowledge of what that pressure meant, they must have realised that Abraham Lincoln was no ordinary foe. In forcing the Confederates to become the aggressors, and to fire on the national ensign, he had created a united North; in establishing a blockade of their coasts he brought into play a force, which, like the mills of God, “grinds slowly, but grinds exceeding small.”

But for the present the Federal navy was far too small to watch three thousand miles of littoral indented by spacious harbours and secluded bays, protected in many cases by natural breakwaters, and communicating by numerous channels with the open sea. Moreover, it was still an even chance whether cotton became a source of weakness to the Confederacy or a source of strength. If the markets of Europe were closed to her by the hostile battle-ships, the credit of the young Republic would undoubtedly be seriously impaired; but the majority of the Southern politicians believed that the great powers beyond the Atlantic would never allow the North to enforce her restrictive policy. England and France, a large portion of whose population depended for their livelihood on the harvests of the South, were especially interested; and England and France, both great maritime States, were not likely to brook interference with their trade. Nor had the Southern people a high opinion of Northern patriotism. They could hardly conceive that the maintenance of the Union, which they themselves considered so light a bond, had been exalted elsewhere to the height of a sacred principle. Least of all did they believe that the great Democratic party, which embraced so large a proportion of the Northern people, and which, for so many years, had been in close sympathy with themselves, would support the President in his coercive measures.

History, moreover, not always an infallible guide, supplied many plausible arguments to those who sought to forecast the immediate future. In the War of Independence, not only had the impracticable nature of the country, especially of the South, baffled the armies of Great Britain, but the European powers, actuated by old grudges and commercial jealousy, had come to the aid of the insurgents. On a theatre of war where trained and well-organised forces had failed, it was hardly to be expected that raw levies would succeed; and if England, opposed in 1782 by the fleets of France, Spain, and Holland, had been compelled to let the colonies go, it was hardly likely that the North, confronted by the naval strength of England and France, would long maintain the struggle with the South. Trusting then to foreign intervention, to the dissensions of their opponents, and to their own hardihood and unanimity, the Southerners faced the future with few misgivings.

At Richmond, finding himself without occupation, Major Jackson volunteered to assist in the drilling of the new levies. The duty to which he was first assigned was distasteful. He was an indifferent draughtsman, and a post in the topographical department was one for which he was hardly fitted. The appointment, fortunately, was not confirmed. Some of his friends in the Confederate Congress proposed that he should be sent to command at Harper’s Ferry, an important outpost on the northern frontier of Virginia. There was some opposition, not personal to Jackson and of little moment, but it called forth a remark that shows the estimation in which he was held by men who knew him.

“Who is this Major Jackson?” it was asked.

“He is one,” was the reply, “who, if you order him to hold a post, will never leave it alive to be occupied by the enemy.”

Harper’s Ferry, the spot where the first collision might confidently be expected, was a charge after Jackson’s own heart.

April 26 “Last Saturday,” he writes to his wife, “the Governor handed me my commission as Colonel of Virginia Volunteers, the post I prefer above all others, and has given me an independent command. Little one, you must not expect to hear from me very often, as I expect to have more work than I ever had in the same length of time before; but don’t be concerned about your husband, for our kind Heavenly Father will give every needful aid.”

The garrison at Harper’s Ferry consisted of a large number of independent companies of infantry, a few light companies, as they were called, of cavalry, and fifteen smooth-bore cannon of small calibre. This force numbered 4,500 officers and men, of whom all but 400 were Virginians. Jackson’s appearance was not hailed with acclamation. The officers of the State militia had hitherto exercised the functions of command over the ill-knit concourse of enthusiastic patriots. The militia, however, was hardly more than a force on paper, and the camps swarmed with generals and field-officers who were merely civilians in gaudy uniform. By order of the State Legislature these gentlemen were now deprived of their fine feathers. Every militia officer above the rank of captain was deposed; and the Governor of Virginia was authorised to fill the vacancies. This measure was by no means popular. Both by officers and men it was denounced as an outrage on freemen and volunteers; and the companies met in convention for the purpose of passing denunciatory resolutions.

Their new commander was a sorry substitute for the brilliant figures he had superseded. The militia generals had surrounded themselves with a numerous staff, and on fine afternoons, it was said, the official display in Harper’s Ferry would have done no discredit to the Champs-Elysées. Jackson had but two assistants, who, like himself, still wore the plain blue uniform of the Military Institute. To eyes accustomed to the splendid trappings and prancing steeds of his predecessors there seemed an almost painful want of pomp and circumstance about the colonel of volunteers. There was not a particle of gold lace about him. He rode a horse as quiet as himself. His seat in the saddle was ungraceful. His well-worn cadet cap was always tilted over his eyes; he was sparing of speech; his voice was very quiet, and he seldom smiled. He made no orations, he held no reviews, and his orders were remarkable for their brevity. Even with his officers he had little intercourse. He confided his plans to no one, and not a single item of information, useful or otherwise, escaped his lips.

Some members of the Maryland Legislature, a body whom it was important to conciliate, visited Harper’s Ferry during his tenure of command. They were received with the utmost politeness, and in return plied the general with many questions. His answers were unsatisfactory, and at length one more bold than the rest asked him frankly how many men he had at his disposal. “Sir,” was the reply, “I should be glad if President Lincoln thought I had fifty thousand.” Nor was this reticence observed only towards those whose discretion he mistrusted. He was silent on principle. In the campaign of 1814, the distribution of the French troops at a most critical moment was made known to the allies by the capture of a courier carrying a letter from Napoleon to the Empress. There was little chance of a letter to Mrs. Jackson, who was now in North Carolina, falling into the hands of the Federals; but even in so small a matter Jackson was consistent.

“You say,” he wrote, “that your husband never writes you any news. I suppose you mean military news, for I have written you a great deal about your sposo and how much he loves you. What do you want with military news? Don’t you know that it is unmilitary and unlike an officer to write news respecting one’s post? You couldn’t wish your husband to do an unofficer-like thing, could you?”

And then, the claims of duty being thus clearly defined, he proceeds to describe the roses which climbed round the window of his temporary quarters, adding, with that lover-like devotion which every letter betrays, “but my sweet little sunny face is what I want to see most of all.”

Careful as he was to keep the enemy in the dark, he was exceedingly particular when he visited his distant posts on the Potomac that his presence should be unobserved. Had it become known to the Federal generals that the commander at Harper’s Ferry had reconnoitred a certain point of passage, a clue might have been given to his designs. The Confederate officers, therefore, in charge of these posts, were told that Colonel Jackson did not wish them to recognise him. He rode out accompanied by a single staff officer, and the men were seldom aware that the brigadier had been through their camps.

Never was a commander who fell so far short of the popular idea of a dashing leader. This quiet gentleman, who came and went unnoticed, who had nothing to say, and was so anxious to avoid observation, was a type of soldier unfamiliar to the volunteers. He was duty personified and nothing more.

But at the same time the troops instinctively felt that this absence of ostentation meant hard work. They began to realise the magnitude of the obligations they had assumed. Soldiering was evidently something more than a series of brilliant spectacles and social gatherings. Here was a man in earnest, who looked upon war as a serious business, who was completely oblivious to what people said or thought; and his example was not without effect. The conventions came to nothing; and when the companies were organised in battalions, and some of the deposed officers were reappointed to command, the men went willingly to work. Their previous knowledge, even of drill, was of the scantiest. Officers and men had to begin as recruits, and Jackson was not the man to cut short essential preliminaries. Seven hours’ drill daily was a heavy tax upon enthusiasm; but it was severely enforced, and the garrison of the frontier post soon learned the elements of manœuvre. Discipline was a lesson more difficult than drill. The military code, in all its rigour, could not be at once applied to a body of high-spirited and inexperienced civilians. Undue severity might have produced the very worst results. The observance, therefore, of those regulations which were not in themselves essential to efficiency or health was not insisted on. Lapses in military etiquette were suffered to pass unnoticed; no attempt was made to draw a hard and fast line between officers and men; and many things which in a regular army would be considered grossly irregular were tacitly permitted. Jackson was well aware that volunteers of the type he commanded needed most delicate and tactful handling. The chief use of minute regulations and exacting routine is the creation of the instinct of obedience. Time was wanting to instil such instinct into the Confederate troops; and the intelligence and patriotism of the men, largely of high class and good position, who filled the ranks, might be relied upon to prevent serious misconduct. Had they been burdened with the constant acknowledgment of superior authority which becomes a second nature to the regular soldier, disgust and discontent might have taken the place of high spirit and good-will. But at the same time wilful misbehaviour was severely checked. Neglect of duty and insubordination were crimes which Jackson never forgave, and deliberate disobedience was in his eyes as unmanly an offence as cowardice. He knew when to be firm as well as when to relax, and it was not only in the administration of discipline that he showed his tact. He was the most patient of instructors. So long as those under him were trying to do their best, no one could have been kinder or more forbearing; and he constantly urged his officers to come to his tent when they required explanation as to the details of their duty.

Besides discipline and instruction, Jackson had the entire administration of his command upon his hands. Ammunition was exceedingly scarce, and he had to provide for the manufacture of ball-cartridges. Transport there was none, but the great waggons of the Valley farmers supplied the deficiency. The equipment of the artillery left much to be desired, and ammunition carts (or caissons) were constructed by fixing roughly made chests on the running gear of waggons. The supply and medical services were non-existent, and everything had to be organised de novo. Thus the officer in command at Harper’s Ferry had his hands full; and in addition to his administrative labours there was the enemy to be watched, information to be obtained, and measures of defence to be considered. A glance at the map will show the responsibilities of Jackson’s position.

The Virginia of the Confederacy was cut in two by the Blue Ridge, a chain of mountains three hundred and thirty miles in length, which, rising in North Carolina, passes under different names through Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Vermont, and sinks to the level on the Canadian frontier.

The Blue Ridge varies in height from 2,000 to 6,000 feet. Densely wooded, it is traversed in Virginia only by the Gaps, through which ran three railways and several roads. These Gaps were of great strategic importance, for if they were once secured, a Northern army, moving up the Valley of the Shenandoah, would find a covered line of approach towards the Virginia and Tennessee railway, which connected Richmond with the Mississippi. Nor was this the only advantage it would gain. From Lexington at its head, to Harper’s Ferry, where it strikes the Potomac, throughout its whole length of one hundred and forty miles, the Valley was rich in agricultural produce. Its average width, for it is bounded on the west by the eastern ranges of the Alleghenies, is not more than four-and-twenty miles; but there are few districts of the earth’s surface, of equal extent, more favoured by Nature or more highly cultivated. It was the granary of Virginia; and not Richmond only, but the frontier garrisons, depended largely for subsistence on the farms of the Shenandoah.

Moreover, if the Valley were occupied by the Federals, North-western Virginia would be cut off from the Confederacy; and Jackson’s native mountains, inhabited by a brave and hardy race, would be lost as a recruiting ground.

In order, then, to secure the loyalty of the mountaineers, to supply the armies, and to protect the railways, the retention of the Valley was of the utmost importance to the Confederacy. The key of the communication with the North-west was Winchester, the chief town of the lower Valley, twenty-six miles, in an air-line, south-west of Harper’s Ferry. From Winchester two highways lead westward, by Romney and Moorefield; four lead east and south-east, crossing the Blue Ridge by Snicker’s, Ashby’s, Manassas, and Chester’s Gaps; and the first object of the Confederate force at Harper’s Ferry was to cover this nucleus of roads.

During the month of May the garrison of the frontier post was undisturbed by the enemy. Lincoln’s first call had been for 75,000 volunteers. On May 3 he asked for an additional 40,000; these when trained, with 18,000 seamen and a detachment of regulars, would place at his disposal 150,000 men. The greater part of this force had assembled at Washington; but a contingent of 10,000 or 12,000 men under General Patterson, a regular officer of many years’ service, was collecting in Pennsylvania, and an outpost of 3,000 men was established at Chambersburg, forty-five miles north of Harper’s Ferry.

These troops, however, though formidable in numbers, were as ill-prepared for war as the Confederates, and no immediate movement was to be anticipated. Not only had the Federal authorities to equip and organise their levies, but the position of Washington was the cause of much embarrassment. The District of Columbia—the sixty square miles set apart for the seat of the Federal Government—lies on the Potomac, fifty miles south-east of Harper’s Ferry, wedged in between Virginia on the one side and Maryland on the other.

The loyalty of Maryland to the Union was more than doubtful. As a slave-holding State, her sympathies were strongly Southern; and it was only her geographical situation, north of the Potomac, and with no strong frontier to protect her from invasion, which had held her back from joining the Confederacy. As only a single line of railway connected Washington with the North, passing through Baltimore, the chief city of Maryland, a very hot-bed of secession sentiment, the attitude of the State was a matter of the utmost anxiety to the Federal Government. An attempt to send troops through Baltimore to Washington had provoked a popular commotion and some bloodshed. Stern measures had been necessary to keep the railway open. Baltimore was placed under martial law, and strongly garrisoned. But despite these precautions, for some weeks the feeling in Maryland was so hostile to the Union that it was not considered safe for the Northern troops to cross her territory except in large numbers; and the concentration at Washington of a force sufficient to defend it was thus attended with much difficulty.

A single railroad, too, the Baltimore and Ohio, connected Washington with the West. Crossing the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry, and following the course of the river, it ran for one hundred and twenty miles within the confines of Virginia. Thus the district commanded by Jackson embraced an artery of supply and communication which was of great importance to the enemy. The natural course would have been to destroy the line at once; but the susceptibilities of both Maryland and West Virginia had to be considered. The stoppage of all traffic on their main trade route would have done much to alienate the people from the South, and there was still hope that Maryland might throw in her lot with her seceded sisters.

The line was therefore left intact, and the company was permitted to maintain the regular service of trains, including the mails. For this privilege, however, Jackson exacted toll. The Confederate railways were deficient in rolling stock, and he determined to effect a large transfer from the Baltimore and Ohio. From Point of Rocks, twelve miles east of Harper’s Ferry, to Martinsburg, fifteen miles west, the line was double. “The coal traffic along it,” says General Imboden, “was immense, for the Washington Government was accumulating supplies of coal on the seaboard. These coal trains passed Harper’s Ferry at all hours of the day and night, and thus furnished Jackson with a pretext for arranging a brilliant capture. A detachment was posted at Point of Rocks, and the 5th Virginia Infantry at Martinsburg. He then complained to the President of the Baltimore and Ohio that the night trains, eastward bound, disturbed the repose of his camp, and requested a change of schedule that would pass all east-bound trains by Harper’s Ferry between eleven and one o’clock in the daytime. The request was complied with, and thereafter for several days was heard the constant roar of passing trains for an hour before and an hour after noon. But since the ‘empties’ were sent up the road at night, Jackson again complained that the nuisance was as great as ever, and, as the road had two tracks, said he must insist that the west-bound trains should pass during the same hour as those going east. Again he was obliged, and we then had, for two hours every day, the liveliest railroad in America.

“One night, as soon as the schedule was working at its best, Jackson instructed the officer commanding at Point of Rocks to take a force of men across to the Maryland side of the river the next day at eleven o’clock, and letting all west-bound trains pass till twelve o’clock, to permit none to go east. He ordered the reverse to be done at Martinsburg.

“Thus he caught all the trains that were going east or west between these points, and ran them up to Winchester, thirty-two miles on the branch line, whence they were removed by horse power to the railway at Strasbourg, eighteen miles further south.”[5]

May 24 This capture was Jackson’s only exploit whilst in command at Harper’s Ferry. On May 24 he was relieved by General Joseph E. Johnston, one of the senior officers of the Confederate army. The transfer of authority was not, however, at once effected. Johnston reached Harper’s Ferry in advance of his letter of appointment. Jackson had not been instructed that he was to hand over his command, and, strictly conforming to the regulations, he respectfully declined to vacate his post. Fortunately a communication soon came from General Lee, commanding the Virginia troops, in which he referred to Johnston as in command at Harper’s Ferry. Jackson at once recognised this letter as official evidence that he was superseded, and from that time forth rendered his superior the most faithful and zealous support. He seems at first to have expected that he would be sent to North-west Virginia, and his one ambition at this time was to be selected as the instrument of saving his native mountains to the South. But the Confederate Government had other views. At the beginning of June a more compact organisation was given to the regiments at Harper’s Ferry, and Jackson was assigned to the command of the First Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah.[6]

Recruited in the Valley of the Shenandoah and the western mountains, the brigade consisted of the following regiments:—

The 2nd Virginia, Colonel Allen.

The 4th Virginia, Colonel Preston.

The 5th Virginia, Colonel Harper.

The 27th Virginia, Lieutenant-Colonel Echols.

The 33rd Virginia, Colonel Cummings.

A battery of artillery, raised in Rockbridge County, was attached to the brigade. Commanded by the Reverend Dr. Pendleton, the rector of Lexington, an old West Point graduate, who was afterwards distinguished as Lee’s chief of artillery, and recruited largely from theological colleges, it soon became peculiarly efficient.[7]

No better material for soldiers ever existed than the men of the Valley. Most of them were of Scotch-Irish descent, but from the more northern counties came many of English blood, and from those in the centre of Swiss and German. But whatever their origin, they were thoroughly well qualified for their new trade. All classes mingled in the ranks, and all ages; the heirs of the oldest families, and the humblest of the sons of toil; boys whom it was impossible to keep at school, and men whose white beards hung below their cross-belts; youths who had been reared in luxury, and rough hunters from their lonely cabins. They were a mountain people, nurtured in a wholesome climate, bred to manly sports, and hardened by the free life of the field and forest. To social distinctions they gave little heed. They were united for a common purpose; they had taken arms to defend Virginia and to maintain her rights; and their patriotism was proved by the sacrifice of all personal consideration and individual interest. Nor is the purity of their motives to be questioned. They had implicit faith in the righteousness of their cause. Slave-owners were few in the Valley, and the farms were tilled mainly by free labour. The abolition of negro servitude would have affected but little the population west of the Blue Ridge. But, nevertheless, west of the Blue Ridge the doctrine of State Rights was as firmly rooted as in the Carolinas, the idea that a State could be coerced into remaining within the Union as fiercely repudiated; and the men of the Valley faced the gathering hosts of the North in the same spirit that they would have faced the hosts of a foreign foe.

In the first weeks of June the military situation became more threatening. The Union armies were taking shape. The levies of volunteers seemed sufficiently trained to render reconquest practicable, and the great wave of invasion had already mounted the horizon. A force of 25,000 men, based on the Ohio, threatened North-west Virginia. There had been collisions on the Atlantic seaboard, where the Federals held Fortress Monroe, a strong citadel within eighty miles of Richmond, and Richmond had become the capital of the Confederacy. There had been fighting in Missouri, and the partisans of the South in that State had already been badly worsted. The vast power of the North was making itself felt on land, and on the sea had asserted an ascendency which it never lost. The blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico were patrolled by a fleet with which the Confederates had no means of coping. From the sea-wall of Charleston, the great Atlantic port of the South, the masts of the blockading squadron were visible in the offing; and beyond the mouths of the Mississippi, closing the approaches to New Orleans, the long black hulls steamed slowly to and fro.

But it was about Manassas Junction—thirty miles south-west of Washington and barring the road to Richmond—that all interest centred during the first campaign. Here was posted the main army of the Confederacy, 20,000 volunteers under General Beauregard, the Manassas Gap Railway forming an easy means of communication with the Army of the Shenandoah.

Johnston’s force had been gradually increased to 10,000 officers and men. But the general was by no means convinced of the desirability of holding Harper’s Ferry. The place itself was insignificant. It had contained an arsenal, but this had been burnt by the Federals when they evacuated the post; and it was absolutely untenable against attack. To the east runs the Shenandoah; and immediately above the river stands a spur of the Blue Ridge, the Loudoun Heights, completely commanding the little town. Beyond the Potomac is a crest of equal altitude, covered with forest trees and undergrowth, and bearing the name of the Maryland Heights.

Jackson, without waiting for instructions, had taken on himself to hold and fortify the Maryland Heights. “I am of opinion,” he had written to General Lee, “that this place should be defended with the spirit which actuated the defenders of Thermopylæ, and if left to myself such is my determination. The fall of this place would, I fear, result in the loss of the north-western part of the State, and who can estimate the moral power thus gained to the enemy and lost to ourselves?”[8]

Lee, also, was averse to evacuation. Such a measure, he said, would be depressing to the cause of the South, and would leave Maryland isolated. The post, it was true, could be easily turned. By crossing the Potomac, at Williamsport and Shepherdstown, twenty and ten miles north-west respectively, the Federals would threaten the communications of the garrison with Winchester; in case they were attacked, the Confederates would have to fight with their backs to the Shenandoah, broad, deep, and unbridged; and the ground westward of Harper’s Ferry was ill adapted for defence. Attack, in Lee’s opinion, would have been best met by a resolute offensive.[9] Johnston, however, believed his troops unfitted for active manœuvres, and he was permitted to choose his own course. The incident is of small importance, but it serves to show an identity of opinion between Lee and Jackson, and a regard for the moral aspect of the situation which was to make itself manifest, with extraordinary results, at a later period.

June 14   On June 14, Johnston destroyed the railway bridge over the Potomac, removed the machinery that had been rescued from the arsenal, burned the public buildings, and the next day retired on Winchester. His immediate opponent, General Patterson, had crossed the Pennsylvania border, and, moving through Maryland, had occupied Williamsport with 14,000 men. A detachment of Confederate militia had been driven from Romney, thirty-five miles north-west of Winchester, and the general forward movement of the enemy had become pronounced.

June 20   On June 20 Jackson’s brigade was ordered to destroy the workshops of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway at Martinsburg, together with the whole of the rolling stock that might there be found, and to support the cavalry. The first of these tasks, although Martinsburg is no more than ten miles distant from Williamsport, was easily accomplished. Four locomotives were sent back to Winchester, drawn by teams of horses; and several more, together with many waggons, were given to the flames. The second task demanded no unusual exertions. The Federals, as yet, manifested no intention of marching upon Winchester, nor was the Confederate cavalry in need of immediate assistance. The force numbered 300 sabres. The men were untrained; but they were first-rate horsemen, they knew every inch of the country, and they were exceedingly well commanded. Lieutenant-Colonel J. E. B. Stuart, who had been a captain of dragoons in the United States army, had already given token of those remarkable qualities which were afterwards to make him famous. Of an old Virginia family, he was the very type of the Cavalier, fearless and untiring, “boisterous as March, yet fresh as May.”

“Educated at West Point, and trained in Indian fighting in the prairies, he brought to the great struggle upon which he had now entered a thorough knowledge of arms, a bold and fertile conception, and a constitution of body which enabled him to bear up against fatigues which would have prostrated the strength of other men. Those who saw him at this time are eloquent in their description of the energy and the habits of the man. They tell how he remained almost constantly in the saddle; how he never failed to instruct personally every squad which went out on picket; how he was everywhere present, at all hours of the day and night, along the line which he guarded; and how, by infusing into the raw cavalry his own activity and watchfulness, he was enabled, in spite of the small force which he commanded, to observe the whole part of the Potomac from Point of Rocks to beyond Williamsport. His animal spirits were unconquerable, his gaiety and humour unfailing; he had a ready jest for all, and made the forests ring with his songs as he marched at the head of his column. So great was his activity that General Johnston compared him to that species of hornet called ‘a yellow jacket,’ and said that ‘he was no sooner brushed off than he lit back again.’ When the general was subsequently transferred to the West he wrote to Stuart: ‘How can I eat, sleep, or rest in peace without you upon the outpost?’”[10]

No officer in the Confederacy was more trusted by his superiors or more popular with the men; and Jackson was no more proof than others against the attractions of his sunny and noble nature. As a soldier, Stuart was a colleague after his own heart; and, as a man, he was hardly less congenial. The dashing horseman of eight-and-twenty, who rivalled Murat in his fondness for gay colours, and to all appearance looked upon war as a delightful frolic, held a rule of life as strict as that of his Presbyterian comrade; and outwardly a sharp contrast, inwardly they were in the closest sympathy. Stuart’s fame as a leader was to be won in larger fields than those west of the Blue Ridge, and, although sprung from the same Scotch-Irish stock, he was in no way connected with the Valley soldiers. But from the very outbreak of the war he was intimately associated with Jackson and his men. Fortune seemed to take a curious delight in bringing them together; they were together in their first skirmish, and in their last great victory; and now, on the banks of the Potomac, watching the hostile masses that were assembling on the further shore, they first learned to know each other’s worth.

July 2   On July 2 Patterson crossed the river. The movement was at once reported by Stuart, and Jackson, with the 5th Virginia and a battery, advanced to meet the enemy. His instructions from Johnston were to ascertain the strength of the hostile force, and then to retire under cover of the cavalry. Four regiments of his brigade were therefore left in camp; the baggage was sent back, and when the 5th Virginia had marched out a short distance, three of the four guns were halted. Near Falling Waters, a country church some five miles south of the Potomac, Patterson’s advanced guard was discovered on the road. The country on either hand, like the greater part of the Valley, was open, undulating, and highly cultivated, view and movement being obstructed only by rail fences and patches of high timber.

The Virginians were partially concealed by a strip of woodland, and when the Federal skirmishers, deployed on either side of the highway, moved forward to the attack, they were received by a heavy and unexpected fire. As the enemy fell back, a portion of the Confederate line was thrown forward, occupying a house and barn; and despite the fire of two guns which the Federals had brought up, the men, with the impetuous rashness of young troops, dashed out to the attack. But Jackson intervened. The enemy, who had two brigades of infantry well closed up, was deploying a heavy force; his skirmishers were again advancing, and the 5th Virginia, in danger of being outflanked, was ordered to retire to its first position. The movement was misconstrued by the Federals, and down the high road, in solid column, came the pursuing cavalry. A well-aimed shot from the single field-piece sufficed to check their progress; a confused mass of horsemen went flying to the rear; and the Confederate gunners turned their attention to the hostile battery. Stuart, at the same time, performed a notable feat. He had moved with fifty troopers to attack the enemy’s right flank, and in reconnoitring through the woods had become detached for the moment from his command. As he rode along a winding lane he saw resting in a field a company of Federal infantry. He still wore the uniform of the United States army; the enemy suspected nothing, taking him for one of their own cavalry, and he determined to effect their capture. Riding up to the fence he bade one of the men remove the bars. This was done with respectful alacrity, and he then galloped among them, shouting “Throw down your arms, or you are all dead men!” The stentorian order was at once obeyed: the raw troops not only dropped their rifles but fell upon their faces, and the Confederate troopers, coming to their leader’s aid, marched the whole company as prisoners to the rear.

So firm was the attitude of Jackson’s command that General Patterson was thoroughly imposed upon. Slowly and cautiously he pushed out right and left, and it was not till near noon that the Confederates were finally ordered to retreat. Beyond desultory skirmishing there was no further fighting. The 5th Virginia fell back on the main body; Stuart came in with his string of captives, and leaving the cavalry to watch the enemy, the First Brigade went into camp some two miles south of Martinsburg. Patterson reported to his Government that he had been opposed by 3,500 men, exactly ten times Jackson’s actual number.[11] The losses on either side were inconsiderable, a few men killed and 10 or 15 wounded; and if the Confederates carried off 50 prisoners, the Federals had the satisfaction of burning some tents which Jackson had been unable to remove. The engagement, however, had the best effect on the morale of the Southern troops, and they were not so ignorant as to overlook the skill and coolness with which they had been manœuvred. It is possible that their commander appeared in an unexpected light, and that they had watched his behaviour with some amount of curiosity. They certainly discovered that a distaste for show and frippery is no indication of an unwarlike spirit. In the midst of the action, while he was writing a dispatch, a cannon ball had torn a tree above his head to splinters. Not a muscle moved, and he wrote on as if he were seated in his own tent.

July 3   The day after Falling Waters, on Johnston’s recommendation, Jackson received from General Lee his commission as brigadier-general in the Confederate army. “My promotion,” he wrote to his wife, “was beyond what I had anticipated, as I only expected it to be in the Volunteer forces of the State. One of my greatest desires for advancement is the gratification it will give my darling, and (the opportunity) of serving my country more efficiently. I have had all that I ought to desire in the line of promotion. I should be very ungrateful if I were not contented, and exceedingly thankful to our kind Heavenly Father.”

Of Patterson’s further movements it is unnecessary to speak at length. The Federal army crawled on to Martinsburg. Halting seven miles south-west Jackson was reinforced by Johnston’s whole command; and here, for four days, the Confederates, drawn up in line of battle, awaited attack. But the Federals stood fast in Martinsburg; and on the fourth day Johnston withdrew to Winchester. The Virginia soldiers were bitterly dissatisfied. At first even Jackson chafed. He was eager for further action. His experiences at Falling Waters had given him no exalted notion of the enemy’s prowess, and he was ready to engage them single-handed. “I want my brigade,” he said, “to feel that it can itself whip Patterson’s whole army, and I believe we can do it.” But Johnston’s self-control was admirable. He was ready to receive attack, believing that, in his selected position, he could repulse superior numbers. But he was deaf to all who clamoured for an offensive movement, to the murmurs of the men, and to the remonstrances of the officers. The stone houses of Martinsburg and its walled inclosures were proof against assault, and promised at most a bloody victory. His stock of ammunition was scanty in the extreme; the infantry had but fourteen cartridges apiece; and although his patience was construed by his troops as a want of enterprise, he had in truth displayed great daring in offering battle south of Martinsburg.

The Federal army at Washington, commanded by General McDowell, amounted to 50,000 men; a portion of this force was already south of the Potomac, and Beauregard’s 20,000 Confederates, at Manassas Junction, were seriously threatened. In West Virginia the enemy had advanced, moving, fortunately, in the direction of Staunton, at the southern end of the Valley, and not on Winchester.

July 11   On July 11, this force of 20,000 men defeated a Confederate detachment at Rich Mountain, not far from Jackson’s birthplace; and although it was still in the heart of the Alleghenies, a few marches, which there were practically no troops to oppose, would give it the control of the Upper Valley.

Thus menaced by three columns of invasion, numbering together over 80,000 men, the chances of the Confederates, who mustered no more than 32,000 all told, looked small indeed. But the three Federal columns were widely separated, and it was possible, by means of the Manassas Gap Railway, for Johnston and Beauregard to unite with greater rapidity than their opponents.

President Davis, acting on the advice of General Lee, had therefore determined to concentrate the whole available force at Manassas Junction, and to meet at that point the column advancing from Washington.[12] The difficulty was for the Army of the Shenandoah to give Patterson the slip. This could easily have been done while that officer stood fast at Martinsburg; but, in Lee’s opinion, if the enemy found that the whole force of the Confederacy was concentrating at Manassas Junction, the Washington column would remain within its intrenchments round the capital, and the Confederates “would be put to the great disadvantage of achieving nothing, and leaving the other points (Winchester and Staunton) exposed.” The concentration, therefore, was to be postponed until the Washington column advanced.[13]

But by that time Patterson might be close to Winchester or threatening the Manassas Railway. Johnston had thus a most delicate task before him; and in view of the superior numbers which the Federals could bring against Manassas, it was essential that not a man should he wasted in minor enterprises. The defeat of Patterson, even had it been practicable, would not have prevented the Washington column from advancing; and every Confederate rifleman who fell in the Valley would be one the less at Manassas.

July 15   On July 15 Patterson left Martinsburg and moved in the direction of Winchester. On the 16th he remained halted at Bunker’s Hill, nine miles north; and on the 17th, instead of continuing his advance, moved to his left and occupied Charlestown. His indecision was manifest. He, too, had no easy part to play. His instructions were to hold Johnston in the Valley, while McDowell advanced against Beauregard. But his instructions were either too definite or not definite enough, and he himself was overcautious. He believed, and so did General Scott, that Johnston might be retained at Winchester by demonstrations—that is, by making a show of strength and by feigned attacks. For more vigorous action Patterson was not in the least inclined; and we can hardly wonder if he hesitated to trust his ill-trained regiments to the confusion and chances of an attack. Even in that day of raw soldiers and inexperienced leaders his troops had an unenviable reputation. They had enlisted for three months, and their term of service was nearly up. Their commander had no influence with them; and, turning a deaf ear to his appeals, they stubbornly refused to remain with the colours even for a few days over their term of service. They were possibly disgusted with the treatment they had received from the Government. The men had received no pay. Many were without shoes, and others, according to their general, were “without pants!” “They cannot march,” he adds, “and, unless a paymaster goes with them, they will be indecently clad and have just cause of complaint.”[14]

Nevertheless, the Federal authorities made a grievous mistake when they allowed Patterson and his sans-culottes to move to Charlestown. McDowell marched against Beauregard on the afternoon of the 16th, and Patterson should have been instructed to attack Johnston at any cost. Even had the latter been successful, he could hardly have reinforced the main army in time to meet McDowell.

July 18   At 1 a.m. on the morning of the 18th Johnston received a telegram from the President to the effect that McDowell was advancing on Manassas. Stuart was immediately directed to keep Patterson amused; and leaving their sick, 1,700 in number, to the care of Winchester, the troops were ordered to strike tents and prepare to march. No man knew the object of the movement, and when the regiments passed through Winchester, marching southward, with their backs to the enemy, the step was lagging and the men dispirited. A few miles out, as they turned eastward, the brigades were halted and an order was read to them. “Our gallant army under General Beauregard is now attacked by overwhelming numbers. The Commanding General hopes that his troops will step out like men, and make a forced march to save the country.” The effect of this stirring appeal was instantaneous. “The soldiers,” says Jackson, “rent the air with shouts of joy, and all was eagerness and animation.” The march was resumed, and as mile after mile was passed, although there was much useless delay and the pace was slow, the faint outlines of the Blue Ridge, rising high above the Valley, changed imperceptibly to a mighty wall of rock and forest. As the night came down a long reach of the Shenandoah crossed the road. The ford was waist-deep, but the tall Virginians, plunging without hesitation into the strong current, gained the opposite shore with little loss of time. The guns and waggons followed in long succession through the darkling waters, and still the heavy tramp of the toiling column passed eastward through the quiet fields. The Blue Ridge was crossed at Ashby’s Gap; and at two o’clock in the morning, near the little village of Paris, the First Brigade was halted on the further slope. They had marched over twenty miles, and so great was their exhaustion that the men sank prostrate on the ground beside their muskets.[15] They were already sleeping, when an officer reminded Jackson that there were no pickets round the bivouac. “Let the poor fellows sleep,” was the reply; “I will guard the camp myself.” And so, through the watches of the summer night, the general himself stood sentry over his unconscious troops.[16]

[Illustration: Map of the situation on the night of July 17th, 1861.]

[1] Strength of the Federal Navy at different periods:—
        March 4, 1861: 42 ships in commission.
        December 1, 1861: 264 ships in commission.
        December 1, 1862: 427 ships in commission.
        December 1, 1863: 588 ships in commission.
        December 1, 1864: 671 ships in commission.

[2] Even after the Peninsular War had enlarged the experience of the British army, Sir Charles Napier declared that he knew but one general who could handle 100,000 men, and that was the Duke of Wellington.

[3] Grant’s Memoirs, vol. i, p. 168.

[4] Cf. U.S. Census Returns 1860.

[5] Battles and Leaders, vol. i.

[6] The Virginia troops were merged in the army of the Confederate States on June 8, 1861. The total strength was 40,000 men and 115 guns. O.R., vol. ii, p. 928.

[7] When the battery arrived at Harper’s Ferry, it was quartered in a church, already occupied by a company called the Grayson Dare-devils, who, wishing to show their hospitality, assigned the pulpit to Captain Pendleton as an appropriate lodging. The four guns were at once christened Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

[8] O.R., vol. ii, p. 814.

[9] Ibid., pp. 881, 889, 897, 898, 901, 923.

[10] Cooke, p. 47.

[11] O.R., vol. ii, p. 157.

[12] O.R., vol. ii, p. 515.

[13] O.R., vol. ii, p. 507.

[14] O.R., vol. ii, pp. 169, 170.

[15] “The discouragements of that day’s march,” says Johnston, “to one accustomed to the steady gait of regular soldiers, is indescribable. The views of military obedience and command then taken both by officers and men confined their duties and obligations almost exclusively to the drill-ground and guards. In camps and marches they were scarcely known. Consequently, frequent and unreasonable delays caused so slow a rate of marching as to make me despair of joining General Beauregard in time to aid him.”— Johnston’s Narrative.

[16] Letter to Mrs. Jackson, Memoirs, p. 176.

Chapter VI

July 19   At the first streak of dawn, Jackson aroused his men and resumed the march. Before the column gained the plain, Stuart’s cavalry clattered past, leaving Patterson at Charlestown, in ignorance of his adversary’s escape, and congratulating himself on the success of his cautious strategy. At Piedmont, a station at the foot of the Blue Ridge, trains were waiting for the conveyance of the troops; and at four o’clock in the afternoon Jackson and his brigade had reached Manassas Junction. The cavalry, artillery, and waggons moved by road; and the remainder of Johnston’s infantry was expected to follow the First Brigade without delay. But in war, unless there has been ample time for preparation, railways are not always an expeditious means of travel. The line was single; so short notice had been given that it was impossible to collect enough rolling-stock; the officials were inexperienced; there was much mismanagement; and on the morning of Sunday, July 21, only three brigades of the Army of the Shenandoah—Jackson’s, Bee’s, and Bartow’s—together with the cavalry and artillery, had joined Beauregard. Kirby Smith’s brigade, about 1,900 strong, was still upon the railway.

The delay might easily have been disastrous. Happily, the Federal movements were even more tardy. Had the invading army been well organised, Beauregard would probably have been defeated before Johnston could have reached him. McDowell had advanced from Washington on the afternoon of the 16th with 35,000 men. On the morning of the 18th, the greater part of his force was concentrated at Centreville, twenty-two miles from Washington, and five and a half north-east of Manassas Junction. Beauregard’s outposts had already fallen back to the banks of Bull Run, a stream made difficult by wooded and precipitous banks, from two to three miles south, and of much the same width as the Thames at Oxford.

It would have been possible to have attacked on the morning of the 19th, but the Federal commander was confronted by many obstacles. He knew little of the country. Although it was almost within sight of the capital, the maps were indifferent. Guides who could describe roads and positions from a military point of view were not forthcoming. All information had to be procured by personal reconnaissance, and few of his officers had been trained to such work. Moreover, the army was most unwieldy. 35,000 men, together with ten batteries, and the requisite train of waggons, was a force far larger than any American officer had yet set eyes upon; and the movement of such a mass demanded precise arrangement on the part of the staff, and on the part of the troops most careful attention to order and punctuality; but of these both staff and troops were incapable. The invading force might have done well in a defensive position, which it would have had time to occupy, and where the supply of food and forage, carried on from stationary magazines, would have been comparatively easy; but directly it was put in motion, inexperience and indiscipline stood like giants in the path. The Federal troops were utterly unfitted for offensive movement, and both Scott and McDowell had protested against an immediate advance. The regiments had only been organised in brigades a week previously. They had never been exercised in mass. Deployment for battle had not yet been practised, and to deploy 10,000 or 20,000 men for attack is a difficult operation, even with well-drilled troops and an experienced staff. Nor were the supply arrangements yet completed. The full complement of waggons had not arrived, and the drivers on the spot were as ignorant as they were insubordinate. The troops had received no instruction in musketry, and many of the regiments went into action without having once fired their rifles. But the protests of the generals were of no effect. The Federal Cabinet decided that in face of the public impatience it was impossible to postpone the movement. “On to Richmond” was the universal cry. The halls of Congress resounded with the fervid eloquence of the politicians. The press teemed with bombastic articles, in which the Northern troops were favourably compared with the regular armies of Europe, and the need of discipline and training for the fearless and intelligent representatives of the sovereign people was scornfully repudiated. Ignorance of war and contempt for the lessons of history were to cost the nation dear.

The march from Washington was a brilliant spectacle. The roads south of the Potomac were covered with masses of men, well armed and well clothed, amply furnished with artillery, and led by regular officers. To the sound of martial music they had defiled before the President. They were accompanied by scores of carriages. Senators, members of Congress, and even ladies swelled the long procession. A crowd of reporters rode beside the columns; and the return of a victorious army could hardly have been hailed with more enthusiasm than the departure of these untrained and unblooded volunteers. Yet, pitiful masquerade as the march must have appeared to a soldier’s eye, the majority of those who broke camp that summer morning were brave men and good Americans. To restore the Union, to avenge the insult to their country’s flag, they had come forward with no other compulsion than the love of their mother-land. If their self-confidence was supreme and even arrogant, it was the self-confidence of a strong and a fearless people, and their patriotism was of the loftiest kind. It would have been easy for the North, with her enormous wealth, to have organised a vast army of mercenaries wherewith to crush the South. But no! her sons were not willing that their country’s honour should be committed to meaner hands.

As they advanced into Virginia, the men, animated by their surroundings, stepped briskly forward, and the country-side was gay with fantastic uniforms and gorgeous standards. But the heat was oppressive, and the roads lay deep in dust. Knapsack, rifle, and blankets became a grievous burden. The excitement died away, and unbroken to the monotonous exertion of the march the three-months’ recruits lost all semblance of subordination. The compact array of the columns was gradually lost, and a tail of laggards, rapidly increasing, brought up the rear. Regiment mingled with regiment. By each roadside brook the men fell out in numbers. Every blackberry bush was surrounded by a knot of stragglers; and, heedless of the orders of those officers who still attempted to keep them in the ranks, scores of so-called soldiers sought the cool shade of the surrounding woods.[1] When darkness fell the army was but six miles from its morning bivouacs; and it was not till late the next day that the stragglers rejoined their regiments.

McDowell had intended to attack at once. “But I could not,” he says, “get the troops forward earlier than we did. I wished them to go to Centreville the second day, but when I went to urge them forward, I was told that it was impossible for the men to march further. They had only come from Vienna, about six miles, and it was not more than six and a half miles further to Centreville, in all a march of twelve and a half miles; but the men were foot-weary—not so much, I was told, by the distance marched, as by the time they had been on foot, caused by the obstructions in the road, and the slow pace we had to move to avoid ambuscades. The men were, moreover, unaccustomed to marching, and not used to carrying even the load of ‘light marching order.’ . . . The trains, hurriedly gotten together, with horses, waggons, drivers, and waggon-masters all new and unused to each other, moved with difficulty and disorder, and were the cause of a day’s delay in getting the provisions forward.”[2]

On the morning of the 18th, in order to attract the enemy’s attention from his right, a brigade was sent south, in the direction of Bull Run. The Confederate outposts fell back over Blackburn’s Ford. The woods about the stream concealed the defenders’ forces, and the Federals pushed on, bringing artillery into action. Two Confederate guns, after firing a few shots, were withdrawn under cover, and the attacking troops reached the ford. Suddenly, from the high timber on the further bank, volleys of musketry blazed out in their very faces, and then came proof that some at least of the Federal regiments were no more to be relied upon in action than on the march. A portion of the force, despite the strong position of the enemy and the heavy fire, showed a bold front, but at least one regiment turned and fled, and was only rallied far in rear. The whole affair was a mistake on the part of the commander. His troops had been heedlessly pushed forward, and General Longstreet, commanding the opposing brigade, by carefully concealing his infantry, had drawn him into an ambuscade. The results of the action were not without importance. The Federals fell back with a loss of 83 officers and men, and the Confederates were much elated at their easy success. Among some of the Northerners, on the other hand, the sudden check to the advance, and the bold bearing of the enemy, turned confidence and enthusiasm into irrational despondency. A regiment and a battery, which had enlisted for three months and whose time was up, demanded their discharge, and notwithstanding the appeals of the Secretary of War, “moved to the rear to the sound of the enemy’s cannon.”[3]

McDowell’s plans were affected by the behaviour of his troops. He was still ignorant, so skilfully had the march from the Valley been carried out, that Johnston had escaped Patterson. He was well aware, however, that such movement was within the bounds of possibility, yet he found himself compelled to postpone attack until the 21st. The 19th and 20th were spent in reconnaissance, and in bringing up supplies; and the lack of organisation made the issue of rations a long process. But it was the general’s want of confidence in his soldiers that was the main cause of delay.

The Confederates were strongly posted. The bridges and fords across Bull Run, with the exception of Sudley Ford, a long way up stream to the Federal right, were obstructed with felled trees, and covered by rude intrenchments. Even with regular troops a direct attack on a single point of passage would have been difficult. McDowell’s first idea was to pass across the front of the defences, and turn the right at Wolf Run Shoals, five miles south-east of Union Mills. The country, however, on this flank was found to be unfit for the operations of large masses, and it was consequently determined to turn the Confederate left by way of Sudley Springs.

The Federal army consisted of five divisions of infantry, forty-three guns, and seven troops of regular cavalry. Nine batteries and eight companies of infantry were supplied by the United States army, and there was a small battalion of marines. The strength of the force told off for the attack amounted to 30,000 all told.[4]

The Confederates, along the banks of Bull Run, disposed of 26,000 infantry, 2,500 cavalry, and 55 guns. Johnston, who had arrived on the 20th, had assumed command; but, ignorant of the country, he had allowed Beauregard to make the dispositions for the expected battle. The line occupied was extensive, six miles in length, stretching from the Stone Bridge, where the Warrenton highroad crosses Bull Run, on the left, to the ford at Union Mills on the right. Besides these two points of passage there were no less than six fords, to each of which ran a road from Centreville. The country to the north was undulating and densely wooded, and it would have been possible for the Federals, especially as the Southern cavalry was held back south of the stream, to mass before any one of the fords, unobserved, in superior numbers. Several of the fords, moreover, were weakly guarded, for Beauregard, who had made up his mind to attack, had massed the greater part of his army near the railroad. The Shenandoah troops were in reserve; Bee’s and Bartow’s brigades between McLean’s and Blackburn’s fords, Jackson’s between Blackburn’s and Mitchell’s fords, in rear of the right centre.

The position south of Bull Run, originally selected by General Lee,[5] was better adapted for defence than for attack. The stream, with its high banks, ran like the ditch of a fortress along the front; and to the south was the plateau on which stands Manassas Junction. The plateau is intersected by several creeks, running through deep depressions, and dividing the high ground into a series of bold undulations, level on the top, and with gentle slopes. The most important of the creeks is Young’s Branch, surrounding on two sides the commanding eminence crowned by the Henry House, and joining Bull Run a short distance below the Stone Bridge. That part of the field which borders on Flat Run, and lies immediately north of Manassas Junction, is generally thickly wooded; but shortly after passing New Market, the Manassas-Sudley road, running north-west, emerges into more open country, and, from the Henry House onward, passes over several parallel ridges, deep in grass and corn, and studded between with groves of oak and pine. Here the large fields, without hedges, and scantily fenced, formed an admirable manœuvre ground; the wide depressions of the creeks, separating the crests of the ridges by a space of fifteen or sixteen hundred yards, gave free play to the artillery; the long easy slopes could be swept by fire, and the groves were no obstruction to the view. The left flank of the Confederate position, facing north, on either side of the Manassas-Sudley road, was thus an ideal battle-field.

[Illustration: Map showing the dispositions on the morning of July 21st, 1861.]

July 21, 6.30 a.m.   Sunday morning, the 21st of July, broke clear and warm. Through a miscarriage of orders, the Confederate offensive movement was delayed; and soon after six o’clock the Federals opened with musketry and artillery against the small brigade commanded by Colonel Evans, which held the Stone Bridge on the extreme left of the Confederate line. An hour later the Shenandoah brigades, Bee’s, Bartow’s, and Jackson’s, together with Bonham’s, were ordered up in support.

8.30 a.m.   The attack was feebly pressed, and at 8.30 Evans, observing a heavy cloud of dust rising above the woods to the north of the Warrenton road, became satisfied that the movement to his front was but a feint, and that a column of the enemy was meanwhile marching to turn his flank by way of Sudley Springs, about two miles north-west.

9 a.m.   Sending back this information to the next brigade, he left four companies to hold the bridge; and with six companies of riflemen, a battalion called the Louisiana Tigers, and two six-pounder howitzers, he moved across Young’s Branch, and took post on the Matthews Hill, a long ridge, which, at the same elevation, faces the Henry Hill.

Evans’ soldierly instinct had penetrated the design of the Federal commander, and his ready assumption of responsibility threw a strong force across the path of the turning column, and gave time for his superiors to alter their dispositions and bring up the reserves.

The Federal force opposite the Stone Bridge consisted of a whole division; and its commander, General Tyler, had been instructed to divert attention, by means of a vigorous demonstration, from the march of Hunter’s and Heintzleman’s divisions to a ford near Sudley Springs. Part of the Fifth Division was retained in reserve at Centreville, and part threatened the fords over Bull Run below the Stone Bridge. The Fourth Division had been left upon the railroad, seven miles in rear of Centreville, in order to guard the communications with Washington.

Already, in forming the line of march, there had been much confusion. The divisions had bivouacked in loose order, without any regard for the morrow’s movements, and their concentration previous to the advance was very tedious. The brigades crossed each other’s route; the march was slow; and the turning column, blocked by Tyler’s division on its way to the Stone Bridge, was delayed for nearly three hours.

9.30 a.m.   At last, however, Hunter and Heintzleman crossed Sudley Ford; and after marching a mile in the direction of Manassas Junction, the leading brigade struck Evans’ riflemen. The Confederates were concealed by a fringe of woods, and the Federals were twice repulsed. But supports came crowding up, and Evans sent back for reinforcements. The fight had lasted for an hour. It was near eleven o’clock, and the check to the enemy’s advance had given time for the Confederates to form a line of battle on the Henry Hill. Bee and Bartow, accompanied by Imboden’s battery, were in position; Hampton’s Legion, a regiment raised and commanded by an officer who was one of the wealthiest planters in South Carolina, and who became one of the finest soldiers in the Confederacy, was not far behind; and Jackson was coming up.[6]

Again the situation was saved by the prompt initiative of a brigade commander. Bee had been ordered to support the troops at the Stone Bridge. Moving forward towards the Henry Hill, he had been informed by a mounted orderly that the whole Federal army seemed to be moving to the north-west. A signal officer on the plateau who had caught the glint of the brass field-pieces which accompanied the hostile column, still several miles distant, had sent the message. Bee waited for no further instructions. Ordering Bartow to follow, he climbed the Henry Hill. The wide and beautiful landscape lay spread before him; Evans’ small command was nearly a mile distant, on the Matthews Hill; and on the ridges to the far north-west he saw the glitter of many bayonets.

11 a.m.   Rapidly placing his battery in position near the Henry House, Bee formed a line of battle on the crest above Young’s Branch; but very shortly afterwards, acceding to an appeal for help from Evans, he hurried his troops forward to the Matthews Hill. His new position protected the rear of the companies which held the Stone Bridge; and so long as the bridge was held the two wings of the Federal army were unable to co-operate. But on the Matthews Hill, the enemy’s strength, especially in artillery, was overwhelming; and the Confederates were soon compelled to fall back to the Henry Hill. McDowell had already sent word to Tyler to force the Stone Bridge; and Sherman’s brigade of this division, passing the stream by a ford, threatened the flank of Bee and Evans as they retreated across Young’s Branch.

The Federals now swarmed over the Matthews Hill; but Imboden’s battery, which Bee had again posted on the Henry Hill, and Hampton’s Legion, occupying the Robinson House, a wooden tenement on the open spur which projects towards the Stone Bridge, covered the retirement of the discomfited brigades. They were not, however, suffered to fall back unharassed.

A long line of guns, following fast upon their tracks, and crossing the fields at a gallop, came into action on the opposite slope. In vain Imboden’s gunners, with their pieces well placed behind a swell of ground, strove to divert their attention from the retreating infantry, now climbing the slopes of the Henry Hill. The Federal batteries, powerful in numbers, in discipline, and in materiel, plied their fire fast. The shells fell in quick succession amongst the disordered ranks of the Southern regiments, and not all the efforts of their officers could stay their flight.

The day seemed lost. Strong masses of Northern infantry were moving forward past the Stone House on the Warrenton turnpike. Hampton’s Legion was retiring on the right. Imboden’s battery, with but three rounds remaining for each piece, galloped back across the Henry Hill, and this commanding height, the key of the battle-ground, was abandoned to the enemy. But help was at hand. Jackson, like Bee and Bartow, had been ordered to the Stone Bridge. Hearing the heavy fire to his left increasing in intensity, he had turned the head of his column towards the most pressing danger, and had sent a messenger to Bee to announce his coming. As he pushed rapidly forward, part of the troops he intended to support swept by in disorder to the rear. Imboden’s battery came dashing back, and that officer, meeting Jackson, expressed with a profanity which was evidently displeasing to the general his disgust at being left without support. “I’ll support your battery,” was the brief reply; “unlimber right here.”

11.30 a.m.   At this moment appeared General Bee, approaching at full gallop, and he and Jackson met face to face. The latter was cool and composed; Bee covered with dust and sweat, his sword in his hand, and his horse foaming. “General,” he said, “they are beating us back!” “Then, sir, we will give them the bayonet;” the thin lips closed like a vice, and the First Brigade, pressing up the slope, formed into line on the eastern edge of the Henry Hill.

Jackson’s determined bearing inspired Bee with renewed confidence. He turned bridle and galloped back to the ravine where his officers were attempting to reform their broken companies. Riding into the midst of the throng, he pointed with his sword to the Virginia regiments, deployed in well-ordered array on the height above. “Look!” he shouted, “there is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!” The men took up the cry; and the happy augury of the expression, applied at a time when defeat seemed imminent and hearts were failing, was remembered when the danger had passed away.

The position which Jackson had occupied was the strongest that could be found. He had not gone forward to the crest which looks down upon Young’s Branch, and commands the slopes by which the Federals were advancing. From that crest extended a wide view, and a wide field of fire; but both flanks would have been exposed. The Henry House was nothing more than a cottage; neither here nor elsewhere was there shelter for his riflemen, and they would have been exposed to the full force of the Federal artillery without power of reply. But on the eastern edge of the hill, where he had chosen to deploy, ran a belt of young pines, affording excellent cover, which merged into a dense oak wood near the Sudley road.

Along the edge of the pines Jackson placed his regiments, with six guns to support them. Lying in rear of the guns were the 4th and 27th Virginia; on the right was the 5th; on the left the 2nd and 33rd. Both flanks were in the woods, and Stuart, whom Jackson had called upon to secure his left, was watching the ground beyond the road. To the front, for a space of five hundred yards, stretched the level crest of the hill; and the ground beyond the Henry House, dipping to the valley of Young’s Branch, where the Federals were now gathering, was wholly unseen. But as the tactics of Wellington so often proved, a position from which the view is limited, well in rear of a crest line, may be exceedingly strong for defence, provided that troops who hold it can use the bayonet. It would be difficult in the extreme for the Federals to pave the way for their attack with artillery. From the guns on the Matthews Hill the Virginia regiments were well sheltered, and the range was long. To do effective work the hostile batteries would have to cross Young’s Branch, ascend the Henry Hill, and come into action within five hundred yards of Jackson’s line. Even if they were able to hold their ground at so short a range, they could make no accurate practice under the fire of the Confederate marksmen.

12 noon   In rear of Jackson’s line, Bee, Bartow, and Evans were rallying their men, when Johnston and Beauregard, compelled, by the unexpected movement of the Federals, to abandon all idea of attack, appeared upon the Henry Hill. They were accompanied by two batteries of artillery, Pendleton’s and Alburtis’. The colours of the broken regiments were ordered to the front, and the men rallied, taking post on Jackson’s right. The moment was critical. The blue masses of the Federals, the dust rolling high above them, were already descending the opposite slopes. The guns flashed fiercely through the yellow cloud; and the Confederate force was but a handful. Three brigades had been summoned from the fords; but the nearest was four miles distant, and many of the troops upon the plateau were already half-demoralised by retreat. The generals set themselves to revive the courage of their soldiers. Beauregard galloped along the line, cheering the regiments in every portion of the field, and then, with the colour-bearers accompanying him, rode forward to the crest. Johnston was equally conspicuous. The enemy’s shells were bursting on every side, and the shouts of the Confederates, recognising their leaders as they dashed across the front, redoubled the uproar. Meanwhile, before the centre of his line, with an unconcern which had a marvellous effect on his untried command, Jackson rode slowly to and fro. Except that his face was a little paler, and his eyes brighter, he looked exactly as his men had seen him so often on parade; and as he passed along the crest above them they heard from time to time the reassuring words, uttered in a tone which betrayed no trace of excitement, “Steady, men! steady! all’s well!”

It was at this juncture, while the confusion of taking up a new position with shattered and ill-drilled troops was at the highest, that the battle lulled. The Federal infantry, after defeating Bee and Evans, had to cross the deep gully and marshy banks of Young’s Branch, to climb the slope of the Henry Hill, and to form for a fresh attack. Even with trained soldiers a hot fight is so conducive of disorder, that it is difficult to initiate a rapid pursuit, and the Northern regiments were very slow in resuming their formations. At the same time, too, the fire of their batteries became less heavy. From their position beyond Young’s Branch the rifled guns had been able to ply the Confederate lines with shell, and their effective practice had rendered the work of rallying the troops exceedingly difficult. But when his infantry advanced, McDowell ordered one half of his artillery, two fine batteries of regulars, made up principally of rifled guns, to cross Young’s Branch. This respite was of the utmost value to the Confederates. The men, encouraged by the gallant bearing of their leaders, fell in at once upon the colours, and when Hunter’s regiments appeared on the further rim of the plateau they were received with a fire which for a moment drove them back. But the regular batteries were close at hand, and as they came into action the battle became general on the Henry Hill. The Federals had 16,000 infantry available; the Confederates no more than 6,500. But the latter were superior in artillery, 16 pieces confronting 12. The Federal guns, however, were of heavier calibre; the gunners were old soldiers, and both friend and foe testify to the accuracy of their fire, their fine discipline, and staunch endurance. The infantry, on the other hand, was not well handled. The attack was purely frontal. No attempt whatever was made to turn the Confederate flanks, although the Stone Bridge, except for the abattis, was now open, and Johnston’s line might easily have been taken in reverse. Nor does it appear that the cavalry was employed to ascertain where the flanks rested. Moreover, instead of massing the troops for a determined onslaught, driven home by sheer weight of numbers, the attack was made by successive brigades, those in rear waiting till those in front had been defeated; and, in the same manner, the brigades attacked by successive regiments. Such tactics were inexcusable. It was certainly necessary to push the attack home before the Confederate reinforcements could get up; and troops who had never drilled in mass would have taken much time to assume the orthodox formation of several lines of battle, closely supporting one another. Yet there was no valid reason, beyond the inexperience of the generals in dealing with large bodies, that brigades should have been sent into action piecemeal, or that the flanks of the defence should have been neglected. The fighting, nevertheless, was fierce. The Federal regiments, inspirited by their success on the Matthews Hill, advanced with confidence, and soon pushed forward past the Henry House. “The contest that ensued,” says General Imboden, “was terrific. Jackson ordered me to go from battery to battery and see that the guns were properly aimed and the fuses cut the right length. This was the work of but a few minutes. On returning to the left of the line of guns, I stopped to ask General Jackson’s permission to rejoin my battery. The fight was just then hot enough to make him feel well. His eyes fairly blazed. He had a way of throwing up his left hand with the open palm towards the person he was addressing. And, as he told me to go, he made this gesture. The air was full of flying missiles, and as he spoke he jerked down his hand, and I saw that blood was streaming from it. I exclaimed, “General, you are wounded.” “Only a scratch—a mere scratch,” he replied, and binding it hastily with a handkerchief, he galloped away along his line.”[7]

1.30 p.m.   When the battle was at its height, and across that narrow space, not more than five hundred yards in width, the cannon thundered, and the long lines of infantry struggled for the mastery, the two Federal batteries, protected by two regiments of infantry on their right, advanced to a more effective position. The movement was fatal. Stuart, still guarding the Confederate left, was eagerly awaiting his opportunity, and now, with 150 troopers, filing through the fences on Bald Hill, he boldly charged the enemy’s right. The regiment thus assailed, a body of Zouaves, in blue and scarlet, with white turbans, was ridden down, and almost at the same moment the 33rd Virginia, posted on Jackson’s left, charged forward from the copse in which they had been hidden. The uniforms in the two armies at this time were much alike, and from the direction of their approach it was difficult at first for the officers in charge of the Federal batteries to make sure that the advancing troops were not their own. A moment more and the doubtful regiment proved its identity by a deadly volley, delivered at a range of seventy yards. Every gunner was shot down; the teams were almost annihilated, and several officers fell killed or wounded. The Zouaves, already much shaken by Stuart’s well-timed charge, fled down the slopes, dragging with them another regiment of infantry.

Three guns alone escaped the marksmen of the 33rd. The remainder stood upon the field, silent and abandoned, surrounded by dying horses, midway between the opposing lines.

This success, however, brought but short relief to the Confederates. The enemy was not yet done with. Fresh regiments passed to the attack. The 33rd was driven back, and the thin line upon the plateau was hard put to it to retain its ground. The Southerners had lost heavily. Bee and Bartow had been killed, and Hampton wounded. Few reinforcements had reached the Henry Hill. Stragglers and skulkers were streaming to the rear. The Federals were thronging forward, and it seemed that the exhausted defenders must inevitably give way before the successive blows of superior numbers. The troops were losing confidence. Yet no thought of defeat crossed Jackson’s mind. “General,” said an officer, riding hastily towards him, “the day is going against us.” “If you think so, sir,” was the quiet reply, “you had better not say anything about it.” And although affairs seemed desperate, in reality the crisis of the battle had already passed. McDowell had but two brigades remaining in reserve, and one of these—of Tyler’s division—was still beyond Bull Run. His troops were thoroughly exhausted; they had been marching and fighting since midnight; the day was intensely hot; they had encountered fierce resistance; their rifled batteries had been silenced, and the Confederate reinforcements were coming up. Two of Bonham’s regiments had taken post on Jackson’s right, and a heavy force was approaching on the left. Kirby Smith’s brigade, of the Army of the Shenandoah, coming up by train, had reached Manassas Junction while the battle was in progress. It was immediately ordered to the field, and had been already instructed by Johnston to turn the enemy’s right.

But before the weight of Smith’s 1,900 bayonets could be thrown into the scale, the Federals made a vigorous effort to carry the Henry Hill. Those portions of the Confederate line which stood on the open ground gave way before them. Some of the guns, ordered to take up a position from which they could cover the retreat, were limbering up; and with the exception of the belt of pines, the plateau was abandoned to the hostile infantry, who were beginning to press forward at every point. The Federal engineers were already clearing away the abattis from the Stone Bridge, in order to give passage to Tyler’s third brigade and a battery of artillery; “and all were certain,” says McDowell, “that the day was ours.”

2.45 p.m.   Jackson’s men were lying beneath the crest of the plateau. Only one of his regiments—the 33rd—had as yet been engaged in the open, and his guns in front still held their own. Riding to the centre of his line, where the 2nd and 4th Virginia were stationed, he gave orders for a counterstroke. “Reserve your fire till they come within fifty yards, then fire and give them the bayonet; and when you charge, yell like furies!” Right well did the hot Virginian blood respond. Inactive from the stroke of noon till three o’clock, with the crash and cries of battle in their ears, and the shells ploughing gaps in their recumbent ranks, the men were chafing under the stern discipline which held them back from the conflict they longed to join. The Federals swept on, extending from the right and left, cheering as they came, and following the flying batteries in the ardour of success. Suddenly, a long grey line sprang from the ground in their very faces; a rolling volley threw them back in confusion; and then, with their fierce shouts pealing high above the tumult, the 2nd and 4th Virginia, supported by the 5th, charged forward across the hill. At the same moment that the enemy’s centre was thus unexpectedly assailed, Kirby Smith’s fresh brigade bore down upon the flank,[8] and Beauregard, with ready judgment, dispatched his staff officers to order a general advance. The broken remnants of Bee, Hampton, and Evans advanced upon Jackson’s right, and victory, long wavering, crowned the standards of the South. The Federals were driven past the guns, now finally abandoned, past the Henry House, and down the slope. McDowell made one desperate endeavour to stay the rout. Howard’s brigade was rapidly thrown in. But the centre had been completely broken by Jackson’s charge; the right was giving way, and the Confederates, manning the captured guns, turned them on the masses which covered the fields below.

Howard, although his men fought bravely, was easily repulsed; in a few minutes not a single Federal soldier, save the dead and dying, was to be seen upon the plateau.

Illustration: Map of the field of Bull Run.

For larger view click on image

3.30 p.m.   A final stand was made by McDowell along Young’s Branch; and there, at half-past three, a line of battle was once more established, the battalion of regular infantry forming a strong centre. But another Confederate brigade, under General Early, had now arrived, and again the enemy’s right was overthrown, while Beauregard, leaving Jackson, whose brigade had lost all order and many men in its swift advance, to hold the plateau, swept forward towards the Matthews Hill. The movement was decisive. McDowell’s volunteers broke up in the utmost confusion. The Confederate infantry was in no condition to pursue, but the cavalry was let loose, and before long the retreat became a panic. The regular battalion, composed of young soldiers, but led by experienced officers, alone preserved its discipline, moving steadily in close order through the throng of fugitives, and checking the pursuing troopers by its firm and confident bearing. The remainder of the army dissolved into a mob. It was not that the men were completely demoralised, but simply that discipline had not become a habit. They had marched as individuals, going just so far as they pleased, and halting when they pleased; they had fought as individuals, bravely enough, but with little combination; and when they found that they were beaten, as individuals they retreated. “The old soldier,” wrote one of the regular officers a week later, “feels safe in the ranks, unsafe out of the ranks, and the greater the danger the more pertinaciously he clings to his place. The volunteer of three months never attains this instinct of discipline. Under danger, and even under mere excitement, he flies away from his ranks, and hopes for safety in dispersion. At four o’clock in the afternoon of the 21st there were more than 12,000 volunteers on the battle-field of Bull Run who had entirely lost their regimental organisation. They could no longer be handled as troops, for the officers and men were not together. Men and officers mingled together promiscuously; and it is worthy of remark that this disorganisation did not result from defeat or fear, for up to four o’clock we had been uniformly successful. The instinct of discipline which keeps every man in his place had not been acquired. We cannot suppose that the enemy had attained a higher degree of discipline than our own, but they acted on the defensive, and were not equally exposed to disorganisation.”[9]

“Cohesion was lost,” says one of McDowell’s staff; “and the men walked quietly off. There was no special excitement except that arising from the frantic efforts of officers to stop men who paid little or no attention to anything that was said; and there was no panic, in the ordinary sense and meaning of the word, until the retiring soldiers, guns, waggons, Congressmen and carriages, were fired upon, on the road east of Bull Run.”[10]

At Centreville the reserve division stood fast; and the fact that these troops were proof against the infection of panic and the exaggerated stories of the fugitives is in itself strong testimony to the native courage of the soldiery.

A lack of competent Staff officers, which, earlier in the day, had prevented an advance on Centreville by the Confederate right, brought Johnston’s arrangements for pursuit to naught. The cavalry, weak in numbers, was soon incumbered with squads of prisoners; darkness fell upon the field, and the defeated army streamed over the roads to Washington, followed only by its own fears.

Why the Confederate generals did not follow up their success on the following day is a question round which controversy raged for many a year. Deficiencies in commissariat and transport; the disorganisation of the army after the victory; the difficulties of a direct attack upon Washington, defended as it was by a river a mile broad, with but a single bridge, and patrolled by gunboats; the determination of the Government to limit its military operations to a passive defence of Confederate territory, have all been pressed into service as excuses. “Give me 10,000 fresh troops,” said Jackson, as the surgeon dressed his wound, “and I would be in Washington to-morrow.” Before twenty-four hours had passed reinforcements had increased the strength of Johnston’s army to 40,000. Want of organisation had undoubtedly prevented McDowell from winning a victory on the 19th or 20th, but pursuit is a far less difficult business than attack. There was nothing to interfere with a forward movement. There were supplies along the railway, and if the mechanism for their distribution and the means for their carriage were wanting, the counties adjoining the Potomac were rich and fertile. Herds of bullocks were grazing in the pastures, and the barns of the farmers were loaded with grain. It was not a long supply train that was lacking, nor an experienced staff, nor even well-disciplined battalions; but a general who grasped the full meaning of victory, who understood how a defeated army, more especially of new troops, yields at a touch, and who, above all, saw the necessity of giving the North no leisure to develop her immense resources. For three days Jackson impatiently awaited the order to advance, and his men were held ready with three days’ cooked rations in their haversacks. But his superiors gave no sign, and he was reluctantly compelled to abandon all hope of reaping the fruits of victory.

It is true that the Confederates were no more fit for offensive operations than McDowell’s troops. “Our army,” says General Johnston, “was more disorganised by victory than that of the United States by defeat.” But it is to be remembered that if the Southerners had moved into Maryland, crossing the Potomac by some of the numerous fords near Harper’s Ferry, they would have found no organised opposition, save the débris of McDowell’s army, between them and the Northern capital. On July 26, five days after the battle, the general who was to succeed McDowell arrived in Washington and rode round the city. “I found,” he wrote, “no preparations whatever for defence, not even to the extent of putting the troops in military position. Not a regiment was properly encamped, not a single avenue of approach guarded. All was chaos, and the streets, hotels, and bar-rooms were filled with drunken officers and men, absent from their regiments without leave, a perfect pandemonium. Many had even gone to their homes, their flight from Bull Run terminating in New York, or even in New Hampshire and Maine. There was really nothing to prevent a small cavalry force from riding into the city. A determined attack would doubtless have carried Arlington Heights and placed the city at the mercy of a battery of rifled guns. If the Secessionists attached any value to the possession of Washington, they committed their greatest error in not following up the victory of Bull Run.” On the same date, the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, wrote as follows: “The capture of Washington seems now to be inevitable; during the whole of Monday and Tuesday [July 22 and 23] it might have been taken without resistance. The rout, overthrow, and demoralisation of the whole army were complete.”[11]

Of his own share in the battle, either at the time or afterwards, Jackson said but little. A day or two after the battle an anxious crowd was gathered round the post-office at Lexington, awaiting intelligence from the front. A letter was handed to the Reverend Dr. White, who, recognising the handwriting, exclaimed to the eager groups about him, “Now we shall know all the facts.” On opening it he found the following, and no more:

“My dear Pastor,—In my tent last night, after a fatiguing day’s service, I remembered that I had failed to send you my contribution to our coloured Sunday school. Enclosed you will find my check for that object, which please acknowledge at your earliest convenience, and oblige yours faithfully, T. J. Jackson.”

To his wife, however, he was less reserved. “Yesterday,” he wrote, we “fought a great battle and gained a great victory, for which all the glory is due to God alone. . . . Whilst great credit is due to other parts of our gallant army, God made my brigade more instrumental than any other in repulsing the main attack. This is for your information only—say nothing about it. Let others speak praise, not myself.”

Again, on August 5: “And so you think the papers ought to say more about your husband. My brigade is not a brigade of newspaper correspondents. I know that the First Brigade was the first to meet and pass our retreating forces—to push on with no other aid than the smiles of God; to boldly take up its position with the artillery that was under my command—to arrest the victorious foe in his onward progress—to hold him in check until the reinforcements arrived—and finally to charge bayonets, and, thus advancing, to pierce the enemy’s centre. I am well satisfied with what it did, and so are my generals, Johnston and Beauregard. It is not to be expected that I should receive the credit that Generals Johnston and Beauregard would, because I was under them; but I am thankful to my ever-kind Heavenly Father that He makes me content to await His own good time and pleasure for commendation—knowing that all things work together for my good. If my brigade can always play so important and useful a part as it did in the last battle, I trust I shall ever be most grateful. As you think the papers do not notice me enough, I send a specimen, which you will see from the upper part of the paper is a ‘leader.’ My darling, never distrust our God, Who doeth all things well. In due time He will make manifest all His pleasure, which is all His people should desire. You must not be concerned at seeing other parts of the army lauded, and my brigade not mentioned. Truth is mighty and will prevail. When the official reports are published, if not before, I expect to see justice done to this noble body of patriots.”[12]

These letters reveal a generous pride in the valour of his troops, and a very human love of approbation struggles with the curb which his religious principles had placed on his ambition. Like Nelson, he felt perhaps that before long he would have “a Gazette of his own.” But still, of his own achievements, of his skilful tactics, of his personal behaviour, of his well-timed orders, he spoke no word, and the victory was ascribed to a higher power. “The charge of the 2nd and 4th Virginia,” he wrote in his modest report, “through the blessing of God, Who gave us the victory, pierced the centre of the enemy.”[13]

And Jackson’s attitude was that of the Southern people. When the news of Bull Run reached Richmond, and through the crowds that thronged the streets passed the tidings of the victory, there was neither wild excitement nor uproarious joy. No bonfires lit the darkness of the night; no cannon thundered out salutes; the steeples were silent till the morrow, and then were heard only the solemn tones that called the people to prayer. It was resolved, on the day following the battle, by the Confederate Congress: “That we recognise the hand of the Most High God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, in the glorious victory with which He has crowned our arms at Manassas, and that the people of these Confederate States are invited, by appropriate services on the ensuing Sabbath, to offer up their united thanksgivings and prayers for this mighty deliverance.”

The spoils of Bull Run were large; 1,500 prisoners, 25 guns, ten stand of colours, several thousand rifles, a large quantity of ammunition and hospital stores, twenty-six waggons, and several ambulances were left in the victors’ hands. The Federal losses were 460 killed and 1,124 wounded; the Confederate, 387 killed, 1,582 wounded, and 13 missing. The First Brigade suffered more severely than any other in the Southern army. Of 3,000 officers and men, 488 were killed or wounded, nearly a fourth of the total loss.

A few days after the battle Johnston advanced to Centreville, and from the heights above the broad Potomac his cavalry vedettes looked upon the spires of Washington. But it was in vain that the Confederate troopers rode to and fro on the river bank and watered their horses within sight of the Capitol. The enemy was not to be beguiled across the protecting stream. But it was not from fear. Although the disaster had been as crushing as unexpected, it was bravely met. The President’s demand for another army was cheerfully complied with. Volunteers poured in from every State. The men were no longer asked to serve for three months, but for three years. Washington became transformed into an enormous camp; great earthworks rose on the surrounding heights; and the training of the new levies went steadily forward. There was no cry for immediate action. Men were not wanting who believed that the task of coercion was impossible. Able statesmen and influential journalists advised the President to abandon the attempt. But Lincoln, true to the trust which had been committed to his keeping, never flinched from his resolve that the Union should be restored. He, too, stood like a wall between his defeated legions and the victorious foe. Nor was the nation less determined. The dregs of humiliation had been drained, and though the draught was bitter it was salutary. The President was sustained with no half-hearted loyalty. His political opponents raved and threatened; but under the storm of recrimination the work of reorganising the army went steadily forward, and the people were content that until the generals declared the army fit for action the hour of vengeance should be postponed.

To the South, Bull Run was a Pyrrhic victory. It relieved Virginia of the pressure of the invasion; it proved to the world that the attitude of the Confederacy was something more than the reckless revolt of a small section; but it led the Government to indulge vain hopes of foreign intervention, and it increased the universal contempt for the military qualities of the Northern soldiers. The hasty judgment of the people construed a single victory as proof of their superior capacity for war, and the defeat of McDowell’s army was attributed to the cowardice of his volunteers. The opinion was absolutely erroneous. Some of the Federal regiments had misbehaved, it is true; seized with sudden panic, to which all raw troops are peculiarly susceptible, they had dispersed before the strong counterstroke of the Confederates. But the majority had displayed a sterling courage. There can be little question that the spirit of the infantry depends greatly on the staunchness of the artillery. A single battery, pushed boldly forward into the front of battle, has often restored the vigour of a wavering line. Although the losses it inflicts may not be large, the moral effect of its support is undeniable. So long as the guns hold fast victory seems possible. But when these useful auxiliaries are driven back or captured a general depression becomes inevitable. The retreat of the artillery strikes a chill into the fighting line which is ominous of defeat, and it is a wise regulation that compels the batteries, even when their ammunition is exhausted, to stand their ground. The Federal infantry at Bull Run had seen their artillery overwhelmed, the teams destroyed, the gunners shot down, and the enemy’s riflemen swarming amongst the abandoned pieces. But so vigorous had been their efforts to restore the battle, that the front of the defence had been with difficulty maintained; the guns, though they were eventually lost, had been retaken; and without the assistance of their artillery, but exposed to the fire, at closest range, of more than one battery, the Northern regiments had boldly pushed forward across the Henry Hill. The Confederates, during the greater part of the battle, were certainly outnumbered; but at the close they were the stronger, and the piecemeal attacks of the Federals neutralised the superiority which the invading army originally possessed.

McDowell appears to have employed 18,000 troops in the attack; Johnston and Beauregard about the same number.[14]

A comparison of the relative strength of the two armies, considering that raw troops have a decided advantage on the defensive, detracts, to a certain degree, from the credit of the victory; and it will hardly be questioned that had the tactics of the Federals been better the victory would have been theirs. The turning movement by Sudley Springs was a skilful manœuvre, and completely surprised both Johnston and Beauregard. It was undoubtedly risky, but it was far less dangerous than a direct attack on the strong position along Bull Run.

The retention of the Fourth Division between Washington and Centreville would seem to have been a blunder; another 5,000 men on the field of battle should certainly have turned the scale. But more men were hardly wanted. The Federals during the first period of the fight were strong enough to have seized the Henry Hill. Bee, Bartow, Evans, and Hampton had been driven in, and Jackson alone stood fast. A strong and sustained attack, supported by the fire of the regular batteries, must have succeeded.[15] The Federal regiments, however, were practically incapable of movement under fire. The least change of position broke them into fragments; there was much wild firing; it was impossible to manœuvre; and the courage of individuals proved a sorry substitute for order and cohesion. The Confederates owed their victory simply and solely to the fact that their enemies had not yet learned to use their strength.

The summer months went by without further fighting on the Potomac; but the camps at Fairfax and at Centreville saw the army of Manassas thinned by furloughs and by sickness. The Southern youth had come out for battle, and the monotonous routine of the outpost line and the parade-ground was little to their taste. The Government dared not refuse the numberless applications for leave of absence, the more so that in the crowded camps the sultry heat of the Virginia woodlands bred disease of a virulent type. The First Brigade seems to have escaped from all these evils. Its commander found his health improved by his life in the open air. His wound had been painful. A finger was broken, but the hand was saved, and some temporary inconvenience alone resulted. As he claimed no furlough for himself, so he permitted no absence from duty among his troops. “I can’t be absent,” he wrote to his wife, “as my attention is necessary in preparing my troops for hard fighting, should it be required; and as my officers and soldiers are not permitted to visit their wives and families, I ought not to see mine. It might make the troops feel that they are badly treated, and that I consult my own comfort, regardless of theirs.”

In September his wife joined him for a few days at Centreville, and later came Dr. White, at his invitation, to preach to his command. Beyond a few fruitless marches to support the cavalry on the outposts, of active service there was none. But Jackson was not the man to let the time pass uselessly. He had his whole brigade under his hand, a force which wanted but one quality to make it an instrument worthy of the hand that wielded it, and that quality was discipline. Courage and enthusiasm it possessed in abundance; and when both were untrained the Confederate was a more useful soldier than the Northerner. In the South nearly every man was a hunter, accustomed from boyhood to the use of firearms. Game was abundant, and it was free to all. Sport in one form or another was the chief recreation of the people, and their pastoral pursuits left them much leisure for its indulgence. Every great plantation had its pack of hounds, and fox-hunting, an heirloom from the English colonists, still flourished. His stud was the pride of every Southern gentleman, and the love of horse-flesh was inherent in the whole population. No man walked when he could ride, and hundreds of fine horsemen, mounted on steeds of famous lineage, recruited the Confederate squadrons.

But, despite their skill with the rifle, their hunter’s craft, and their dashing horsemanship, the first great battle had been hardly won. The city-bred Northerners, unused to arms and uninured to hardship, had fought with extraordinary determination; and the same want of discipline that had driven them in rout to Washington had dissolved the victorious Confederates into a tumultuous mob.[16] If Jackson knew the worth of his volunteers, he was no stranger to their shortcomings. His thoughts might be crystallised in the words of Wellington, words which should never be forgotten by those nations which depend for their defence on the services of their citizen soldiery.

“They want,” said the great Duke, speaking of the Portuguese in 1809, “the habits and the spirit of soldiers,—the habits of command on one side, and of obedience on the other—mutual confidence between officers and men.”

In order that during the respite now offered he might instil these habits into his brigade, Jackson neither took furlough himself nor granted it to others. His regiments were constantly exercised on the parade-ground. Shoulder to shoulder they advanced and retired, marched and countermarched, massed in column, formed line to front or flank, until they learned to move as a machine, until the limbs obeyed before the order had passed from ear to brain, until obedience became an instinct and cohesion a necessity of their nature. They learned to listen for the word of the officer, to look to him before they moved hand or foot; and, in that subjection of their own individuality to the will of their superior, they acquired that steadiness in battle, that energy on the march, that discipline in quarters which made the First Brigade worthy of the name it had already won. “Every officer and soldier,” said their commander, “who is able to do duty ought to be busily engaged in military preparation by hard drilling, in order that, through the blessing of God, we may be victorious in the battles which in His all-wise providence may await us.”

Jackson’s tactical ideas, as regards the fire of infantry, expressed at this time, are worth recording. “I rather think,” he said, “that fire by file [independent firing] is best on the whole, for it gives the enemy an idea that the fire is heavier than if it was by company or battalion (volley firing). Sometimes, however, one may be best, sometimes the other, according to circumstances. But my opinion is that there ought not to be much firing at all. My idea is that the best mode of fighting is to reserve your fire till the enemy get—or you get them—to close quarters. Then deliver one deadly, deliberate fire—and charge!”

Although the newspapers did scant justice to the part played by the brigade in the battle of Bull Run, Bee’s epithet survived, and Jackson became known as Stonewall throughout the army. To one of his acquaintances the general revealed the source of his composure under fire. “Three days after the battle, hearing that Jackson was suffering from his wound, I rode,” writes Imboden, “to his quarters near Centreville. Of course the battle was the only topic discussed during breakfast. ‘General,’ I remarked, ‘how is it that you can keep so cool, and appear so utterly insensible to danger in such a storm of shell and bullets as rained about you when your hand was hit?’ He instantly became grave and reverential in his manner, and answered, in a low tone of great earnestness: ‘Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me.’ He added, after a pause, looking me full in the face: ‘That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.’”[17]

Although the war upon the borders had not yet touched the cities of the South, the patriotism of Virginia saw with uneasiness the inroads of the enemy in that portion of the State which lies beyond the Alleghenies, especially the north-west. The country was overrun with Federal soldiers, and part of the population of the district had declared openly for the Union. In that district was Jackson’s birth-place, the home of his childhood, and his mother’s grave. His interest and his affections were bound by many ties to the country and the people, and in the autumn of 1861 he had not yet come to believe that they were at heart disloyal to their native State. A vigorous effort, he believed, might still restore to the Confederacy a splendid recruiting-ground, and he made no secret of his desire for employment in that region. The strategical advantages of this corner of Virginia were clearly apparent, as will be seen hereafter, to his perception. Along its western border runs the Ohio, a river navigable to its junction with the Mississippi, and giving an easy line of communication into the heart of Kentucky. Through its northern counties passed the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the main line of communication between Washington and the West; and alongside the railway ran the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, a second and most important line of supply. Above all, projecting as it did towards the great lakes of the North, the north-western angle, or Virginia Panhandle, narrowed the passage between East and West to an isthmus not more than a hundred miles in breadth. With this territory in the possession of the Confederates, the Federal dominions would be practically cut in two; and in North-western Virginia, traversed by many ranges of well-nigh pathless mountains, with few towns and still fewer roads, a small army might defy a large one with impunity.

Nov. 4   On November 4 Jackson’s wish was partially granted. He was assigned to the command of the Shenandoah Valley District, embracing the northern part of the area between the Alleghenies and the Blue Ridge. The order was received with gratitude, but dashed by the fact that he had to depart alone. “Had this communication,” he said to Dr. White, “not come as an order, I should instantly have declined it, and continued in command of my brave old brigade.”

Whether he or his soldiers felt the parting most it is hard to say. Certain it is that the men had a warm regard for their leader. There was no more about him at Centreville to attract the popular fancy than there had been at Harper’s Ferry. When the troops passed in review the eye of the spectator turned at once to the trim carriage of Johnston and of Beauregard, to the glittering uniform of Stuart, to the superb chargers and the martial bearing of young officers fresh from the Indian frontier. The silent professor, absent and unsmiling, who dressed as plainly as he lived, had little in common with those dashing soldiers. The tent where every night the general and his staff gathered together for their evening devotions, where the conversation ran not on the merits of horse and hound, on strategy and tactics, but on the power of faith and the mysteries of the redemption, seemed out of place in an army of high-spirited youths. But, while they smiled at his peculiarities, the Confederate soldiers remembered the fierce counterstroke on the heights above Bull Run. If the Presbyterian general was earnest in prayer, they knew that he was prompt in battle and indefatigable in quarters. He had the respect of all men, and from his own brigade he had something more. Very early in their service, away by the rippling Shenandoah, they had heard the stories of his daring in Mexico. They had experienced his skill and coolness at Falling Waters; they had seen at Bull Run, while the shells burst in never-ending succession among the pines, the quiet figure riding slowly to and fro on the crest above them; they had heard the stern command, “Wait till they come within fifty yards and then give them the bayonet,” and they had followed him far in that victorious rush into the receding ranks of their astonished foe.

Little wonder that these enthusiastic youths, new to the soldier’s trade, should have been captivated by a nature so strong and fearless. The Stonewall Brigade had made Jackson a hero, and he had won more from them than their admiration. His incessant watchfulness for their comfort and well-being; the patient care with which he instructed them; his courtesy to the youngest private; the tact and thoughtfulness he showed in all his relations with them, had won their affection. His very peculiarities endeared him to them. Old Jack or Stonewall were his nicknames in the lines of his own command, and stories went round the camp fire of how he had been seen walking in the woods round Centreville absorbed in prayer, or lifting his left hand with that peculiar gesture which the men believed was an appeal to Heaven, but which, in reality, was made to relieve the pain of his wounded finger. But while they discussed his oddities, not a man in the brigade but acknowledged his ability, and when the time came not a man but regretted his departure.

His farewell to his troops was a striking scene. The forest, already donning its gorgeous autumnal robes, shut in the grassy clearing where the troops were drawn up. There stood the grey columns of the five regiments, with the colours, already tattered, waving in the mild November air. The general rode up, their own general, and not a sound was heard. Motionless and silent they stood, a veritable stone wall, whilst his eye ran along the ranks and scanned the familiar faces. “I am not here to make a speech,” he said, “but simply to say farewell. I first met you at Harper’s Ferry, at the commencement of the war, and I cannot take leave of you without giving expression to my admiration of your conduct from that day to this, whether on the march, in the bivouac, or on the bloody plains of Manassas, where you gained the well-deserved reputation of having decided the fate of battle.

“Throughout the broad extent of country through which you have marched, by your respect for the rights and property of citizens, you have shown that you are soldiers not only to defend, but able and willing both to defend and protect. You have already won a brilliant reputation throughout the army of the whole Confederacy; and I trust, in the future, by your deeds in the field, and by the assistance of the same kind Providence who has hitherto favoured our cause, you will win more victories and add lustre to the reputation you now enjoy. You have already gained a proud position in the future history of this our second War of Independence. I shall look with great anxiety to your future movements, and I trust whenever I shall hear of the First Brigade on the field of battle, it will be of still nobler deeds achieved, and higher reputation won!” Then there was a pause; general and soldiers looked upon each other, and the heart of the leader went out to those who had followed him with such devotion. He had spoken his words of formal praise, but both he and they knew the bonds between them were too strong to be thus coldly severed. For once he gave way to impulse; his eye kindled, and rising in his stirrups and throwing the reins upon his horse’s neck, he spoke in tones which betrayed the proud memories that thronged upon him:—

“In the Army of the Shenandoah you were the First Brigade! In the Army of the Potomac you were the First Brigade! In the Second Corps of the army you are the First Brigade! You are the First Brigade in the affections of your general, and I hope by your future deeds and bearing you will be handed down to posterity as the First Brigade in this our second War of Independence. Farewell!”

For a moment there was silence; then the pent-up feeling found expression, and cheer upon cheer burst forth from the ranks of the Valley regiments. Waving his hand in token of farewell, Jackson galloped from the field.




First Division: TYLER

Brigade Keyes
Brigade Sherman
Brigade Shenck
 = 4,500

Second Division: HUNTER

Brigade Porter
Brigade Burnside
 = 6,000

Third Division: HEINTZLEMAN

Brigade Franklin
Brigade Wilcox
Brigade Howard
 = 7,500

Total 18,000, and 30 guns.


Army of the Shenandoah [JOHNSTON]

Brigade Jackson
Brigade Bee
Brigade Bartow
Brigade Kirby Smith
 = 8,700

Army of the Potomac [BEAUREGARD]

Brigade Bonham
Brigade Cocke
Brigade Early
7th Louisiana Regiment
8th Louisiana Regiment
Hampton’s Legion
 = 9,300

Total 18,000, and 21 guns.



    Lord Wolseley has been somewhat severely criticised for asserting that in the Civil War, “from first to last, the co-operation of even one army corps (35,000 men) of regular troops would have given complete victory to whichever side it fought on.” Whatever may be argued as to the latter period of the conflict, it is impossible for anyone who understands the power of organisation, of discipline, of training, and of a proper system of command, to dispute the accuracy of this statement as regards the year 1861, that is, for the first eight months.

    It is far too often assumed that the number of able-bodied men is the true criterion of national strength. In the Confederate States, for instance, there were probably 750,000 citizens who were liable for service in the militia, and yet had the United States possessed a single regular army corps, with a trained staff, an efficient commissariat, and a fully-organised system of transport, it is difficult to see how these 750,000 Southerners could have done more than wage a guerilla warfare. The army corps would have absorbed into itself the best of the Northern militia and volunteers; the staff and commissariat would have given them mobility, and 60,000 or 70,000 men, moving on Richmond directly Sumter fell, with the speed and certainty which organisation gives, would have marched from victory to victory. Their 750,000 enemies would never have had time to arm, to assemble, to organise, to create an army, to train a staff, or to arrange for their supplies. Each gathering of volunteers would have been swept away before it had attained consistency, and Virginia, at least, must have been conquered in the first few months.

    And matters would have been no different if the army corps had been directed against the Union. In the Northern States there were over 2,000,000 men who were liable for service; and yet the Union States, notwithstanding their superior resources, were just as vulnerable as the Confederacy. Numbers, even if they amount to millions, are useless, and worse than useless, without training and organisation; the more men that are collected on the battle-field, the more crushing and far-reaching their defeat. Nor can the theory be sustained that a small army, invading a rich and populous country, would be “stung to death” by the numbers of its foes, even if they dared not oppose it in the open field. Of what avail were the stupendous efforts of the French Republic in 1870 and 1871? Enormous armies were raised and equipped; the ranks were filled with brave men; the generals were not unskilful; and yet time after time they were defeated by the far inferior forces of their seasoned enemies. Even in America itself, on two occasions, at Sharpsburg in 1862, and at Gettysburg in 1863, it was admitted by the North that the Southerners were “within a stone’s throw of independence.” And yet hundreds of thousands of able-bodied men had not yet joined the Federal armies. Nor can Spain be quoted as an instance of an unconquerable nation. Throughout the war with Napoleon the English armies, not only that under Wellington, but those at Cadiz, Tarifa, and Gibraltar, afforded solid rallying-points for the defeated Spaniards, and by a succession of victories inspired the whole Peninsula with hope and courage.

    The patriot with a rifle may be equal, or even superior, man for man, to the professional soldier; but even patriots must be fed, and to win victories they must be able to manœuvre, and to manœuvre they must have leaders. If it could remain stationary, protected by earthworks, and supplied by railways, with which the enemy did not interfere, a host of hastily raised levies, if armed and equipped, might hold its own against even a regular army. But against troops which can manœuvre earthworks are useless, as the history of Sherman’s brilliant operations in 1864 conclusively shows. To win battles and to protect their country armies must be capable of counter-manœuvre, and it is when troops are set in motion that the real difficulty of supplying them begins.

    If it is nothing else, the War of Secession, with its awful expenditure of blood and treasure, is a most startling object-lesson in National Insurance.

[1] Sherman’s Memoirs, vol. i, p. 181.

[2] O.R., vol. ii, p. 324. McDowell’s Report.

[3] O.R., vol. ii, p. 324. McDowell’s Report.

[4] The rifles (muzzle-loaders) used throughout the war by both Federals and Confederates compare as follows with more modern weapons:—

 Sighted toEffective range
Needle-gun (1866 and 1870)
Chassepôt (1870)
1,000 yards
   660 yards
1,320 yards
2,100 yards
3,200 yards
250 yards
250 yards
350 yards
400 yards
600 yards

By effective range is meant the distance where, under ordinary conditions, the enemy’s losses are sufficient to stop his advance. The effective range of Brown Bess was about 60 yards. The American rifled artillery was effective, in clear weather, at 2,000 yards, the 12-pounder smooth-bore at 1,600, the 6-pounder at 1,200.

[5] O.R., vol. ii, p. 505.

[6] Hunter and Heintzleman had 13,200 officers and men; Tyler, 12,000. Bee and Barrow had 3200 officers and men; Hampton, 630; Jackson, 3,000.

[7] Battles and Leaders, vol. i, p. 236.

[8] General Kirby Smith being severely wounded, the command of this brigade devolved upon Colonel Elzey.

[9] Report of Captain Woodbury, U.S. Engineers, O.R., vol. ii, p. 334.

[10] General J. B. Fry, Battles and Leaders, vol. i, p. 191.

[11] McClellan’s Own Story, pp. 66, 67.

[12] Both Johnston and Beauregard, in their official reports, did full justice to Jackson and his brigade.

[13] O.R., vol. ii, p. 482.

[14] For the strength of divisions and brigades, see the Note at the end of the chapter.

[15] “Had an attack,” said General Johnston, “been made in force, with double line of battle, such as any major-general in the United States service would now make, we could not have held [the position] for half an hour, for they would have enveloped us on both flanks.”—Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac, W. Swinton, p. 58.

[16] Colonel Williams, of the 5th Virginia, writes that the Stonewall Brigade was a notable exception to the general disintegration, and that it was in good condition for immediate service on the morning after the battle.

[17] Battles and Leaders, vol. i, pp. 122, 123.

Chapter VII

While the Indian summer still held carnival in the forests of Virginia, Jackson found himself once more on the Shenandoah. Some regiments of militia, the greater part of which were armed with flint-lock muskets, and a few squadrons of irregular cavalry formed his sole command.

The autumn of 1861 was a comparatively quiet season. The North, silent but determined, was preparing to put forth her stupendous strength. Scott had resigned; McDowell had been superseded; but the President had found a general who had caught the confidence of the nation. In the same month that had witnessed McDowell’s defeat, a young officer had gained a cheap victory over a small Confederate force in West Virginia, and his grandiloquent dispatches had magnified the achievement in the eyes of the Northern people. He was at once nicknamed the “Young Napoleon,” and his accession to the chief command of the Federal armies was enthusiastically approved. General McClellan had been educated at West Point, and had graduated first of the class in which Jackson was seventeenth. He had been appointed to the engineers, had served on the staff in the war with Mexico, and as United States Commissioner with the Allied armies in the Crimea. In 1857 he resigned, to become president of a railway company, and when the war broke out he was commissioned by the State of Ohio as Major-General of Volunteers. His reputation at the Military Academy and in the regular army had been high. His ability and industry were unquestioned. His physique was powerful, and he was a fine horseman. His influence over his troops was remarkable, and he was emphatically a gentleman.

It was most fortunate for the Union at this juncture that caution and method were his distinguishing characteristics. The States had placed at Lincoln’s disposal sufficient troops to form an army seven times greater than that which had been defeated at Bull Run. McClellan, however, had no thought of committing the new levies to an enterprise for which they were unfitted. He had determined that the army should make no move till it could do so with the certainty of success, and the winter months were to be devoted to training and organisation. Nor was there any cry for immediate action. The experiment of a civilian army had proved a terrible failure. The nation that had been so confident of capturing Richmond, was now anxious for the security of Washington. The war had been in progress for nearly six months, and yet the troops were manifestly unfit for offensive operations. Even the crude strategists of the press had become alive to the importance of drill and discipline.

October 21   A reconnaissance in force, pushed (contrary to McClellan’s orders) across the Potomac, was repulsed by General Evans at Ball’s Bluff with heavy loss; and mismanagement and misconduct were so evident that the defeat did much towards inculcating patience.

So the work went on, quietly but surely, the general supported by the President, and the nation giving men and money without remonstrance. The South, on the other hand, was still apathetic. The people, deluded by their decisive victory, underrated the latent strength of their mighty adversary. They appear to have believed that the earthworks which had transformed Centreville into a formidable fortress, manned by the Army of Northern Virginia, as the force under Johnston was now designated, were sufficient in themselves to end the war. They had not yet learned that there were many roads to Richmond, and that a passive defence is no safeguard against a persevering foe. The Government, expecting much from the intervention of the European Powers, did nothing to press the advantage already gained. In vain the generals urged the President to reinforce the army at Centreville to 60,000 men, and to give it transport and supplies sufficient to permit the passage of the Potomac above Washington.

In vain they pointed out, in answer to the reply that the Government could furnish neither men nor arms, that large bodies of troops were retained at points the occupation of which by the enemy would cause only a local inconvenience. “Was it not possible,” they asked the President, “by stripping other points to the last they would bear, and even risking defeat at all other places, to put the Virginian army in condition for a forward movement? Success,” they said, “in the neighbourhood of Washington was success everywhere, and it was upon the north-eastern frontier that all the available force of the Confederacy should be concentrated.”

Mr. Davis was immovable. Although Lee, who had been appointed to a command in West Virginia almost immediately after Bull Run, was no longer at hand to advise him, he probably saw the strategical requirements of the situation. That a concentrated attack on a vital point is a better measure of security than dissemination along a frontier, that the counter-stroke is the soul of the defence, and that the true policy of the State which is compelled to take up arms against a superior foe is to allow that foe no breathing-space, are truisms which it would be an insult to his ability to say that he did not realise. But to have surrendered territory to the temporary occupation of the enemy, in order to seek a problematical victory elsewhere, would have probably provoked a storm of discontent. The authority of the new Government was not yet firmly established; nor was the patriotism of the Southern people so entirely unselfish as to render them willing to endure minor evils in order to achieve a great result. They were willing to fight, but they were unwilling that their own States should be left unprotected. To apply Frederick the Great’s maxim[1] requires greater strength of will in the statesman than in the soldier. The cries and complaints of those who find themselves abandoned do not penetrate to the camp, but they may bring down an administration. It is easy to contrive excuses for the inaction of the President, and it is no new thing to find the demands of strategy sacrificed to political expediency. Nor did the army which had suffered so heavily on the banks of Bull Run evince any marked desire to be led across the Potomac. Furloughs were liberally granted. Officers and privates dispersed to look after their farms and their plantations. The harvests had to be gathered, the negroes required the master’s eye, and even the counties of Virginia asked that part of the contingents they had furnished might be permitted to return to agricultural pursuits.

The senior generals of the Virginia army were not alone in believing that the victory they had won would be barren of result unless it were at once utilised as a basis for further action. Jackson, engrossed as he was with the training of his command, found time to reflect on the broader aspects of the war. Before he left for the Shenandoah Valley he sought an interview with General G. W. Smith, recently appointed to the command of his division. “Finding me lying down in my tent,” writes this officer, “he expressed regret that I was sick, and said he had come to confer with me on a subject of great importance, but would not then trouble me with it. I told him that I wished to hear whatever he desired to say, and could rest whilst he was talking. He immediately sat down on the ground, near the head of the cot on which I was lying, and entered on the subject of his visit.

“‘McClellan,’ he said, ‘with his army of recruits, will not attempt to come out against us this autumn. If we remain inactive they will have greatly the advantage over us next spring. Their raw recruits will have then become an organised army, vastly superior in numbers to our own. We are ready at the present moment for active operations in the field, while they are not. We ought to invade their country now, and not wait for them to make the necessary preparations to invade ours. If the President would reinforce this army by taking troops from other points not threatened, and let us make an active campaign of invasion before winter sets in, McClellan’s raw recruits could not stand against us in the field.

“‘Crossing the Upper Potomac, occupying Baltimore, and taking possession of Maryland, we could cut off the communications of Washington, force the Federal Government to abandon the capital, beat McClellan’s army if it came out against us in the open country, destroy industrial establishments wherever we found them, break up the lines of interior commercial intercourse, close the coal-mines, seize and, if necessary, destroy the manufactories and commerce of Philadelphia, and of other large cities in our reach; take and hold the narrow neck of country between Pittsburg and Lake Erie; subsist mainly the country we traverse, and making unrelenting war amidst their homes, force the people of the North to understand what it will cost them to hold the South in the Union at the bayonet’s point.”

“He then requested me to use my influence with Generals Johnston and Beauregard in favour of immediate aggressive operations. I told him that I was sure that an attempt on my part to exert any influence in favour of his proposition would do no good. Not content with my answer he repeated his arguments, dwelling more at length on the advantages of such strategy to ourselves and its disadvantages to the enemy, and again urged me to use my influence to secure its adoption. I gave him the same reply I had already made.

“After a few minutes’ thought he abruptly said: ‘General, you have not expressed any opinion in regard to the views I have laid before you. But I feel assured that you favour them, and I think you ought to do all in your power to have them carried into effect.’

“I then said, ‘I will tell you a secret.’

“He replied, ‘Please do not tell me any secret. I would prefer not to hear it.’ I answered, ‘I must tell it to you, and I have no hesitation in doing so, because I am certain that it will not be divulged.’ I then explained to him that these views had already been laid before the Government, in a conference which had taken place at Fairfax Court House, in the first days of October, between President Davis, Generals Johnston, Beauregard, and myself, and told him the result.

“When I had finished, he rose from the ground, on which he had been seated, shook my hand warmly, and said, ‘I am sorry, very sorry.’

“Without another word he went slowly out to his horse, a few feet in front of my tent, mounted very deliberately, and rode sadly away. A few days afterwards he was ordered to the Valley.”[2]

Nov. 5   It was under such depressing circumstances that Jackson quitted the army which, boldly used, might have ensured the existence of the Confederacy. His headquarters were established at Winchester; and, in communication with Centreville by road, rail, and telegraph, although sixty miles distant, he was still subordinate to Johnston. The Confederate front extended from Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock to Winchester on the Opequon. Jackson’s force, holding the Valley of the Shenandoah and the line of the Potomac westward of Point of Rocks, was the extreme outpost on the left, and was connected with the main body by a detachment at Leesburg, on the other side of the Blue Ridge, under his brother-in-law, General D. H. Hill.

At Winchester his wife joined him, and of their first meeting she tells a pretty story:—

“It can readily be imagined with what delight General Jackson’s domestic plans for the winter were hailed by me, and without waiting for the promised ‘aide’ to be sent on escort, I joined some friends who were going to Richmond, where I spent a few days to shop, to secure a passport, and to await an escort to Winchester. The latter was soon found in a kind-hearted, absent-minded old clergyman. We travelled by stage coach from Strasbourg, and were told, before reaching Winchester, that General Jackson was not there, having gone with his command on an expedition. It was therefore with a feeling of sad disappointment and loneliness that I alighted in front of Taylor’s hotel, at midnight, in the early part of dreary cold December, and no husband to meet me with a glad welcome. By the dim lamplight I noticed a small group of soldiers standing in the wide hall, but they remained silent spectators, and my escort led me up the big stairway, doubtless feeling disappointed that he still had me on his hands. Just before reaching the landing I turned to look back, for one figure among the group looked startlingly familiar, but as he had not come forward, I felt that I must be mistaken. However, my backward glance revealed an officer muffled up in a military greatcoat, cap drawn down over his eyes, following us in rapid pursuit, and by the time we were upon the top step a pair of strong arms caught me; the captive’s head was thrown back, and she was kissed again and again by her husband before she could recover from the delightful surprise he had given her. The good old minister chuckled gleefully, and was no doubt a sincere sharer in the joy and relief experienced by his charge. When I asked my husband why he did not come forward when I got out of the coach, he said he wanted to assure himself that it was his own wife, as he didn’t want to commit the blunder of kissing anybody else’s esposa!”

The people amongst whom they found themselves were Virginian to the core. In Winchester itself the feeling against the North was exceptionally bitter. The town was no mushroom settlement; its history stretched back to the old colonial days; the grass-grown intrenchments on the surrounding hills had been raised by Washington during the Indian wars, and the traditions of the first struggle for independence were not yet forgotten. No single section of the South was more conservative. Although the citizens had been strong Unionists, nowhere were the principles which their fathers had respected, the sovereignty of the individual State and the right of secession, more strongly held, and nowhere had the hereditary spirit of resistance to coercive legislation blazed up more fiercely. The soldiers of Bull Run, who had driven the invader from the soil of Virginia, were the heroes of the hour, and the leader of the Stonewall Brigade had peculiar claims on the hospitality of the town. It was to the people of the Valley that he owed his command. “With one voice,” wrote the Secretary of War, “have they made constant and urgent appeals that to you, in whom they have confidence, their defence should be assigned.”

“The Winchester ladies,” says Mrs. Jackson, “were amongst the most famous of Virginia housekeepers, and lived in a good deal of old-fashioned elegance and profusion. The old border town had not then changed hands with the conflicting armies, as it was destined to do so many times during the war. Under the rose-coloured light in which I viewed everything that winter, it seemed to me that no people could have been more cultivated, attractive, and noble-hearted. Winchester was rich in happy homes and pleasant people; and the extreme kindness and appreciation shown to General Jackson by all bound us to them so closely and warmly that ever after that winter he called the place our ‘war home.’”

But amid congenial acquaintances and lovely surroundings, with the tumult of war quiescent, and the domestic happiness so dear to him restored, Jackson allowed no relaxation either to himself or to his men. His first care was to train and organise his new regiments. The ranks were filled with recruits, and to their instruction he devoted himself with unwearied energy. His small force of cavalry, commanded by Colonel Turner Ashby, a gentleman of Virginia, whose name was to become famous in the annals of the Confederacy, he at once despatched to patrol the frontier.

Prompt measures were taken to discipline the troops, and that this last was a task of no little difficulty the following incident suggests. In the middle of November, to Jackson’s great delight, the Stonewall Brigade had been sent to him from Manassas, and after its arrival an order was issued which forbade all officers leaving the camp except upon passes from headquarters. A protest was immediately drawn up by the regimental commanders, and laid before the general. They complained that the obnoxious order was “an unwarranted assumption of authority, disparaged their dignity, and detracted from that respect of the force under their command which was necessary to maintain their authority and enforce obedience.” Jackson’s reply well illustrates his own idea of discipline, and of the manner in which it should be upheld. His adjutant-general wrote as follows to the discontented officers:—

“The Major-General Commanding desires me to say that the within combined protest is in violation of army regulations and subversive of military discipline. He claims the right to give his pickets such instructions as in his opinion the interests of the service require.

“Colonels —— and —— on the day that their regiments arrived at their present encampment, either from incompetency to control their commands, or from neglect of duty, so permitted their commands to become disorganised and their officers and men to enter Winchester without permission, as to render several arrests of officers necessary.

“If officers desire to have control over their commands, they must remain habitually with them, industriously attend to their instruction and comfort, and in battle lead them well, and in such a manner as to command their admiration.

“Such officers need not apprehend loss of respect resulting from inserting in a written pass the words ‘on duty,’ or ‘on private business,’ should they have occasion to pass the pickets.”

Even the Stonewall Brigade had yet much to learn.

At this time Jackson was besieged with numerous applications for service on his staff. The majority of these were from persons without experience, and they were made to the wrong man. “My desire,” he wrote, “is to get a staff specially qualified for their specific duties. I know Mr. —— personally, and was favourably impressed by him. But if a person desires office in these times, the best thing for him to do is to pitch into service somewhere, and work with such energy, skill, and success as to impress those round him with the conviction that such are his merits that he must be advanced, or the interests of the service must suffer. . . . My desire is to make merit the basis of my recommendations.”

Social claims had no weight with him whatever. He felt that the interests at stake were too great to be sacrificed to favouritism or friendship, and he had seen enough of war to know the importance of staff work. Nor was he in the unfortunate position of being compelled to accept the nominees of his superiors. The Confederate authorities were wise enough to permit their generals to choose for themselves the instruments on which they would have to rely for the execution of their designs. Wellington, in 1815, had forced on him by the Horse Guards, in the teeth of his indignant remonstrances, incompetent officers whom he did not know and whom he could not trust. Jackson, in a country which knew little of war, was allowed to please himself. He need appoint no one without learning all about him, and his inquiries were searching. Was he intelligent? Was he trustworthy? Was he industrious? Did he get up early? If a man was wanting in any one of these qualifications he would reject him, however highly recommended. That his strict investigations and his insistence on the possession of certain essential characteristics bore good fruit it is impossible to gainsay. The absence of mishaps and errors in his often complicated manœuvres is sufficient proof that he was exceedingly well served by his subordinates. The influence of a good staff is seldom apparent except to the initiated. If a combination succeeds, the general gets all the credit. If it fails, he gets all the blame; and while no agents, however efficient, can compensate by their own efforts for the weakness of a conception that is radically unsound, many a brilliant plan has failed in execution through the inefficiency of the staff. In his selection of such capable men as his assistants must needs have been Jackson gave proof that he possessed one at least of the attributes of a great leader. He was not only a judge of character, but he could place men in the positions to which they were best suited. His personal predilections were never allowed to interfere. For some months his chief of the staff was a Presbyterian clergyman, while his chief quartermaster was one of the hardest swearers in Virginia. The fact that the former could combine the duties of spiritual adviser with those of his official position made him a congenial comrade; but it was his energy and ability rather than this unusual qualification which attracted Jackson; and although the profanity of the quartermaster offended his susceptibilities, their relations were always cordial. It was to the intelligence of his staff officers, their energy and their loyalty, that he looked; for the business in hand these qualities were more important than their morals.

That a civilian should be found serving as chief of the staff to a general of division, one of the most important posts in the military hierarchy, is a curious comment on the organisation of the Confederate army. The regular officers who had thrown in their lot with the South had, as a rule, been appointed to commands, and the generals of lower rank had to seek their staff officers amongst the volunteers. It may be noticed, however, that Jackson was by no means bigoted in favour of his own cloth. He showed no anxiety to secure their services on his staff. He thought many of them unfitted for duties which brought them in immediate contact with the volunteers. In dealing with such troops, tact and temper are of more importance than where obedience has become mechanical, and the claims of rank are instinctively reflected. In all his campaigns, too, Jackson was practically his own chief of the staff. He consulted no one. He never divulged his plans. He gave his orders, and his staff had only to see that these orders were obeyed. His topographical engineer, his medical director, his commissary and his quartermaster, were selected, it is true, by reason of their special qualifications. Captain Hotchkiss, who filled the first position, was a young man of twenty-six, whose abilities as a surveyor were well known in the Valley. Major Harman, his chief quartermaster, was one of the proprietors of a line of stage coaches and a large farmer, and Major Hawks, his commissary, was the owner of a carriage manufactory. But the remainder of his assistants, with the exception of the chief of artillery, owed their appointments rather to their character than to their professional abilities. It is not to be understood, at the same time, that Jackson underrated soldierly acquirements. He left no complaints on record, like so many of his West Point comrades, of the ignorance of the volunteer officers, and of the consequent difficulties which attended every combination. But he was none the less alive to their deficiencies. Early in 1862, when the military system of the Confederacy was about to be reorganised, he urged upon the Government, through the member of Congress for the district where he commanded, that regimental promotion should not be obtained by seniority, unless the applicant were approved by a board of examination; and it was due to his representations that this regulation, to the great benefit of the army, was shortly afterwards adopted. With all his appreciation of natural aptitude for the soldier’s trade, so close a student of Napoleon could scarcely be blind to the fact that the most heroic character, unsustained by knowledge, is practically useless. If Napoleon himself, more highly endowed by nature with every military attribute than any other general of the Christian era, thought it essential to teach himself his business by incessant study, how much more is such study necessary for ordinary men?

But no man was less likely than Jackson to place an exaggerated value on theoretical acquirements. No one realised more fully that Napoleon’s character won more victories than Napoleon’s knowledge. The qualities he demanded in his subordinates were those which were conspicuous in Napoleon. Who was more industrious than the great Corsican? Who displayed an intenser energy? Whose intelligence was brighter? Who understood human nature better, or handled men with more consummate tact? These were the very attributes which distinguished Jackson himself. They are the key-note to his success, more so than his knowledge of strategy and tactics, of the mechanism of march and battle, and of the principles of the military art. In selecting his staff officers, therefore, he deemed character of more importance than erudition.

The men of the Stonewall Brigade had a saying that Jackson always marched at dawn, except when he started the night before, and it was perhaps this habit, which his enemies found so unreasonable, that led him to lay so much stress on early rising. It is certain that, like Wellington, he preferred “three o’clock in the morning men.” In a letter to his wife he says:—

“If you will vouch for your brother’s being an early riser during the remainder of the war, I will give him an aide-ship. I do not want to make an appointment on my staff except of such as are early risers; but if you will vouch for him to rise regularly at dawn, I will offer him the position.”

Another characteristic he looked for was reticence; and it was undeniably of the utmost importance, especially in an army which spoke the same language as the enemy, where desertion was not uncommon, and spies could easily escape detection, that the men who might become cognisant of the plans of the commander should be gifted with discretion. Absolute concealment is generally impracticable in a camp. Maps must be drawn, and reports furnished. Reconnoitring parties must be sent out, roads examined, positions surveyed, and shelter and supplies requisitioned in advance. Thus the movements of staff officers are a clue to the projected movements of the army, and the smallest hint may set a hundred brains to the work of surmise. There will always be many who are just as anxious to discover the general’s intentions as he is to conceal them; and if, by any possibility whatever, the gossip and guesses of the camp may come to the enemy’s ears, it is well that curiosity should be baulked. Nor is it undesirable that the privacy of headquarters should be respected. The vanity of a little brief authority has before now tempted subordinate officers to hint at weaknesses on the part of their superiors. Ignorance of war and of the situation has induced them to criticise and to condemn; and idle words, greedily listened to, and quickly exaggerated, may easily destroy the confidence of the soldiery in the abilities of their leader.

By the middle of December Jackson’s small army had become fairly effective. Its duties were simple. To watch the enemy, to keep open the communication with Manassas, so as to be ready to join the main army should McClellan advance—such were Johnston’s orders. The Upper Potomac was held by the enemy in force. General Banks, a volunteer officer, who was yet to learn more of Stonewall Jackson, was in command. The headquarters of his division, 18,000 strong, were at Frederick City in Maryland; but his charge extended seventy-five miles further west, as far as Cumberland on the Potomac. In addition to Banks, General Kelly with 5,000 men was at Romney, on the South Branch of the Potomac, thirty-five miles north-west of Winchester by a good road. The Federal troops guarding the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and that portion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad which was still intact were necessarily much dispersed, for the Confederate guerillas were active, and dam and aqueduct, tunnel and viaduct, offered tempting objectives to Ashby’s cavalry. Still the force which confronted Jackson was far superior to his own; the Potomac was broad and bridgeless, and his orders appeared to impose a defensive attitude. But he was not the man to rest inactive, no matter what the odds against him, or to watch the enemy’s growing strength without an endeavour to interfere. Within the limits of his own command he was permitted every latitude; and he was determined to apply the aggressive strategy which he was so firmly convinced should be adopted by the whole army. The Secretary of War, Mr. Benjamin, in detaching him to the Valley, had asked him to “forward suggestions as to the means of rendering his measures of defence effectual.”[3]

The earliest information he had received on his arrival at Winchester pointed to the conclusion that the enemy was meditating an advance by way of Harper’s Ferry. His first suggestion thereupon was that he should be reinforced by a division under General Loring and a brigade under Colonel Edward Johnson, which were stationed within the Alleghanies on the great highways leading to the Ohio, covering Staunton from the west.[4] His next was to the effect that he should be permitted to organise an expedition for the recapture and occupation of Romney. If he could seize this village, the junction of several roads, more decisive operations would at once become feasible. It has been said that the force of old associations urged Jackson to drive the invader from the soil which held his mother’s grave; but, even if we had not the evidence of his interview with General G. W. Smith,[5] a glance at the map would in itself be sufficient to assure us that strategy prevailed with him rather than sentiment.

The plan of campaign which first suggested itself to him was sufficiently comprehensive.

“While the Northern people and the Federal authorities were still a prey to the demoralisation which had followed Bull Run, he proposed to advance with 10,000 troops into north-west Virginia, where he would reclaim the whole country, and summon the inhabitants of Southern sentiment to join his army. His information was extensive and reliable, and he did not doubt his ability to recruit between 15,000 and 20,000 men, enough for his designs. These were bold and simple. While the enemy was under the impression that his only object was to reclaim and occupy North-west Virginia, he would move his whole force rapidly across to the Monongahela, march down upon Pittsburg, destroy the United States arsenal, and then, in conjunction with Johnston’s army (which was to cross the Potomac at Leesburg), advance upon Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania. From Harrisburg he proposed that the army should advance upon Philadelphia.”[6]

These suggestions, however, went no further than his friends in the Legislative Assembly. Although, for his conduct at Bull Run, he had now been promoted to major-general, the Lexington professor had as yet no voice in the councils of the young republic. Nevertheless, the President read and approved the less ambitious proposal for an attack on the Federal force at Romney.

Romney, the county seat of Hampshire, lies in a rich district watered by the South Branch of the Potomac. For more than a hundred miles, from source to mouth, the river is bordered by alluvial meadows of extraordinary fertility. Their prodigal harvests, together with the sweetness of the upland pastures, make them the paradise of the grazier; the farms which rest beneath the hills are of manorial proportions, and the valley of the beautiful South Branch is a land of easy wealth and old-fashioned plenty. From Romney an excellent road runs south-east to Winchester, and another south-west by Moorefield and Franklin to Monterey, where it intersects the great road, constructed by one of Napoleon’s engineers, that leads from Staunton in the Valley to Parkersburg on the Ohio.

When Jackson advocated the occupation of this important point the whole of West Virginia, between the Alleghenies and the Ohio, was in possession of the Federals. The army of occupation, under General Rosecrans, amounted to 27,000 men and over 40 guns; but the troops were dispersed in detachments from Romney to Gauley Bridge, a distance of near two hundred miles, their communications were exposed, and, owing to the mountains, co-operation was almost impracticable.

[Illustration: Map of West Virginia in 1861.]

5,000 men, based on Grafton, occupied Romney.

18,700, based on Clarksburg, occupied the passes south-east of Beverley.

9,000, based on the Ohio, were stationed on the Great Kanawha, a river which is navigable for small steamers to within a few miles of Gauley Bridge.

4,000 protected the lines of communication.

Jackson’s letter to the Secretary of War was as follows:—

Nov. 20   “Deeply impressed with the importance of absolute secrecy respecting military operations, I have made it a point to say but little respecting my proposed movements in the event of sufficient reinforcements arriving, but since conversing with Lieutenant-Colonel Preston [his adjutant-general], upon his return from General Loring, and ascertaining the disposition of the general’s forces, I venture to respectfully urge that after concentrating all his troops here, an attempt should be made to capture the Federal forces at Romney. The attack on Romney would probably induce McClellan to believe that General Johnston’s army had been so weakened as to justify him in making an advance on Centreville; but should this not induce him to advance, I do not believe anything will, during this winter.

“Should General Johnston be attacked, I would be at once prepared to reinforce him with my present force, increased by General Loring’s. After repulsing the enemy at Manassas, let the troops that marched on Romney return to the Valley, and move rapidly westward to the waters of the Monongahela and Little Kanawha. I deem it of very great importance that North-western Virginia be occupied by Confederate troops this winter. At present it is to be presumed that the enemy are not expecting an attack there, and the resources of that region, necessary for the subsistence of our troops, are in greater abundance than in almost any other season of the year. Postpone the occupation of that section until spring, and we may expect to find the enemy prepared for us, and the resources to which I have referred greatly exhausted. I know that what I have proposed will be an arduous undertaking and cannot be accomplished without the sacrifice of much personal comfort; but I feel that the troops will be prepared to make the sacrifice when animated by the prospects of important results to our cause, and distinction to themselves. It may be urged against this plan that the enemy will advance [from Beverley and the Great Kanawha] on Staunton or Huntersville. I am well satisfied that such a step would but make their destruction sure. When North-western Virginia is occupied in force, the Kanawha Valley, unless it be the lower part of it, must be evacuated by the Federal forces, or otherwise their safety will be endangered by forcing a column across from the Little Kanawha between them and the Ohio River.

“Admitting that the season is too far advanced, or that from other causes all cannot be accomplished that has been named, yet through the blessing of God, who has thus far wonderfully prospered our cause, much more may be expected from General Loring’s troops, according to this programme, than can be expected from them where they are.”[7]

This scheme was endorsed by Johnston. “I submit,” he wrote, “that the troops under General Loring might render valuable services by taking the field with General Jackson, instead of going into winter quarters as now proposed.”

In accordance with Jackson’s suggestion, Loring was ordered to join him. Edward Johnson, however, was withheld. The Confederate authorities seem to have considered it injudicious to leave unguarded the mountain roads which lead into the Valley from the west. Jackson, with a wider grasp of war, held that concentration at Winchester was a sounder measure of security. “Should the Federals” (at Beverley), he said, “take advantage of the withdrawal of Johnson’s troops, and cross the mountains, so much the worse for them. While they were marching eastwards, involving themselves amongst interminable obstacles, he [Jackson] would place himself on their communications and close in behind them, making their destruction the more certain the further they advanced towards their imaginary prize.”[8]

While waiting for Loring, Jackson resolved to complete the education of his new battalions in the field. The raw troops who garrisoned the Northern border were not formidable enemies, and a sudden rush upon some ill-defended post would give to the staff and soldiery that first taste of success which gives heart and backbone to inexperienced troops.

Dec. 6–9   The first enterprise, however, was only partially successful. The destruction of a dam on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, one of the main arteries of communication between Washington and the West, by which coal, hay, and forage reached the Union capital, was the result of a few days’ hard marching and hard work. Two companies of the Stonewall Brigade volunteered to go down by night and cut the cribs. Standing waist deep in the cold water, and under the constant fire of the enemy, they effected a partial breach; but it was repaired by the Federals within two days. Jackson’s loss was one man killed. While engaged in this expedition news reached him of the decisive repulse by Colonel Edward Johnson of an attack on his position on Alleghany Mountain. Jackson again asked that this brigade might be sent to his support, but it was again refused, notwithstanding Johnston’s endorsement of his request.

Loring reached Winchester on Christmas Day. Once more the enemy threatened to advance, and information had been received that he had been largely strengthened. Jackson was of opinion that the true policy of the Federals would be to concentrate at Martinsburg, midway between Romney and Frederick, and “to march on Winchester over a road that presented no very strong positions.” To counteract such a combination, he determined to anticipate their movements, and to attack them before they received additional reinforcements.

1862. Jan. 1   On January 1, 1862, 9,000 Confederates marched from Winchester towards the Potomac. Jackson’s first objectives were the villages of Bath and Hancock, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railway, held by Federal garrisons. By dispersing these detachments he would prevent support being sent to Romney; by cutting the telegraph along the railroad he would sever the communication between Banks at Frederick and Rosecrans in West Virginia, and compel Kelly either to evacuate Romney or fight him single-handed. To deal with his enemy in detail, to crush his detachments in succession, and with superior force, such was the essence of his plan.

The weather when the expedition started was bright and pleasant, so much so that the troops, with the improvidence of young soldiers, left their coats and blankets in the waggons. That very afternoon, however, the temperature underwent a sudden change. Under cold grey skies the column scaled the mountain ridges, and on the winter wind came a fierce storm of snow and hail. In order to conceal the march as far as possible from the enemy’s observations the brigades had marched by country roads, and delayed by steep gradients and slippery tracks, it was not till the next morning that the supply waggons came up. The troops, hurried suddenly from comfortable winter quarters, suffered much. The bivouac was as cheerless as the march. Without rations and without covering, the men lay shivering round the camp fires. The third day out, even the commander of the Stonewall Brigade took it upon himself to halt his wearied men. Jackson became restive. Riding along the column he found his old regiments halted by the roadside, and asked the reason for the delay.

“I have halted to let the men cook their rations,” was General Garnett’s reply. “There is no time for that.” “But it is impossible for the men to march further without them.” “I never found anything impossible with this brigade!” and Jackson rode on. His plans admitted of no delay. He intended to surprise the enemy. In this expectation, however, he was disappointed.

Jan. 3   A few miles distant from Bath his advanced guard fell in with a Federal reconnaissance, and at nightfall the Confederates had not yet reached the outskirts of the town. Once more they had to bivouac in the open, and rations, tents, and blankets were still behind. When the day broke over the Shenandoah Mountains the country was white with snow, and the sleeping soldiers were covered as with a winding-sheet. After a hasty meal an attempt was made to surround the village, and to cut off the retreat of the garrison. The outflanking movements, made in a blinding storm, failed in combination. The roads were too bad, the subordinate commanders too inexperienced; the three hostile regiments escaped across the river in their boats, and only 16 prisoners were captured. Still, the advantages of their unexpected movement were not altogether lost to the Confederates. The Federals, ignorant as yet of the restless energy of the foe who held command at Winchester, had settled themselves cosily in winter quarters. The intelligence of Jackson’s march had come too late to enable them to remove the stores which had been collected at Bath, and on the night of January 4 the Virginians revelled in warmth and luxury. The next morning they moved forward to the river.

Jan. 5   On the opposite bank stood the village of Hancock, and after a demand to surrender had been refused, Jackson ordered his batteries to open fire.[9] Shepherdstown, a little Virginia town south of the Potomac, had been repeatedly shelled, even when unoccupied by Confederate troops. In order to intimate that such outrages must cease a few shells were thrown into Hancock. The next day the bombardment was resumed, but with little apparent effect; and strong reinforcements having joined the enemy, Jackson ceased fire and withdrew. A bridge was already in process of construction two miles above the town, but to have crossed the river, a wide though shallow stream, in face of a considerable force, would have been a useless and a costly operation. The annihilation of the Federal garrison would have scarcely repaid the Southerners for the loss of life that must have been incurred. At the same time, while Jackson’s batteries had been at work, his infantry had done a good deal of mischief. Two regiments had burned the bridge by which the Baltimore and Ohio Railway crosses the Great Cacapon River, the canal dam was breached, and many miles of track and telegraph were destroyed. The enemy’s communications between Frederick and Romney were thus effectually severed, and a large amount of captured stores were sent to Winchester. It was with the design of covering these operations that the bombardment had been continued, and the summons to surrender was probably no more than a ruse to attract the attention of the Federal commander from the attack on the Cacapon Bridge. On the morning of the 7th Jackson moved southward to Unger’s Store. Here, however, the expedition came to a standstill. The precaution of rough-shoeing the horses before leaving Winchester had been neglected, and it was found necessary to refit the teams and rest the men.

Jan. 13   After halting for four days the Confederates, on January 13, renewed their march. The outlook was unpromising. Although cavalry patrols had been despatched in every direction, a detachment of militia, which had acted as flank-guard in the direction of Romney while Jackson was moving to Unger’s Store, had been surprised and defeated, with the loss of two guns, at Hanging Rock. The weather, too, grew colder and colder, and the mountain roads were little more than sheets of ice. The sleet beat fiercely down upon the crawling column. The men stumbled and fell on the slippery tracks; many waggons were overturned, and the bloody knees and muzzles of the horses bore painful witness to the severity of the march. The bivouacs were more comfortless than before. The provision train lagged far in rear. Axes there were none; and had not the fence-rails afforded a supply of firewood, the sufferings of the troops would have been intense. As it was, despite the example of their commander, they pushed forward but slowly through the bitter weather. Jackson was everywhere; here, putting his shoulder to the wheel of a gun that the exhausted team could no longer move; there, urging the wearied soldiers, or rebuking the officers for want of energy. Attentive as he was to the health and comfort of his men in quarters, on the line of march he looked only to the success of the Confederate arms. The hardships of the winter operations were to him but a necessary concomitant of his designs, and it mattered but little if the weak and sickly should succumb. Commanders who are over-chary of their soldiers’ lives, who forget that their men have voluntarily offered themselves as food for powder, often miss great opportunities. To die doing his duty was to Jackson the most desirable consummation of the soldier’s existence, and where duty was concerned or victory in doubt he was as careless of life and suffering as Napoleon himself. The well-being of an individual or even of an army were as nothing compared with the interests of Virginia. And, in the end, his indomitable will triumphed over every obstacle.

Jan. 10   Romney village came at length in sight, lonely and deserted amid the mountain snows, for the Federal garrison had vanished, abandoning its camp-equipment and its magazines.

No pursuit was attempted. Jackson had resolved on further operations. It was now in his power to strike at the Federal communications, marching along the Baltimore and Ohio Railway in the direction of Grafton, seventy-five miles west of Romney. In order to leave all safe behind him, he determined, as a first step, to destroy the bridge by which the Baltimore and Ohio Railway crossed the Potomac in the neighbourhood of Cumberland. The Federal forces at Williamstown and Frederick drew the greater part of their supplies from the West; and so serious an interruption in the line of communication would compel them to give up all thought of offensive enterprises in the Valley. But the sufferings that his green soldiers had undergone had sapped their discipline. Loring’s division, nearly two-thirds of the command, was so discontented as to be untrustworthy. It was useless with such troops to dream of further movements among the inhospitable hills. Many had deserted during the march from Unger’s Store; many had succumbed to the exposure of the bivouacs; and, more than all, the commander had been disloyal to his superior. Although a regular officer of long service, he had permitted himself a license of speech which was absolutely unjustifiable, and throughout the operations had shown his unfitness for his position. Placed under the command of an officer who had been his junior in the Army of the United States, his sense of discipline was overborne by the slight to his vanity; and not for the first time nor the last the resentment of a petty mind ruined an enterprise which would have profited a nation. Compelled to abandon his projected march against the enemy, Jackson determined to leave a strong garrison in Romney and the surrounding district, while the remainder of the force withdrew to Winchester. The two towns were connected by a good high-road, and by establishing telegraphic communication between them, he believed that despite the Federal numbers he could maintain his hold on these important posts. Many precautions were taken to secure Romney from surprise. Three militia regiments, recruited in the country, and thus not only familiar with every road, but able to procure ample information, were posted in the neighbourhood of the town; and with the militia were left three companies of cavalry, one of which had already been employed in this region.

In detailing Loring’s division as the garrison of Romney Jackson seems to have made a grave mistake. He had much reason to be dissatisfied with the commander, and the men were already demoralised. Troops unfit to march against the enemy were not the men to be trusted with the security of an important outpost, within thirty miles of the Federal camps at Cumberland, far from their supports, and surrounded by bleak and lonely mountains. A man of wider sympathy with human weakness, and with less rigid ideas of discipline, might possibly have arranged matters so that the Stonewall Brigade might have remained at Romney, while Loring and his division were transferred to less exacting duties and more comfortable quarters. But Loring’s division constituted two-thirds of Jackson’s force, and Romney, more exposed than Winchester, required the stronger garrison. A general of Loring’s temper and pretensions would scarcely have submitted to the separation of his brigades, and would probably have become even more discontented had Garnett, the leader of the Stonewall Brigade, been left in command at Romney, while he himself played a subordinate part at Winchester. It is only too possible, however, that matters were past mending. The feeble discipline of Loring’s troops had broken down; their enthusiasm had not been proof against the physical suffering of these winter operations.

The Stonewall Brigade, on the other hand, was still staunch. “I am well assured,” wrote Jackson at this time, “that had an order been issued for its march, even through the depth of winter and in any direction, it would have sustained its reputation; for although it was not under fire during the expedition at Romney, yet the alacrity with which it responded to the call of duty and overcame obstacles showed that it was still animated by the same spirit that characterised it at Manassas.” But Jackson’s old regiments were now tried soldiers, inspirited by the memories of the great victory they had done so much to win, improved by association with Johnston’s army, and welded together by a discipline far stricter than that which obtained in commands like Loring’s.

Jan. 24   On January 24 Jackson returned to Winchester. His strategy had been successful. He had driven the enemy across the Potomac. He had destroyed for a time an important line of supply. He had captured a few prisoners and many stores; and this with a loss of 4 men killed and 28 wounded. The Federal forces along the border were far superior to his own. The dispersion of these forces from Cumberland to Frederick, a distance of eighty miles, had doubtless been much in his favour. But when he marched from Winchester he had reason to believe that 8,000 men were posted at Frederick, 2,000 at Hagerstown, 2,000 at Williamsport, 2,000 at Hancock, and 12,000 at Cumberland and Romney. The actual effective strength of these garrisons may possibly have been smaller than had been reported, but such were the numbers which he had to take into consideration when planning his operations. It would appear from the map that while he was at Romney, 12,000 Federals might have moved out from Williamsport and Harper’s Ferry and have cut him off from Winchester. This danger had to be kept in view. But the enemy had made no preparations for crossing the Potomac; the river was a difficult obstacle; and Banks was not the man to run risks.[10]

At the same time, while Jackson was in all probability perfectly aware of the difficulties which Banks refused to face, and counted on that commander’s hesitation, it must be admitted that his manœuvres had been daring, and that the mere thought of the enemy’s superior numbers would have tied down a general of inferior ability to the passive defence of Winchester. Moreover, the results attained were out of all proportion to the trifling loss which had been incurred. An important recruiting-ground had been secured. The development of Union sentiment, which, since the occupation of Romney by the Federals, had been gradually increasing along the Upper Potomac, would be checked by the presence of Southern troops. A base for further operations against the Federal detachments in West Virginia had been established, and a fertile region opened to the operations of the Confederate commissaries. These strategic advantages, however, were by no means appreciated by the people of Virginia. The sufferings of the troops appealed more forcibly to their imagination than the prospective benefit to be derived by the Confederacy. Jackson’s secrecy, as absolute as that of the grave, had an ill effect. Unable to comprehend his combinations, even his own officers ascribed his manœuvres to a restless craving for personal distinction; while civilian wiseacres, with their ears full of the exaggerated stories of Loring’s stragglers, saw in the relentless energy with which he had pressed the march on Romney not only the evidence of a callous indifference to suffering, but the symptoms of a diseased mind. They refused to consider that the general had shared the hardships of the troops, faring as simply and roughly as any private in the ranks. He was charged with partiality to the Stonewall Brigade. “It was said that he kept it in the rear, while other troops were constantly thrust into danger; and that now, while Loring’s command was left in midwinter in an alpine region, almost within the jaws of a powerful enemy, these favoured regiments were brought back to the comforts and hospitalities of the town; whereas in truth, while the forces in Romney were ordered into huts, the brigade was three miles below Winchester, in tents, and under the most rigid discipline.”[11]

It should not be forgotten, however, that Loring’s troops were little more as yet than a levy of armed civilians, ignorant of war; and this was one reason the more that during those cruel marches the hand that held the reins should have been a light one. A leader more genial and less rigid would have found a means to sustain their courage. Napoleon, with the captivating familiarity he used so well, would have laughed the grumblers out of their ill-humour, and have nerved the fainting by pointing to the glory to be won. Nelson would have struck the chord of patriotism. Skobeleff, taking the very privates into his confidence, would have enlisted their personal interest in the success of the enterprise, and the eccentric speeches of “Father” Suvoroff would have cheered them like a cordial. There are occasions when both officers and men are the better for a little humouring, and the march to Romney was one. A few words of hearty praise, a stirring appeal to their nobler instincts, a touch of sympathy, might have worked wonders. But whatever of personal magnetism existed in Stonewall Jackson found no utterance in words. Whilst his soldiers struggled painfully towards Romney in the teeth of the winter storm, his lips were never opened save for sharp rebuke or peremptory order, and Loring’s men had some reason to complain of his fanatical regard for the very letter of the law. On the most inclement of those January nights the captain of a Virginia company, on whose property they happened to have halted, had allowed them to use the fence-rails for the camp fires. Jackson, ever careful of private rights, had issued an order that fences should not be burnt, and the generous donor was suspended from duty on the charge of giving away his own property without first asking leave! Well might the soldiers think that their commander regarded them as mere machines.

His own men knew his worth. Bull Run had shown them the measure of his courage and his ability; in a single battle he had won that respect and confidence which go so far towards establishing discipline. But over Loring’s men his personal ascendency was not yet established. They had not yet seen him under fire. The fighting in the Romney campaign had been confined to skirmishing. Much spoil had been gathered in, but there were no trophies to show in the shape of guns or colours; no important victory had raised their self-respect. It is not too much to say that the silent soldier who insisted on such constant exertion and such unceasing vigilance was positively hated.

“They were unaccustomed to a military regimen so energetic as his. Personally the most modest of men, officially he was the most exacting of commanders, and his purpose to enforce a thorough performance of duty, and his stern disapprobation of remissness and self-indulgence were veiled by no affectations of politeness. Those who came to serve near his person, if they were not wholly like-minded with himself, usually underwent, at first, a sort of breaking in, accompanied with no little chafing to restless spirits. The expedition to Romney was, to such officers, just such an apprenticeship to Jackson’s methods of making war. All this was fully known to him; but while he keenly felt the injustice, he disdained to resent it, or to condescend to any explanation.”[12]

Jackson returned to Winchester with no anticipation that the darkest days of his military life were close at hand. Little Sorrel, the charger he had ridden at Bull Run, leaving the senior members of the staff toiling far in rear, had covered forty miles of mountain roads in one short winter day. “After going to an hotel and divesting himself of the mud which had bespattered him in his rapid ride, he proceeded to Dr. Graham’s. In order to give his wife a surprise he had not intimated when he would return. As soon as the first glad greetings were over, before taking his seat, with a face all aglow with delight, he glanced round the room, and was so impressed with the cosy and cheerful aspect of the fireside, as we all sat round it that winter evening, that he exclaimed: ‘This is the very essence of comfort.’”[13]

He had already put aside the unpleasant memories of the expedition, and had resigned himself to rest content with the measure of success that had been attained. Romney at least was occupied, and operations might be effectively resumed at a more propitious season.

Six days later, however, Jackson received a peremptory message from the Secretary of War: “Our news indicates that a movement is making to cut off General Loring’s command; order him back immediately.”[14]

This order had been issued without reference to General Johnston, Jackson’s immediate superior, and so marked a departure from ordinary procedure could not possibly be construed except as a severe reflection on Jackson’s judgment. Nor could it have other than a most fatal effect on the discipline of the Valley troops. It had been brought about by most discreditable means. Loring’s officers had sat in judgment on their commander. Those who had been granted leave at the close of the expedition had repaired to Richmond, and had filled the ears of the Government and the columns of the newspapers with complaints. Those who remained at Romney formulated their grievance in an official remonstrance, which Loring was indiscreet enough to approve and forward. A council of subordinate officers had the effrontery to record their opinion that “Romney was a place of no strategical importance,” and to suggest that the division might be “maintained much more comfortably, at much less expense, and with every military advantage, at almost any other place.”[15]

Discomfort was the burden of their complaint. They had been serving continuously for eight months. Their present position imposed upon them even greater vigilance and more constant exertion than had hitherto been demanded of them, and their one thought was to escape from a situation which they characterised as “one of the most disagreeable and unfavourable that could well be imagined.” Only a single pertinent argument was brought forward. The Confederate soldiers had enlisted only for twelve months, and the Government was about to ask them to volunteer for the duration of the war. It was urged by Loring’s officers that with the present prospect before them there was much doubt that a single man of the division would re-enlist. “With some regard for its comfort,” added the general, “a large portion, if not the whole, may be prevailed upon to do so.”

It does not seem to have occurred to these officers that soldiers in the near vicinity of the enemy, wherever they may be placed, must always be subject to privations, and that at any other point of the Confederate frontier—at Winchester with Jackson, at Leesburg with Hill, or at Centreville with Johnston—their troops would be exposed to the same risks and the same discomforts as at Romney. That the occupation of a dangerous outpost is in itself an honour never entered their minds; and it would have been more honest, instead of reviling the climate and the country, had they frankly declared that they had had enough for the present of active service, and had no mind to make further sacrifices in the cause for which they had taken arms.

Jan. 31   With the Secretary’s order Jackson at once complied. Loring was recalled to Winchester, but before his command arrived Jackson’s resignation had gone in.

His letter, forwarded through Johnston, ran as follows:

“Headquarters, Valley District, Winchester, Va.:
“Jan. 31, 1862     

“Hon. J. P. Benjamin, Secretary of War,
    “Sir,—Your order, requiring me to direct General Loring to return with his command to Winchester immediately, has been received and promptly complied with.
    “With such interference in my command I cannot expect to be of much service in the field, and, accordingly, respectfully request to be ordered to report for duty to the Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington, as has been done in the case of other professors. Should this application not be granted, I respectfully request that the President will accept my resignation from the army.[16]

The danger apprehended by the Secretary of War, that Loring’s division, if left at Romney, might be cut off, did not exist. General Lander, an able and energetic officer, now in command of the Federal force at Cumberland, had put forward proposals for an active campaign in the Shenandoah Valley; but there was no possibility of such an enterprise being immediately undertaken. The Potomac was still a formidable obstacle; artillery and cavalry were both deficient; the troops were scattered, and their discipline was indifferent. Lander’s command, according to his official despatches, was “more like an armed mob than an army.”[17] Romney, therefore, was in little danger; and Jackson, who had so lately been in contact with the Federal troops, whose cavalry patrolled the banks of the Potomac, and who was in constant receipt of information of the enemy’s attitude and condition, was certainly a better judge of what was probable than any official in the Confederate capital. There were doubtless objections to the retention of Romney. An enormous army, in the intrenched camp at Washington, threatened Centreville; and in the event of that army advancing, Jackson would be called upon to reinforce Johnston, just as Johnston had reinforced Beauregard before Bull Run. With the greater part of his force at Romney such an operation would be delayed by at least two days. Even Johnston himself, although careful to leave his subordinate a free hand, suggested that the occupation of Romney, and the consequent dispersion of Jackson’s force, might enable the enemy to cut in effectively between the Valley troops and the main army. It is beyond question, however, that Jackson had carefully studied the situation. There was no danger of his forgetting that his was merely a detached force, or of his overlooking, in the interests of his own projected operations, the more important interests of the main army; and if his judgment of the situation differed from that of his superior, it was because he had been indefatigable in his search for information.

He had agents everywhere.[18] His intelligence was more ample than that supplied by the Confederate spies in Washington itself. No reinforcements could reach the Federals on the Potomac without his knowledge. He was always accurately informed of the strength and movements of their detachments. Nor had he failed to take the precautions which minimise the evils arising from dissemination. He had constructed a line of telegraph from Charlestown, within seven miles of Harper’s Ferry, to Winchester, and another line was to have been constructed to Romney. He had established relays of couriers through his district. By this means he could communicate with Hill at Leesburg in three hours, and by another line of posts with Johnston at Centreville.

But his chief reason for believing that Romney might be occupied without risk to a junction between himself and Johnston lay in the impassable condition of the Virginia roads. McClellan’s huge army could not drag its guns and waggons through the slough of mud which lay between Washington and Centreville. Banks’ command at Frederick was in no condition for a rapid advance either upon Leesburg or on Winchester; and it was evident that little was to be feared from Lander until he had completed the work, on which he was now actively engaged, of repairing the communications which Jackson’s raid had temporarily interrupted. With the information we have now before us, it is clear that Jackson’s view of the situation was absolutely correct; that for the present Romney might be advantageously retained, and recruiting pushed forward in this section of Virginia. If, when McClellan advanced, the Confederates were to confine themselves to the defensive, the post would undoubtedly have to be abandoned. But if, instead of tamely surrendering the initiative, the Government were to adopt the bolder strategy which Jackson had already advocated, and Johnston’s army, moving westward to the Valley, were to utilise the natural line of invasion by way of Harper’s Ferry, the occupation of Romney would secure the flank, and give the invading force a fertile district from which to draw supplies.

It was not, however, on the Secretary’s misconception of the situation that Jackson’s request for relief was based. Nor was it the slur on his judgment that led him to resign. The injury that had been inflicted by Mr. Benjamin’s unfortunate letter was not personal to himself. It affected the whole army. It was a direct blow to discipline, and struck at the very heart of military efficiency. Not only would Jackson himself be unable to enforce his authority over troops who had so successfully defied his orders; but the whole edifice of command, throughout the length and breadth of the Confederacy, would, if he tamely submitted to the Secretary’s extraordinary action, be shaken to its foundations. Johnston, still smarting under Mr. Davis’s rejection of his strategical views, felt this as acutely as did Jackson. “The discipline of the army,” he wrote to the Secretary of War, “cannot be maintained under such circumstances. The direct tendency of such orders is to insulate the commanding general from his troops, to diminish his moral as well as his official control, and to harass him with the constant fear that his most matured plans may be marred by orders from his Government which it is impossible for him to anticipate.”[19]

To Jackson he wrote advising the withdrawal of his resignation: “Under ordinary circumstances a due sense of one’s own dignity, as well as care for professional character and official rights, would demand such a course as yours, but the character of this war, the great energy exhibited by the Government of the United States, the danger in which our very existence as an independent people lies, requires sacrifices from us all who have been educated as soldiers.

“I receive the information of the order of which you have such cause to complain from your letter. Is not that as great an official wrong to me as the order itself to you? Let us dispassionately reason with the Government on this subject of command, and if we fail to influence its practice, then ask to be relieved from positions the authority of which is exercised by the War Department, while the responsibilities are left to us.

“I have taken the liberty to detain your letter to make this appeal to your patriotism, not merely from common feelings of personal regard, but from the official opinion which makes me regard you as necessary to the service of the country in your present position.”[20]

But Johnston, when he wrote, was not aware of the remonstrance of Loring’s officers. His protest, in his letter to the Secretary of War, deprecated the action of the department in ignoring the authority of the military chiefs; it had no reference to the graver evil of yielding to the representations of irresponsible subordinates. Considering the circumstances, as he believed them to exist, his advice was doubtless prudent. But it found Jackson in no compromising mood.

“Sacrifices!” he exclaimed; “have I not made them? What is my life here but a daily sacrifice? Nor shall I ever withhold sacrifices for my country, where they will avail anything. I intend to serve here, anywhere, in any way I can, even if it be as a private soldier. But if this method of making war is to prevail, the country is ruined. My duty to Virginia requires that I shall utter my protest against it in the most energetic form in my power, and that is to resign. The authorities at Richmond must be taught a lesson, or the next victims of their meddling will be Johnston and Lee.”

Fortunately for the Confederacy, the Virginia officers possessed a staunch supporter in the Governor of the State. Mr. Letcher knew Jackson’s worth, and he knew the estimation in which he was already held by the Virginia people. The battle of Manassas had attained the dignity of a great historical event, and those whose share in the victory had been conspicuous were regarded with the same respect as the heroes of the Revolution. In the spring of 1862 Manassas stood alone, the supreme incident of the war; its fame was not yet overshadowed by mightier conflicts, and it had taken rank in the popular mind with the decisive battles of the world.

Jackson, at the same time that he addressed Johnston, wrote to Letcher. It is possible that he anticipated the course the Governor would adopt. He certainly took care that if a protest were made it should be backed with convincing argument.

“The order from the War Department,” he wrote, “was given without consulting me, and is abandoning to the enemy what has cost much preparation, expense, and exposure to secure, is in direct conflict with my military plans, implies a want of confidence in my capacity to judge when General Loring’s troops should fall back, and is an attempt to control military operations in details from the Secretary’s desk at a distance. . . . As a single order like that of the Secretary’s may destroy the entire fruits of a campaign, I cannot reasonably expect, if my operations are thus to be interfered with, to be of much service in the field. . . . If I ever acquired, through the blessing of Providence, any influence over troops, this undoing my work by the Secretary may greatly diminish that influence. I regard the recent expedition as a great success. . . . I desire to say nothing against the Secretary of War. I take it for granted that he has done what he believes to be best, but I regard such policy as ruinous.”[21]

This letter had the desired result. Not content with reminding Jackson of the effect his resignation would have on the people of Virginia, and begging him to withdraw it, Governor Letcher took the Secretary of War to task. Mr. Benjamin, who had probably acted in ignorance rather than in defiance of the military necessities, at once gave way. Governor Letcher, assured that it was not the intention of the Government to interfere with the plans of the general, withdrew the resignation: Jackson had already yielded to his representations.

“In this transaction,” says his chief of the staff, “Jackson gained one of his most important victories for the Confederate States. Had the system of encouragement to the insubordination of inferiors, and of interference with the responsibilities of commanders in the field, which was initiated in his case, become established, military success could only have been won by accident. By his firmness the evil usage was arrested, and a lesson impressed both upon the Government and the people of the South.”[22]

That the soldier is but the servant of the statesman, as war is but an instrument of diplomacy, no educated soldier will deny. Politics must always exercise a supreme influence on strategy; yet it cannot be gainsaid that interference with the commanders in the field is fraught with the gravest danger. Mr. Benjamin’s action was without excuse. In listening to the malcontents he ignored the claims of discipline. In cancelling Jackson’s orders he struck a blow at the confidence of the men in their commander. In directing that Romney should not be held he decided on a question which was not only purely military, but of which the man on the spot, actually in touch with the situation and with the enemy, could alone be judge.[23] Even Johnston, a most able and experienced soldier, although he was evidently apprehensive that Jackson’s front was too extended, forbore to do more than warn. Nor was his interference the crown of Mr. Benjamin’s offence. The omniscient lawyer asked no advice; but believing, as many still believe, that neither special knowledge nor practical acquaintance with the working of the military machine is necessary in order to manœuvre armies, he had acted entirely on his own initiative. It was indeed time that he received a lesson.

Well would it have been for the Confederacy had the President himself been wise enough to apply the warning to its full extent. We have already seen that after the victory of Manassas, in his capacity of Commander-in-Chief, he refused to denude the Southern coasts of their garrisons in order to reinforce Johnston’s army and strike a decisive blow in Northern territory. Had he but once recognised that he too was an amateur, that it was impossible for one man to combine effectively in his own person the duties of Head of the Government and of Commander-in-Chief, he would have handed over the management of his huge armies, and the direction of all military movements, to the most capable soldier the Confederacy could produce. Capable soldiers were not wanting; and had the control of military operations been frankly committed to a trained strategist, and the military resources of the Southern States been placed unreservedly at the disposal of either Lee or Johnston, combined operations would have taken the place of disjointed enterprises, and the full strength of the country have been concentrated at the decisive point. It can hardly, however, be imputed as a fault to Mr. Davis that he did not anticipate a system which achieved such astonishing success in Prussia’s campaigns of ’66 and ’70. It was not through vanity alone that he retained in his own hands the supreme control of military affairs. The Confederate system of government was but an imitation of that which existed in the United States; and in Washington, as in Richmond, the President was not only Commander-in-Chief in name, but the arbiter on all questions of strategy and organisation; while, to go still further back, the English Cabinet had exercised the same power since Parliament became supreme. The American people may be forgiven for their failure to recognise the deplorable results of the system they had inherited from the mother-country. The English people had been equally blind, and in their case there was no excuse. The mismanagement of the national resources in the war with France was condoned by the victories of Wellington. The vicious conceptions of the Government, responsible for so many useless enterprises, for waste of life, of treasure, of opportunity, were lost in the blaze of triumph in which the struggle ended. Forty years later it had been forgotten that the Cabinet of 1815 had done its best to lose the battle of Waterloo; the lessons of the great war were disregarded, and the Cabinet of 1853 to 1854 was allowed to work its will on the army of the Crimea.

It is a significant fact that, during the War of Secession, for the three years the control of the armies of the North remained in the hands of the Cabinet the balance of success lay with the Confederates. But in March 1864 Grant was appointed Commander-in-Chief; Lincoln abdicated his military functions in his favour, and the Secretary of War had nothing more to do than to comply with his requisitions. Then, for the first time, the enormous armies of the Union were manœuvred in harmonious combination, and the superior force was exerted to its full effect. Nor is it less significant that during the most critical period of the 1862 campaign, the most glorious to the Confederacy, Lee was Commander-in-Chief of the Southern armies. But when Lee left Richmond for the Northern border, Davis once more assumed supreme control, retaining it until it was too late to stave off ruin.

Yet the Southern soldiers had never to complain of such constant interference on the part of the Cabinet as had the Northern; and to Jackson it was due that each Confederate general, with few exceptions, was henceforward left unhampered in his own theatre of operations. His threat of resignation at least effected this, and, although the President still managed or mismanaged the grand operations, the Secretary of War was muzzled.

It might be objected that in this instance Jackson showed little respect for the discipline he so rigidly enforced, and that in the critical situation of the Confederacy his action was a breach of duty which was almost disloyalty. Without doubt his resignation would have seriously embarrassed the Government. To some degree at least the confidence of both the people and the army in the Administration would have become impaired. But Jackson was fighting for a principle which was of even more importance than subordination. Foreseeing as he did the certain results of civilian meddling, submission to the Secretary’s orders would have been no virtue. His presence with the army would hardly have counterbalanced the untrammelled exercise of Mr. Benjamin’s military sagacity, and the inevitable decay of discipline. It was not the course of a weak man, an apathetic man, or a selfish man. We may imagine Jackson eating his heart out at Lexington, while the war was raging on the frontier, and the Stonewall Brigade was fighting manfully under another leader against the hosts of the invader. The independence of his country was the most intense of all his earthly desires; and to leave the forefront of the fight before that desire had been achieved would have been more to him than most. He would have sacrificed far more in resigning than in remaining; and there was always the possibility that a brilliant success and the rapid termination of the war would place Mr. Benjamin apparently in the right. How would Jackson look then? What would be the reputation of the man who had quitted the army, on what would have been considered a mere point of etiquette, in the very heat of the campaign? No ordinary man would have faced the alternative, and have risked his reputation in order to teach the rulers of his country a lesson which might never reach them. It must be remembered, too, that Jackson had not yet proved himself indispensable. He had done good work at Manassas, but so had others. His name was scarcely known beyond the confines of his own State, and Virginia had several officers of higher reputation. His immediate superiors knew his value, but the Confederate authorities, as their action proved, placed little dependence on his judgment, and in all probability set no special store upon his services. There was undoubtedly every chance, had not Governor Letcher intervened, that his resignation would have been accepted. His letter then to the Secretary of War was no mere threat, the outcome of injured vanity, but the earnest and deliberate protest of a man who was ready to sacrifice even his own good name to benefit his country.

The negotiations which followed his application to resign occupied some time. He remained at Winchester, and the pleasant home where he and his wife had found such kindly welcome was the scene of much discussion. Governor Letcher was not alone in his endeavours to alter his decision. Many were the letters that poured in. From every class of Virginians, from public men and private, came the same appeal. But until he was convinced that Virginia would suffer by his action, Jackson was deaf to argument. He had not yet realised the measure of confidence which he had won. To those who sought to move him by saying that his country could not spare his services, or by speaking of his hold upon the troops, he replied that they greatly overestimated his capacity for usefulness, and that his place would readily be filled by a better man. That many of his friends were deeply incensed with the Secretary of War was only natural, and his conduct was bitterly denounced. But Jackson not only forbore to criticise, but in his presence all criticism was forbidden. There can be no doubt that he was deeply wounded. He could be angry when he chose, and his anger was none the less fierce because it was habitually controlled. He never forgave Davis for his want of wisdom after Manassas; and indeed, in future campaigns, the President’s action was sufficient to exasperate the most patriotic of his generals. But during this time of trouble not a word escaped Jackson which showed those nearest him that his equanimity was disturbed. Anticipating that he would be ordered to the Military Institute, he was even delighted, says his wife, at the prospect of returning home. The reason of his calmness is not far to seek. He had come to the determination that it was his duty to resign, not, we may be certain, without prayer and self-communing, and when Jackson saw what his duty was, all other considerations were soon dismissed. He was content to leave the future in higher hands. It had been so with him when the question of secession was first broached. “It was soon after the election of 1860,” wrote one of his clerical friends, “when the country was beginning to heave in the agony of dissolution. We had just risen from morning prayers in his own house, where at that time I was a guest. Filled with gloom, I was lamenting in strong language the condition and prospect of our beloved country. ‘Why,’ said he, ‘should Christians be disturbed about the dissolution of the Union? It can only come by God’s permission, and will only be permitted if for His people’s good. I cannot see why we should be distressed about such things, whatever be their consequence.’”

For the next month the Stonewall Brigade and its commander enjoyed a well-earned rest. The Federals, on Loring’s withdrawal, contented themselves with holding Romney and Moorefield, and on Johnston’s recommendation Loring and part of his troops were transferred elsewhere. The enemy showed no intention of advancing. The season was against them. The winter was abnormally wet; the Potomac was higher than it had been for twenty years, and the Virginia roads had disappeared in mud. In order to encourage re-enlistment amongst the men, furloughs were liberally granted by the authorities at Richmond, and for a short season the din of arms was unheard on the Shenandoah.

This peaceful time was one of unalloyed happiness to Jackson. The country round Winchester—the gently rolling ridges, surmounted by groves of forest trees, the great North Mountains to the westward, rising sharply from the Valley, the cosy villages and comfortable farms, and, in the clear blue distance to the south, the towering peaks of the Massanuttons—is a picture not easily forgotten. And the little town, quiet and old-fashioned, with its ample gardens and red-brick pavements, is not unworthy of its surroundings. Up a narrow street, shaded by silver maples, stood the manse, not far from the headquarter offices; and here when his daily work was done Jackson found the happiness of a home, brightened by the winning ways and attractive presence of his wife. With his host he had much in common. They were members of the same church, and neither yielded to the other in his high standard of morality. The great bookcases of the manse were well stocked with appropriate literature, and the cultured intellect of Dr. Graham met more than half-way the somewhat abstruse problems with which Jackson’s powerful brain delighted to wrestle.

But Jackson and his host, even had they been so inclined, were not permitted to devote their whole leisure to theological discussion. Children’s laughter broke in upon their arguments. The young staff officers, with the bright eyes of the Winchester ladies as a lure, found a welcome by that hospitable hearth, and the war was not so absorbing a topic as to drive gaiety afield.

The sedate manse was like to lose its character. There were times when the house overflowed with music and with merriment, and sounds at which a Scotch elder would have shuddered were heard far out in the street. And the fun and frolic were not confined to the more youthful members of the household. The Stonewall Brigade would hardly have been surprised had they seen their general surrounded by ponderous volumes, gravely investigating the teaching of departed commentators, or joining with quiet fervour in the family devotions. But had they seen him running down the stairs with an urchin on his shoulders, laughing like a schoolboy, they would have refused to credit the evidence of their senses.

So the months wore on. “We spent,” says Mrs. Jackson, “as happy a winter as ever falls to the lot of mortals upon earth.” But the brigade was not forgotten, nor the enemy. Every day the Virginia regiments improved in drill and discipline. The scouts were busy on the border, and not a movement of the Federal forces was unobserved. A vigilant watch was indeed necessary. The snows had melted and the roads were slowly drying. The Army of the Potomac, McClellan’s great host, numbering over 200,000 men, encamped around Washington, hardly more than a day’s march distant from Centreville, threatened to overwhelm the 82,000 Confederates who held the intrenchments at Centreville and Manassas Junction. General Lander was dead, but Shields, a veteran of the Mexican campaign, had succeeded him, and the force at both Romney and Frederick had been increased. In the West things were going badly for the new Republic. The Union troops had overrun Kentucky, Missouri, and the greater part of Tennessee. A Confederate army had been defeated; Confederate forts captured; and “the amphibious power” of the North had already been effectively exerted. Various towns on the Atlantic seaboard had been occupied. Not one of the European Powers had evinced a decided intention of espousing the Confederate cause, and the blockade still exercised its relentless pressure.

It was not, however, until the end of February that the great host beyond the Potomac showed symptoms of approaching movement. But it had long been evident that both Winchester and Centreville must soon be abandoned. Johnston was as powerless before McClellan as Jackson before Banks. Even if by bringing fortification to their aid they could hold their ground against the direct attack of far superior numbers, they could not prevent their intrenchments being turned. McClellan had at his disposal the naval resources of the North. It would be no difficult task to transfer his army by the broad reaches of the Potomac and the Chesapeake to some point on the Virginia coast, and to intervene between Centreville and Richmond. At the same time the army of Western Virginia, which was now under command of General Fremont, might threaten Jackson in rear by moving on Staunton from Beverley and the Great Kanawha, while Banks assailed him in front.[24]

Johnston was already preparing to retreat. Jackson, reluctant to abandon a single acre of his beloved Valley to the enemy, was nevertheless constrained to face the possibilities of such a course. His wife was sent back to her father’s home in the same train that conveyed his sick to Staunton; baggage and stores were removed to Mount Jackson, half-way up the Shenandoah Valley, and his little army, which had now been increased to three brigades, or 4,600 men all told, was ordered to break up its camps. 38,000 Federals had gradually assembled between Frederick and Romney. Banks, who commanded the whole force, was preparing to advance, and his outposts were already established on the south bank of the Potomac.

But when the Confederate column filed through the streets of Winchester, it moved not south but north.

Such was Jackson’s idea of a retreat. To march towards the enemy, not away from him; to watch his every movement; to impose upon him with a bold front; to delay him to the utmost; and to take advantage of every opportunity that might offer for offensive action.

Shortly before their departure the troops received a reminder that their leader brooked no trifling with orders. Intoxicating liquors were forbidden in the Confederate lines. But the regulation was systematically evaded, and the friends of the soldiers smuggled in supplies. When this breach of discipline was discovered, Jackson put a stop to the traffic by an order which put the punishment on the right shoulders. “Every waggon that came into camp was to be searched, and if any liquor were found it was to be spilled out, and the waggon horses turned over to the quartermaster for the public service.” Nevertheless, when they left Winchester, so Jackson wrote to his wife, the troops were in excellent spirits, and their somewhat hypochondriacal general had never for years enjoyed more perfect health—a blessing for which he had more reason to be thankful than the Federals.

Illustration: Map of The Valley

For larger view click on image.



It is well worth noticing that the interference of both the Union and Confederate Cabinets was not confined to the movements and location of the troops. The organisation of the armies was very largely the work of the civilian authorities, and the advice of the soldiers was very generally disregarded. The results, it need hardly be said, were deplorable. The Northern wiseacres considered cavalry an encumbrance and a staff a mere ornamental appendage. McClellan, in consequence, was always in difficulties for the want of mounted regiments; and while many regular officers were retained in the command of batteries and companies, the important duties of the staff had sometimes to be assigned to volunteers. The men too, at first, were asked to serve for three months only; that is, they were permitted to take their discharge directly they had learned the rudiments of their work. Again, instead of the ranks of the old regiments being filled up as casualties occurred, the armies, despite McClellan’s protests, were recruited by raw regiments, commanded by untrained officers. Mr. Davis, knowing something of war, certainly showed more wisdom. The organisation of the army of Northern Virginia was left, in great measure, to General Lee; so from the very first the Southerners had sufficient cavalry and as good a staff as could be got together. The soldiers, however, were only enlisted at first for twelve months; yet “Lee,” says Lord Wolseley, “pleaded in favour of the engagement being for the duration of the war, but he pleaded in vain;” and it was not for many months that the politicians could be induced to cancel the regulation under which the men elected their officers. The President, too, while the markets of Europe were still open, neglected to lay in a store of munitions of war: it was not till May that an order was sent across the seas, and then only for 10,000 muskets! The commissariat department, moreover, was responsible to the President and not to the commander of the armies; this, perhaps, was the worst fault of all. It would seem impossible that such mistakes, in an intelligent community, should be permitted to recur. Yet, in face of the fact that only when the commanders have been given a free hand, as was Marlborough in the Low Countries, or Wellington in the Peninsula, has the English army been thoroughly efficient, the opinion is not uncommon in England that members of Parliament and journalists are far more capable of organising an army than even the most experienced soldier.

    Since the above was written the war with Spain has given further proof of how readily even the most intelligent of nations can forget the lessons of the past.

[1] “A defensive war is apt to betray us into too frequent detachments. Those generals who have had but little experience attempt to protect every point, while those who are better acquainted with their profession, having only the capital object in view, guard against a decisive blow, and acquiesce in smaller misfortunes to avoid greater.” Frederick the Great’s Instructions to his Generals.

[2] Letter of General G. W. Smith to the author.

[3] O.R., vol. v, p. 909.

[4] Loring was at Huntersville, Johnson on Alleghany Mountain, not far from Monterey. General Lee, unable with an inferior force to drive the enemy from West Virginia, had been transferred to South Carolina on November 1.

[5] Ante, p. 174.

[6] Cooke, p. 87.

[7] O.R., vol. v, p. 965.

[8] Dabney, vol. i, p. 298.

[9] The Federal commander was granted two hours in which to remove the women and children.

[10] “Any attempt,” Banks reported to McClellan, “to intercept the enemy would have been unsuccessful. . . . It would have resulted in almost certain failure to cut him off, and have brought an exhausted force into his presence to fight him in his stronghold at Winchester. In any case, it promised no positive prospect of success, nor did it exclude large chances of disaster.”—O.R., vol. v, p. 694.

[11] Dabney, vol. i, p. 320.

[12] Dabney, vol. i, p. 321.

[13] Memoirs of Stonewall Jackson.

[14] O.R., vol. v, p. 1053.

[15] Ibid., pp. 1046–8.

[16] O.R., vol. v, p. 1053.

[17] Ibid., pp. 702, 703.

[18] “I have taken special pains,” he writes on January 17, “to obtain information respecting General Banks, but I have not been informed of his having gone east. I will see what can be effected through the Catholic priests at Martinsburg.”—O.R., vol. v, p. 1036.

[19] O.R., vol. v, pp. 1057, 1058.

[20] O.R., vol. v, pp. 1059, 1060.

[21] Memoirs, pp. 232, 233.

[22] Dabney, vol. i, p. 327.

[23] The inexpediency of evacuating Romney was soon made apparent. The enemy reoccupied the village, seized Moorefield, and, with the valley of the South Branch in their possession, threatened the rear of Edward Johnson’s position on the Alleghany Mountain so closely that he was compelled to retreat. Three fertile counties were thus abandoned to the enemy, and the Confederate sympathisers in North-west Virginia were proportionately discouraged.

[24] Fortunately for the Confederates this army had been reduced to 18,000 men, and the want of transport, together with the condition of the mountain roads, kept it stationary until the weather improved.

Chapter VIII

1862. Feb. 27   By the end of February a pontoon bridge had been thrown across the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry, and Banks had crossed to the Virginia shore. An army of 38,000 men, including 2,000 cavalry, and accompanied by 80 pieces of artillery, threatened Winchester.

President Lincoln was anxious that the town should be occupied. Banks believed that the opportunity was favourable. “The roads to Winchester,” he wrote, “are turnpikes and in tolerable condition. The enemy is weak, demoralised, and depressed.”

But McClellan, who held command of all the Federal forces, had no mind to expose even a detachment to defeat. The main Confederate army at Centreville could, at any moment, dispatch reinforcements by railway to the Valley, reversing the strategic movement which had won Bull Run; while the Army of the Potomac, held fast by the mud, could do nothing to prevent it. Banks was therefore ordered to occupy the line Charlestown to Martinsburg, some two-and-twenty miles from Winchester, to cover the reconstruction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and to accumulate supplies preparatory to a further advance. The troops, however, did not approve such cautious strategy. “Their appetite for work,” according to their commander, “was very sharp.” Banks himself was not less eager. “If left to our own discretion,” he wrote to McClellan’s chief of staff, “the general desire will be to move early.”

March 9   On March 7 General D. H. Hill, acting under instructions, fell back from Leesburg, and two days later Johnston, destroying the railways, abandoned Centreville. The Confederate General-in-Chief had decided to withdraw to near Orange Court House, trebling his distance from Washington, and surrendering much territory, but securing, in return, important strategical advantages. Protected by the Rapidan, a stream unfordable in spring, he was well placed to meet a Federal advance, and also, by a rapid march, to anticipate any force which might be transported by water and landed close to Richmond.

Jackson was now left isolated in the Valley. The nearest Confederate infantry were at Culpeper Court House, beyond the Blue Ridge, nearly sixty miles south-east. In his front, within two easy marches, was an army just seven times his strength, at Romney another detachment of several thousand men, and a large force in the Alleghanies. He was in no hurry, however, to abandon Winchester.

Johnston had intended that when the main army fell back towards Richmond his detachments should follow suit. Jackson found a loophole in his instructions which gave him full liberty of action.

“I greatly desire,” he wrote to Johnston on March 8, “to hold this place [Winchester] so far as may be consistent with your views and plans, and am making arrangements, by constructing works, etc., to make a stand. Though you desired me some time since to fall back in the event of yourself and General Hill’s doing so, yet in your letter of the 5th inst. you say, ‘Delay the enemy as long as you can;’ I have felt justified in remaining here for the present.

“And now, General, that Hill has fallen back, can you not send him over here? I greatly need such an officer; one who can be sent off as occasion may offer against an exposed detachment of the enemy for the purpose of capturing it. . . . I believe that if you can spare Hill, and let him move here at once, you will never have occasion to regret it. The very idea of reinforcements coming to Winchester would, I think, be a damper to the enemy, in addition to the fine effect that would be produced on our own troops, already in fine spirits. But if you cannot spare Hill, can you not send me some other troops? If we cannot be successful in defeating the enemy should he advance, a kind Providence may enable us to inflict a terrible wound and effect a safe retreat in the event of having to fall back. I will keep myself on the alert with respect to communications between us, so as to be able to join you at the earliest possible moment, if such a movement becomes necessary.”[1]

This letter is characteristic. When Jackson asked for reinforcements the cause of the South seemed well-nigh hopeless. Her Western armies were retiring, defeated and demoralised. Several of her Atlantic towns had fallen to the Federal navy, assisted by strong landing parties. The army on which she depended for the defence of Richmond, yielding to the irresistible presence of far superior numbers, was retreating into the interior of Virginia. There was not the faintest sign of help from beyond the sea. The opportunity for a great counterstroke had been suffered to escape. Her forces were too small for aught but defensive action, and it was difficult to conceive that she could hold her own against McClellan’s magnificently appointed host. “Events,” said Davis at this time, “have cast on our arms and hopes the gloomiest shadows.” But from the Valley, the northern outpost of the Confederate armies, where the danger was most threatening and the means of defence the most inadequate, came not a whisper of apprehension. The troops that held the border were but a handful, but Jackson knew enough of war to be aware that victory does not always side with the big battalions. Neither Johnston nor Davis had yet recognised, as he did, the weak joint in the Federal harness. Why should the appearance of Hill’s brigade at Winchester discourage Banks? Johnston had fallen back to the Rapidan, and there was now no fear of the Confederates detaching troops suddenly from Manassas. Why should the bare idea that reinforcements were coming up embarrass the Federals?

The letter itself does not indeed supply a definite answer. Jackson was always most guarded in his correspondence; and, if he could possibly avoid it, he never made the slightest allusion to the information on which his plans were based. His staff officers, however, after the campaign was over, were generally enlightened as to the motive of his actions, and we are thus enabled to fill the gap.[2] Jackson demanded reinforcements for the one reason that a blow struck near Winchester would cause alarm in Washington. The communications of the Federal capital with both the North and West passed through or close to Harper’s Ferry; and the passage over the Potomac, which Banks was now covering, was thus the most sensitive point in the invader’s front. Well aware, as indeed was every statesman and every general in Virginia, of the state of public feeling in the North, Jackson saw with more insight than others the effect that was likely to be produced should the Government, the press, and the people of the Federal States have reason to apprehend that the capital of the Union was in danger.

If the idea of playing on the fears of his opponents by means of the weak detachment under Jackson ever suggested itself to Johnston, he may be forgiven if he dismissed it as chimerical. For 7,600 men[3] to threaten with any useful result a capital which was defended by 250,000 seemed hardly within the bounds of practical strategy. Johnston had nevertheless determined to turn the situation to account. In order to protect the passages of the Upper Potomac, McClellan had been compelled to disseminate his army. Between his main body south of Washington and his right wing under Banks was a gap of fifty miles, and this separation Johnston was determined should be maintained. The President, to whom he had referred Jackson’s letter, was unable to spare the reinforcements therein requested, and the defence of the Valley was left to the 4,600 men encamped at Winchester. Jackson was permitted to use his own judgment as to his own position, but something more was required of him than the mere protection of a tract of territory. “He was to endeavour to employ the invaders in the Valley without exposing himself to the danger of defeat, by keeping so near the enemy as to prevent his making any considerable detachment to reinforce McClellan, but not so near that he might be compelled to fight.”[4]

To carry out these instructions Jackson had at his disposal 3,600 infantry, 600 cavalry, and six batteries of 27 guns. Fortunately, they were all Virginians, with the exception of one battalion, the First, which was composed of Irish navvies.

This force, which had now received the title of the Army of the Valley, was organised in three brigades:—

First Brigade (“Stonewall”):
Brigadier-General Garnett
  2nd Virginia Regiment
  4th Virginia Regiment
  5th Virginia Regiment
27th Virginia Regiment
33rd Virginia Regiment

Second Brigade: Colonel Burks 21st Virginia Regiment
42nd Virginia Regiment
48th Virginia Regiment
  1st Regular Battalion (Irish)

Third Brigade: Colonel Fulkerson 23rd Virginia Regiment
27th Virginia Regiment

McLaughlin’s Battery
Waters’ Battery
Carpenter’s Battery
Marye’s Battery
Shumaker’s Battery
Ashby’s Regiment of Cavalry
Chew’s Horse-Artillery Battery
8 guns
4 guns
4 guns
4 guns
4 guns

3 guns

The infantry were by this time fairly well armed and equipped, but the field-pieces were mostly smoothbores of small calibre. Of the quality of the troops Bull Run had been sufficient test. Side by side with the sons of the old Virginia houses the hunters and yeomen of the Valley had proved their worth. Their skill as marksmen had stood them in good stead. Men who had been used from boyhood to shoot squirrels in the woodland found the Federal soldier a target difficult to miss. Skirmishing and patrolling came instinctively to those who had stalked the deer and the bear in the mountain forests; and the simple hardy life of an agricultural community was the best probation for the trials of a campaign. The lack of discipline and of competent regimental officers might have placed them at a disadvantage had they been opposed to regulars; but they were already half-broken to the soldier’s trade before they joined the ranks. They were no strangers to camp and bivouac, to peril and adventure; their hands could guard their heads. Quick sight and steady nerve, unfailing vigilance and instant resolve, the very qualities which their devotion to field-sports fostered, were those which had so often prevailed in the war of the Revolution over the mechanical tactics of well-disciplined battalions; and on ground with which they were perfectly familiar the men of the Shenandoah were formidable indeed.

They were essentially rough and ready. Their appearance would hardly have captivated a martinet. The eye that lingers lovingly on glittering buttons and spotless belts would have turned away in disdain from Jackson’s soldiers. There was nothing bright about them but their rifles. They were as badly dressed, and with as little regard for uniformity, as the defenders of Torres Vedras or the Army of Italy in 1796. Like Wellington and Napoleon, the Confederate generals cared very little what their soldiers wore so long as they did their duty. Least of all can one imagine Stonewall Jackson exercising his mind as to the cut of a tunic or the polish of a buckle. The only standing order in the English army of the Peninsula which referred to dress forbade the wearing of the enemy’s uniform. It was the same in the Army of the Valley, although at a later period even this order was of necessity ignored. As their forefathers of the Revolution took post in Washington’s ranks clad in hunting shirts and leggings, so the Confederate soldiers preferred the garments spun by their own women to those supplied them by the State. Grey, of all shades, from light blue to butter-nut, was the universal colour. The coatee issued in the early days of the war had already given place to a short-waisted and single-breasted jacket. The blue képi held out longer. The soft felt hat which experience soon proved the most serviceable head-dress had not yet become universal. But the long boots had gone; and strong brogans, with broad soles and low heels, had been found more comfortable. Overcoats were soon discarded. “The men came to the conclusion that the trouble of carrying them on hot days outweighed their comfort when the cold day arrived. Besides, they found that life in the open air hardened them to such an extent that changes in temperature were hardly felt.”[5] Nor did the knapsack long survive. “It was found to gall the back and shoulders and weary the man before half the march was accomplished. It did not pay to carry around clean clothes while waiting for the time to use them.”[6] But the men still clung to their blankets and waterproof sheets, worn in a roll over the left shoulder, and the indispensable haversack carried their whole kit. Tents—except the enemy’s—were rarely seen. The Army of the Valley generally bivouacked in the woods, the men sleeping in pairs, rolled in their blankets and rubber sheets. The cooking arrangements were primitive. A few frying-pans and skillets formed the culinary apparatus of a company, with a bucket or two in addition, and the frying-pans were generally carried with their handles stuck in the rifle-barrels! The tooth-brush was a button-hole ornament, and if, as was sometimes the case, three days’ rations were served out at a single issue, the men usually cooked and ate them at once, so as to avoid the labour of carrying them.

Such was Jackson’s infantry, a sorry contrast indeed to the soldierly array of the Federals, with their complete appointments and trim blue uniforms. But fine feathers, though they may have their use, are hardly essential to efficiency in the field; and whilst it is absolutely true that no soldiers ever marched with less to encumber them than the Confederates, it is no empty boast that none ever marched faster or held out longer.

If the artillery, with a most inferior equipment, was less efficient than the infantry, the cavalry was an invaluable auxiliary. Ashby was the beau-idéal of a captain of light-horse. His reckless daring, both across-country and under fire, made him the idol of the army. Nor was his reputation confined to the Confederate ranks. “I think even our men,” says a Federal officer, “had a kind of admiration for him, as he sat unmoved upon his horse, and let them pepper away at him as if he enjoyed it.” His one shortcoming was his ignorance of drill and discipline. But in the spring of 1862 these deficiencies were in a fair way of being rectified. He had already learned something of tactics. In command of a few hundred mounted riflemen and a section of horse-artillery he was unsurpassed; and if his men were apt to get out of hand in battle, his personal activity ensured their strict attention on the outposts. He thought little of riding seventy or eighty miles within the day along his picket line, and it is said that he first recommended himself to Jackson by visiting the Federal camps disguised as a horse doctor. Jackson placed much dependence on his mounted troops. Immediately he arrived in the Valley he established his cavalry outposts far to the front. While the infantry were reposing in their camps near Winchester, the south bank of the Potomac, forty miles northward, was closely and incessantly patrolled. The squadrons never lacked recruits. With the horse-loving Virginians the cavalry was the favourite arm, and the strength of the regiments was only limited by the difficulty of obtaining horses. To the sons of the Valley planters and farmers Ashby’s ranks offered a most attractive career. The discipline was easy, and there was no time for drill. But of excitement and adventure there was enough and to spare. Scarcely a day passed without shots being exchanged at one point or another of the picket line. There were the enemy’s outposts to be harassed, prisoners to be taken, bridges to be burnt, and convoys to be captured. Many were the opportunities for distinction. Jackson demanded something more from his cavalry than merely guarding the frontier. It was not sufficient for him to receive warning that the enemy was advancing. He wanted information from which he could deduce what he intended doing; information of the strength of his garrisons, of the dispositions of his camps, of every movement which took place beyond the river. The cavalry had other and more dangerous duties than vedette and escort. To penetrate the enemy’s lines, to approach his camps, and observe his columns—these were the tasks of Ashby’s riders, and in these they were unrivalled. Many of them were no more than boys; but their qualifications for such a life were undeniable. A more gallant or high-spirited body of young soldiers never welcomed the boot and saddle. Their horses were their own, scions of good Virginian stock, with the blood of many a well-known sire—Eclipse, Brighteyes, and Timoleon—in their veins, and they knew how to care for them. They were acquainted with every country lane and woodland track. They had friends in every village, and their names were known to every farmer. The night was no hindrance to them, even in the region of the mountain and the forest. The hunter’s paths were as familiar to them as the turnpike roads. They knew the depth and direction of every ford, and could predict the effect of the weather on stream and track. More admirable material for the service of intelligence could not possibly have been found, and Ashby’s audacity in reconnaissance found ready imitators. A generous rivalry in deeds of daring spread through the command. Bold enterprises were succeeded by others yet more bold, and, to use the words of a gentleman who, although he was a veteran of four years’ service, was but nineteen years of age when Richmond fell, “We thought no more of riding through the enemy’s bivouacs than of riding round our fathers’ farms.” So congenial were the duties of the cavalry, so attractive the life and the associations, that it was no rare thing for a Virginia gentleman to resign a commission in another arm in order to join his friends and kinsmen as a private in Ashby’s ranks. And so before the war had been in progress for many months the fame of the Virginia cavalry rivalled that of their Revolutionary forbears under Light-Horse Harry, the friend of Washington and the father of Lee.

But if the raw material of Jackson’s army was all that could be desired, no less so was the material of the force opposed to him. The regiments of Banks’ army corps were recruited as a rule in the Western States; Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia furnished the majority. They too were hunters and farmers, accustomed to firearms, and skilled in woodcraft. No hardier infantry marched beneath the Stars and Stripes; the artillery, armed with a proportion of rifled guns, was more efficient than that of the Confederates; and in cavalry alone were the Federals overmatched. In numbers the latter were far superior to Ashby’s squadrons; in everything else they were immeasurably inferior. Throughout the North horsemanship was practically an unknown art. The gentlemen of New England had not inherited the love of their Ironside ancestors for the saddle and the chase. Even in the forests of the West men travelled by waggon and hunted on foot. “As cavalry,” says one of Banks’ brigadiers, “Ashby’s men were greatly superior to ours. In reply to some orders I had given, my cavalry commander replied, ‘I can’t catch them, sir; they leap fences and walls like deer; neither our men nor our horses are so trained.’”[7]

It was easy enough to fill the ranks of the Northern squadrons. Men volunteered freely for what they deemed the more dashing branch of the service, ignorant that its duties were far harder both to learn and to execute than those of the other arms, and expecting, says a Federal officer, that the regiment would be accompanied by an itinerant livery stable! Both horses and men were recruited without the slightest reference to their fitness for cavalry work. No man was rejected, no matter what his size or weight, no matter whether he had ever had anything to do with horseflesh or not, and consequently the proportion of sick horses was enormous. Moreover, while the Southern troopers generally carried a firearm, either rifle or shot-gun, some of the Northern squadrons had only the sabre, and in a wooded country the firearm was master of the situation. During the first two years of the war, therefore, the Federal cavalry, generally speaking, were bad riders and worse horse-masters, unable to move except upon the roads, and as inefficient on reconnaissance as in action. For an invading army, information, ample and accurate, is the first requisite. Operating in a country which, almost invariably, must be better known to the defenders, bold scouting alone will secure it from ambush and surprise. Bold scouting was impossible with such mounted troops as Banks possessed, and throughout the Valley campaign the Northern general was simply groping in the dark.

But even had his cavalry been more efficient, it is doubtful whether Banks would have profited. His appointment was political. He was an ardent Abolitionist, but he knew nothing whatever of soldiering. He had begun life as a hand in a cotton factory. By dint of energy and good brains his rise had been rapid; and although, when the war broke out, he was still a young man, he had been Governor of Massachusetts and Speaker of the House of Representatives. What the President expected when he gave him an army corps it is difficult to divine; what might have been expected any soldier could have told him. To gratify an individual, or perhaps to conciliate a political faction, the life of many a private soldier was sacrificed. Lincoln, it is true, was by no means solitary in the unwisdom of his selections for command. His rival in Richmond, it is said, had a fatal penchant for his first wife’s relations; his political supporters were constantly rewarded by appointments in the field, and the worst disasters that befell the Confederacy were due, in great part, to the blunders of officers promoted for any other reason than efficiency. For Mr. Davis there was little excuse. He had been educated at West Point. He had served in the regular army of the United States, and had been Secretary of War at Washington. Lincoln, on the other hand, knew nothing of war, beyond what he had learned in a border skirmish, and very little of general history. He had not yet got rid of the common Anglo-Saxon idea that a man who has pluck and muscle is already a good soldier, and that the same qualities which serve in a street-brawl are all that is necessary to make a general. Nor were historical precedents wanting for the mistakes of the American statesmen. In both the Peninsula and the Crimea, lives, treasure, and prestige were as recklessly wasted as in Virginia; and staff officers who owed their positions to social influence alone, generals, useless and ignorant, who succeeded to responsible command by virtue of seniority and a long purse, were the standing curse of the English army. At the same time, it may well be questioned whether some of the regular officers would have done better than Banks. He was no fool, and if he had not studied the art of war, there have been barrack-square generals who have showed as much ignorance without one-quarter his ability. Natural commonsense has often a better chance of success than a rusty brain, and a mind narrowed by routine. After serving in twenty campaigns Frederick the Great’s mules were still mules. On this very theatre of war, in the forests beyond Romney, an English general had led a detachment of English soldiers to a defeat as crushing as it was disgraceful, and Braddock was a veteran of many wars. Here, too, Patterson, an officer of Volunteers who had seen much service, had allowed Johnston to slip away and join Beauregard on Bull Run. The Northern people, in good truth, had as yet no reason to place implicit confidence in the leading of trained soldiers. They had yet to learn that mere length of service is no test whatever of capacity for command, and that character fortified by knowledge is the only charm which attracts success.

Jackson had already some acquaintance with Banks. During the Romney expedition the latter had been posted at Frederick with 16,000 men, and a more enterprising commander would at least have endeavoured to thwart the Confederate movements. Banks, supine in his camps, made neither threat nor demonstration. Throughout the winter, Ashby’s troopers had ridden unmolested along the bank of the Potomac. Lander alone had worried the Confederate outposts, driven in their advanced detachments, and drawn supplies from the Virginian farms. Banks had been over-cautious and inactive, and Jackson had not failed to note his characteristics.

March 9   Up to March 9 the Federal general, keeping his cavalry in rear, had pushed forward no farther than Charlestown and Bunker Hill. On that day the news reached McClellan that the Confederates were preparing to abandon Centreville. He at once determined to push forward his whole army.

March 12   Banks was instructed to move on Winchester, and on the morning of the 12th his leading division occupied the town.

Jackson had withdrawn the previous evening. Twice, on March 7 and again on the 11th, he had offered battle.[8] His men had remained under arms all day in the hope that the enemy’s advanced guard might be tempted to attack. But the activity of Ashby’s cavalry, and the boldness with which Jackson maintained his position, impressed his adversary with the conviction that the Confederate force was much greater than it really was. It was reported in the Federal camps that the enemy’s strength was from 7,000 to 11,000 men, and that the town was fortified. Jackson’s force did not amount to half that number, and, according to a Northern officer, “one could have jumped over his intrenchments as easily as Remus over the walls of Rome.”

Jackson abandoned Winchester with extreme reluctance. Besides being the principal town in that section of the Valley, it was strategically important to the enemy. Good roads led in every direction, and communication was easy with Romney and Cumberland to the north-west, and with Washington and Manassas to the south-east. Placed at Winchester, Banks could support, or be supported by, the troops in West Virginia or the army south of Washington. A large and fertile district would thus be severed from the Confederacy, and the line of invasion across the Upper Potomac completely blocked. Overwhelming as was the strength of the Union force, exceeding his own by more than eight to one, great as was the caution of the Federal leader, it was only an unlucky accident that restrained Jackson from a resolute endeavour to at least postpone the capture of the town. He had failed to induce the enemy’s advanced guard to attack him in position. To attack himself, in broad daylight, with such vast disproportion of numbers, was out of the question. His resources, however, were not exhausted. After dark on the 12th, when his troops had left the town, he called a council, consisting of General Garnett and the regimental commanders of the Stonewall Brigade, and proposed a night attack on the Federal advance. When the troops had eaten their supper and rested for some hours, they were to march to the neighbourhood of the enemy, some four miles north of Winchester, and make the attack before daylight. The Federal troops were raw and inexperienced. Prestige was on the side of the Confederates, and their morale was high. The darkness, the suddenness and energy of the attack, the lack of drill and discipline, would all tend to throw the enemy into confusion; and “by the vigorous use of the bayonet, and the blessing of divine Providence,” Jackson believed that he would win a signal victory. In the meantime, whilst the council was assembling, he went off, booted and spurred, to make a hasty call on Dr. Graham, whose family he found oppressed with the gloom that overspread the whole town. “He was so buoyant and hopeful himself that their drooping spirits were revived, and after engaging with them in family worship, he retired, departing with a cheerful ‘Good evening,’ merely saying that he intended to dine with them the next day as usual.”

When the council met, however, it was found that someone had blundered. The staff had been at fault. The general had ordered his trains to be parked immediately south of Winchester, but they had been taken by those in charge to Kernstown and Newtown, from three to eight miles distant, and the troops had been marched back to them to get their rations.

Jackson learned for the first time, when he met his officers, that his brigades, instead of being on the outskirts of Winchester, were already five or six miles away. A march of ten miles would thus be needed to bring them into contact with the enemy. This fact and the disapproval of the council caused him to abandon his project.

Before following his troops he once more went back to Dr. Graham’s. His cheerful demeanour during his previous visit, although he had been as reticent as ever as to his plans, had produced a false impression, and this he thought it his duty to correct. He explained his plans to his friend, and as he detailed the facts which had induced him to change them, he repeatedly expressed his reluctance to give up Winchester without a blow. “With slow and desperate earnestness he said, ‘Let me think—can I not yet carry my plan into execution?’ As he uttered these words he grasped the hilt of his sword, and the fierce light that blazed in his eyes revealed to his companion a new man. The next moment he dropped his head and released his sword, with the words, ‘No, I must not do it; it may cost the lives of too many brave men. I must retreat and wait for a better time.’” He had learned a lesson. “Late in the evening,” says the medical director of the Valley army, “we withdrew from Winchester. I rode with the general as we left the place, and as we reached a high point overlooking the town we both turned to look at Winchester, now left to the mercy of the Federal soldiers. I think that a man may sometimes yield to overwhelming emotion, and I was utterly overcome by the fact that I was leaving all that I held dear on earth; but my emotion was arrested by one look at Jackson. His face was fairly blazing with the fire of wrath that was burning in him, and I felt awed before him. Presently he cried out, in a tone almost savage, ‘That is the last council of war I will ever hold!’”

March 18   On leaving Winchester Jackson fell back to Strasburg, eighteen miles south. There was no immediate pursuit. Banks, in accordance with his instructions, occupied the town, and awaited further orders. These came on the 18th,[9] and Shields’ division of 11,000 men with 27 guns was at once pushed on to Strasburg. Jackson had already withdrawn, hoping to draw Banks up the Valley, and was now encamped near Mount Jackson, a strong position twenty-five miles further south, the indefatigable Ashby still skirmishing with the enemy. The unusual audacity which prompted the Federal advance was probably due to the fact that the exact strength of the Confederate force had been ascertained in Winchester. At all events, all apprehension of attack had vanished. Jackson’s 4,500 men were considered a quantité négligeable, a mere corps of observation; and not only was Shields sent forward without support, but a large portion of Banks’ corps was ordered to another field. Its rôle as an independent force had ceased. Its movements were henceforward to be subordinate to those of the main army, and McClellan designed to bring it into closer connection with his advance on Richmond. How his design was frustrated, how he struggled in vain to correct the original dissemination of his forces, how his right wing was held in a vice by Jackson, and how his initial errors eventually ruined his campaign, is a strategical lesson of the highest import.

From the day McClellan took command the Army of the Potomac had done practically nothing. Throughout the winter troops had poured into Washington at the rate of 40,000 a month. At the end of December there were 148,000 men fit for duty. On March 20 the grand aggregate was 240,000.[10] But during the winter no important enterprise had been undertaken. The colours of the rebels were still flaunting within sight of the forts of Washington, and the mouth of the Potomac was securely closed by Confederate batteries. With a mighty army at their service it is little wonder that the North became restive and reproached their general. It is doubtless true that the first thing needful was organisation. To discipline and consolidate the army so as to make success assured was unquestionably the wiser policy. The impatience of a sovereign people, ignorant of war, is not to be lightly yielded to. At the same time, the desire of a nation cannot be altogether disregarded. A general who obstinately refuses to place himself in accord with the political situation forfeits the confidence of his employers and the cordial support of the Administration. The cry throughout the North was for action. The President took it upon himself to issue a series of orders. The army was ordered to advance on February 22, a date chosen because it was Washington’s birthday, just as the third and most disastrous assault on Plevna was delivered on the “name-day” of the Czar. McClellan secured delay. His plans were not yet ripe. The Virginia roads were still impassable. The season was not yet sufficiently advanced for active operations, and that his objections were well founded it is impossible to deny. The prospect of success depended much upon the weather. Virginia, covered in many places with dense forests, crossed by many rivers, and with most indifferent communications, is a most difficult theatre of war, and the amenities of the Virginian spring are not to be lightly faced. Napoleon’s fifth element, “mud,” is a most disturbing factor in military calculations. It is related that a Federal officer, sent out to reconnoitre a road in a certain district of Virginia, reported that the road was there, but that he guessed “the bottom had fallen out.” Moreover, McClellan had reason to believe that the Confederate army at Manassas was more than double its actual strength. His intelligence department, controlled, not by a trained staff officer, but by a well-known detective, estimated Johnston’s force at 115,000 men. In reality, including the detachment on the Shenandoah, it at no time exceeded 50,000. But for all this there was no reason whatever for absolute inactivity. The capture of the batteries which barred the entrance to the Potomac, the defeat of the Confederate detachments along the river, the occupation of Winchester or of Leesburg, were all feasible operations. By such means the impatience of the Northern people might have been assuaged. A few successes, even on a small scale, would have raised the moral of the troops and have trained them to offensive movements. The general would have retained the confidence of the Administration, and have secured the respect of his opponents. Jackson had set him the example. His winter expeditions had borne fruit. The Federal generals opposed to him gave him full credit for activity. “Much dissatisfaction was expressed by the troops,” says one of Banks’ brigadiers, “that Jackson was permitted to get away from Winchester without a fight, and but little heed was paid to my assurances that this chieftain would be apt, before the war closed, to give us an entertainment up to the utmost of our aspirations.”[11]

It was not only of McClellan’s inactivity that the Government complained. At the end of February he submitted a plan of operations to the President, and with that plan Mr. Lincoln totally disagreed. McClellan, basing his project on the supposition that Johnston had 100,000 men behind formidable intrenchments at Manassas, blocking the road to Richmond, proposed to transfer 150,000 men to the Virginia coast by sea; and landing either at Urbanna on the Rappahannock, or at Fortress Monroe on the Yorktown peninsula, to intervene between the Confederate army and Richmond, and possibly to capture the Southern capital before Johnston could get back to save it.

The plan at first sight seemed promising. But in Lincoln’s eyes it had this great defect: during the time McClellan was moving round by water and disembarking his troops—and this, so few were the transports, would take at least a month—Johnston might make a dash at Washington. The city had been fortified. A cordon of detached forts surrounded it on a circumference of thirty miles. The Potomac formed an additional protection. But a cordon of isolated earthworks does not appeal as an effective barrier to the civilian mind, and above Point of Rocks the great river was easy of passage. Even if Washington were absolutely safe from a coup de main, Lincoln had still good reason for apprehension. The Union capital was merely the seat of government. It had no commercial interests. With a population of but 20,000, it was of no more practical importance than Windsor or Versailles. Compared with New York, Pittsburg, or Philadelphia, it was little more than a village. But, in the regard of the Northern people, Washington was the centre of the Union, the keystone of the national existence. The Capitol, the White House, the Treasury, were symbols as sacred to the States as the colours to a regiment.[12] If the nation was set upon the fall of Richmond, it was at least as solicitous for the security of its own chief city, and an administration that permitted that security to be endangered would have been compelled to bow to the popular clamour. The extraordinary taxation demanded by the war already pressed heavily on the people. Stocks were falling rapidly, and the financial situation was almost critical. It is probable, too, that a blow at Washington would have done more than destroy all confidence in the Government. England and France were chafing under the effects of the blockade. The marts of Europe were hungry for cotton. There was much sympathy beyond seas with the seceded States; and, should Washington fall, the South, in all likelihood, would be recognised as an independent nation. Even if the Great Powers were to refuse her active aid in the shape of fleets and armies, she would at least have access to the money markets of the world; and it was possible that neither England nor France would endure the closing of her ports. With the breaking of the blockade, money, munitions, and perhaps recruits, would be poured into the Confederacy, and the difficulty of reconquest would be trebled. The dread of foreign interference was, therefore, very real; and Lincoln, foreseeing the panic that would shake the nation should a Confederate army cross the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry or Point of Rocks, was quite justified in insisting on the security of Washington being placed beyond a doubt. He knew, as also did Jackson, that even a mere demonstration against so vital a point might have the most deplorable effect. Whatever line of invasion, he asked, might be adopted, let it be one that would cover Washington.

Lincoln’s remonstrances, however, had no great weight with McClellan. The general paid little heed to the political situation. His chief argument in favour of the expedition by sea had been the strength of the fortifications at Manassas. Johnston’s retreat on March 9 removed this obstacle from his path; but although he immediately marched his whole army in pursuit, he still remained constant to his favourite idea. The road to Richmond from Washington involved a march of one hundred miles, over a difficult country, with a single railway as the line of supply. The route from the coast, although little shorter, was certainly easier. Fortress Monroe had remained in Federal hands. Landing under the shelter of its guns, he would push forward, aided by the navy, to West Point, the terminus of the York River Railroad, within thirty miles of Richmond, transporting his supplies by water. Washington, with the garrison he would leave behind, would in his opinion be quite secure. The Confederates would be compelled to concentrate for the defence of their capital, and a resolute endeavour on their part to cross the Potomac was forbidden by every rule of strategy. Had not Johnston, in his retreat, burnt the railway bridges? Could there be a surer indication that he had no intention of returning?

Such was McClellan’s reasoning, and, putting politics aside, it was perfectly sound. Lincoln reluctantly yielded, and on March 17 the Army of the Potomac, withdrawing by successive divisions from Centreville to Alexandria, began its embarkation for the Peninsula, the region, in McClellan’s words, “of sandy roads and short land transportation.”[13] The vessels assembled at Alexandria could only carry 10,000 men, thus involving at least fifteen voyages to and fro. Yet the Commander-in-Chief was full of confidence. To the little force in the Shenandoah Valley, flying southward before Shields, he gave no thought. It would have been nothing short of miraculous had he even suspected that 4,500 men, under a professor of the higher mathematics, might bring to naught the operations of his gigantic host. Jackson was not even to be followed. Of Banks’ three divisions, Shields’, Sedgwick’s, and Williams’, that of Shields alone was considered sufficient to protect Harper’s Ferry, the Baltimore and Ohio Railway, and the Chesapeake Canal.[14] Banks, with the remainder of his army, was to move at once to Manassas, and cover the approaches to Washington east of the Blue Ridge. Sedgwick had already been detached to join McClellan; and on March 20 Williams’ division began its march towards Manassas, while Shields fell back on Winchester.

[Illustration: The situation on the night of March 21st, 1862.]

March 21   On the evening of the 21st Ashby reported to Jackson that the enemy was retreating, and information came to hand that a long train of waggons, containing the baggage of 12,000 men, had left Winchester for Castleman’s Ferry on the Shenandoah. Further reports indicated that Banks’ whole force was moving eastward, and Jackson, in accordance with his instructions to hold the enemy in the Valley, at once pushed northward.[15]

March 22   On the 22nd, Ashby, with 280 troopers and 3 horse-artillery guns, struck Shields’ pickets about a mile south of Winchester. A skirmish ensued, and the presence of infantry, a battery, and some cavalry, was ascertained. Shields, who was wounded during the engagement by a shell, handled his troops ably. His whole division was in the near neighbourhood, but carefully concealed, and Ashby reported to Jackson that only four regiments of infantry, besides the guns and cavalry, remained at Winchester. Information obtained from the townspeople within the Federal lines confirmed the accuracy of his estimate. The enemy’s main body, he was told, had already marched, and the troops which had opposed him were under orders to move to Harper’s Ferry the next morning.

March 23   On receipt of this intelligence Jackson hurried forward from his camp near Woodstock, and that night reached Strasburg. At dawn on the 23rd four companies were despatched to reinforce Ashby; and under cover of this advanced guard the whole force followed in the direction of Kernstown, a tiny village, near which the Federal outposts were established. At one o’clock the three brigades, wearied by a march of fourteen miles succeeding one of twenty-two on the previous day, arrived upon the field of action. The ranks, however, were sadly weakened, for many of the men had succumbed to their unusual exertions. Ashby still confronted the enemy; but the Federals had developed a brigade of infantry, supported by two batteries and several squadrons, and the Confederate cavalry were slowly giving ground. On reaching the field Jackson ordered the troops to bivouac. “Though it was very desirable,” he wrote, “to prevent the enemy from leaving the Valley, yet I deemed it best not to attack until morning.” An inspection of the ground, however, convinced him that delay was impracticable. “Ascertaining,” he continued, “that the Federals had a position from which our forces could be seen, I concluded that it would be dangerous to postpone the attack until next day, as reinforcements might be brought up during the night.”[16] Ashby was directed to detach half his cavalry[17] under Major Funsten in order to cover the left flank; and Jackson, ascertaining that his men were in good spirits at the prospect of meeting the enemy, made his preparations for fighting his first battle.

The position occupied by the Federals was by no means ill-adapted for defence. The country round Winchester, and indeed throughout the Valley of the Shenandoah, resembles in many of its features an English landscape. Low ridges, covered with open woods of oak and pine, overlook green pastures and scattered copses; and the absence of hedgerows and cottages gives a park-like aspect to the broad acres of rich blue grass. But the deep lanes and hollow roads of England find here no counterpart. The tracks are rough and rude, and even the pikes, as the main thoroughfares are generally called, are flush with the fields on either hand. The traffic has not yet worn them to a lower level, and Virginia road-making despises such refinements as cuttings or embankments. The highways, even the Valley pike itself, the great road which is inseparably linked with the fame of Stonewall Jackson and his brigade, are mere ribbons of metal laid on swell and swale. Fences of the rudest description, zigzags of wooden rails, or walls of loose stone, are the only boundaries, and the land is parcelled out in more generous fashion than in an older and more crowded country. More desirable ground for military operations it would be difficult to find. There are few obstacles to the movement of cavalry and artillery, while the woods and undulations, giving ample cover, afford admirable opportunities for skilful manœuvre. In the spring, however, the condition of the soil would be a drawback. At the date of the battle part of the country round Kernstown was under plough, and the whole was saturated with moisture. Horses sank fetlock-deep in the heavy meadows, and the rough roads, hardly seen for mud, made marching difficult.

The Federal front extended on both sides of the Valley turnpike. To the east was a broad expanse of rolling grassland, stretching away to the horizon; to the west a low knoll, crowned by a few trees, which goes by the name of Pritchard’s Hill. Further north was a ridge, covered with brown woods, behind which lies Winchester. This ridge, nowhere more than 100 feet in height, runs somewhat obliquely to the road in a south-westerly direction, and passing within a mile and a half of Pritchard’s Hill, sinks into the plain three miles south-west of Kernstown. Some distance beyond this ridge, and separated from it by the narrow valley of the Opequon, rise the towering bluffs of the North Mountain, the western boundary of the Valley, sombre with forest from base to brow.

On leaving Winchester, Williams’ division had struck due east, passing through the village of Berryville, and making for Snicker’s Gap in the Blue Ridge. The Berryville road had thus become of importance to the garrison of Winchester, for it was from that direction, if they should become necessary, that reinforcements would arrive. General Kimball, commanding in Shields’ absence the division which confronted Ashby, had therefore posted the larger portion of his troops eastward of the pike. A strong force of infantry, with waving colours, was plainly visible to the Confederates, and it was seen that the extreme left was protected by several guns. On the right of the road was a line of skirmishers, deployed along the base of Pritchard’s Hill, and on the knoll itself stood two batteries. The wooded ridge to westward was as yet unoccupied, except by scouting parties.

Jackson at once determined to turn the enemy’s right. An attack upon the Federal left would have to be pushed across the open fields and decided by fair fighting, gun and rifle against gun and rifle, and on that flank the enemy was prepared for battle. Could he seize the wooded ridge on his left, the initiative would be his. His opponent would be compelled to conform to his movements. The advantages of a carefully selected position would be lost. Instead of receiving attack where he stood, the Federal general would have to change front to meet it, to execute movements which he had possibly not foreseen, to fight on ground with which he was unfamiliar; and, instead of carrying out a plan which had been previously thought out, to conceive a new one on the spur of the moment, and to issue immediate orders for a difficult operation. Hesitation and confusion might ensue; and in place of a strongly established line, confidently awaiting the advance, isolated regiments, in all the haste and excitement of rapid movement, or hurriedly posted in unfavourable positions, would probably oppose the Confederate onset. Such are the advantages which accrue to the force which delivers an attack where it is not expected; and, to all appearance, Jackson’s plan of battle promised to bring them into play to the very fullest extent. The whole force of the enemy, as reported by Ashby, was before him, plainly visible. To seize the wooded ridge, while the cavalry held the Federals fast in front; to pass beyond Pritchard’s Hill, and to cut the line of retreat on Winchester, seemed no difficult task. The only danger was the possibility of a counterstroke while the Confederates were executing their turning movement. But the enemy, so far as Jackson’s information went, was rapidly withdrawing from the Valley. The force confronting him was no more than a rear-guard; and it was improbable in the extreme that a mere rear-guard would involve itself in a desperate engagement. The moment its line of retreat was threatened it would probably fall back. To provide, however, against all emergencies, Colonel Burks’ brigade of three battalions was left for the present in rear of Kernstown, and here, too, remained four of the field batteries. With the remainder of his force, two brigades of infantry and a battery, Jackson moved off to his left. Two companies of the 5th Virginia were recruited from Winchester. Early in the day the general had asked the regiment for a guide familiar with the locality; and, with the soldier showing the way, the 27th Virginia, with two of Carpenter’s guns as advanced guard, struck westward by a waggon track across the meadows, while Ashby pressed the Federals in front of Kernstown.

3.45 p.m.   The main body followed in two parallel columns, and the line of march soon brought them within range of the commanding batteries on Pritchard’s Hill.[18] At a range of little more than a mile the enemy’s gunners poured a heavy fire on the serried ranks, and Carpenter, unlimbering near the Opequon Church, sought to distract their aim.

The Confederate infantry, about 2,000 all told, although moving in mass, and delayed by fences and marshy ground, passed unscathed under the storm of shell, and in twenty minutes the advanced guard had seized the wooded ridge.

Finding a rocky clearing on the crest, about a mile distant from Pritchard’s Hill, Jackson sent back for the artillery. Three batteries, escorted by two of Burke’s battalions, the 21st Virginia and the Irishmen, pushed across the level as rapidly as the wearied teams could move. Two guns were dismounted by the Federal fire; but, coming into action on the ridge, the remainder engaged the hostile batteries with effect. Meanwhile, breaking their way through the ragged undergrowth of the bare March woods, the infantry, in two lines, was pressing forward along the ridge. On the right was the 27th Virginia, supported by the 21st; on the left, Fulkerson’s two battalions, with the Stonewall Brigade in second line. The 5th Virginia remained at the foot of the ridge near Macauley’s cottage, in order to connect with Ashby. Jackson’s tactics appeared to be succeeding perfectly. A body of cavalry and infantry, posted behind Pritchard’s Hill, was seen to be withdrawing, and the fire of the Federal guns was visibly weakening.

4.30 p.m.   Suddenly, in the woods northward of the Confederate batteries, was heard a roar of musketry, and the 27th Virginia came reeling back before the onslaught of superior numbers. But the 21st was hurried to their assistance; the broken ranks rallied from their surprise; and a long line of Federal skirmishers, thronging through the thickets, was twice repulsed by the Southern marksmen.[19]

Fulkerson, further to the left, was more fortunate than the 27th. Before he began his advance along the ridge he had deployed his two battalions under cover, and when the musketry broke out on his right front, they were moving forward over an open field. Half-way across the field ran a stone wall or fence, and beyond the wall were seen the tossing colours and bright bayonets of a line of battle, just emerging from the woods. Then came a race for the wall, and the Confederates won. A heavy fire, at the closest range, blazed out in the face of the charging Federals, and in a few moments the stubble was strewn with dead and wounded. A Pennsylvania regiment, leaving a colour on the field, gave way in panic, and the whole of the enemy’s force retreated to the shelter of the woods. An attempt to turn Jackson’s left was then easily frustrated; and although the Federals maintained a heavy fire, Fulkerson’s men held stubbornly to the wall.

In the centre of the field the Northern riflemen were sheltered by a bank; their numbers continually increased, and here the struggle was more severe. The 4th and 33rd Virginia occupied this portion of the line, and they were without support, for the 2nd Virginia and the Irish battalion, the last available reserves upon the ridge, had been already sent forward to reinforce the right.

The right, too, was hardly pressed. The Confederate infantry had everywhere to do with superior numbers, and the artillery, in that wooded ground, could lend but small support. The batteries protected the right flank, but they could take no share in the struggle to the front; and yet, as the dusk came on, after two long hours of battle, the white colours of the Virginia regiments, fixed fast amongst the rocks, still waved defiant. The long grey line, “a ragged spray of humanity,” plied the ramrod with still fiercer energy, and pale women on the hills round Winchester listened in terror to the crashing echoes of the leafless woods. But the end could not be long delayed. Ammunition was giving out. Every company which had reached the ridge had joined the fighting line. The ranks were thinning. Many of the bravest officers were down, and the Northern regiments, standing staunchly to their work, had been strongly reinforced.

Ashby for once had been mistaken. It was no rearguard that barred the road to Winchester, but Shields’ entire division, numbering at least 9,000 men. A prisoner captured the day before had admitted that the Confederates were under the impression that Winchester had been evacuated, and that Jackson had immediately moved forward. Shields, an able officer, who had commanded a brigade in Mexico, saw his opportunity. He knew something of his opponent, and anticipating that he would be eager to attack, had ordered the greater part of his division to remain concealed. Kimball’s brigade and five batteries were sent quietly, under cover of the night, to Pritchard’s Hill. Sullivan’s brigade was posted in support, hidden from view behind a wood. The cavalry and Tyler’s brigade were held in reserve, north of the town, at a distance where they were not likely to be observed by the inhabitants. As soon as the Confederates came in sight, and Kimball deployed across the pike, Tyler was brought through the town and placed in rear of Sullivan, at a point where the road dips down between two parallel ridges. Shields himself, wounded in the skirmish of the preceding day, was not present at the action, although responsible for these dispositions, and the command had devolved on Kimball. That officer, when Jackson’s design became apparent, ordered Tyler to occupy the wooded ridge; and it was his five regiments, over 3,000 strong, which had struck so strongly at the Confederate advance. But although superior in numbers by a third, they were unable to make headway. Kimball, however, rose to the situation before it was too late. Recognising that Ashby’s weak attack was nothing more than a demonstration, he hurried nearly the whole of his own brigade, followed by three battalions of Sullivan’s, to Tyler’s aid, leaving a couple of battalions and the artillery to hold the pike.

“The struggle,” says Shields, “had been for a short time doubtful,”[20] but this reinforcement of 3,000 bayonets turned the scale. Jackson had ordered the 5th and 42nd Virginia to the ridge, and a messenger was sent back to hurry forward the 48th. But it was too late. Before the 5th could reach the heights the centre of the Confederate line was broken. Garnett, the commander of the Stonewall Brigade, without referring to the general, who was in another part of the field, had given the order to fall back. Fulkerson, whose right was now uncovered, was obliged to conform to the rearward movement, and moving across from Pritchard’s Hill, two Federal regiments, despite the fire of the Southern guns, made a vigorous attack on Jackson’s right. The whole Confederate line, long since dissolved into a crowd of skirmishers, and with the various regiments much mixed up, fell back, still fighting, through the woods. Across the clearing, through the clouds of smoke, came the Northern masses in pursuit. On the extreme right a hot fire of canister, at a range of two hundred and fifty yards, drove back the troops that had come from Pritchard’s Hill; but on the wooded ridge above the artillery was unable to hold its own. The enemy’s riflemen swarmed in the thickets, and the batteries fell back. As they limbered up one of the six-pounders was overturned. Under a hot fire, delivered at not more than fifty paces distant, the sergeant in charge cut loose the three remaining horses, but the gun was abandoned to the enemy.

Jackson, before the Federal reinforcements had made their presence felt, was watching the progress of the action on the left. Suddenly, to his astonishment and wrath, he saw the lines of his old brigade falter and fall back. Galloping to the spot he imperatively ordered Garnett to hold his ground, and then turned to restore the fight. Seizing a drummer by the shoulder, he dragged him to a rise of ground, in full view of the troops, and bade him in curt, quick tones, to “Beat the rally!” The drum rolled at his order, and with his hand on the frightened boy’s shoulder, amidst a storm of balls, he tried to check the flight of his defeated troops. His efforts were useless. His fighting-line was shattered into fragments; and although, according to a Federal officer, “many of the brave Virginians lingered in rear of their retreating comrades, loading as they slowly retired, and rallying in squads in every ravine and behind every hill—or hiding singly among the trees,”[21] it was impossible to stay the rout. The enemy was pressing forward in heavy force, and their shouts of triumph rang from end to end of the field of battle. No doubt remained as to their overwhelming numbers, and few generals but would have been glad enough to escape without tempting fortune further.

It seemed almost too late to think of even organising a rear-guard. But Jackson, so far from preparing for retreat, had not yet ceased to think of victory. The 5th and 42nd Virginia were coming up, a compact force of 600 bayonets, and a vigorous and sudden counterstroke might yet change the issue of the day. The reinforcements, however, had not yet come in sight, and galloping back to meet them he found that instead of marching resolutely against the enemy, the two regiments had taken post to the rear, on the crest of a wooded swell, in order to cover the retreat. On his way to the front the colonel of the 5th Virginia had received an order from Garnett instructing him to occupy a position behind which the fighting-line might recover its formation. Jackson was fain to acquiesce; but the fighting-line was by this time scattered beyond all hope of rallying; the opportunity for the counterstroke had passed away, and the battle was irretrievably lost.

Arrangements were quickly made to enable the broken troops to get away without further molestation. A battery was ordered to take post at the foot of the hill, and Funsten’s cavalry was called up from westward of the ridge. The 42nd Virginia came into line on the right of the 5th, and covered by a stone wall and thick timber, these two small regiments, encouraged by the presence of their commander, held stoutly to their ground. The attack was pressed with reckless gallantry. In front of the 5th Virginia the colours of the 5th Ohio changed hands no less than six times, and one of them was pierced by no less than eight-and-forty bullets. The 84th Pennsylvania was twice repulsed and twice rallied, but on the fall of its colonel retreated in confusion. The left of the 14th Indiana broke; but the 13th Indiana now came up, and “inch by inch,” according to their commanding officer, the Confederates were pushed back. The 5th Virginia was compelled to give way before a flanking fire; but the colonel retired the colours to a short distance, and ordered the regiment to re-form on them. Again the heavy volleys blazed out in the gathering twilight, and the sheaves of death grew thicker every moment on the bare hillside. But still the Federals pressed on, and swinging round both flanks, forced the Confederate rear-guard from the field, while their cavalry, moving up the valley of the Opequon, captured several ambulances and cut off some two or three hundred fugitives.

As the night began to fall the 5th Virginia, retiring steadily towards the pike, filed into a narrow lane, fenced by a stone wall, nearly a mile distant from their last position, and there took post for a final stand. Their left was commanded by the ridge, and on the heights in the rear, coming up from the Opequon valley, appeared a large mass of Northern cavalry. It was a situation sufficiently uncomfortable. If the ground was too difficult for the horsemen to charge over in the gathering darkness, a volley from their carbines could scarcely have failed to clear the wall. “A single ramrod,” it was said in the Confederate ranks, “would have spitted the whole battalion.” But not a shot was fired. The pursuit of the Federal infantry had been stayed in the pathless woods, the cavalry was held in check by Funsten’s squadrons, and the 5th was permitted to retire unmolested.

[Illustration: Map of the Battle of Kernstown, Sunday, March 23rd, 1862.]

The Confederates, with the exception of Ashby, who halted at Bartonsville, a farm upon the pike, a mile and a half from the field of battle, fell back to Newtown, three miles further south, where the trains had been parked. The men were utterly worn out. Three hours of fierce fighting against far superior numbers had brought them to the limit of their endurance. “In the fence corners, under the trees, and around the waggons they threw themselves down, many too weary to eat, and forgot, in profound slumber, the trials, the dangers, and the disappointments of the day.”[22]

Jackson, when the last sounds of battle had died away, followed his troops. Halting by a camp-fire, he stood and warmed himself for a time, and then, remounting, rode back to Bartonsville. Only one staff officer, his chief commissary, Major Hawks, accompanied him. The rest had dropped away, overcome by exhaustion. “Turning from the road into an orchard, he fastened up his horse, and asked his companion if he could make a fire, adding, ‘We shall have to burn fence-rails to-night.’ The major soon had a roaring fire, and was making a bed of rails, when the general wished to know what he was doing. ‘Finding a place to sleep,’ was the reply. ‘You seem determined to make yourself and those around you comfortable,’ said Jackson. And knowing the general had fasted all day, he soon obtained some bread and meat from the nearest squad of soldiers, and after they had satisfied their hunger, they slept soundly on the rail-bed in a fence-corner.”

Such was the battle of Kernstown, in which over 1,200 men were killed and wounded, the half of them Confederates. Two or three hundred prisoners fell into the hands of the Federals. Nearly one-fourth of Jackson’s infantry was hors de combat, and he had lost two guns. His troops were undoubtedly depressed. They had anticipated an easy victory; the overwhelming strength of the Federals had surprised them, and their losses had been severe. But no regret disturbed the slumbers of their leader. He had been defeated, it was true; but he looked further than the immediate result of the engagement. “I feel justified in saying,” he wrote in his short report, “that, though the battle-field is in the possession of the enemy, yet the most essential fruits of the victory are ours.” As he stood before the camp-fire near Newtown, wrapped in his long cloak, his hands behind his back, and stirring the embers with his foot, one of Ashby’s youngest troopers ventured to interrupt his reverie. “The Yankees don’t seem willing to quit Winchester, General!” “Winchester is a very pleasant place to stay in, sir!” was the quick reply. Nothing daunted, the boy went on: “It was reported that they were retreating, but I guess they’re retreating after us.” With his eyes still fixed on the blazing logs: “I think I may say I am satisfied, sir!” was Jackson’s answer; and with no further notice of the silent circle round the fire, he stood gazing absently into the glowing flames. After a few minutes the tall figure turned away, and without another word strode off into the darkness.

That Jackson divined the full effect of his attack would be to assert too much. That he realised that the battle, though a tactical defeat, was strategically a victory is very evident. He knew something of Banks, he knew more of McClellan, and the bearing of the Valley on the defence of Washington had long been uppermost in his thoughts. He had learned from Napoleon to throw himself into the spirit of his enemy, and it is not improbable that when he stood before the fire near Newtown he had already foreseen, in some degree at least, the events that would follow the news of his attack at Kernstown.

The outcome of the battle was indeed far-reaching. “Though the battle had been won,” wrote Shields, “still I could not have believed that Jackson would have hazarded a decisive engagement, so far from the main body, without expecting reinforcements; so, to be prepared for such a contingency, I set to work during the night to bring together all the troops within my reach. I sent an express after Williams’ division, requesting the rear brigade, about twenty miles distant, to march all night and join me in the morning. I swept the posts in rear of almost all their guards, hurrying them forward by forced marches, to be with me at daylight.”[23]

General Banks, hearing of the engagement on his way to Washington, halted at Harper’s Ferry, and he also ordered Williams’ division to return at once to Winchester.

One brigade only,[24] which the order did not reach, continued the march to Manassas. This counter-movement met with McClellan’s approval. He now recognised that Jackson’s force, commanded as it was, was something more than a mere corps of observation, and that it was essential that it should be crushed. “Your course was right,” he telegraphed on receiving Banks’ report. “As soon as you are strong enough push Jackson hard and drive him well beyond Strasburg. . . . The very moment the thorough defeat of Jackson will permit it, resume the movement on Manassas, always leaving the whole of Shields’ command at or near Strasburg and Winchester until the Manassas Gap Railway is fully repaired. Communicate fully and act vigorously.”[25]

8,000 men (Williams’ division) were thus temporarily withdrawn from the force that was to cover Washington from the south. But this was only the first step. Jackson’s action had forcibly attracted the attention of the Federal Government to the Upper Potomac. The President was already contemplating the transfer of Blenker’s division from McClellan to Fremont; the news of Kernstown decided the question, and at the end of March these 9,000 men were ordered to West Virginia, halting at Strasburg, in case Banks should then need them, on their way.[26] But even this measure did not altogether allay Mr. Lincoln’s apprehensions. McClellan had assured him, on April 1, that 73,000 men would be left for the defence of the capital and its approaches. But in the original arrangement, with which the President had been satisfied, Williams was to have been brought to Manassas, and Shields alone left in the Shenandoah Valley. Under the new distribution the President found that the force at Manassas would be decreased by two brigades; and, at the same time, that while part of the troops McClellan had promised were not forthcoming, a large portion of those actually available were good for nothing. The officer left in command at Washington reported that “nearly all his force was imperfectly disciplined; that several of the regiments were in a very disorganised condition; that efficient artillery regiments had been removed from the forts, and that he had to relieve them with very new infantry regiments, entirely unacquainted with the duties of that arm.”[27] Lincoln submitted the question to six generals of the regular army, then present in Washington; and these officers replied that, in their opinion, “the requirement of the President that this city shall be left entirely secure has not been fully complied with.”[28]

On receiving this report, Lincoln ordered the First Army Corps, 37,000 strong, under General McDowell, to remain at Manassas in place of embarking for the Peninsula; and thus McClellan, on the eve of his advance on Richmond, found his original force of 150,000 reduced by 46,000 officers and men. Moreover, not content with detaching McDowell for a time, Lincoln, the next day, assigned that general to an independent command, covering the approaches to Washington; Banks, also, was withdrawn from McClellan’s control, and directed to defend the Valley. The original dissemination of the Federal forces was thus gravely accentuated, and the Confederates had now to deal with four distinct armies, McClellan’s, McDowell’s, Banks’, and Fremont’s, dependent for co-operation on the orders of two civilians, President Lincoln and his Secretary of War. And this was not all. McDowell had been assigned a most important part in McClellan’s plan of invasion. The road from Fortress Monroe was barred by the fortifications of Yorktown. These works could be turned, however, by sending a force up the York River. But the passage of the stream was debarred to the Federal transports by a strong fort at Gloucester Point, on the left bank, and the capture of this work was to be the task of the First Army Corps. No wonder that McClellan, believing that Johnston commanded 100,000 men, declared that in his deliberate judgment the success of the Federal cause was imperilled by the order which detached McDowell from his command. However inadequately the capital might be defended, it was worse than folly to interfere with the general’s plans when he was on the eve of executing them. The best way of defending Washington was for McClellan to march rapidly on Richmond, and seize his adversary by the throat. By depriving him of McDowell, Lincoln and his advisers made such a movement difficult, and the grand army of invasion found itself in a most embarrassing situation. Such was the effect of a blow struck at the right place and the right time, though struck by no more than 3,000 bayonets.

The battle of Kernstown was undoubtedly well fought. It is true that Jackson believed that he had no more than four regiments of infantry, a few batteries, and some cavalry before him. But it was a skilful manœuvre, which threw three brigades and three batteries, more than two-thirds of his whole strength, on his opponent’s flank. An ordinary general would probably have employed only a small portion of his force in the turning movement. Not so the student of Napoleon. “In the general’s haversack,” says one of Jackson’s staff, “were always three books: the Bible, Napoleon’s Maxims of War, and Webster’s Dictionary—for his spelling was uncertain—and these books he constantly consulted.” Whether the chronicles of the Jewish kings threw any light on the tactical problem involved at Kernstown may be left to the commentators; but there can be no question as to the Maxims. To hurl overwhelming numbers at the point where the enemy least expects attack is the whole burden of Napoleon’s teaching, and there can be no doubt but that the wooded ridge, unoccupied save by a few scouts, was the weakest point of the defence.

The manœuvre certainly surprised the Federals, and it very nearly beat them. Tyler’s brigade was unsupported for nearly an hour and a half. Had his battalions been less staunch, the tardy reinforcements would have been too late to save the day. Coming up as they did, not in a mass so strong as to bear all before it by its own inherent weight, but in successive battalions, at wide intervals of time, they would themselves have become involved in a desperate engagement under adverse circumstances. Nor is Kimball to be blamed that he did not throw greater weight on Jackson’s turning column at an earlier hour. Like Shields and Banks, he was unable to believe that Jackson was unsupported. He expected that the flank attack would be followed up by one in superior numbers from the front. He could hardly credit that an inferior force would deliberately move off to a flank, leaving its line of retreat to be guarded by a few squadrons, weakly supported by infantry; and the audacity of the assailant had the usual effect of deceiving the defender.

Kernstown, moreover, will rank as an example of what determined men can do against superior numbers. The Confederates on the ridge, throughout the greater part of the fight, hardly exceeded 2,000 muskets. They were assailed by 3,000, and proved a match for them. The 3,000 were then reinforced by at least 3,000 more, whilst Jackson could bring up only 600 muskets to support an already broken line. Nevertheless, these 6,000 Northerners were so roughly handled that there was practically no pursuit. When the Confederates fell back every one of the Federal regiments had been engaged, and there were no fresh troops wherewith to follow them. Jackson was perfectly justified in reporting that “Night and an indisposition of the enemy to press further terminated the battle.”[29]

But the action was attended by features more remarkable than the stubborn resistance of the Virginia regiments. It is seldom that a battle so insignificant as Kernstown has been followed by such extraordinary results. Fortune indeed favoured the Confederates. At the time of the battle a large portion of McClellan’s army was at sea, and the attack was delivered at the very moment when it was most dreaded by the Northern Government. Nor was it to the disadvantage of the Southerners that the real head of the Federal army was the President, and that his strategical conceptions were necessarily subservient to the attitude of the Northern people. These were circumstances purely fortuitous, and it might seem, therefore, that Jackson merely blundered into success. But he must be given full credit for recognizing that a blow at Banks might be fraught with most important consequences. It was with other ideas than defeating a rear-guard or detaining Banks that he seized the Kernstown ridge. He was not yet aware of McClellan’s plan of invasion by sea; but he knew well that any movement that would threaten Washington must prove embarrassing to the Federal Government; that they could not afford to leave the Upper Potomac ill secured; and that the knowledge that an active and enterprising enemy, who had shown himself determined to take instant advantage of every opportunity, was within the Valley, would probably cause them to withdraw troops from McClellan in order to guard the river. A fortnight after the battle, asking for reinforcements, he wrote, “If Banks is defeated it may greatly retard McClellan’s movements.”[30]

Stubborn as had been the fighting of his brigades, Jackson himself was not entirely satisfied with his officers. When Sullivan and Kimball came to Tyler’s aid, and a new line of battle threatened to overwhelm the Stonewall regiments, Garnett, on his own responsibility, had given the order to retire. Many of the men, their ammunition exhausted, had fallen to the rear. The exertions of the march had begun to tell. The enemy’s attacks had been fiercely pressed, and before the pressure of his fresh brigades the Confederate power of resistance was strained to breaking-point. Garnett had behaved with conspicuous gallantry. The officers of his brigade declared that he was perfectly justified in ordering a retreat. Jackson thought otherwise, and almost immediately after the battle he relieved him of his command, placed him under arrest, and framed charges for his trial by court-martial. He would not accept the excuse that ammunition had given out. At the time the Stonewall Brigade gave back the 5th and 42nd Virginia were at hand. The men had still their bayonets, and he did not consider the means of victory exhausted until the cold steel had been employed. “He insisted,” says Dabney, “that a more resolute struggle might have won the field.”[31]

Now, in the first place, it must be conceded that Garnett had not the slightest right to abandon his position without a direct order.[32] In the second, if we turn to the table of losses furnished by the brigade commander, we find that in Garnett’s four regiments, numbering 1,100 officers and men, there fell 153. In addition, 148 were reported missing, but, according to the official reports, the majority of these were captured by the Federal cavalry and were unwounded. At most, then, when he gave the order to retreat, Garnett had lost 200, or rather less than 20 per cent.

Such loss was heavy, but by no means excessive. A few months later hardly a brigade in either army would have given way because every fifth man had fallen. A year later and the Stonewall regiments would have considered an action in which they lost 200 men as nothing more than a skirmish.[33] The truth would seem to be that the Valley soldiers were not yet blooded. In peace the individual is everything; material prosperity, self-indulgence, and the preservation of existence are the general aim. In war the individual is nothing, and men learn the lesson of self-sacrifice. But it is only gradually, however high the enthusiasm which inspires the troops, that the ideas of peace become effaced, and they must be seasoned soldiers who will endure, without flinching, the losses of Waterloo or Gettysburg. Discipline, which means the effacement of the individual, does more than break the soldier to unhesitating obedience; it trains him to die for duty’s sake, and even the Stonewall Brigade, in the spring of 1862, was not yet thoroughly disciplined. “The lack of competent and energetic officers,” writes Jackson’s chief of the staff, “was at this time the bane of the service. In many there was neither an intelligent comprehension of their duties nor zeal in their performance. Appointed by the votes of their neighbours and friends, they would neither exercise that rigidity in governing, nor that detailed care in providing for the wants of their men, which are necessary to keep soldiers efficient. The duties of the drill and the sentry-post were often negligently performed; and the most profuse waste of ammunition and other military stores was permitted. It was seldom that these officers were guilty of cowardice upon the field of battle, but they were often in the wrong place, fighting as common soldiers when they should have been directing others. Above all was their inefficiency marked in their inability to keep their men in the ranks. Absenteeism grew under them to a monstrous evil, and every poltroon and laggard found a way of escape. Hence the frequent phenomenon that regiments, which on the books of the commissary appeared as consumers of 500 or 1,000 rations, were reported as carrying into action 250 or 300 bayonets.”[34] It is unlikely that this picture is over-coloured, and it is certainly no reproach to the Virginia soldiers that their discipline was indifferent. There had not yet been time to transform a multitude of raw recruits into the semblance of a regular army. Competent instructors and trained leaders were few in the extreme, and the work had to be left in inexperienced hands. One Stonewall Jackson was insufficient to leaven a division of 5,000 men.

In the second place, Jackson probably remembered that the Stonewall Brigade at Bull Run, dashing out with the bayonet on the advancing Federals, had driven them back on their reserves. It seems hardly probable, had Garnett at Kernstown held his ground a little longer, that the three regiments still intact could have turned the tide of battle. But it is not impossible. The Federals had been roughly handled. Their losses had been heavier than those of the Confederates. A resolute counterstroke has before now changed the face of battle, and among unseasoned soldiers panic spreads with extraordinary effect. So far as can be gathered from the reports, there is no reason to suspect that the vigour of the Federal battalions was as yet relaxed. But no one who was not actually present can presume to judge of the temper of the troops. In every well-contested battle there comes a moment when the combatants on both sides become exhausted, and the general who at that moment finds it in his heart to make one more effort will generally succeed. Such was the experience of Grant, Virginia’s stoutest enemy.[35] That moment, perhaps, had come at Kernstown; and Jackson, than whom not Skobeleff himself had clearer vision or cooler brain in the tumult of battle, may have observed it. It cannot be too often repeated that numbers go for little on the battle-field. It is possible that Jackson had in his mind, when he declared that the victory might yet have been won, the decisive counterstroke at Marengo, where 20,000 Austrians, pressing forward in pursuit of a defeated enemy, were utterly overthrown by a fresh division of 6,000 men supported by four squadrons.[36]

Tactical unity and moral are factors of far more importance in battle than mere numerical strength. Troops that have been hotly engaged, even with success, and whose nerves are wrought up to a high state of tension, are peculiarly susceptible to surprise. If they have lost their order, and the men find themselves under strange officers, with unfamiliar faces beside them, the counterstroke falls with even greater force. It is at such moments that cavalry still finds its opportunity. It is at such moments that a resolute charge, pushed home with drums beating and a loud cheer, may have extraordinary results. On August 6, 1870, on the heights of Wörth, a German corps d’armée, emerging, after three hours’ fierce fighting, from the great wood on McMahon’s flank, bore down upon the last stronghold of the French. The troops were in the utmost confusion. Divisions, brigades, regiments, and companies were mingled in one motley mass. But the enemy was retreating; a heavy force of artillery was close at hand, and the infantry must have numbered at least 10,000 rifles. Suddenly three battalions of Turcos, numbering no more than 1,500 bayonets, charged with wild cries, and without firing, down the grassy slope. The Germans halted, fired a few harmless volleys, and then, turning as one man, bolted to the shelter of the wood, twelve hundred yards in rear.

According to an officer of the 14th Indiana, the Federals at Kernstown were in much the same condition as the Germans at Wörth. “The Confederates fell back in great disorder, and we advanced in disorder just as great. Over logs, through woods, over hills and fields, the brigades, regiments, and companies advanced, in one promiscuous, mixed, and uncontrollable mass. Officers shouted themselves hoarse in trying to bring order out of confusion, but all their efforts were unavailing along the front line, or rather what ought to have been the front line.”[37]

Garnett’s conduct was not the only incident connected with Kernstown that troubled Jackson. March 23 was a Sunday. “You appear much concerned,” he writes to his wife, “at my attacking on Sunday. I am greatly concerned too; but I felt it my duty to do it, in consideration of the ruinous effects that might result from postponing the battle until the morning. So far as I can see, my course was a wise one; the best that I could do under the circumstances, though very distasteful to my feelings; and I hope and pray to our Heavenly Father that I may never again be circumstanced as on that day. I believed that, so far as our troops were concerned, necessity and mercy both called for the battle. I do hope that the war will soon be over, and that I shall never again be called upon to take the field. Arms is a profession that, if its principles are adhered to, requires an officer to do what he fears may be wrong, and yet, according to military experience, must be done if success is to be attained. And the fact of its being necessary to success, and being accompanied with success, and that a departure from it is accompanied with disaster, suggests that it must be right. Had I fought the battle on Monday instead of Sunday, I fear our cause would have suffered, whereas, as things turned out, I consider our cause gained much from the engagement.”

We may wonder if his wife detected the unsoundness of the argument. To do wrong—for wrong it was according to her creed—in order that good may ensue is what it comes to. The literal interpretation of the Scriptural rule seems to have led her husband into difficulties; but the incident may serve to show with what earnestness, in every action of his life, he strove to shape his conduct with what he believed to be his duty.

It has already been observed that Jackson’s reticence was remarkable. No general could have been more careful that no inkling of his design should reach the enemy. He had not the slightest hesitation in withholding his plans from even his second in command; special correspondents were rigorously excluded from his camps; and even with his most confidential friends his reserve was absolutely impenetrable. During his stay at Winchester, it was his custom directly he rose to repair to headquarters and open his correspondence. When he returned to breakfast at Dr. Graham’s there was much anxiety evinced to hear the news from the front. What the enemy was doing across the Potomac, scarce thirty miles away, was naturally of intense interest to the people of the border town. But not the smallest detail of intelligence, however unimportant, escaped his lips. To his wife he was as uncommunicative as to the rest. Neither hint nor suggestion made the least impression, and direct interrogations were put by with a quiet smile. Nor was he too shy to suggest to his superiors that silence was golden. In a report to Johnston, written four days after Kernstown, he administered what can scarcely be considered other than a snub, delicately expressed but unmistakable:—

“It is understood in the Federal army that you have instructed me to keep the forces now in this district and not permit them to cross the Blue Ridge, and that this must be done at every hazard, and that for the purpose of effecting this I made my attack. I have never so much as intimated such a thing to anyone.”[38]

It cannot be said that Jackson’s judgment in attacking Shields was at once appreciated in the South. The defeat, at first, was ranked with the disasters in the West. But as soon as the effects upon the enemy were appreciated the tide of popular feeling turned. The gallantry of the Valley regiments was fully recognised, and the thanks of Congress were tendered to Jackson and his troops.

No battle was ever yet fought in exact accordance with the demands of theory, and Kernstown, great in its results, gives openings to the critics. Jackson, it is said, attacked with tired troops, on insufficient information, and contrary to orders. As to the first, it may be said that his decision to give the enemy no time to bring up fresh troops was absolutely justified by events. On hearing of his approach to Kernstown, Banks immediately countermarched a brigade of Williams’ division from Castleman’s Ferry. A second brigade was recalled from Snicker’s Gap on the morning of the 24th, and reached Winchester the same evening, after a march of six-and-twenty miles. Had attack been deferred, Shields would have been strongly reinforced.

As to the second, Jackson had used every means in his power to get accurate intelligence.[39] Ashby had done his best. Although the Federals had 780 cavalry present, and every approach to Winchester was strongly picketed, his scouts had pushed within the Federal lines, and had communicated with the citizens of Winchester. Their reports were confirmed, according to Jackson’s despatch, “from a source which had been remarkable for its reliability,” and for the last two days a retrograde movement towards Snicker’s Gap had been reported. The ground, it is true, favoured an ambush. But the strategic situation demanded instant action. McClellan’s advanced guard was within fifty miles of Johnston’s position on the Rapidan, and a few days’ march might bring the main armies into collision. If Jackson was to bring Banks back to the Valley, and himself join Johnston before the expected battle, he had no time to spare. Moreover, the information to hand was quite sufficient to justify him in trusting something to fortune. Even a defeat, if the attack were resolutely pushed, might have the best effect.

The third reproach, that Jackson disobeyed orders, can hardly be sustained. He was in command of a detached force operating at a distance from the main army, and Johnston, with a wise discretion, had given him not orders, but instructions; that is, the general-in-chief had merely indicated the purpose for which Jackson’s force had been detached, and left to his judgment the manner in which that purpose was to be achieved. Johnston had certainly suggested that he should not expose himself to the danger of defeat. But when it became clear that he could not retain the enemy in the Valley unless he closed with him, to have refrained from attack would have been to disobey the spirit of his instructions.

Again, when Jackson attacked he had good reason to believe that he ran no risk of defeat whatever. The force before him was reported as inferior to his own, and he might well have argued: “To confine myself to observation will be to confess my weakness, and Banks is not likely to arrest his march to Manassas because of the presence of an enemy who dare not attack an insignificant rearguard.” Demonstrations, such as Johnston had advised, may undoubtedly serve a temporary purpose, but if protracted the enemy sees through them. On the 22nd, for instance, it was reported to Banks that the Confederates were advancing. The rear brigade of Williams’ division was therefore countermarched from Snicker’s Gap to Berryville; but the other two were suffered to proceed. Had Jackson remained quiescent in front of Shields, tacitly admitting his inferiority, the rear brigade would in all probability have soon been ordered to resume its march; and Lincoln, with no fear for Washington, would have allowed Blenker and McDowell to join McClellan.

Johnston, at least, held that his subordinate was justified. In publishing the thanks of the Confederate Congress tendered to Jackson and his division, he expressed, at the same time, “his own sense of their admirable conduct, by which they fully earned the high reward bestowed.”

During the evening of the 23rd the medical director of the Valley army was ordered to collect vehicles, and send the wounded to the rear before the troops continued their retreat. Some time after midnight Dr. McGuire, finding that there were still a large number awaiting removal, reported the circumstances to the general, adding that he did not know where to get the means of transport, and that unless some expedient were discovered the men must be abandoned. Jackson ordered him to impress carriages in the neighbourhood. “But,” said the surgeon, “that requires time; can you stay till it has been done?” “Make yourself easy, sir,” was the reply. “This army stays here until the last man is removed. Before I leave them to the enemy I will lose many men more.” Fortunately, before daylight the work was finished.


The exact losses at Kernstown were as follows:—


By brigadeKilledWoundedMissingTotal
Stonewall Brigade
Burks’ Brigade
Fulkerson’s Brigade

By regiments    
2nd Va.
4th Va.
5th Va.
27th Va.
33rd Va.
21st Va.
42nd Va.
1st Va.
23rd Va.
27th Va.
320 N.C.O. and men
203 N.C.O. and men
450 N.C.O. and men
170 N.C.O. and men
275 N.C.O. and men
270 officers and men
293 officers and men
187 officers and men
177 officers and men
397 N.C.O. and men
Total casualties=718   80 k.
375 w.
263 m.
including   5 officers
including 22 officers
including 10 officers
13% k. and w.
20% k., w. and m.


Total casualties=590 118 k.
450 w.
  22 m.
including   6 officers
including 27 officers

    According to the reports of his regimental commanders, Jackson took into battle (including 48th Virginia) 3,087 N.C.O. and men of infantry, 290 cavalry, and 27 guns. 2,742 infantry, 290 cavalry, and 18 guns were engaged, and his total strength, including officers, was probably about 3,500. Shields, in his first report of the battle, put down the strength of his own division as between 7,000 and 8,000 men. Four days later he declared that it did not exceed 7,000, namely 6,000 infantry, 750 cavalry, and 24 guns. It is probable that only those actually engaged are included in this estimate, for on March 17 he reported the strength of the troops which were present at Kernstown six days later as 8374 infantry, 608 artillerymen, and 780 cavalry; total, 9,752.[40]

[1] O.R., vol. v, p. 1094.

[2] Letter from Major Hotchkiss to the author.

[3] Jackson, 4,600; Hill, 3,000.

[4] Johnston’s Narrative.

[5] Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia, chap. ii.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Brook Farm to Cedar Mountain, General G. H. Gordon, p. 136.

[8] Major Harman, of Jackson’s staff, writing to his brother on March 6, says: “The general told me last night that the Yankees had 17,000 men at the two points, Charlestown and Bunker Hill.” On March 8 he writes: “3,000 effective men is about the number of General Jackson’s force. The sick, those on furlough, and the deserters from the militia, reduce him to about that number.”—MS.

[9] O.R., vol. xii, part i, p. 164.

[10] O.R., vol. xi, part iii, p. 26.

[11] General G. H. Gordon.

[12] For an interesting exposition of the views of the soldiers at Washington, see evidence of General Hitchcock, U.S.A., acting as Military Adviser to the President, O.R., vol. xii, part i, p. 221.

[13] O.R., vol. xi, part 333, p. 7.

[14] Ibid., p. 11.

[15] A large portion of the Army of the Potomac, awaiting embarkation, still remained at Centreville. The cavalry had pushed forward towards the Rapidan, and the Confederates, unable to get information, did not suspect that McClellan was moving to the Peninsula until March 25.

[16] O.R., vol. xii, part i, p. 381. The staff appears to have been at fault. It was certainly of the first importance, whether battle was intended or not, to select a halting-place concealed from the enemy’s observation.

[17] 140 sabres.

[18] No hidden line of approach was available. Movement to the south was limited by the course of the Opequon. Fulkerson’s brigade, with Carpenter’s two guns, marched nearest to the enemy; the Stonewall Brigade was on Fulkerson’s left.

[19] The Confederate advance was made in the following order:—

23rd Va.
37th Va.
4th Va.
33rd Va.
27th Va.
2nd Va.
21st Va.
Irish Battn.

[20] O.R., vol. xii, part i, p. 341.

[21] Colonel E. H. C. Cavins, 14th Indiana. Battles and Leaders, vol. ii, p. 307.

[22] Jackson’s Valley Campaign, Colonel William Allan, C.S.A., p. 54.

[23] O.R., vol. xii, part i, p. 341.

[24] Abercrombie’s, 4,500 men and a battery. The brigade marched to Warrenton, where it remained until it was transferred to McDowell’s command.

[25] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 16.

[26] Blenker’s division was at Hunter’s Chapel, south of Washington, when it received the order.

[27] Report of General Wadsworth; O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 225.

[28] Letter of Mr. Stanton; O.R., vol. xix, part ii, p. 726.

[29] O.R., vol. xii, part i, p. 382.

[30] Ibid, part iii, p. 844.

[31] Dabney, vol. ii, p. 46.

[32] He was aware, moreover, that supports were coming up, for the order to the 5th Virginia was sent through him. Report of Colonel W. H. Harman, 5th Virginia, O.R., vol. xii, part i, pp. 391, 392.

[33] On March 5, 1811, in the battle fought on the arid ridges of Barossa, the numbers were almost identical with those engaged at Kernstown. Out of 4,000 British soldiers there fell in an hour over 1,200, and of 9,000 French more than 2,000 were killed or wounded; and yet, although the victors were twenty-four hours under arms without food, the issue was never doubtful.

[34] Dabney, vol. ii, pp. 18, 19.

[35] Grant’s Memoirs.

[36] The morning after the battle one of the Confederate officers expressed the opinion that even if the counterstroke had been successful, the Federal reserves would have arrested it. Jackson answered, “No, if I had routed the men on the ridge, they would all have gone off together.”

[37] Colonel E. H. C. Cavins, Battles and Leaders, vol. ii, p. 307.

[38] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 840.

[39] The truth is that in war, accurate intelligence, especially when two armies are in close contact, is exceedingly difficult to obtain. At Jena, even after the battle ended, Napoleon believed that the Prussians had put 80,000 men in line instead of 45,000. The night before Eylau, misled by the reports of Murat’s cavalry, he was convinced that the Russians were retreating; and before Ligny he underestimated Blucher’s strength by 40,000. The curious misconceptions under which the Germans commenced the battles of Spicheren, Mars-la-Tour, and Gravelotte will also occur to the military reader.

[40] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 4.

Chapter IX

The stars were still shining when the Confederates began their retreat from Kernstown. With the exception of seventy, all the wounded had been brought in, and the army followed the ambulances as far as Woodstock.

March 25   There was little attempt on the part of the Federals to improve their victory. The hard fighting of the Virginians had left its impress on the generals. Jackson’s numbers were estimated at 15,000, and Banks, who arrived in time to take direction of the pursuit, preferred to wait till Williams’ two brigades came up before he moved. He encamped that night at Cedar Creek, eight miles from Kernstown. The next day he reached Strasburg. The cavalry pushed on to near Woodstock, and there, for the time being, the pursuit terminated. Shields, who remained at Winchester to nurse his wound, sent enthusiastic telegrams announcing that the retreat was a flight, and that the houses along the road were filled with Jackson’s dead and dying; yet the truth was that the Confederates were in nowise pressed, and only the hopeless cases had been left behind.[1] Had the 2,000 troopers at Banks’ disposal been sent forward at daybreak on the 24th, something might have been done. The squadrons, however, incapable of moving across country, were practically useless in pursuit; and to start even at daybreak was to start too late. If the fruits of victory are to be secured, the work must be put in hand whilst the enemy is still reeling under the shock. A few hours’ delay gives him time to recover his equilibrium, to organise a rear-guard, and to gain many miles on his rearward march.

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

These positions were occupied until April 1, and for six whole days Banks, with 19,000 men, was content to observe a force one-sixth his strength, which had been defeated by just half the numbers he had now at his disposal. This was hardly the “vigorous action” which McClellan had demanded. “As soon as you are strong enough,” he had telegraphed, “push Jackson hard, drive him well beyond Strasburg, pursuing at least as far as Woodstock, if possible, with cavalry to Mount Jackson.”[2]

In vain he reiterated the message on the 27th: “Feel Jackson’s rear-guard smartly and push him well.” Not a single Federal crossed Tom’s Brook. “The superb scenery of the Valley,” writes General G. H. Gordon, a comrade of Jackson’s at West Point, and now commanding the 2nd Massachusetts, one of Banks’ best regiments, “opened before us—the sparkling waters of the Shenandoah, winding between the parallel ranges, the groves of cedar and pine that lined its banks, the rolling surfaces of the Valley, peacefully resting by the mountain side, and occupied by rich fields and quiet farms. A mile beyond I could see the rebel cavalry. Sometimes the enemy amused himself by throwing shells at our pickets, when they were a little too venturesome; but beyond a feeble show of strength and ugliness, nothing transpired to disturb the dulness of the camp.”[3]

Banks, far from all support, and with a cavalry unable to procure information, was by no means free from apprehension. Johnston had already fallen back into the interior of Virginia, and the Army of the Potomac, instead of following him, was taking ship at Alexandria. Information had reached Strasburg that the Confederates were behind the Rapidan, with their left at Gordonsville. Now Gordonsville is sixty-five miles, or four marches, from Mount Jackson, and there was reason to believe that reinforcements had already been sent to Jackson from that locality. On March 25 Banks telegraphed to Mr. Stanton: “Reported by rebel Jackson’s aide (a prisoner) that they were assured of reinforcements to 30,000, but don’t credit it.” On March 26: “The enemy is broken, but will rally. Their purpose is to unite Jackson’s and Longstreet’s[4] forces, some 20,000, at New Market (seven miles south of Mount Jackson) or Washington (east of Blue Ridge) in order to operate on either side of the mountains, and will desire to prevent our junction with the force at Manassas. At present they will not attack here. It will relieve me greatly to know how far the enemy (i.e. Johnston) will be pressed in front of Manassas.” On the 27th his news was less alarming: “Enemy is about four miles below Woodstock. No reinforcement received yet. Jackson has constant communication with Johnston, who is east of the mountains, probably at Gordonsville. His pickets are very strong and vigilant, none of the country people being allowed to pass the lines under any circumstances. The same rule is applied to troops, stragglers from Winchester not being permitted to enter their lines. We shall press them further and quickly.”

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

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

On April 4, becoming independent of McClellan,[5] he at once reported to the Secretary of War that he hoped “immediately to strike Jackson an effective blow.” “Immediately,” however, in Banks’ opinion, was capable of a very liberal interpretation, for it was not till April 17 that he once more broke up his camps. Well might Gordon write that life at Edenburg became monotonous!

It is but fair to mention that during the whole of this time Banks was much troubled about supply and transport. His magazines were at Winchester, connected with Harper’s Ferry and Washington by a line of railway which had been rapidly repaired, and on April 12 this line had become unserviceable through the spreading of the road-bed.[6] His waggon train, moreover, had been diverted to Manassas before the fight at Kernstown, and was several days late in reaching Strasburg. The country in which he was operating was rich, and requisitions were made upon the farmers; but in the absence of the waggons, according to his own report, it was impossible to collect sufficient supplies for a further advance.[7] The weather, too, had been unfavourable. The first days of April were like summer. “But hardly,” says Gordon, “had we begun to feel in harmony with sunny days and blooming peach trees and warm showers, before a chill came over us, bitter as the hatred of the women of Virginia: the ground covered with snow, the air thick with hail, and the mountains hidden in the chilly atmosphere. Our shivering sentinels on the outer lines met at times the gaze of half-frozen horsemen of the enemy, peering through the mist to see what the Yankees had been doing within the last twenty-four hours. It was hard to believe that we were in the ‘sunny South.’”

All this, however, was hardly an excuse for absolute inaction. The Confederate position on the open ridge called Rude’s Hill, two and a half miles south of Mount Jackson, was certainly strong. It was defended in front by Mill Creek, swollen by the snows to a turbulent and unfordable river; and by the North Fork of the Shenandoah. But with all its natural strength Rude’s Hill was but weakly held, and Banks knew it. Moreover, it was most unlikely that Jackson would be reinforced, for Johnston’s army, with the exception of a detachment under General Ewell, had left Orange Court House for Richmond on April 5. “The enemy,” Banks wrote to McClellan on April 6, “is reduced to about 6,000 men (sic), much demoralised by defeat, desertion, and the general depression of spirits resting on the Southern army. He is not in a condition to attack, neither to make a strong resistance, and I do not believe he will make a determined stand there. I do not believe Johnston will reinforce him.” If Banks had supplies enough to enable him to remain at Woodstock, there seems to have been no valid reason why he should not have been able to drive away a demoralised enemy, and to hold a position twelve miles further south.

But the Federal commander, despite his brave words, had not yet got rid of his misgivings. Jackson had lured him into a most uncomfortable situation. Between the two branches of the Shenandoah, in the very centre of the Valley, rises a gigantic mass of mountain ridges, parallel throughout their length of fifty miles to the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies. These are the famous Massanuttons, the glory of the Valley. The peaks which form their northern faces sink as abruptly to the level near Strasburg as does the single hill which looks down on Harrisonburg. Dense forests of oak and pine cover ridge and ravine, and 2,500 feet below, on either hand, parted by the mighty barrier, are the dales watered by the Forks of the Shenandoah. That to the east is the narrower and less open; the Blue Ridge is nowhere more than ten miles distant from the Massanuttons, and the space between them, the Luray or the South Fork Valley, through which a single road leads northward, is clothed by continuous forest. West of the great mountain, a broad expanse of green pasture and rich arable extends to the foothills of the Alleghanies, dotted with woods and homesteads, and here, in the Valley of the North Fork, is freer air and more space for movement.

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

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

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

Nor was he more happy as to the Alleghanies on his right. Frémont was meditating an advance on Lewisburg, Staunton, and the Virginia and Tennessee Railway with 25,000 men.[8] One column was to start from Gauley Bridge, in the Kanawha Valley; the other from the South Branch of the Potomac. Milroy’s brigade, from Cheat Mountain, had therefore occupied Monterey, and Schenck’s brigade had marched from Romney to Moorefield. But Moorefield was thirty miles west of Woodstock, and between them rose a succession of rugged ridges, within whose deep valleys the Confederate horsemen might find paths by which to reach to Banks’ rear.

It was essential, then, that his communications should be strongly guarded, and as he advanced up the Valley his force had diminished at every march. According to his own report he had, on April 6, 16,700 men fit for duty. Of these 4,100 were detached along the road from Woodstock to Harper’s Ferry. His effective strength for battle was thus reduced to 12,600, or, including the troops escorting convoys and the garrison of Strasburg, to 14,500 men, with 40 pieces of artillery.[9]

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

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

Johnston had advised, when, at the beginning of March, the retreat of the Confederates from Winchester was determined on, that Jackson should fall back on Front Royal, and thence, if necessary, up the South Fork of the Shenandoah. His force would thus be in close communication with the main army behind the Rapidan; and it was contrary, in the General-in-Chief’s opinion, to all sound discretion to permit the enemy to attain a point, such as Front Royal, which would render it possible for him to place himself between them. Jackson, however, declared his preference for a retreat up the North Fork, in the direction of Staunton. Why should Banks join McClellan at all? McClellan, so Jackson calculated, had already more men with him than he could feed; and he believed, therefore, that Staunton would be Banks’ objective, because, by seizing that town, he would threaten Edward Johnson’s rear, open the way for Frémont, and then, crossing the Blue Ridge, place himself so near the communications of the main army with Richmond that it would be compelled to fall back to defend them. Nor, in any case, did he agree with Johnston that the occupation of Front Royal would prevent Banks leaving the Valley and marching to Manassas. Twenty miles due east of Winchester is Snicker’s Gap, where a good road crosses the Blue Ridge, and eight miles south another turnpike leads over Ashby’s Gap. By either of these Banks could reach Manassas just as rapidly as Jackson could join Johnston; and, while 4,500 men could scarcely be expected to detain 20,000, they might very easily be cut off by a portion of the superior force.

If a junction with the main army were absolutely necessary, Jackson was of opinion that the move ought to be made at once, and the Valley abandoned. If, on the other hand, it was desirable to keep Banks and McClellan separated, the best means of doing so was to draw the former up the North Fork; and at Mount Jackson, covering the New Market to Luray road, the Valley troops would be as near the Rapidan as if they were at Front Royal.[10] The strategical advantages which such a position would offer—the isolation of the troops pursuing him, the chance of striking their communications from the South Fork Valley, and, if reinforcements were granted, of cutting off their retreat by a rapid movement from Luray to Winchester—were always present to Jackson’s mind.[11]

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

Be this as it may, the sum of Jackson’s operations was satisfactory in the extreme. On March 27 he had written to Johnston, “I will try and draw the enemy on.” On April 16 Banks was exactly where he wished him, well up the North Fork of the Shenandoah, cut off by the Massanuttons from Manassas, and by the Alleghanies from Frémont. The two detachments which held the Valley, his own force at Mount Jackson, and Edward Johnson’s 2,800 on the Shenandoah Mountain, were in close communication, and could at any time, if permitted by the higher authorities, combine against either of the columns which threatened Staunton. “What I desire,” he said to Mr. Boteler, a friend in the Confederate Congress, “is to hold the country, as far as practicable, until we are in a condition to advance; and then, with God’s blessing, let us make thorough work of it. But let us start right.”

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

“Your sickness gives me great concern; but so live that it and all your tribulations may be sanctified to you, remembering that our ‘light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!’ I trust you and all I have in the hands of a kind Providence, knowing that all things work together for the good of His people. Yesterday was a lovely Sabbath day. Although I had not the privilege of hearing the word of life, yet it felt like a holy Sabbath day, beautiful, serene, and lovely. All it wanted was the church-bell and God’s services in the sanctuary to make it complete. Our gallant little army is increasing in numbers, and my prayer is that it may be an army of the living God as well as of its country.”

The troops, notwithstanding their defeat at Kernstown, were in high spirits. The very slackness of the Federal pursuit had made them aware that they had inflicted a heavy blow. They had been thanked by Congress for their valour. The newspapers were full of their praises. Their comrades were returning from hospital and furlough, and recruits were rapidly coming in.[12] The mounted branch attracted the majority, and Ashby’s regiment soon numbered more than 2,000 troopers. Their commander, however, knew little of discipline. Besides himself there was but one field-officer for one-and-twenty companies; nor had these companies any regimental organisation. When Jackson attempted to reduce this curiously constituted force to order, his path was once more crossed by the Secretary of War. Mr. Benjamin, dazzled by Ashby’s exploits, had given him authority to raise and command a force of independent cavalry. A reference to this authority and a threat of resignation was Ashby’s reply to Jackson’s orders. “Knowing Ashby’s ascendency over his men, and finding himself thus deprived of legitimate power, the general was constrained to pause, and the cavalry was left unorganised and undisciplined. One half was rarely available for duty. The remainder were roaming over the country, imposing upon the generous hospitalities of the citizens, or lurking in their homes. The exploits of their famous leader were all performed with a few hundreds, or often scores, of men, who followed him from personal devotion rather than force of discipline.”[13]

By April 15 Jackson’s force had increased to 6,000 men.[14] McClellan had now landed an army of over 100,000 at Fortress Monroe, on the Yorktown Peninsula, and Johnston had marched thither to oppose him. The weather had at last cleared; although the mountain pines stood deep in snow the roads were in good order; the rivers were once more fordable; the Manassas Gap Railway had been restored as far as Strasburg, and Banks took heart of grace.

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

For the moment the situation of the Valley army was somewhat critical. When Johnston marched to the Peninsula he had left a force of 8,000 men, under General Ewell, on the Upper Rappahannock, and with this force Jackson had been instructed to co-operate. But with the road across the Massanuttons in his possession Banks could move into the Luray Valley, and occupying Swift Run Gap with a detachment, cut the communication between the two Confederate generals. It was essential, then, that this important pass should be secured, and Jackson’s men were called on for a forced march.

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

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

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

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

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

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

South of Harrisonburg, where the Valley widens to five-and-twenty miles, there was no strong position. And even had such existed, 6,000 men, of which a third were cavalry, could scarcely have hoped to hold it permanently against a far superior force. Moreover, cooped up inside intrenchments, the Army of the Valley would have lost all freedom of action; and Jackson would have been cut off both from Ewell and from Richmond. But, although direct intervention was impracticable, he was none the less resolved that Banks should never set foot in Staunton. The Elk Run Valley was well adapted for his purpose. Spurs of the Blue Ridge, steep, pathless, and densely wooded, covered either flank. The front, protected by the Shenandoah, was very strong. Communication with both Ewell and Richmond was secure, and so long as he held the bridge at Conrad’s store he threatened the flank of the Federals should they advance on Staunton. Strategically the position was by no means perfect. The Confederates, to use an expression of General Grant’s, applied to a similar situation, were “in a bottle.” A bold enemy would have seized the bridge, “corking up” Jackson with a strong detachment, and have marched on Staunton with his main body.

“Had Banks been more enterprising,” says Dabney, “this objection would have been decisive.” But he was not enterprising, and Jackson knew it.[15]He had had opportunities in plenty of judging his opponent’s character. The slow advance on Winchester, the long delay at Woodstock, the cautious approach to New Market, had revealed enough. It was a month since the battle of Kernstown, and yet the Confederate infantry, although for the greater part of the time they had been encamped within a few miles of the enemy’s outposts, had not fired a shot.

The tardy progress of the Federals from Woodstock to Harrisonburg had been due rather to the perplexities of their commander than to the difficulties of supply; and Banks had got clear of the Massanuttons only to meet with fresh embarrassments. Jackson’s move to Elk Run Valley was a complete checkmate. His opponent felt that he was dangerously exposed. McClellan had not yet begun his advance on Richmond; and, so long as that city was secure from immediate attack, the Confederates could spare men to reinforce Jackson. The railway ran within easy reach of Swift Run Gap, and the troops need not be long absent from the capital. Ewell, too, with a force of unknown strength, was not far distant. Banks could expect no help from Frémont. Both generals were anxious to work together, and plans had been submitted to Washington which would probably have secured the capture of Staunton and the control of the railway. But the Secretary of War rejected all advice. Frémont was given to understand that under no circumstances was he to count on Banks,[16] and the latter was told to halt at Harrisonburg. “It is not the desire of the President,” wrote Mr. Stanton on April 26, “that you should prosecute a further advance towards the south. It is possible that events may make it necessary to transfer the command of General Shields to the department of the Rappahannock [i.e. to the First Army Corps], and you are desired to act accordingly.” To crown all, Blenker’s division, which had reached Winchester, instead of being sent to support Banks, forty-five miles distant by the Valley turnpike, was ordered to join Frémont in the Alleghanies by way of Romney, involving a march of one hundred and twenty miles, over bad roads, before it could reinforce his advanced brigade.

Stanton, in writing to Banks, suggested that he should not let his advanced guard get too far ahead of the main body; but be does not appear to have seen that the separation of Banks, Frémont, and Blenker, and the forward position of the two former, which he had determined to maintain, was even more dangerous.[17] His lesson was to come, for Jackson, by no means content with arresting Banks’ march, was already contemplating that general’s destruction.

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

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

Magruder’s bold stand was of infinite service to the Confederate cause. To both parties time was of the utmost value. The Federals were still over seventy miles from Richmond; and there was always a possibility, if their advance were not rapidly pressed, that Johnston might move on Washington and cause the recall of the army to protect the capital. The Confederates, on the other hand, had been surprised by the landing of McClellan’s army. They had been long aware that the flotilla had sailed, but they had not discovered its destination; the detachments which first landed were supposed to be reinforcements for the garrison of the fortress; and when McClellan advanced on Yorktown, Johnston was far to the west of Richmond. The delay had enabled him to reach the lines.[18] But at the time Jackson fell back to Elk Run Valley, April 17 to 19, fortune seemed inclining to the Federals.

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

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

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

April 21   McDowell’s advance from Manassas had already become known to the Confederates, and Lee had divined what this movement portended. “I have no doubt,” he wrote to Jackson, “that an attempt will be made to occupy Fredericksburg and use it as a base of operations against Richmond. Our present force there is very small, (2,500 men under General Field), and cannot be reinforced except by weakening other corps. If you can use General Ewell’s division in an attack on Banks, it will prove a great relief to the pressure on Fredericksburg.”[19]

This view of the situation was in exact agreement with Jackson’s own views. He had already made preparation for combined action with Ewell. For some days they had been in active correspondence. The exact route which Ewell should take to the Blue Ridge had been decided on. The roads had been reconnoitred. Jackson had supplied a map identical with his own, and had furnished an officer to act as guide. A service of couriers had been established across the mountains, and no precaution had been neglected. Ewell was instructed to bring five days’ rations. He was warned that there would be no necessity for a forced march; he was to encamp at cross-roads, and he was to rest on Sunday.[20]

April 23   Jackson, replying to Lee, stated that he was only waiting a favourable occasion to fall on Banks. “My object,” he wrote, “has been to get in his rear at New Market or Harrisonburg, if he gives me an opportunity, and this would be the case should he advance on Staunton with his main body. It appears to me that if I remain quiet a few days more he will probably make a move in some direction, or send a large force towards Harrisonburg, and thus enable me, with the blessing of Providence, to successfully attack his advance. If I am unsuccessful in driving back his entire force he may be induced to move forward from New Market, and attempt to follow me through this Gap, where our forces would have greatly the advantage. . . .

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

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

Jackson, in consequence, permitted Ewell to remain near Gordonsville, close to the railway; assuring Lee that “he would make arrangements so as not to be disappointed should Ewell be ordered to Fredericksburg.”[21]

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

April 25   The next information received from General Lee was that the enemy was collecting in strong force at Fredericksburg. “For this purpose,” he wrote, “they must weaken other points, and now is the time to concentrate on any that may be exposed within our reach.” He then suggested that, if Banks was too strong in numbers and position, Jackson and Ewell combined should move on Warrenton, where a Federal force was reported; or that Ewell and Field should attack Fredericksburg. “The blow,” he added, “wherever struck, must, to be successful, be sudden and heavy. The troops must be efficient and light. I cannot pretend at this distance to direct operations depending on circumstances unknown to me, and requiring the exercise of discretion and judgment as to time and execution, but submit these ideas for your consideration.”[22]

April 26   On April 26, when Banks moved two brigades to Harrisonburg, Ewell was at once called up to Stanardsville, twelve miles south-east of Swift Run Gap. No opportunity as yet had offered for attack. “I have reason to believe,” wrote Jackson to Lee on the 28th, “that Banks has 21,000 men within a day’s march of me.[23] He has moved his main body from New Market to Harrisonburg, leaving probably a brigade at New Market, and between that town and the Shenandoah (Luray Gap), to guard against a force getting in his rear. . . . On yesterday week there were near 7,000 men in the neighbourhood of Winchester, under Blenker; as yet I have not heard of their having joined Banks. . . . I propose to attack Banks in front if you will send me 5,000 more men. . . . Now, as it appears to me, is the golden opportunity for striking a blow. Until I hear from you I will watch an opportunity for striking some exposed point.”[24]

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: Map showing the situation on April 30th, 1862.]

April 30   On the 30th he drove the Federal cavalry back upon their camps; and the same afternoon Jackson, leaving Elk Run Valley, which was immediately occupied by Ewell, with 8,000 men, marched up the river to Port Republic. The track, unmetalled and untended, had been turned into a quagmire by the heavy rains of an ungenial spring, and the troops marched only five miles, bivouacking by the roadside. May 1 was a day of continuous rain. The great mountains loomed dimly through the dreary mist. The streams which rushed down the gorges to the Shenandoah had swelled to brawling torrents, and in the hollows of the fields the water stood in sheets. Men and horses floundered through the mud. The guns sunk axle-deep in the treacherous soil; and it was only by the help of large detachments of pioneers that the heavy waggons of the train were able to proceed at all. It was in vain that piles of stones and brushwood were strewn upon the roadway; the quicksands dragged them down as fast as they were placed. The utmost exertions carried the army no more than five miles forward, and the troops bivouacked once more in the dripping woods.

May 2   The next day, the third in succession, the struggle with the elements continued. The whole command was called upon to move the guns and waggons. The general and his staff were seen dismounted, urging on the labourers; and Jackson, his uniform bespattered with mud, carried stones and timbers on his own shoulders. But before nightfall the last ambulance had been extricated from the slough, and the men, drenched to the skin, and worn with toil, found a halting-place on firmer ground. But this halting-place was not on the road to Staunton. Before they reached Port Republic, instead of crossing the Shenandoah and passing through the village, the troops had been ordered to change the direction of their march. The spot selected for their bivouac was at the foot of Brown’s Gap, not more than twelve miles south-west of the camp in Elk Run Valley.

May 3   The next morning the clouds broke. The sun, shining with summer warmth, ushered in a glorious May day, and the column, turning its back upon the Valley, took the stony road that led over the Blue Ridge. Upward and eastward the battalions passed, the great forest of oak and pine rising high on either hand, until from the eyry of the mountain-eagles they looked down upon the wide Virginia plains. Far off, away to the south-east, the trails of white smoke from passing trains marked the line of the Central Railroad, and the line of march led directly to the station at Mechum’s River. Both officers and men were more than bewildered. Save to his adjutant-general, Jackson had breathed not a whisper of his plan. The soldiers only knew that they were leaving the Valley, and leaving it in the enemy’s possession. Winchester, Strasburg, Front Royal, New Market, Harrisonburg, were full of Northern troops. Staunton alone was yet unoccupied. But Staunton was closely threatened; and north of Harrisonburg the blue-coated cavalry were riding far and wide. While the women and old men looked impotently on, village and mill and farm were at the mercy of the invaders. Already the Federal commissaries had laid hands on herds and granaries. It is true that the Northerners waged war like gentlemen; yet for all that the patriotism of the Valley soldiers was sorely tried. They were ready to go to Richmond if the time had come; but it was with heavy hearts that they saw the Blue Ridge rise behind them, and the bivouac on Mechum’s River was even more cheerless than the sodden woods near Port Republic. The long lines of cars that awaited them at the station but confirmed their anticipations. They were evidently wanted at the capital, and the need was pressing. Still not a word transpired as to their destination.

May 4   The next day was Sunday, and Jackson had intended that the troops should rest. But early in the morning came a message from Edward Johnson. Frémont’s advanced guard was pushing forward. “After hard debate with himself,” says Dabney, who accompanied him, “and with sore reluctance,” Jackson once more sacrificed his scruples and ordered the command to march. The infantry was to move by rail, the artillery and waggons by road. To their astonishment and delight the troops then heard, for the first time, that their destination was not Richmond but Staunton; and although they were far from understanding the reason for their circuitous march, they began to suspect that it had not been made without good purpose.

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

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

May 7   The next morning brought a fresh surprise to both troops and townsfolk. Banks, so the rumour went, was rapidly approaching; and it was confidently expected that the twin hills which stand above the town—christened by some early settler, after two similar heights in faraway Tyrone, Betsy Bell and Mary Gray—would look down upon a bloody battle. But instead of taking post to defend the town, the Valley regiments filed away over the western hills, heading for the Alleghanies; and Staunton was once more left unprotected. Jackson, although informed by Ashby that Banks, so far from moving forward, was actually retiring on New Market, was still determined to strike first at Milroy, commanding Frémont’s advanced guard; and there can be little question but that his decision was correct. As we have seen, he was under the impression that Banks’ strength was 21,000, a force exceeding the united strength of the Confederates by 4,200 men.[25] It was undoubtedly sound strategy to crush the weaker and more exposed of the enemy’s detachments first; and then, having cleared his own rear and prevented all chance of combination between Banks and Frémont, to strike the larger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. To protect Staunton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lincoln appears to have had an instinctive apprehension that McClellan might not be able to exert sufficient pressure to hold Johnston fast, and it was for this reason that he had fought so strongly against the Peninsula line of invasion. It was the probability that the Confederates would use their opportunity with which Stanton had now to deal, complicated by the fact that their numbers were believed to be much greater than they really were. Still the problem was not one of insurmountable difficulty. Banks and Frémont united had 40,000 men, McDowell over 30,000. A few marches would have brought these forces into combination.

Banks and Frémont, occupying Staunton, and moving on Gordonsville, would have soon taken up communication with McDowell; an army 70,000 strong, far larger than any force the Confederates could detach against it, would have threatened Richmond from the north and west, and, at the same time, would have covered Washington. This plan, though not without elements of danger, offered some advantages. Nor were soldiers wanting to advise it. Both Rosecrans and Shields had submitted schemes for such a combination. Mr. Stanton, however, preferred to control the chessboard by the light of unaided wisdom; and while McDowell was unnecessarily strengthened, both Banks and Frémont were dangerously weakened.

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

On April 29 Johnston proposed to Davis that his army should be withdrawn from the Peninsula, and that the North should be invaded by way of the Valley.[26] Lee, in the name of the President, replied that some such scheme had been for some time under consideration; and the burden of his letters, as we have seen, both to Ewell and Jackson, was that a sudden and heavy blow should be struck at some exposed portion of the invading armies. Mr. Stanton was so far right; but where the blow was to be struck he was absolutely unable to divine.

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

It was indeed unfortunate for the North that at this juncture the military affairs of the Confederacy should have been placed in the hands of the clearest-sighted soldier in America. It was an unequal match, Lincoln and Stanton against Lee; and the stroke that was to prove the weakness of the Federal strategy was soon to fall. On May 7 Jackson westward marched in the following order: Edward Johnson’s regiments led the way, several miles in advance; the Third and Second Brigades followed; the Stonewall, under General Winder, a young West Point officer of exceptional promise, bringing up the rear. “The corps of cadets of the Virginia Military Institute,” says Dabney, “was also attached to the expedition; and the spruce equipments and exact drill of the youths, as they stepped out full of enthusiasm to take their first actual look upon the horrid visage of war, under their renowned professor, formed a strong contrast with the war-worn and nonchalant veterans who composed the army.”[27]

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

That night Milroy concentrated his whole brigade of 3,700 men at M’Dowell, a little village at the foot of the Bull Pasture Mountain, and sent back in haste for reinforcements. Frémont’s command was much strung out. When Milroy had moved from Cheat Mountain through Monterey, twelve miles west of M’Dowell,[28] the remainder of the army had started up the South Branch Valley to reinforce him. But snowstorms and heavy rains had much delayed the march, and Schenck’s brigade had not advanced beyond Franklin, thirty-four miles north of M’Dowell. Frémont himself, with a couple of battalions, was approaching Petersburg, thirty-five miles from Franklin; and Blenker’s division, still further to the rear, had not yet quitted Romney.

May 8   “On the following morning,” to quote from Jackson’s report, “the march was resumed, General Johnson’s brigade still in front. The head of the column was halted near the top of Bull Pasture Mountain, and General Johnson, accompanied by a party of thirty men and several officers, with a view to a reconnaissance of the enemy’s position, ascended Sitlington’s Hill, an isolated spur on the left of the turnpike and commanding a full view of the village of M’Dowell. From this point the position, and to some extent the strength, of the enemy could be seen. In the valley in which M’Dowell is situated was observed a considerable force of infantry. To the right, on a height, were two regiments, but too distant for an effective fire to that point. Almost a mile in front was a battery supported by infantry. The enemy, observing a reconnoitring party, sent a small body of skirmishers, which was promptly met by the men with General Johnson and driven back. For the purpose of securing the hill all of General Johnson’s regiments were sent to him.”

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

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

His immediate opponent, however, was a general of more resource and energy than Banks. Milroy was at least able to supply himself with information. On May 7 he had been advised by his scouts and spies that Jackson and Johnson had combined, and that they were advancing to attack him at M’Dowell. At 10 a.m. the next day Schenck’s brigade arrived from Franklin, after a march of thirty-four miles in twenty-three hours, and a little later the enemy’s scouts were observed on the lofty crest of Sitlington’s Hill. The day wore on. The Federal battery, with muzzles elevated and the trails thrust into trenches, threw occasional shells upon the heights, and parties of skirmishers were sent across the river to develop the Confederate strength. Johnson, to whom Jackson had confided the defence of the position, kept his troops carefully concealed, merely exposing sufficient numbers to repel the Federal patrols. Late in the afternoon a staff officer reported to Jackson that he had discovered a rough mountain track, which, passing through the mountains to the north-west, crossed the Bull Pasture River and came out upon the road between M’Dowell and Franklin. Orders had just been issued to move a strong detachment of artillery and infantry by this track during the night, when the Federal infantry, who had crossed the bridge under shelter of the woods, advanced in a strong line of battle up the slopes. Their scouts had observed what they believed to be preparations for establishing a battery on the heights, and Milroy and Schenck, with a view of gaining time for retreat, had determined on attack. Johnson had six regiments concealed behind the crest, in all about 2,800 men. Two regiments of the enemy, under 1,000 strong, advanced against his front; and shortly afterwards three regiments, bringing the numbers of the attack up to 2,500 rifles, assailed his left.

The Ohio and West Virginia Regiments, of which the Federal force was composed, fought with the vigour which always characterised the Western troops.[29] The lofty heights held by the Confederates were but an illusory advantage. So steep were the slopes in front that the men, for the most part, had to stand on the crest to deliver their fire, and their line stood out in bold relief against the evening sky. “On the other hand,” says Dabney, “though the Federal troops had to scale the steep acclivity of the hill, they reaped the usual advantage in such cases, resulting from the high firing of the Confederates.” The 12th Georgia, holding the centre of Johnson’s line, displayed more valour than judgment. Having been advanced at first in front of the crest, they could not be persuaded to retire to the reverse of the ridge, where other regiments found partial protection without sacrificing the efficiency of their fire. Their commander, perceiving their useless exposure, endeavoured again and again to withdraw them; but amidst the roar of the musketry his voice was lifted up in vain, and when by passing along the ranks he persuaded one wing of the regiment to recede, they rushed again to the front while he was gone to expostulate with the other. A tall Georgia youth expressed the spirit of his comrades when he replied the next day to the question why they did not retreat to the shelter of the ridge: “We did not come all this way to Virginia to run before Yankees.”[30] Nor was the courage of the other troops less ardent. The 44th Virginia was placed in reserve, thirty paces in rear of the centre. “After the battle became animated,” says the brigadier, “and my attention was otherwise directed, a large number of the 44th quit their position, and, rushing forward, joined the 58th and engaged in the fight, while the balance of the regiment joined some other brigade.”[31]

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

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

Illustration: Map of the Battle of Mc.Dowell, Va., Thursday, May 8th, 1862.

For larger view click on image.

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

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

This announcement was doubtless received by the people of Virginia, as Dabney declares, with peculiar delight. On May 4 Johnston had evacuated Yorktown. On the 5th he had checked the pursuit at Williamsburg, inflicting heavy losses, but had continued his retreat. On the 9th Norfolk was abandoned; and on the 11th the “Merrimac,” grounding in the James, was destroyed by her commander. “The victory of M’Dowell was the one gleam of brightness athwart all these clouds.” It must be admitted, however, that the victory was insignificant. The repulse of 2,500 men by 4,000 was not a remarkable feat; and it would even appear that M’Dowell might be ranked with the battles of lost opportunities. A vigorous counterstroke would probably have destroyed the whole of the attacking force. The riflemen of the West, however, were not made of the stuff that yields readily to superior force. The fight for the bridge would have been fierce and bloody. Twilight had fallen before the Confederate reinforcements arrived upon the scene; and under such conditions the losses must have been very heavy. But to lose men was exactly what Jackson wished to avoid. The object of his manœuvres was the destruction not of Frémont’s advanced guard, but of Banks’ army; and if his numbers were seriously reduced it would be impossible to attain that end. Frémont’s brigades, moreover, protected no vital point. A decisive victory at M’Dowell would have produced but little effect at Washington. No great results were to be expected from operations in so distant a section of the strategic theatre; and Jackson aimed at nothing more than driving the enemy so far back as to isolate him from Banks.

May 9   The next morning the small force of cavalry crossed the bridge and rode cautiously through the mountain passes. The infantry halted for some hours in M’Dowell in order that rations might be issued, but the Federals made three-and-twenty miles, and were already too far ahead to be overtaken. On the 10th and the 11th the Confederates made forced marches, but the enemy set fire to the forests on the mountain-side, and this desperate measure proved eminently successful. “The sky was overcast with volumes of smoke, which wrapped every distant object in a veil, impenetrable alike to the eyes and telescopes of the officers. Through this sultry canopy the pursuing army felt its way cautiously, cannonaded by the enemy from every advantageous position, while it was protected from ambuscades only by detachments of skirmishers, who scoured the burning woods on either side of the highway. The general, often far in advance of the column in his eagerness to overtake the foe, declared that this was the most adroit expedient to which a retreating army could resort, and that it entailed upon him all the disadvantages of a night attack. By slow approaches, and with constant skirmishing, the Federals were driven back to Franklin village, and the double darkness of the night and the smoke arrested the pursuit.”[32]

May 12   On May 12 Jackson resolved to return to the Valley. Frémont, with Blenker’s division, was at hand. It was impossible to outflank the enemy’s position, and time was precious, “for he knew not how soon a new emergency at Fredericksburg or at Richmond might occasion the recall of Ewell, and deprive him of the power of striking an effective blow at Banks.”[33] Half the day was granted to the soldiers as a day of rest, to compensate for the Sunday spent in the pursuit, and the following order was issued to the command:—

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

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

May 15   On the 15th the army left the mountains and encamped at Lebanon Springs, on the road to Harrisonburg. The 16th was spent in camp, the Confederate President having appointed a day of prayer and fasting. On the 17th a halt was made at Mount Solon, and here Jackson was met by Ewell, who had ridden over from Elk Run Valley. Banks had fallen back to Strasburg, and he was now completely cut off from Frémont. On the night of the engagement at McDowell Captain Hotchkiss had been ordered back to the Valley, and, accompanied by a squadron of Ashby’s cavalry, had blocked the passes by which Frémont could cross the mountains and support his colleague. “Bridges and culverts were destroyed, rocks rolled down, and in one instance trees were felled along the road for nearly a mile.[34] Jackson’s object was thus thoroughly achieved. All combination between the Federal columns, except by long and devious routes, had now been rendered impracticable; and there was little fear that in any operations down the Valley his own communications would be endangered. The M’Dowell expedition had neutralised, for the time being, Frémont’s 20,000 men; and Banks was now isolated, exposed to the combined attack of Jackson, Ewell, and Edward Johnson.

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

[1] Major Harman wrote on March 26 that 150 wounded had been brought to Woodstock. MS.

[2] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 16. The telegrams and letters quoted in this chapter, unless otherwise stated, are from this volume.

[3] From Brook Farm to Cedar Mountain, p. 133.

[4] Commanding a division under Johnston.

[5] On this date McClellan ceased to be Commander-in-Chief.

[6] The bridges over the railway between Strasburg and Manassas Gap, which would have made a second line available, had not yet been repaired.

[7] On April 3 Jackson wrote that the country around Banks was “very much drained of forage.”

[8] See ante.

[9] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 50.

[10] Dabney, vol. ii, pp. 22, 23. O.R., vol. v, p. 1087.

[11] Cf letters of April 5. O.R., vol. xii, part iii, pp. 843, 844.

[12] Congress, on April 16, passed a Conscription Act, under which all able-bodied whites, between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, were compelled to serve. It was not found necessary, however, except in the case of three religious denominations, to enforce the Act in the Valley; and, in dealing with these sectarians, Jackson found a means of reconciling their scruples with their duty to their State. He organised them in companies as teamsters, pledging himself to employ them, so far as practicable, in other ways than fighting. O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 835.

[13] Dabney, vol. ii, p. 49.

[14] On April 5 he had over 4,000 infantry. O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 844. The estimate in the text is from Colonel Allan’s Valley Campaign, p. 64. On April 9, however, he was so short of arms that 1,000 pikes were ordered from Richmond. “Under Divine blessing,” he wrote, “we must rely upon the bayonet when firearms cannot be furnished.” O.R., vol. xii, part iii, pp. 842, 845.

[15] “My own opinion,” he wrote, when this movement was in contemplation, “is that Banks will not follow me up to the Blue Ridge. My desire is, as far as practicable, to hold the Valley, and I hope that Banks will be deterred from advancing [from New Market] much further toward Staunton by the apprehension of my returning to New Market [by Luray], and thus getting in his rear.”—O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 848.

[16] O.R., vol. xii, p. 104.

[17] Jackson had recognised all along the mistake the Federals had made in pushing comparatively small forces up the Valley before McClellan closed in on Richmond. On April 5, when Banks was at Woodstock, he wrote: “Banks is very cautious. As he belongs to McClellan’s army, I suppose that McClellan is at the helm, and that he would not, even if Banks so desired, permit him to advance much farther until other parts of his army are farther advanced.” (O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 843). He did not know that at the date he wrote the President and Mr. Stanton had relieved McClellan at the helm.

[18] The first detachment of Federals embarked at Alexandria on March 16, and the army was thereafter transferred to the Peninsula by successive divisions. On March 25 Johnston was ordered to be ready to move to Richmond. On April 4 he was ordered to move at once. On that date 50,000 Federals had landed.

[19] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 859.

[20] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, pp. 849, 854, 857.

[21] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, pp. 863–4.

[22] Jackson himself showed the same wise self-restraint. In his communications with Ewell, after that officer had been placed under his orders, but before they had joined hands, he suggested certain movements as advisable, but invariably left the ultimate decision to his subordinate’s judgment.

[23] On April 30 Banks and Shields, who had been reinforced, numbered 20,000 effective officers and men, of whom a portion must have been guarding the communications. Reports of April 30 and May 31. O.R., vol. xii, part iii.

[24] It is amusing to note how far, at this time, his staff officers were from understanding their commander. On this very date one of them wrote in a private letter: “As sure as you and I live, Jackson is a cracked man, and the sequel will show it.” A month later he must have been sorry he had posed as a prophet.

[25] Jackson, 6,000; Ewell, 8,000; E. Johnson, 2,800.

[26] O.R., vol. xi, part 3, p. 477.

[27] Dabney, vol. ii, p. 65.

[28] See ante, pp. 185, 269, 275.

[29] Jackson fully recognised the fine fighting qualities of his compatriots. “As Shields’ brigade (division),” he wrote on April 5, “is composed principally of Western troops, who are familiar with the use of arms, we must calculate on hard fighting to oust Banks if attacked only in front, and may meet with obstinate resistance, however the attack may be made.”

[30] Dabney, vol. ii, p. 73.

[31] Report of Colonel Scott, 44th Virginia Infantry. O.R., vol. xii, part 1, p. 486.

[32] Dabney, vol. ii, p. 77.

[33] Ibid, p. 78. On May 9, in anticipation of a movement down the Valley, he had ordered thirty days’ forage, besides other supplies, to be accumulated at Staunton. Harman MS.

[34] Frémont’s Report, O.R., vol. xii, part i, p. 11.

Chapter X

1862, May   That week in May when the Army of the Valley marched back to the Shenandoah was almost the darkest in the Confederate annals. The Northern armies, improving daily in discipline and in efficiency, had attained an ascendency which it seemed impossible to withstand. In every quarter of the theatre of war success inclined to the Stars and Stripes. At the end of April New Orleans, the commercial metropolis of the South, had fallen to the Federal navy. Earlier in the month a great battle had been fought at Shiloh, in Tennessee; one of the most trusted of the Confederate commanders had been killed;[1] his troops, after a gallant struggle, had been repulsed with fearful losses; and the upper portion of the Mississippi, from the source to Memphis, had fallen under the control of the invader. The wave of conquest, vast and irresistible, swept up every navigable river of the South; and if in the West only the outskirts of her territory were threatened with destruction, in Virginia the roar of the rising waters was heard at the very gates of Richmond. McClellan, with 112,000 men, had occupied West Point at the head of the York River; and on May 16 his advance reached the White House, on the Pamunkey, twenty miles from the Confederate capital. McDowell, with 40,000 men, although still north of the Rappahannock, was but five short marches distant.[2] The Federal gunboats were steaming up the James; and Johnston’s army, encamped outside the city, was menaced by thrice its numbers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: Map of the Situation on May 18th, 1862.]

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

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

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

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

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

The Army of the Valley numbered nearly 17,000 officers and men.[3] Ewell’s effective strength was 7,500; Johnson’s 2,500; Jackson’s 6,000; and there were eleven batteries.

The troops were now organised in two divisions:—


    First (Stonewall) Brigade, General Winder: 2nd Virginia, 4th Virginia, 5th Virginia, 27th Virginia, 33rd Virginia.
    Second Brigade, Colonel Campbell: 21st Virginia, 42nd Virginia, 48th Virginia, 1st Regulars (Irish).
    Third Brigade, Colonel Taliaferro: 10th Virginia, 23rd Virginia, 37th Virginia.
    Cavalry, Colonel Ashby: 7th Virginia.
    Artillery: 5 batteries (1 horse-artillery), 22 guns.


    Taylor’s Brigade: 6th Louisiana, 7th Louisiana, 8th Louisiana, 9th Louisiana, Wheat’s Battalion (Louisiana Tigers).
    Trimble’s Brigade: 21st North Carolina, 21st Georgia, 15th Alabama, 16th Mississippi.
    Elzey’s Brigade and Scott’s Brigade: 13th Virginia, 31st Virginia, 25th Virginia, 12th Georgia. (late Johnson’s), 44th Virginia, 52nd Virginia, 58th Virginia.
    Maryland Line: 1st Maryland.
    Cavalry, General G. H. Steuart: 2nd Virginia, Colonel Munford: 6th Virginia, Colonel Flournoy.
    Artillery: 6 batteries, 26 guns.

For the first time in his career Jackson found himself in command of a considerable force. The greater part of the troops were Virginians, and with these he was personally acquainted. The strange contingents were Taylor’s and Trimble’s brigades, and Steuart’s cavalry. These had yet to be broken to his methods of war and discipline. There was no reason, however, to fear that they would prove less efficient than his own division. They had as yet seen little fighting, but they were well commanded. Ewell was a most able soldier, full of dash and daring, who had seen much service on the Indian frontier. He was an admirable subordinate, ready to take responsibility if orders were not forthcoming, and executing his instructions to the letter. His character was original. His modesty was only equalled by his eccentricity. “Bright, prominent eyes, a bomb-shaped bald head, and a nose like that of Francis of Valois, gave him a striking resemblance to a woodcock; and this was increased by a bird-like habit of putting his head on one side to utter his quaint speeches. He fancied that he had some mysterious internal malady, and would eat nothing but frumenty, a preparation of wheat; and his plaintive way of talking of his disease, as if he were someone else, was droll in the extreme. “What do you suppose President Davis made me a major-general for?” beginning with a sharp accent, ending with a gentle lisp, was a usual question to his friends. Superbly mounted, he was the boldest of horsemen, invariably leaving the roads to take timber and water; and with all his oddities, perhaps in some measure because of them, he was adored by officers and men.”[4] To Jackson he must have been peculiarly acceptable; not indeed as an intimate, for Ewell, at this period of the war, was by no means regenerate, and swore like a cowboy: but he knew the value of time, and rated celerity of movement as high as did Napoleon. His instructions to Branch, when the march against Banks was first projected, might have emanated from Jackson himself: “You cannot bring tents; tent-flies without poles, or tents cut down to that size, and only as few as are indispensable. No mess-chests, trunks, etc. It is better to leave these things where you are than to throw them away after starting. We can get along without anything but food and ammunition. The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.”[5]

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

Taylor himself had been educated at West Point. He was a man of high position, of unquestioned ability, an excellent disciplinarian, and a delightful writer. More than other commanders he had paid great attention to the marching of his men. He had an eye to those practical details which a good regimental officer enforces with so much effect. Boots were properly fitted; the troops were taught the advantages of cold water, and how to heal abrasions; halts upon the march were made at frequent intervals, and the men soon held that to fall out on the march was a disgrace. Before a month “had passed,” he says, “the brigade had learned how to march, and in the Valley with Jackson covered long distances without leaving a straggler behind.”[7]

Jackson’s first meeting with the Louisiana troops has been described by their commander:—

“A mounted officer was dispatched to report our approach and select a camp, which proved to be beyond Jackson’s forces, then lying in the fields on both sides of the Valley pike. Over 3,000 strong, neat in fresh clothing of grey with white gaiters, bands playing at the head of their regiments—not a straggler, but every man in his place, stepping jauntily as if on parade, though it had marched twenty miles or more—in open column, with the rays of the declining sun flaming on polished bayonets, the brigade moved down the hard smooth pike, and wheeled on to the camping-ground. Jackson’s men, by thousands, had gathered on either side of the road to see us pass.

“After attending to necessary camp details, I sought Jackson, whom I had never met. The mounted officer who had been sent on in advance pointed out a figure perched on the topmost rail of a fence overlooking the road and field, and said it was Jackson. Approaching, I saluted and declared my name and rank, then waited for a response. Before this came I had time to see a pair of cavalry boots covering feet of gigantic size, a mangy cap with visor drawn low, a heavy dark beard and weary eyes, eyes I afterwards saw filled with intense but never brilliant light. A low gentle voice inquired the road and distance marched that day. ‘Keezleton road, six-and-twenty miles.’ ‘You seem to have no stragglers.’ ‘Never allow straggling.’ ‘You must teach my people; they straggle badly.’ A bow in reply. Just then my Creoles started their band for a waltz. After a contemplative suck at a lemon, ‘Thoughtless fellows for serious work’ came forth. I expressed a hope that the work would not be less well done because of the gaiety. A return to the lemon gave me the opportunity to retire. Where Jackson got his lemons ‘No fellow could find out,’ but he was rarely without one. To have lived twelve miles from that fruit would have disturbed him as much as it did the witty dean.”[8]

May 21   The next day, marching in the grey of the morning, the force moved north, the Louisianians in advance. Suddenly, after covering a short distance, the head of the column was turned to the right; and the troops, who had confidently expected that Strasburg would be the scene of their next engagement, found themselves moving eastward and crossing the Massanuttons. The men were utterly at sea as to the intentions of their commander. Taylor’s brigade had been encamped near Conrad’s Store, only a few miles distant, not many days before, and they had now to solve the problem why they should have made three long marches in order to return to their former position. No word came from Jackson to enlighten them. From time to time a courier would gallop up, report, and return to Luray, but the general, absorbed in thought, rode silently across the mountain, perfectly oblivious of inquiring glances.

At New Market the troops had been halted at crossroads, and they had marched by that which they had least expected. The camp at Luray on the 21st presented the same puzzle. One road ran east across the mountains to Warrenton or Culpeper; a second north to Front Royal and Winchester; and the men said that halting them in such a position was an ingenious device of Jackson’s to prevent them fathoming his plans.[9]

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

Since they had Left Mount Solon and Elk Run Valley on May 19 the troops in four days had made just sixty miles. Such celerity of movement was unfamiliar to both Banks and Stanton, and on the night of the 22nd neither the Secretary nor the general had the faintest suspicion that the enemy had as yet passed Harrisonburg. There was serenity at Washington. On both sides of the Blue Ridge everything was going well. The attack on Frémont had not been followed up; and McClellan, though calling urgently for reinforcements, was sanguine of success. Mr. Lincoln, reassured by Jackson’s retreat from Franklin, had permitted Shields to march to Falmouth; and McDowell, with a portion of his troops, had already crossed the Rappahannock. The President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, an important personage at Washington, appears to have been alone in his apprehension that a storm was gathering in the summer sky. “The aspect of affairs in the Valley of Virginia,” he wrote to Stanton, “is becoming very threatening. . . . The enterprise and vigour of Jackson are well known. . . . Under the circumstances will it not be more judicious to order back General Shields to co-operate with General Banks? Such a movement might be accomplished in time to prevent disaster.”[10] The Secretary, however, saw no reason for alarm. His strategical combinations were apparently working without a hitch. Banks at Strasburg was in a strong position; and McDowell was about to lend the aid which would enable McClellan to storm the rebel capital. One of Frémont’s columns, under General Cox, a most able officer, which was making good progress towards the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, had certainly been compelled to halt when Milroy was driven back to Franklin. Yet the defeated troops were rapidly reorganising, and Frémont would soon resume his movement. Milroy’s defeat was considered no more than an incident of la petite guerre. Washington seemed so perfectly secure that the recruiting offices had been closed, and the President and Secretary, anticipating the immediate fall of Richmond, left for Fredericksburg the next day. McDowell was to march on the 26th, and the departure of his fine army was to be preceded by a grand review.

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

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

Appealing from his native sod
In formâ pauperis to God:
“Lay bare Thine arm—stretch forth Thy rod.
    Amen!” That’s Stonewall’s way.

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

His 10,000 men were thus distributed. At Strasburg were 4,500 infantry, 2,900 cavalry, and 16 guns. At Winchester 850 infantry and 600 cavalry. Two companies of infantry held Buckton station on the Manassas Gap Railway, midway between Strasburg and Front Royal.[11] At Rectortown, east of the Blue Ridge, nineteen miles from Front Royal, was General Geary with 2,000 infantry and cavalry; these troops, however, were independent of Banks.

Front Royal, twelve miles east of Strasburg, was committed to the charge of Colonel Kenly, of the 1st Maryland Regiment in the Federal service, and 1,000 rifles and 2 guns were placed at his disposal. The post itself was indefensible. To the west and south-west, about three miles distant, stand the green peaks of the Massanuttons, while to the east the lofty spurs of the Blue Ridge look down into the village streets. A mile and a half north the forks of the Shenandoah unite in the broad river that runs to Harper’s Ferry. The turnpike to Winchester crosses both forks in succession, at a point where they are divided by a stretch of meadows a mile in width. In addition to these two bridges, a wooden viaduct carried the railway over the South Fork, whence, passing between the North Fork and the Massanuttons, it runs south of the stream to Strasburg. Kenly had pitched his camp between the town and the river, covering the bridges, and two companies were on picket beyond the houses.

In front were the dense forests which fill the Luray Valley and cover the foothills of the mountains, and the view of the Federal sentries was very limited. A strong patrol of 100 infantry and 30 troopers, which had been sent out on the 20th, had marched eleven miles south, had bivouacked in the woods, and had captured a Confederate 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 3,000.

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.”[12] 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 Strasbourg, 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.[13]

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.[14]

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 5,000 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.”[15]

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 6,000 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.[16] Suddenly, by what means we are not told, he was made aware that the Confederates were in overwhelming numbers, and that Jackson was in command.

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 satisfying.

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 Frémont 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.[17]

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 a.m.   These manœuvres 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.[18] 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 disaster.

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 2,000 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.”[19] 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.”[20]

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.[21] 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.”[22]

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 1,500 men; part of his rear-guard had scattered in the mountains, and it was doubtful if he could now muster more than 6,500 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 battle.

[Illustration: 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.[23] 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 341 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.[24] 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 manœuvres, 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 Potomac.”

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.[25] 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 3,000 or 4,000 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 2,000 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!’[26]

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.[27] Frémont, 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, 7,000 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 Frémont.

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 Frémont were in motion to cut off his retreat. Shields’ division, leading McDowell’s advance from Fredericksburg, was approaching Manassas Gap; while Frémont, 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.[28]

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; Frémont, 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.[29] 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 2,000 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 Frémont 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.[30] 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. Frémont 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.[31] Frémont, 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.[32] 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. Frémont’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 Frémont 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 Frémont, 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 scope.

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 Frémont 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, Frémont 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 Frémont.”[33]

Winder reached Strasburg about noon. The troops that had been facing Frémont 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, Frémont 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. Frémont 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 Frémont 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,[34] 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.[35]

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.”[36] 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 Frémont, 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 Frémont, 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

    Shields, 10,200, Rectorstown.
    Ord, 9,000, Thoroughfare Gap.
    Bayard, 2,000. Catlett’s Station.
Frémont, 15,000, Fabius.
Saxton, 7,000, Harper’s Ferry.
Banks, 7,000, Williamsport.
Geary, 2,000, Middleburg.
  Jackson’s Division, 7,200,
Ewell’s Division, 5,000, Halltown.
Ashby. 800, Wardensville road.
Taylor’s Brigade, 8,000, Berryville.
12th Georgia Regiment, 460,
    Front Royal.
2nd Virginia Regiment, 860, Loudoun Heights.

Night of May 30

    Shields, 10,200, Front Royal.
    Ord, 9,000, Piedmont.
    Bayard, 2,000,
        Thoroughfare Gap.
    King, 10,000,
        near Catlett’s Station.
Saxton, 7,000, Harper’s Ferry.
Banks, 8,600, Williamsport.
Freémont, 15,000, Wardensville.
Geary, 2,000, Upperville.
 Army of Valley, 13,850, Winchester.
Stonewall Brigade, 1,600, Halltown.
2nd Virginia Regiment, 380,
    Loudoun Heights.
Ashby, 300, Wardensville Road.

Night of May 31

    Shields, Front Royal.
    Ord, Manassas Gap.
    King, Catlett’s Station.
    Bayard, Manassas Gap.
Saxton, Harper’s Ferry.
Banks, Williamsport.
Frémont, Cedar Creek.
Geary, Snicker’s and Ashby’s Gaps.
  Army of Valley, Strasburg.
Stonewall Brigade, Newtown.
Ashby, Cedar Creek.

Night of June 1

    Shields, ten miles south of
        Front Royal.
    Ord, Front Royal.
    King, Haymarket.
    Bayard, Buckton.
Saxton, Harper’s Ferry.
Banks, Williamsport.
Frémont, Cedar Creek.
Geary, Snicker’s and Ashby’s Gaps.
  Army of Valley, Woodstock.
Ashby, Tom’s Brook.


Federal         62,000
Confederate 16,000

[1] General A. S. Johnston.

[2] Directly McClellan closed in on Richmond, McDowell was ordered, as soon as Shields should join him, to march from Manassas to his assistance. Lincoln and Stanton had recovered confidence when Jackson returned to the Valley from Mechum’s Station.

[3] This estimate is Colonel Allan’s. Cf The Valley Campaign, pp. 92, 93. Dabney gives 16,000 men.

[4] Destruction and Reconstruction, General R. Taylor pp. 38, 39.

[5] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 890.

[6] Destruction and Reconstruction, pp. 52, 53.

[7] Ibid, p. 37.

[8] Destruction and Reconstruction, pp. 54–6.

[9] Compare instructions to Ewell, ante, p. 281.

[10] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 201.

[11] O.R., vol. xii, part i, pp. 523, 560.

[12] Dabney, vol. ii, p. 95.

[13] 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 moral of his regiment was not as it should be” he remained himself in Philadelphia.

[14] Dabney, vol. ii, pp. 93, 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 armies.

[15] From Brook Farm to Cedar Mountain, pp. 191, 192.

[16] Article in Harper’s Weekly by Colonel Strother, aide-de-camp to General Banks.

[17] Jackson’s Report. O.R., vol. xii, part i, p. 703.

[18] The supply waggons were still eight miles south of Front Royal, in the Luray Valley.

[19] Jackson’s Report. O.R., vol. xii, part i, p. 704.

[20] Dabney, vol. ii, pp. 101–2. “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, pp. 70–71. 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.

[21] Twenty regiments of infantry and two regiments of cavalry. O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 313.

[22] Destruction and Reconstruction, p. 65.

[23] 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., vol. xii, part i, p. 706.

[24] The greater part of the troops had marched over thirty miles in thirty hours, during which time they had been almost continuously engaged.

[25] Jackson’s Report.

[26] 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., vol. xii, part i, pp. 573, 611.

[27] Shields’ and Ord’s divisions of infantry, and Bayard’s brigade of cavalry, numbering all told 21,200 officers and men.

[28] 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.

[29] For the distribution of the different forces during this period see Note at end of chapter.

[30] O.R., vol. xi, part i, p. 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.

[31] Up to the time that they arrived within striking distance of Jackson they had acted vigorously, Shields marching eighty miles in five days, and Frémont seventy over a mountain road.

[32] 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.

[33] Destruction and Reconstruction, p. 78.

[34] Quartermaster’s stores, to the value of £25,000, were captured at Winchester alone, and 9,354 small arms, besides two guns, were carried back to Staunton.

[35] 68 killed; 386 wounded; 3 missing; 156 captured.

[36] Letter from Major Hotchkiss.

Chapter XI

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 manœuvre 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.”[1] 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, Frémont, 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 Frémont 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 Frémont 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,[2] 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 Frémont 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 Frémont, 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. Frémont, 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 détour 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, Frémont 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 charge.

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 Frémont’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 cortège. Frémont’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 Frémont, 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.”[3]

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 Frémont 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 8,000 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; Frémont 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 Frémont was close at hand, and Shields and Frémont 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 marching.

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 Frémont, 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 Frémont 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 Frémont should be held back, and this could only be done on the left bank. Further, if Frémont 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 Frémont reaching the bluffs, he could recross when he had done with Shields, and fight Frémont without fear of interruption.

To reverse the order, and to annihilate Frémont before falling upon Shields, was out of the question. Whether he advanced against Frémont 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 Frémont 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 Frémont at Mill Creek. But the situation was still uncertain. Frémont 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 Frémont 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 Frémont, “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 6,000 infantry, and perhaps 500 cavalry. Frémont had at least 10,000 infantry, twelve batteries, and 2,000 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 Frémont’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,[4] 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.[5] 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.”[6]

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, fell back to the woods whence it had emerged, five miles away on the other flank was heard the roar of the cannonade which opened the battle of Cross Keys.

From the hurried flight of the Federals it was evident that Shields’ main body was not yet up; so, placing two brigades in position to guard the bridge, Jackson sent the remainder to Ewell, and then rode to the scene of action.

Frémont, under cover of his guns, had made his preparations for attack; but the timidity which he had already displayed when face to face with Jackson had once more taken possession of his faculties. Vigorous in pursuit of a flying enemy, when that enemy turned at bay his courage vanished. The Confederate position was undoubtedly strong, but it was not impregnable. The woods on either flank gave access under cover to the central ridge. The superior weight of his artillery was sufficient to cover an advance across the open; and although he was without maps or guide, the country was not so intersected as to render manœuvring impracticable.

In his official report Frémont lays great stress on the difficulties of the ground; but reading between the lines it is easy to see that it was the military situation which overburdened him. The vicious strategy of converging columns, where intercommunication is tedious and uncertain, once more exerted its paralysing influence. It was some days since he had heard anything of Shields. That general’s dispatch, urging a combined attack, had not yet reached him: whether he had passed Luray or whether he had been already beaten, Frémont was altogether ignorant; and, in his opinion, it was quite possible that the whole of the Confederate army was before him.

A more resolute commander would probably have decided that the shortest way out of the dilemma was a vigorous attack. If Shields was within hearing of the guns—and it was by no means improbable that he was—such a course was the surest means of securing his co-operation; and even if no help came, and the Confederates maintained their position, they might be so crippled as to be unable to pursue. Defeat would not have been an irreparable misfortune. Washington was secure. Banks, Saxton, and McDowell held the approaches; and if Frémont himself were beaten back, the strategic situation could be in no way affected. In fact a defeat, if it had followed an attack so hotly pressed as to paralyse Jackson for the time being, would have been hardly less valuable than a victory.

“Fortune,” it has been well said, “loves a daring suitor, and he who throws down the gauntlet may always count upon his adversary to help him.” Frémont, however, was more afraid of losing the battle than anxious to win it. “Taking counsel of his fears,” he would run no risks. But neither could he abstain from action altogether. An enemy was in front of him who for seven days had fled before him, and his own army anticipated an easy triumph.

So, like many another general who has shrunk from the nettle danger, he sought refuge in half-measures, the most damning course of all. Of twenty-four regiments present on the field of battle, five only, of Blenker’s Germans, were sent forward to the attack. Their onslaught was directed against the Confederate right; and here, within the woods, Trimble had posted his brigade in a most advantageous position. A flat-topped ridge, covered with great oaks, looked down upon a wide meadow, crossed by a stout fence; and beyond the hollow lay the woods through which the Federals, already in contact with the Confederate outposts, were rapidly advancing. The pickets soon gave way, and crossing the meadow found cover within the thickets, where Trimble’s three regiments lay concealed. In hot pursuit came the Federal skirmishers, with the solid lines of their brigade in close support. Steadily moving forward, they climbed the fence and breasted the gentle slope beyond. A few scattered shots, fired by the retreating pickets, were the only indications of the enemy’s presence; the groves beyond were dark and silent. The skirmishers had reached the crest of the declivity, and the long wave of bayonets, following close upon their tracks, was within sixty paces of the covert, when the thickets stirred suddenly with sound and movement. The Southern riflemen rose swiftly to their feet. A sheet of fire ran along their line, followed by a crash that resounded through the woods; and the German regiments, after a vigorous effort to hold their ground, fell back in disorder across the clearing. Here, on the further edge, they rallied on their reserves, and the Confederates, who had followed up no further than was sufficient to give impetus to the retreat, were once more withdrawn.

A quarter of an hour passed, and as the enemy showed no inclination to attempt a second advance across the meadow, where the dead and wounded were lying thick, Trimble, sending word to Ewell of his intention, determined to complete his victory. More skilful than his enemies, he sent a regiment against their left, to which a convenient ravine gave easy access, while the troops among the oaks were held back till the flank attack was fully developed. The unexpected movement completely surprised the Federal brigadier. Again his troops were driven in, and the Confederates, now reinforced by six regiments which Ewell had sent up, forced them with heavy losses through the woods, compelled two batteries, after a fierce fight, to limber up, routed a brigade which had been sent by Frémont to support the attack, and pressing slowly but continuously forward, threw the whole of the enemy’s left wing, consisting of Blenker’s eleven regiments, back to the shelter of his line of guns. Trimble had drawn the “bulldog’s” teeth.

The Confederates had reached the outskirts of the wood. They were a mile in advance of the batteries in the centre; and the Federal position, commanding a tract of open ground, was strong in itself and strongly held. A general counterstroke was outside the scope of Jackson’s designs. He had still Shields to deal with. The Federal left wing had been heavily repulsed, but only a portion of Frémont’s force had been engaged; to press the attack further would undoubtedly have cost many lives, and even a partial reverse would have interfered with his comprehensive plan.

In other quarters of the battle-field the fighting had been unimportant. The Confederate guns, although heavily outnumbered, held their ground gallantly for more than five hours; and when they eventually retired it was from want of ammunition rather than from loss of moral. The waggons which carried their reserve had taken a wrong road, and at the critical moment there were no means of replenishing the supply. But so timid were Frémont’s tactics that the blunder passed unpunished. While the battle on the left was raging fiercely he had contented himself elsewhere with tapping feebly at the enemy’s lines. In the centre of the field his skirmishers moved against Ewell’s batteries, but were routed by a bayonet charge; on the right, Milroy and Schenck, the two generals who had withstood Jackson so stubbornly at McDowell, advanced on their own initiative through the woods. They had driven in the Confederate skirmishers, and had induced Ewell to strengthen this portion of his line from his reserve, when they were recalled by Frémont, alarmed by Trimble’s vigorous attack, to defend the main position.

The Southerners followed slowly. The day was late, and Ewell, although his troops were eager to crown their victory, was too cool a soldier to yield to their impatience; and, as at Cedar Creek, where also he had driven back the “Dutch” division, so at Cross Keys he rendered the most loyal support to his commander. Yet he was a dashing fighter, chafing under the restraint of command, and preferring the excitement of the foremost line. “On two occasions in the Valley,” says General Taylor, “during the temporary absence of Jackson, he summoned me to his side, and immediately rushed forward amongst the skirmishers, where sharp work was going on. Having refreshed himself, he returned with the hope that “Old Jack would not catch him at it.”[7]

How thoroughly Jackson trusted his subordinate may be inferred from the fact that, although present on the field, he left Ewell to fight his own battle. The only instructions he gave showed that he had fathomed the temper of Frémont’s troops. “Let the Federals,” he said, “get very close before your infantry fire; they won’t stand long.” It was to Ewell’s dispositions, his wise use of his reserves, and to Trimble’s ready initiative, that Frémont’s defeat was due. Beyond sending up a couple of brigades from Port Republic, Jackson gave no orders. His ambition was of too lofty a kind to appropriate the honours which another might fairly claim; and, when once battle had been joined, interference with the plan on which it was being fought did not commend itself to him as sound generalship. He was not one of those suspicious commanders who believe that no subordinate can act intelligently. If he demanded the strictest compliance with his instructions, he was always content to leave their execution to the judgment of his generals; and with supreme confidence in his own capacity, he was still sensible that his juniors in rank might be just as able. His supervision was constant, but his interference rare; and it was not till some palpable mistake had been committed that he assumed direct control of his divisions or brigades. Nor was any peculiar skill needed to beat back the attack of Frémont. Nothing proves the Federal leader’s want of confidence more clearly than the tale of losses. The Confederate casualties amounted to 288, of which nearly half occurred in Trimble’s counterstroke. The Federal reports show 684 killed, wounded, and missing, and of these Trimble’s riflemen accounted for nearly 500, one regiment, the 8th New York, being almost annihilated; but such losses, although at one point severe, were altogether insignificant when compared with the total strength; and it was not the troops who were defeated but the general.[8]

Ewell’s division bivouacked within sight of the enemy’s watch-fires, and within hearing of his outposts; and throughout the night the work of removing the wounded, friend and foe alike, went on in the sombre woods. There was work, too, at Port Republic. Jackson, while his men slept, was all activity. His plans were succeeding admirably. From Frémont, cowering on the defensive before inferior numbers, there was little to be feared. It was unlikely that after his repulse he would be found more enterprising on the morrow; a small force would be sufficient to arrest his march until Shields had been crushed; and then, swinging back across the Shenandoah, the soldiers of the Valley would find ample compensation, in the rout of their most powerful foe, for the enforced rapidity of their retreat from Winchester. But to fight two battles in one day, to disappear completely from Frémont’s ken, and to recross the rivers before he had time to seize the bridge, were manœuvres of the utmost delicacy, and needed most careful preparation.

It was Jackson’s custom, whenever a subordinate was to be entrusted with an independent mission, to explain the part that he was to play in a personal interview. By such means he made certain, first, that his instructions were thoroughly understood; and, second, that there was no chance of their purport coming to the knowledge of the enemy. Ewell was first summoned to headquarters, and then Patton, whose brigade, together with that of Trimble, was to have the task of checking Frémont the next day. “I found him at 2 a.m.,” says Patton, “actively engaged in making his dispositions for battle. He immediately proceeded to give me particular instructions as to the management of the men in covering the rear, saying: ‘I wish you to throw out all your men, if necessary, as skirmishers, and to make a great show, so as to cause the enemy to think the whole army are behind you. Hold your position as well as you can, then fall back when obliged; take a new position, hold it in the same way, and I will be back to join you in the morning.’”

Colonel Patton reminded him that his brigade was a small one, and that the country between Cross Keys and the Shenandoah offered few advantages for protracting such manœuvres. He desired, therefore, to know for how long he would be expected to hold the enemy in check. Jackson replied, “By the blessing of Providence, I hope to be back by ten o’clock.”[9]

These interviews were not the only business which occupied the commanding general. He arranged for the feeding of his troops before their march next day,[10] for the dispositions of his trains and ammunition waggons; and at the rising of the moon, which occurred about midnight, he was seen on the banks of the South River, superintending the construction of a bridge to carry his infantry dryshod across the stream.

An hour before daybreak he was roused from his short slumbers. Major Imboden, who was in charge of a mule battery,[11] looking for one of the staff, entered by mistake the general’s room.

“I opened the door softly, and discovered Jackson lying on his face across the bed, fully dressed, with sword, sash, and boots all on. The low-burnt tallow-candle on the table shed a dim light, yet enough by which to recognise him. I endeavoured to withdraw without waking him. He turned over, sat upon the bed, and called out, ‘Who is that?’

“He checked my apology with, ‘That is all right. It’s time to be up. I am glad to see you. Were the men all up as you came through camp?’

“‘Yes, General, and cooking.’

“‘That’s right; we move at daybreak. Sit down. I want to talk to you.’

“I had learned never to ask him questions about his plans, for he would never answer such to anyone. I therefore waited for him to speak first. He referred very feelingly to Ashby’s death, and spoke of it as an irreparable loss. When he paused I said, ‘General, you made a glorious winding-up of your four weeks with yesterday.’ He replied, ‘Yes, God blessed our army again yesterday, and I hope with His protection and blessing we shall do still better to-day.’”[12] Then followed instructions as to the use of the mule battery in the forests through which lay Shields’ line of advance.

Before 5 a.m. the next morning the Stonewall Brigade had assembled in Port Republic, and was immediately ordered to advance. On the plain beyond, still dark in the shadow of the mountains, where the cavalry formed the outposts, the fire of the pickets, which had been incessant throughout the night, was increasing in intensity. The Federals were making ready for battle.

Winder had with him four regiments, about 1,200 strong, and two batteries. In rear came Taylor with his Louisianians; and Jackson, leaving Major Dabney to superintend the passage of the river, rode with the leading brigade. The enemy’s pickets were encountered about a mile and a half down the river, beyond a strip of woods, on either side of the Luray road. They were quickly driven in, and the Federal position became revealed. From the foot-hills of the Blue Ridge, clothed to their crests with under-growth and timber, the plain, over a mile in breadth, extended to the Shenandoah. The ground was terraced; the upper level, immediately beneath the mountain, was densely wooded, and fifty or sixty feet above the open fields round the Lewis House. Here was the hostile front. The Federal force was composed of two brigades of infantry and sixteen guns, not more than 4,000 all told, for Shields, with the remainder of the division, was still far in rear. The right rested on the river; the left on a ravine of the upper level, through which a shallow stream flowed down from the heights above. On the northern shoulder of this ravine was established a battery of seven guns, sweeping every yard of the ground beneath, and a country road, which led directly to the Shenandoah, running between stiff banks and strongly fenced, was lined with riflemen. Part of the artillery was on the plain, near the Lewis House, with a section near the river; on the hillside, beyond the seven guns, two regiments were concealed within the forest, and in rear of the battery was a third. The position was strong, and the men who held it were of different calibre from Blenker’s Germans, and the leaders of stauncher stuff than Frémont. Six of the seven battalions had fought at Kernstown. Tyler, who on that day had seen the Confederates retreat before him, was in command; and neither general nor soldiers had reason to dread the name of Stonewall Jackson. In the sturdy battalions of Ohio and West Virginia the Stonewall Brigade were face to face with foemen worthy of their steel; and when Jackson, anxious to get back to Frémont, ordered Winder to attack, he set him a formidable task.

It was first necessary to dislodge the hostile guns. Winder’s two batteries were insufficient for the work, and two of his four regiments were ordered into the woods on the terrace, in order to outflank the battery beyond the stream. This detachment, moving with difficulty through the thickets, found a stronger force of infantry within the forest; the guns opened with grape at a range of one hundred yards, and the Confederates, threatened on either flank, fell back in some confusion.

The remainder of Winder’s line had meanwhile met with a decided check. The enemy along the hollow road was strongly posted. Both guns and skirmishers were hidden by the embankment; and as the mists of the morning cleared away, and the sun, rising in splendour above the mountains, flooded the valley with light, a long line of hostile infantry, with colours flying and gleaming arms, was seen advancing steadily into battle. The Federal Commander, observing his opportunity, had, with rare good judgment, determined on a counterstroke. The Louisiana brigade was moving up in support of Winder, but it was still distant. The two regiments which supported the Confederate batteries were suffering from the heavy artillery fire, and the skirmishers were already falling back. “Below,” says General Taylor, “Ewell was hurrying his men over the bridge; but it looked as if we should be doubled up on him ere he could cross and develop much strength. Jackson was on the road, a little in advance of his line, where the fire was hottest, with the reins on his horse’s neck. Summoning a young officer from his staff, be pointed up the mountain. The head of my approaching column was turned short up the slope, and within the forest came speedily to a path which came upon the gorge opposite the battery.[13]

But, as Taylor’s regiments disappeared within the forest, Winder’s brigade was left for the moment isolated, bearing up with difficulty against overwhelming numbers. Ewell’s division had found great difficulty in crossing the South River. The bridge, a construction of planks laid on the running gear of waggons, had proved unserviceable. At the deepest part there was a step of two feet between two axletrees of different height; and the boards of the higher stage, except one, had broken from their fastenings. As the men passed over, several were thrown from their treacherous platform into the rushing stream, until at length they refused to trust themselves except to the centre plank. The column of fours was thus reduced to single file; men, guns, and waggons were huddled in confusion on the river banks; and the officers present neglected to secure the footway, and refused, despite the order of Major Dabney, to force their men through the breast-high ford.

So, while his subordinates were trifling with the time, which, if Frémont was to be defeated as well as Shields, was of such extreme importance, Jackson saw his old brigade assailed by superior numbers in front and flank. The Federals, matching the rifles of the Confederate marksmen with weapons no less deadly, crossed over the road and bore down upon the guns. The 7th Louisiana, the rear regiment of Taylor’s column, was hastily called up, and dashed forward in a vain attempt to stem the tide.

A most determined and stubborn conflict now took place, and, as at Kernstown, at the closest range. The Ohio troops repelled every effort to drive them back. Winder’s line was thin. Every man was engaged in the firing line. The flanks were scourged by bursting shells. The deadly fire from the road held back the front. Men and officers were falling fast. The stream of wounded was creeping to the rear; and after thirty minutes of fierce fighting, the wavering line of the Confederates, breaking in disorder, fell back upon the guns. The artillery, firing a final salvo at a range of two hundred yards, was ordered to limber up. One gun alone, standing solitary between the opposing lines, essayed to cover the retreat; but the enemy was within a hundred yards, men and horses were shot down; despite a shower of grape, which rent great gaps in the crowded ranks, the long blue wave swept on, and leaving the captured piece in rear, advanced in triumph across the fields.

In vain two of Ewell’s battalions, hurrying forward to the sound of battle, were thrown against the flank of the attack. For an instant the Federal left recoiled, and then, springing forward with still fiercer energy, dashed back their new antagonists as they had done the rest. In vain Jackson, galloping to the front, spurred his horse into the tumult, and called upon his men to rally. Winder’s line, for the time being at least, had lost all strength and order; and although another regiment had now come up, the enemy’s fire was still so heavy that it was impossible to reform the defeated troops, and two fresh Federal regiments were now advancing to strengthen the attack. Tyler had ordered his left wing to reinforce the centre and it seemed that the Confederates would be defeated piecemeal. But at this moment the lines of the assailant came to a sudden halt; and along the slopes of the Blue Ridge a heavy crash of musketry, the rapid discharges of the guns, and the charging yell of the Southern infantry, told of a renewed attack upon the battery on the mountain side.

The Louisianians had come up in the very nick of time. Pursuing his march by the forest path, Taylor had heard the sounds of battle pass beyond his flank, and the cheers of the Federals proved that Winder was hard pressed. Rapidly deploying on his advanced guard, which, led by Colonel Kelley, of the 8th Louisiana, was already in line, he led his companies across the ravine. Down the broken slopes, covered with great boulders and scattered trees, the men slipped and stumbled, and then, splashing through the stream, swarmed up the face of the bank on which the Federal artillery was in action. Breaking through the undergrowth they threw themselves on the guns. The attention of the enemy had been fixed upon the fight that raged over the plain below, and the thick timber and heavy smoke concealed the approach of Taylor’s regiments. The surprise, however, was a failure. The trails were swung round in the new direction, the canister crashed through the laurels, the supporting infantry rushed forward, and the Southerners were driven back. Again, as reinforcements crowded over the ravine, they returned to the charge, and with bayonet and rammer the fight surged to and fro within the battery. For the second time the Federals cleared their front; but some of the Louisiana companies, clambering up the mountain to the right, appeared upon their flank, and once more the stormers, rallying in the hollow, rushed forward with the bayonet. The battery was carried, one gun alone escaping, and the Federal commander saw the key of his position abandoned to the enemy. Not a moment was to be lost. The bank was nearly a mile in rear of his right and centre, and commanded his line of retreat at effective range. Sending his reserves to retake the battery, he directed his attacking line, already pressing heavily on Winder, to fall back at once. But it was even then too late. The rest of Ewell’s division had reached the field. One of his brigades had been ordered to sustain the Lousianians; and across the plain a long column of infantry and artillery was hurrying northwards from Port Republic.

The Stonewall Brigade, relieved of the pressure in front, had already rallied; and when Tyler’s reserves, with their backs to the river, advanced to retake the battery, Jackson’s artillery was once more moving forward. The guns captured by Taylor were turned against the Federals—Ewell, it is said, indulging to the full his passion for hot work, serving as a gunner—and within a short space of time Tyler was in full retreat, and the Confederate cavalry were thundering on his traces.

It was half-past ten. For nearly five hours the Federals had held their ground, and two of Jackson’s best brigades had been severely handled. Even if Trimble and Patton had been successful in holding Frémont back, the Valley soldiers were in no condition for a rapid march and a vigorous attack, and their commander had long since recognised that he must rest content with a single victory.

[Illustration: Map of the Battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic, June 8th and 9th, 1862.]

Before nine o’clock, about the time of Winder’s repulse, finding the resistance of the enemy more formidable than be had anticipated, he had recalled his brigades from the opposite bank of the Shenandoah, and had ordered them to burn the bridge. Trimble and Patton abandoned the battle-field of the previous day, and fell back to Port Republic. Hardly a shot was fired during their retreat, and when they took up their march only a single Federal battery had been seen. Frémont’s advance was cautious in the extreme. He was actually aware that Shields had two brigades beyond the river, for a scout had reached him, and from the ground about Mill Creek the sound of Tyler’s battle could be plainly heard. But he could get no direct information of what was passing. The crest of the Massanuttons, although the sun shone bright on the cliffs below, was shrouded in haze, completely forbidding all observation; and it was not till near noon, after a march of seven miles, which began at dawn and was practically unopposed, that Frémont reached the Shenandoah. There, in the charred and smoking timbers of the bridge, the groups of Federal prisoners on the plain, the Confederates gathering the wounded, and the faint rattle of musketry far down the Luray Valley, he saw the result of his timidity.

Massing his batteries on the western bluffs, and turning his guns in impotent wrath upon the plain, he drove the ambulances and their escort from the field. But the Confederate dead and wounded had already been removed, and the only effect of his spiteful salvoes was that his suffering comrades lay under a drenching rain until he retired to Harrisonburg. By that time many, whom their enemies would have rescued, had perished miserably, and “not a few of the dead, with some perchance of the mangled living, were partially devoured by swine before their burial.”[14]

The pursuit of Tyler was pressed for nine miles down the river. The Ohio regiments, dispersed at first by the Confederate artillery, gathered gradually together, and held the cavalry in check. Near Conrad’s Store, where Shields, marching in desperate haste to the sound of the cannonade, had put his two remaining brigades in position across the road, the chase was stayed. The Federal commander admits that he was only just in time. Jackson’s horsemen, he says, were enveloping the column; a crowd of fugitives was rushing to the rear, and his own cavalry had dispersed. The Confederate army, of which some of the brigades and nearly the whole artillery had been halted far in rear, was now withdrawn; but, compelled to move by circuitous paths in order to avoid the fire of Frémont’s batteries, it was after midnight before the whole had assembled in Brown’s Gap. More than one of the regiments had marched over twenty miles and had been heavily engaged.

Port Republic was the battle most costly to the Army of the Valley during the whole campaign. Out of 5,900 Confederates engaged 804 were disabled.[15] The Federal losses were heavier. The killed, wounded, and missing (including 450 captured) amounted to 1,001, or one-fourth of Tyler’s strength.

The success which the Confederates had achieved was undoubtedly important. The Valley army, posted in Brown’s Gap, was now in direct communication with Richmond. Not only had its pursuers been roughly checked, but the sudden and unexpected counterstroke, delivered by an enemy whom they believed to be in full flight, had surprised Lincoln and Stanton as effectively as Shields and Frémont. On June 6, the day Jackson halted near Port Republic, McCall’s division of McDowell’s Army Corps, which had been left at Fredericksburg, had been sent to the Peninsula by water; and two days later McDowell himself, with the remainder of his force, was directed to join McClellan as speedily as possible overland. Frémont, on the same date, was instructed to halt at Harrisonburg, and Shields to march to Fredericksburg. But before Stanton’s dispatches reached their destination both Frémont and Shields had been defeated, and the plans of the Northern Cabinet were once more upset.

Instead of moving at once on Fredericksburg, and in spite of McDowell’s remonstrances, Shields was detained at Luray, and Ricketts, who had succeeded Ord, at Front Royal; while Frémont, deeming himself too much exposed at Harrisonburg, fell back to Mount Jackson. It was not till June 20 that Ricketts and Shields were permitted to leave the Valley, ten days after the order had been issued for McDowell to move on Richmond. For that space of time, then, his departure was delayed; and there was worse to come. The great strategist at Richmond had not yet done with Lincoln. There was still more profit to be derived from the situation; and from the subsidiary operations in the Valley we may now turn to the main armies.

By Jackson’s brilliant manœuvres McDowell had been lured westward at the very moment he was about to join McClellan. The gap between the two Federal armies had been widened from five to fifteen marches, while Jackson at Brown’s Gap was no more than nine marches distant from Richmond. McClellan, moreover, had been paralysed by the vigour of Jackson’s blows.

On May 16, as already related, he had reached White House on the Pamunkey, twenty miles from the Confederate capital. Ten miles south, and directly across his path, flowed the Chickahominy, a formidable obstacle to the march of a large army.

On the 24th, having already been informed that he was to be reinforced by McDowell, he was told that the movement of the latter for Fredericksburg was postponed until the Valley had been cleared. This change of plan placed him in a most awkward predicament. A portion of his army, in order to lend a hand to McDowell, had already crossed the Chickahominy, a river with but few points of passage, and over which, by reason of the swamps, the construction of military bridges was a difficult and tedious operation. On May 30, two army corps were south of the Chickahominy, covering, in a partially intrenched position, the building of the bridges, while three army corps were still on the further bank.

McClellan’s difficulties had not escaped the observation of his watchful adversaries, and on the morning of May 31 the Federal lines were heavily attacked by Johnston. The left of the position on the south side of the Chickahominy was protected by the White Oak Swamp, a broad and almost impassable morass; but the right, thrown back to the river, was unprotected by intrenchments, and thinly manned. The defence of the first line had been assigned to one corps only; the second was five miles in rear. The assailants should have won an easy triumph. But if McClellan had shown but little skill in the distribution of his troops on the defensive, the Confederate arrangements for attack were even more at fault. The country between Richmond and the Chickahominy is level and well wooded. It was intersected by several roads, three of which led directly to the enemy’s position. But the roads were bad, and a tremendous rain-storm, which broke on the night of the 30th, transformed the fields into tracts of greasy mud, and rendered the passage of artillery difficult. The natural obstacles, however, were not the chief.

The force detailed for the attack amounted to 40,000 men, or twenty-three brigades. The Federal works were but five miles from Richmond, and the Confederates were ordered to advance at dawn. But it was the first time that an offensive movement on so large a scale had been attempted; the woods and swamps made supervision difficult, and the staff proved unequal to the task of ensuring co-operation. The orders for attack were badly framed. The subordinate generals did not clearly comprehend what was expected from them. There were misunderstandings as to the roads to be followed, and as to who was to command the wings. The columns crossed, and half the day was wasted in getting into position. It was not till 1 p.m. that the first gun was fired, and not till 4 p.m. that the commanding general, stationed with the left wing, was made acquainted with the progress of his right and centre. When it was at last delivered, the attack was piecemeal; and although successful in driving the enemy from his intrenchments, it failed to drive him from the field. The Federals fell back to a second line of earthworks, and were strongly reinforced from beyond the river. During the battle Johnston himself was severely wounded, and the command devolved on General G. W. Smith. Orders were issued that the attack should be renewed next morning; but for reasons which have never been satisfactorily explained, only five of the twenty-three brigades were actively engaged, and the battle of Seven Pines ended with the unmolested retreat of the Confederates. Smith fell sick, and General Lee was ordered by the President to take command of the army in the field.

McClellan, thanks to the bad work of the Confederate staff at the battle of Seven Pines, had now succeeded in securing the passages across the Chickahominy. But for the present he had given up all idea of an immediate advance. Two of his army corps had suffered severely, both in men and in moral; the roads were practically impassable for artillery; the bridges over the Chickahominy had been much injured by the floods; and it was imperative to re-establish the communications. Such is his own explanation of his inactivity; but his official correspondence with the Secretary of War leaves no doubt that his hope of being reinforced by McDowell was a still more potent reason. During the first three weeks in June he received repeated assurances from Mr. Stanton that large bodies of troops were on their way to join him, and it was for these that he was waiting. This expectant attitude, due to McDowell’s non-arrival, entailed on him a serious disadvantage. If he transferred his whole army to the right bank of the Chickahominy, his line of supply, the railway to West Point, would be exposed; and, secondly, when McDowell approached from Fredericksburg, it would be possible for Leo to drive that general back before the Army of the Potomac could give him direct support, or in any case to cut off all communication with him. McClellan was consequently compelled to retain his right wing north of the river; and indeed in so doing he was only obeying his instructions. On May 18 Stanton had telegraphed: “You are instructed to co-operate so as to establish this communication [with McDowell], by extending your right wing north of Richmond.”

The Federal army, then, whilst awaiting the promised reinforcements, was divided into two parts by a stream which another storm might render impassable. It will thus be seen that Jackson’s operations not only deprived McClellan of the immediate aid of 40,000 men and 100 guns, but placed him in a most embarrassing situation. “The faulty location of the Union army,” says General Porter, commanding the Fifth Federal Army Corps, “was from the first realised by General McClellan, and became daily an increasing cause of care and anxiety; not the least disturbing element of which was the impossibility of quickly reinforcing his right wing or promptly withdrawing it to the south bank.”[16]

Seeing that the Confederates were no more than 60,000 strong, while the invading army mustered 100,000, it would seem that the knot should have been cut by an immediate attack on the Richmond lines. But McClellan, who had been United States Commissioner in the Crimea, knew something of the strength of earthworks; and moreover, although the comparatively feeble numbers developed by the Confederates at Seven Pines should have enlightened him, he still believed that his enemy’s army was far larger than his own. So, notwithstanding his danger, he preferred to postpone his advance till Jackson’s defeat should set McDowell free.

Fatal was the mistake which retained McDowell’s divisions in the Valley, and sent Shields in pursuit of Jackson. While the Federal army, waiting for reinforcements, lay astride the noisome swamps of the Chickahominy, Lee was preparing a counterstroke on the largest scale.

The first thing to do was to reduce the disparity of numbers; and to effect this troops were to be brought up from the south, Jackson was to come to Richmond, and McDowell was to be kept away. This last was of more importance than the rest, and, at the same time, more difficult of attainment. Jackson was certainly nearer to Richmond than was McDowell; but to defeat McClellan would take some time, and it was essential that Jackson should have a long start, and not arrive upon the battlefield with McDowell on his heels. It was necessary, therefore, that the greater part of the latter’s force should be detained on the Shenandoah; and on June 8, while Cross Keys was being fought, Lee wrote to Jackson: “Should there be nothing requiring your attention in the Valley, so as to prevent you leaving it in a few days, and you can make arrangements to deceive the enemy and impress him with the idea of your presence, please let me know, that you may unite at the decisive moment with the army near Richmond. Make your arrangements accordingly; but should an opportunity occur of striking the enemy a successful blow, do not let it escape you.”

June 11   At the same time a detachment of 7,000 infantry was ordered to the Valley. “Your recent successes,” wrote Lee on the 11th, when the news of Cross Keys and Port Republic had been received, “have been the cause of the liveliest joy in this army as well as in the country. The admiration excited by your skill and boldness has been constantly mingled with solicitude for your situation. The practicability of reinforcing you has been the subject of gravest consideration. It has been determined to do so at the expense of weakening this army. Brigadier-General Lawton with six regiments from Georgia is on his way to you, and Brigadier-General Whiting with eight veteran regiments leaves here to-day. The object is to enable you to crush the forces opposed to you. Leave your enfeebled troops to watch the country and guard the passes covered by your cavalry and artillery, and with your main body, including Ewell’s division and Lawton’s and Whiting’s commands, move rapidly to Ashland by rail or otherwise, as you may find most advantageous, and sweep down between the Chickahominy and the Pamunkey, cutting up the enemy’s communications, etc., while this army attacks McClellan in front. He will then, I think, be forced to come out of his intrenchments, where he is strongly posted on the Chickahominy, and apparently preparing to move by gradual approaches on Richmond.”[17]

Before the reinforcements reached the Valley both Frémont and Shields were out of reach. To have followed them down the Valley would have been injudicious. Another victory would have doubtless held McDowell fast, but it would have drawn Jackson too far from Richmond. The Confederate generals, therefore, in order to impose upon their enemies, and to maintain the belief that Washington was threatened, had recourse to stratagem. The departure of Whiting and Lawton for the Valley was ostentatiously announced. Federal prisoners, about to be dismissed upon parole, were allowed to see the trains full of soldiers proceeding westward, to count the regiments. And learn their destination. Thus Lee played his part in the game of deception, and meanwhile Jackson had taken active measures to the same end.

Frémont had retired from Port Republic on the morning of the 10th. On the 11th the Confederate cavalry, now under Colonel Munford, a worthy successor of the indefatigable Ashby, crossed the Shenandoah, and followed the retreating enemy. So active was the pursuit that Frémont evacuated Harrisonburg, abandoning two hundred wounded in the hospitals, besides medical and other stores.

June 14   “Significant demonstrations of the enemy,” to use his own words, drove him next day from the strong position at Mount Jackson; and on June 14 he fell back to Strasburg, Banks, who had advanced to Middletown, being in close support.

On the 12th the Army of the Valley had once more moved westward, and, crossing South River, had encamped in the woods near Mount Meridian. Here for five days, by the sparkling waters of the Shenandoah, the wearied soldiers rested, while their indefatigable leader employed ruse after ruse to delude the enemy. The cavalry, though far from support, was ordered to manœuvre boldly to prevent all information reaching the Federals, and to follow Frémont so long as he retreated.[18] The bearers of flags of truce were impressed with the idea that the Southerners were advancing in great strength. The outpost line was made as close as possible; no civilians were allowed to pass; and the troopers, so that they should have nothing to tell it they were captured, were kept in ignorance of the position of their own infantry. The general’s real intentions were concealed from everyone except Colonel Munford. The officers of the staff fared worse than the remainder of the army. Not only were they debarred from their commander’s confidence, but they became the unconscious instruments whereby false intelligence was spread. “The engineers were directed to prepare a series of maps of the Valley; and all who acquired a knowledge of this carefully divulged order told their friends in confidence that Jackson was going at once in pursuit of Frémont. As those friends told their friends without loss of time, it was soon the well-settled conviction of everybody that nothing was further from Jackson’s intention than an evacuation of the Valley.”

June 17   On June 17 arrived a last letter from Lee:—

“From your account of the position of the enemy I think it would be difficult for you to engage him in time to unite with this army in the battle for Richmond. Frémont and Shields are apparently retrograding, their troops shaken and disorganised, and some time will be required to set them again in the field. If this is so, the sooner you unite with this army the better. McClellan is being strengthened. . . . There is much sickness in his ranks, but his reinforcements by far exceed his losses. The present, therefore, seems to be favourable for a junction of your army and this. If you agree with me, the sooner you can make arrangements to do so the better. In moving your troops you could let it be understood that it was to pursue the enemy in your front. Dispose those to hold the Valley, so as to deceive the enemy, keeping your cavalry well in their front, and at the proper time suddenly descending upon the Pamunkey. To be efficacious the movement must be secret. Let me know the force you can bring, and be careful to guard from friends and foes your purpose and your intention of personally leaving the Valley. The country is full of spies, and our plans are immediately carried to the enemy.”[19]

The greater part of these instructions Jackson had already carried out on his own initiative. There remained but to give final directions to Colonel Munford, who was to hold the Valley, and to set the army in motion. Munford was instructed to do his best to spread false reports of an advance to the Potomac. Ewell’s division was ordered to Charlottesville. The rest of the Valley troops were to follow Ewell; and Whiting and Lawton, who, in order to bewilder Frémont, had been marched from Staunton to Mount Meridian, and then back to Staunton, were to take train to Gordonsville. It was above all things important that the march should be secret. Not only was it essential that Lincoln should not be alarmed into reinforcing McClellan, but it was of even more importance that McClellan should not be alarmed into correcting the faulty distribution of his army. So long as he remained with half his force on one bank of the Chickahominy and half on the other, Lee had a fair chance of concentrating superior numbers against one of the fractions. But if McClellan, warned of Jackson’s approach, were to mass his whole force on one bank or the other, there would be little hope of success for the Confederates.

The ultimate object of the movement was therefore revealed to no one, and the most rigorous precautions were adopted to conceal it. Jackson’s letters from Richmond, in accordance with his own instructions, bore no more explicit address than “Somewhere.” A long line of cavalry, occupying every road, covered the front, and prevented anyone, soldier or civilian, preceding them toward Richmond. Far out to either flank rode patrols of horsemen, and a strong rear-guard swept before it campfollowers and stragglers. At night, every road which approached the bivouacs was strongly picketed, and the troops were prevented from communicating with the country people. The men were forbidden to ask the names of the villages through which they passed; and it was ordered that to all questions they should make the one answer: “I don’t know.” “This was just as much license as the men wanted,” says an eye-witness, “and they forthwith knew nothing of the past, present, or future.” An amusing incident, it is said, grew out of this order. One of General Hood’s[20] Texans left the ranks on the march, and was climbing a fence to go to a cherry-tree near at hand, when Jackson rode by and saw him.

“Where are you going?” asked the general.

“I don’t know,” replied the soldier.

“To what command do you belong?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, what State are you from?”

“I don’t know.”

“What is the meaning of all this?” asked Jackson of another.

“Well,” was the reply, “Old Stonewall and General Hood gave orders yesterday that we were not to know anything until after the next fight.”

Jackson laughed and rode on.[21]

The men themselves, intelligent as they were, were unable to penetrate their general’s design. When they reached Charlottesville it was reported in the ranks that the next march would be northwards, to check a movement of Banks across the Blue Ridge. At Gordonsville it was supposed that they would move on Washington.

“I recollect,” says one of the Valley soldiers, “that the pastor of the Presbyterian church there, with whom Jackson spent the night, told me, as a profound secret, not to be breathed to mortal man, that we would move at daybreak on Culpeper Court House to intercept a column of the enemy coming across the mountains. He said there could be no mistake about this, for he had it from General Jackson himself. We did move at daybreak, but instead of moving on Culpeper Court House we marched in the opposite direction. At Hanover Junction we expected to head towards Fredericksburg to meet McDowell, and the whole movement was so secretly conducted that the troops were uncertain of their destination until the evening of June 26, when they heard A. P. Hill’s guns at Mechanicsville, and made the woods vibrate with their shouts of anticipated victory.”[22]

At Gordonsville a rumour, which proved to be false, arrested the march of the army for a whole day. On the 21st the leading division arrived at Frederickshall, fifty miles from Richmond, and there halted for the Sunday. They had already marched fifty miles, and the main body, although the railway had been of much service, was still distant. There was not sufficient rolling stock available to transport all the infantry simultaneously, and, in any case, the cavalry, artillery, and waggons must have proceeded by road. The trains, therefore, moving backwards and forwards along the line, and taking up the rear brigades in succession, forwarded them in a couple of hours a whole day’s march. Beyond Frederickshall the line had been destroyed by the enemy’s cavalry.

June 28   At 1 a.m. on Monday morning, Jackson, accompanied by a single orderly, rode to confer with Lee, near Richmond. He was provided with a pass, which Major Dabney had been instructed to procure from General Whiting, the next in command, authorising him to impress horses; and he had resorted to other expedients to blind his friends. The lady of the house which he had made his headquarters at Frederickshall had sent to ask if the general would breakfast with her next morning. He replied that he would be glad to do so if he were there at breakfast time; and upon her inquiry as to the time that would be most convenient, he said: “Have it at your usual time, and send for me when it is ready.” When Mrs. Harris sent for him, Jim, his coloured servant, replied to the message: “Sh! you don’t ’spec’ to find the general here at this hour, do you? He left here ‘bout midnight, and I ’spec’ by this time he’s whippin’ Banks in the Valley.”

During the journey his determination to preserve his incognito was the cause of some embarrassment. A few miles from his quarters he was halted by a sentry. It was in vain that he represented that he was an officer on duty, carrying dispatches. The sentry, one of the Stonewall Brigade, was inexorable, and quoted Jackson’s own orders. The utmost that he would concede was that the commander of the picket should be called. When this officer came he recognised his general. Jackson bound them both to secrecy, and praising the soldier for his obedience, continued his ride. Some hours later his horse broke down. Proceeding to a plantation near the road, he told his orderly to request that a couple of horses might be supplied for an officer on important duty. It was still dark, and the indignant proprietor, so unceremoniously disturbed by two unknown soldiers, who declined to give their names, refused all aid. After some parley Jackson and his orderly, finding argument wasted, proceeded to the stables, selected the two best horses, shifted the saddles, and left their own chargers as a temporary exchange.

At three o’clock in the afternoon, after passing rapidly through Richmond, he reached the headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief. It is unfortunate that no record of the meeting that took place has been preserved. There were present, besides Lee and Jackson, the three officers whose divisions were to be employed in the attack upon the Federals, Longstreet, A. P. Hill, and D. H. Hill. The names of the two former are associated with almost every Confederate victory won upon the soil of Virginia. They were trusted by their great leader, and they were idolised by their men. Like others, they made mistakes; the one was sometimes slow, the other careless; neither gave the slightest sign that they were capable of independent command, and both were at times impatient of control. But, taking them all in all, they were gallant soldiers, brave to a fault, vigorous in attack, and undaunted by adverse fortune. Longstreet, sturdy and sedate, his “old war-horse” as Lee affectionately called him, bore on his broad shoulders the weight of twenty years’ service in the old army. Hill’s slight figure and delicate features, instinct with life and energy, were a marked contrast to the heavier frame and rugged lineaments of his older colleague.

Already they were distinguished. In the hottest of the fight they had won the respect that soldiers so readily accord to valour; yet it is not on these stubborn fighters, not on their companion, less popular, but hardly less capable, that the eye of imagination rests. Were some great painter, gifted with the sense of historic fitness, to place on his canvas the council in the Virginia homestead, two figures only would occupy the foreground: the one weary with travel, white with the dust of many leagues, and bearing on his frayed habiliments the traces of rough bivouacs and mountain roads; the other, tall, straight, and stately; still, for all his fifty years, remarkable for his personal beauty, and endowed with all the simple dignity of a noble character and commanding intellect. In that humble chamber, where the only refreshment the Commander-in-Chief could offer was a glass of milk, Lee and Jackson met for the first time since the war had begun. Lee’s hours of triumph had yet to come. The South was aware that he was sage in council; he had yet to prove his mettle in the field. But there was at least one Virginia soldier who knew his worth. With the prescient sympathy of a kindred spirit Jackson had divined his daring and his genius, and although he held always to his own opinions, he had no will but that of his great commander. With how absolute a trust his devotion was repaid one of the brightest pages in the history of Virginia tells us; a year crowded with victories bears witness to the strength begotten of their mutual confidence. So long as Lee and Jackson led her armies hope shone on the standards of the South. Great was the constancy of her people; wonderful the fortitude of her soldiers; but on the shoulders of her twin heroes rested the burden of the tremendous struggle.

To his four major-generals Lee explained his plan of attack, and then, retiring to his office, left them to arrange the details. It will be sufficient for the present to state that Jackson’s troops were to encamp on the night of the 25th east of Ashland, fifteen miles north of Richmond, between the village and the Virginia Central Railway. The day following the interview, the 24th, he returned to his command, rejoining the column at Beaver Dam Station.

June 24   His advanced guard were now within forty miles of Richmond, and, so far from McDowell being on his heels, that general was still north of Fredericksburg. No reinforcements could reach McClellan for several days; the Confederates were concentrated round Richmond in full strength; and Lee’s strategy had been entirely successful. Moreover, with such skill had Jackson’s march been made that the Federal generals were absolutely ignorant of his whereabouts. McClellan indeed seems to have had some vague suspicion of his approach; but Lincoln, McDowell, Banks, Frémont, together with the whole of the Northern people and the Northern press, believed that he was still west of Gordonsville. Neither scout, spy, nor patrol was able to penetrate the cordon of Munford’s outposts. Beyond his pickets, strongly posted at New Market and Conrad’s Store, all was dim and dark. Had Jackson halted, awaiting reinforcements? Was he already in motion, marching swiftly and secretly against some isolated garrison? Was he planning another dash on Washington, this time with a larger army at his back? Would his advance be east or west of the Blue Ridge, across the sources of the Rappahannock, or through the Alleghanies? Had he 15,000 men or 50,000?

Such were the questions which obtruded themselves on the Federal generals, and not one could give a satisfactory reply. That a blow was preparing, and that it would fall where it was least expected, all men knew. “We have a determined and enterprising enemy to contend with,” wrote one of Lincoln’s generals. “Jackson,” said another, “marches thirty miles a day.” The successive surprises of the Valley campaign had left their mark; and the correspondence preserved in the Official Records is in itself the highest tribute to Jackson’s skill. He had gained something more than the respect of his enemies. He had brought them to fear his name, and from the Potomac to the Rappahannock uncertainty and apprehension reigned supreme. Not a patrol was sent out which did not expect to meet the Confederate columns, pressing swiftly northward; not a general along the whole line, from Romney to Fredericksburg, who did not tremble for his own security.

There was sore trouble on the Shenandoah. The disasters of McDowell and Front Royal had taught the Federal officers that when the Valley army was reported to be sixty miles distant, it was probably deploying in the nearest forest; and with the rout of Winchester still fresh in their memories they knew that pursuit would be as vigorous as attack would be sudden. The air was full of rumours, each more alarming than its predecessor, and all of them contradictory. The reports of the cavalry, of spies, of prisoners, of deserters, of escaped negroes, told each a different story.

Jackson, it was at first reported, had been reinforced to the number of 35,000 men.[23] A few days later his army had swelled to 60,000 with 70 guns, and he was rebuilding the bridge at Port Republic in order to follow Frémont. On June 13 he was believed to be moving through Charlottesville against one or other of McDowell’s divisions. “He was either going against Shields at Luray, or King at Catlett’s, or Doubleday at Fredericksburg, or going to Richmond.” On the 16th it was absolutely certain that he was within striking distance of Front Royal. On the 18th he had gone to Richmond, but Ewell was still in the Valley with 40,000 men. On the 19th Banks had no doubt but that another immediate movement down the Valley was intended “with 80,000 or more.” On the 20th Jackson was said to be moving on Warrenton, east of the Blue Ridge. On the 22nd “reliable persons” at Harper’s Ferry had learned that he was about to attack Banks at Middletown; and on the same day Ewell, who was actually near Frederickshall, was discovered to be moving on Moorefield! On the 25th Frémont had been informed that large reinforcements had reached Jackson from Tennessee; and Banks was on the watch for a movement from the west. Frémont heard that Ewell designed to attack Winchester in rear, and the threat from so dangerous a quarter made Lincoln anxious.

“We have no definite information,” wrote Stanton to McClellan, “as to the numbers or position of Jackson’s force. Within the last two days the evidence is strong that for some purpose the enemy is circulating rumours of Jackson’s advance in various directions, with a view to conceal the real point of attack. Neither McDowell nor Banks nor Frémont appear to have any accurate knowledge of the subject.”

This was on June 25, the day the Valley army halted at Ashland; but the climax was reached on the 28th. For forty-eight hours Jackson had been fighting McClellan, yet Banks, although “quite confident that he was not within thirty miles, believed that he was preparing for an attack on Middletown.” To reach Middletown Jackson would have had to march one hundred and fifty miles!

Under the influence of these rumours the movements of the Federal troops were erratic in the extreme.

Frémont, who had originally been ordered to remain at Harrisonburg, had fallen back on Banks at Middletown, although ordered to Front Royal, was most reluctant to move so far south. Shields was first ordered to stand fast at Luray, where he would be reinforced by Ricketts, and was then ordered to fall back on Front Royal. Reinforcements were ordered to Romney, to Harper’s Ferry, and to Winchester; and McDowell, who kept his head throughout, struggled in vain to reunite his scattered divisions. Divining the true drift of the Confederate strategy, he realised that to protect Washington, and to rescue McClellan, the surest method was for his own army corps to march as rapidly as possible to the Chickahominy. But his pleadings were disregarded. Lincoln and Stanton had not yet discovered that the best defence is generally a vigorous attack. They had learned nothing from the Valley campaign, and they were infected with the fears of Banks and Frémont. Jackson was well on his way to Richmond before Shields and Ricketts were permitted to cross the Blue Ridge; and it was not till the 25th that McDowell’s corps was once more concentrated at Fredericksburg. The Confederates had gained a start of five marches, and the Northern Government was still ignorant that they had left the Valley.

McClellan was equally in the dark. Faint rumours had preceded the march of Jackson’s army, but he had given them scant credit. On the morning of the 26th, however, he was rudely enlightened. It was but too clear that Jackson, strongly reinforced from Richmond, was bearing down upon his most vulnerable point—his right wing, which, in anticipation of McDowell’s advance, remained exposed on the north bank of the Chickahominy.

Nor was this the sum of his troubles. On this same day, when his outposts were falling back before superior numbers, and the Valley regiments were closing round their flank, he received a telegram from Stanton, informing him that the forces commanded by McDowell, Banks, and Frémont were to form one army under Major-General Pope; and that this army was “to attack and overcome the rebel forces under Jackson and Ewell, and threaten the enemy in the direction of Charlottesville!” All hope of succour passed away, and the “Young Napoleon” was left to extricate himself as best he could, from his many difficulties; difficulties which were due in part to his own political blindness, in part to the ignorance of Lincoln, but, in a far larger degree, to the consummate strategy of Lee and Jackson.


The Marches in the Valley Campaign, March 22 to June 25, 1862

March 22Mount Jackson–Strasburg28
March 23Strasburg–Kernstown–Newtown18Battle of Kernstown
March 24–26Newtown–Mt. Jackson35
April 17–19Mt. Jackson–Elk Run Valley50
April 30–
    May 8
Elk Run Valley–Mechum’s River Station60
May 7–8Staunton–Shenandoah Mt.32Battle of M’Dowell
May 9–11Bull Pasture Mount–Franklin30Skirmishes
May 12–15Franklin–Lebanon Springs40
May 17Lebanon Springs–Bridgewater18
May 19–20Bridgewater–New Market24
May 1New Market–Luray12
May 22Luray–Milford12
May 23Milford–Front Royal–Cedarville22Action at Front Royal
May 24Cedarville–Abraham’s Creek22Action at Middletown and Newtown
May 25Abraham’s Creek–Stevenson’s  7Battle of Winchester
May 28Stevenson’s–Charlestown15Skirmish
May 29Charlestown–Halltown  5Skirmish
May 30Halltown–Winchester25
May 31Winchester–Strasburg18
June 1Strasburg–Woodstock12Skirmish
June 2Woodstock–Mount Jackson12
June 3Mount Jackson–New Market  7
June 4–5New Market–Port Republic30
June 8  Battle of Cross Keys
June 9Cross Keys–Brown’s Gap16Battle of Port Republic
June 12Brown’s Gap–Mount Meridian10
June 17–25Mount Meridian–Ashland Station
(one rest day)
  676  miles in 48 marching days
Average 14 miles per diem

[1] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, pp. 220, 229 (letter of S. P. Chase).

[2] 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.

[3] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 352.

[4] All three of these officers escaped from their captors.

[5] 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.

[6] Related by Colonel Poague, C.S.A.

[7] Destruction and Reconstruction, p. 39.

[8] The Confederates at Kernstown lost 20 per cent.; the Federals at Port Republic 18 per cent. At Manassas the Stonewall Brigade lost 16 per cent., at Cross Keys Ewell only lost 8 per cent. and Frémont 5 per cent.

[9] Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. ix, p. 372.

[10] Rations appear to have been short, for General Ewell reports that when he marched against Shields the next day many of his men had been without food for four-and-twenty hours.

[11] The mule battery does not appear to have done much more than afford the Confederate soldiers an opportunity of airing their wit. With the air of men anxiously seeking for information they would ask the gunners whether the mule or the gun was intended to go off first? and whether the gun was to fire the mule or the mule the gun?

[12] Battles and Leaders, vol. ii, p. 293.

[13] Destruction and Reconstruction, p. 90. Jackson’s order to the staff officer (Major Hotchkiss) was brief: “Sweeping with his hand to the eastward, and then towards the Lewis House, where the Federal guns were raking the advance, he said: ‘Take General Taylor around and take that battery.’”

[14] Dabney, vol. ii.

[15] The troops actually engaged were as follows:—

4 Regiments of Winder’s Brigade
The Louisiana Brigade, 5 regiments
Scott’s Brigade, 3 regiments
31st Virginia and 40th Virginia
Artillery (5 batteries)

[16] Battles and Leaders, vol. ii, p. 324.

[17] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 910.

[18] “The only true rule for cavalry is to follow as long as the enemy retreats.”—Jackson to Munford, June 13.

[19] O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 913.

[20] Whiting’s division.

[21] Cooke, p. 205.

[22] Communicated by the Reverend J. W. Jones, D.D.

[23] The telegrams and letters containing the reports quoted on pages 399–400 are to be found in O.R., vol. xi, part iii, and vol. xii, part iii.

Chapter XII

In March, 1862, more than 200,000 Federals were prepared to invade Virginia. McClellan, before McDowell was withheld, reckoned on placing 150,000 men at West Point. Frémont, in West Virginia, commanded 30,000, including the force in the Kanawha Valley; and Banks had crossed the Potomac with over 30,000.

Less than 60,000 Confederate soldiers were available to oppose this enormous host, and the numerical disproportion was increased by the vast material resources of the North. The only advantages which the Southerners possessed were that they were operating in their own country, and that their cavalry was the more efficient. Their leaders, therefore, could count on receiving more ample and more accurate information than their adversaries.[1] But, except in these respects, everything was against them. In mettle and in discipline the troops were fairly matched. On both sides the higher commands, with few exceptions, were held by regular officers, who had received the same training. On both sides the staff was inexperienced. If the Confederate infantry were better marksmen than the majority of the Federals, they were not so well armed; and the Federal artillery, both in materiel and in handling, was the more efficient.

The odds against the South were great; and to those who believed that Providence sides with the big battalions, that numbers, armament, discipline, and tactical efficiency, are all that is required to ensure success, the fall of Richmond must have seemed inevitable.

But within three months of the day that McClellan started for the Peninsula the odds had been much reduced. The Confederates had won no startling victories. Except in the Valley, and there only small detachments were concerned, the fighting had been indecisive. The North had no reason to believe that her soldiers, save only the cavalry, were in any way inferior to their adversaries. And yet, on June 26, where were the “big battalions?” 105,000 men were intrenched within sight of the spires of Richmond; but where were the rest? Where were the 70,000[2] that should have aided McClellan, have encircled the rebel capital on every side, cut the communications, closed the sources of supply, and have overwhelmed the starving garrison? How came it that Frémont and Banks were no further south than they were in March? that the Shenandoah Valley still poured its produce into Richmond? that McDowell had not yet crossed the Rappahannock? What mysterious power had compelled Lincoln to retain a force larger than the whole Confederate army “to protect the national capital from danger and insult?”

It was not hard fighting. The Valley campaign, from Kernstown to Port Republic, had not cost the Federals more than 7,000 men; and, with the exception of Cross Keys, the battles had been well contested. It was not the difficulties of supply or movement. It was not absence of information; for until Jackson vanished from the sight of both friend and foe on June 17, spies and “contrabands“[3] (i.e. fugitive slaves) had done good work. Nor was it want of will on the part of the Northern Government. None were more anxious than Lincoln and Stanton to capture Richmond, to disperse the rebels, and to restore the Union. They had made stupendous efforts to organise a sufficient army. To equip that army as no army had ever been equipped before they had spared neither expense nor labour; and it can hardly be denied that they had created a vast machine, perhaps in part imperfect, but, considering the weakness of the enemy, not ill-adapted for the work before it.

There was but one thing they had overlooked, and that was that their host would require intelligent control. So complete was the mechanism, so simple a matter it appeared to set the machine in motion, and to keep it in the right course, that they believed that their untutored hands, guided by common-sense and sound abilities, were perfectly capable of guiding it, without mishap, to the appointed goal. Men who, aware of their ignorance, would probably have shrunk from assuming charge of a squad of infantry in action, had no hesitation whatever in attempting to direct a mighty army, a task which Napoleon has assured us requires profound study, incessant application, and wide experience.[4]

They were in fact ignorant—and how many statesmen, and even soldiers, are in like case?—that strategy, the art of manœuvring armies, is an art in itself, an art which none may master by the light of nature, but to which, if he is to attain success, a man must serve a long apprenticeship.

The rules of strategy are few and simple. They may be learned in a week. They may be taught by familiar illustrations or a dozen diagrams. But such knowledge will no more teach a man to lead an army like Napoleon than a knowledge of grammar will teach him to write like Gibbon. Lincoln, when the army he had so zealously toiled to organise, reeled back in confusion from Virginia, set himself to learn the art of war. He collected, says his biographer, a great library of military books; and, if it were not pathetic, it would be almost ludicrous, to read of the great President, in the midst of his absorbing labours and his ever-growing anxieties, poring night after night, when his capital was asleep, over the pages of Jomini and Clausewitz. And what was the result? In 1864, when Grant was appointed to the command of the Union armies, he said: “I neither ask nor desire to know anything of your plans. Take the responsibility and act, and call on me for assistance.” He had learned at last that no man is a born strategist.

The mistakes of Lincoln and Stanton are not to be condoned by pointing to McClellan.

McClellan designed the plan for the invasion of Virginia, and the plan failed. But this is not to say that the plan was in itself a bad one. Nine times out of ten it would have succeeded. In many respects it was admirable. It did away with a long line of land communications, passing through a hostile country. It brought the naval power of the Federals into combination with the military. It secured two great waterways, the York and the James, by which the army could be easily supplied, which required no guards, and by which heavy ordnance could be brought up to bombard the fortifications of Richmond. But it had one flaw. It left Washington, in the opinion of the President and of the nation, insecure; and this flaw, which would have escaped the notice of an ordinary enemy, was at once detected by Lee and Jackson. Moreover, had McClellan been left in control of the whole theatre of war, Jackson’s manœuvres would probably have failed to produce so decisive an effect. The fight at Kernstown would not have induced McClellan to strike 40,000 men off the strength of the invading army. He had not been deceived when Jackson threatened Harper’s Ferry at the end of May. The reinforcements sent from Richmond after Port Republic had not blinded him, nor did he for a moment believe that Washington was in actual danger. There is this, however, to be said: had McClellan been in sole command, public opinion, alarmed for Washington, would have possibly compelled him to do exactly what Lincoln did, and to retain nearly half the army on the Potomac.

So much for the leading of civilians. On the other hand, the failure of the Federals to concentrate more than 105,000 men at the decisive point, and even to establish those 105,000 in a favourable position, was mainly due to the superior strategy of the Confederates. Those were indeed skilful manœuvres which prevented McDowell from marching to the Chickahominy; and, at the critical moment, when Lee was on the point of attacking McClellan, which drew McDowell, Banks, and Frémont on a wild-goose chase towards Charlottesville. The weak joint in the enemy’s armour, the national anxiety for Washington, was early recognised. Kernstown induced Lincoln, departing from the original scheme of operations, to form four independent armies, each acting on a different line. Two months later, when McClellan was near Richmond it was of essential importance that the move of these armies should be combined, Jackson once more intervened; Banks was driven across the Potomac, and again the Federal concentration was postponed. Lastly, the battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic, followed by the dispatch of Whiting and Lawton to the Valley, led the Northern President to commit his worst mistake. For the second time the plan of campaign was changed, and McClellan was left isolated at the moment he most needed help.

The brains of two great leaders had done more for the Confederacy than 200,000 soldiers had done for the Union. Without quitting his desk, and leaving the execution of his plans to Jackson, Lee had relieved Richmond of the pressure of 70,000 Federals, and had lured the remainder into the position he most wished to find them. The Confederacy, notwithstanding the enormous disparity of force, had once more gained the upper hand; and from this instance, as from a score of others, it may be deduced that Providence is more inclined to side with the big brains than with the big battalions.

It was not mere natural ability that had triumphed. Lee, in this respect, was assuredly not more highly gifted than Lincoln, or Jackson than McClellan. But, whether by accident or design, Davis had selected for command of the Confederate army, and had retained in the Valley, two past masters in the art of strategy. If it was accident he was singularly favoured by fortune. He might have selected many soldiers of high rank and long service, who would have been as innocent of strategical skill as Lincoln himself. His choice might have fallen on the most dashing leader, the strictest disciplinarian, the best drill, in the Confederate army; and yet the man who united all these qualities might have been altogether ignorant of the higher art of war. Mr. Davis himself had been a soldier. He was a graduate of West Point, and in the Mexican campaign he had commanded a volunteer regiment with much distinction. But as a director of military operations he was a greater marplot than even Stanton. It by no means follows that because a man has lived his life in camp and barrack, has long experience of command, and even long experience of war, that he can apply the rules of strategy before the enemy. In the first place he may lack the character, the inflexible resolution, the broad grasp, the vivid imagination, the power of patient thought, the cool head, and, above all, the moral courage. In the second place, there are few schools where strategy may be learned, and, in any case, a long and laborious course of study is the only means of acquiring the capacity to handle armies and outwit an equal adversary. The light of common-sense alone is insufficient; nor will a few months’ reading give more than a smattering of knowledge.

“Read and re-read,” said Napoleon, “the eighty-eight campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, Cæsar, Gustavus, Turenne, Eugène, and Frederick. Take them as your models, for it is the only means of becoming a great leader, and of mastering the secrets of the art of war. Your intelligence, enlightened by such study, will then reject methods contrary to those adopted by these great men.”

In America, as elsewhere, it had not been recognised before the Civil War, even by the military authorities, that if armies are to be handled with success they must be directed by trained strategists. No Kriegsakademie or its equivalent existed in the United States, and the officers whom common-sense induced to follow the advice of Napoleon had to pursue their studies by themselves. To these the campaigns of the great Emperor offered an epitome of all that had gone before; the campaigns of Washington explained how the principles of the art might be best applied to their own country, and Mexico had supplied them with practical experience. Of the West Point graduates there were many who had acquired from these sources a wide knowledge of the art of generalship, and among them were no more earnest students than the three Virginians, Lee, Jackson, and Johnston.

When Jackson accepted an appointment for the Military Institute, it was with the avowed intention of training his intellect for war. In his retirement at Lexington he had kept before his eyes the possibility that he might some day be recalled to the Army. He had already acquired such practical knowledge of his profession as the United States service could afford. He had become familiar with the characteristics of the regular soldier. He knew how to command, to maintain discipline, and the regulations were at his fingers’ ends. A few years had been sufficient to teach him all that could be learned from the routine of a regiment, as they had been sufficient to teach Napoleon, Frederick, and Lee. But there remained over and above the intellectual part of war, and with characteristic thoroughness he had set himself to master it. His reward came quickly. The Valley campaign practically saved Richmond. In a few short months the quiet gentleman of Lexington became, in the estimation of both friend and foe, a very thunderbolt of war; and his name, which a year previous had hardly been known beyond the Valley, was already famous.

It is, perhaps, true that Johnston and Lee had a larger share in Jackson’s success than has been generally recognised. It was due to Johnston that Jackson was retained in the Valley when McClellan moved to the Peninsula; and his, too, was the fundamental idea of the campaign, that the Federals in the Valley were to be prevented from reinforcing the army which threatened Richmond. To Lee belongs still further credit. From the moment he assumed command we find the Confederate operations directed on a definite and well-considered plan; a defensive attitude round Richmond, a vigorous offensive in the Valley, leading to the dispersion of the enemy, and a Confederate concentration on the Chickahominy. His operations were very bold. When McClellan, with far superior numbers, was already within twenty miles of Richmond, he had permitted Jackson to retain Ewell’s 8,000 in the Valley, and he would have given him the brigades of Branch and Mahone. From Lee, too, came the suggestion that a blow should be struck at Banks, that he should be driven back to the Potomac, and that the North should be threatened with invasion. From him, too, at a moment when McClellan’s breastworks could be actually seen from Richmond, came the 7,000 men under Whiting and Lawton, the news of whose arrival in the Valley had spread such consternation amongst the Federals. But it is to be remembered that Jackson viewed the situation in exactly the same light as his superiors. The instructions he received were exactly the instructions he would have given had he been in command at Richmond; and it may be questioned whether even he would have carried them out with such whole-hearted vigour if he had not thoroughly agreed with every detail.

Lee’s strategy was indeed remarkable. He knew McClellan and he knew Lincoln. He knew that the former was over-cautious; he knew that the latter was over-anxious. No sudden assault on the Richmond lines, weak as they were, was to be apprehended, and a threat against Washington was certain to have great results. Hence the audacity which, at a moment apparently most critical, sent 17,000 of the best troops in the Confederacy as far northward as Harper’s Ferry, and, a fortnight later, weakened the garrison of Richmond by 7,000 infantry. He was surely a great leader who, in the face of an overwhelming enemy, dared assume so vast a responsibility. But it is to be remembered that Lee made no suggestion whatever as to the manner in which his ideas were to be worked out. Everything was left to Jackson. The swift manœuvres which surprised in succession his various enemies emanated from himself alone. It was his brain that conceived the march by Mechum’s Station to M’Dowell, the march that surprised Frémont and bewildered Banks. It was his brain that conceived the rapid transfer of the Valley army from the one side of the Massanuttons to the other, the march that surprised Kenly and drove Banks in panic to the Potomac. It was his brain that conceived the double victory of Cross Keys and Port Republic; and if Lee’s strategy was brilliant, that displayed by Jackson on the minor theatre of war was no less masterly. The instructions he received at the end of April, before he moved against Milroy, were simply to the effect that a successful blow at Banks might have the happiest results. But such a blow was not easy. Banks was strongly posted and numerically superior to Jackson, while Frémont, in equal strength, was threatening Staunton. Taking instant advantage of the separation of the hostile columns, Jackson struck at Milroy, and having checked Frémont, returned to the Valley to find Banks retreating. At this moment he received orders from Lee to threaten Washington. Without an instant’s hesitation he marched northward. By May 28, had the Federals received warning of his advance, they might have concentrated 80,000 men at Strasburg and Front Royal; or, while Banks was reinforced, McDowell might have moved on Gordonsville, cutting Jackson’s line of retreat on Richmond.

But Jackson took as little count of numbers as did Cromwell. Concealing his march with his usual skill he dashed with his 16,000 men into the midst of his enemies. Driving Banks before him, and well aware that Frémont and McDowell were converging in his rear, he advanced boldly on Harper’s Ferry, routed Saxton’s outposts, and remained for two days on the Potomac, with 62,000 Federals within a few days’ march. Then, retreating rapidly up the Valley, beneath the southern peaks of the Massanuttons he turned fiercely at bay; and the pursuing columns, mustering together nearly twice his numbers, were thrust back with heavy loss at the very moment they were combining to crush him.[5] A week later he had vanished, and when he appeared on the Chickahominy, Banks, Frémont, and McDowell were still guarding the roads to Washington, and McClellan was waiting for McDowell. 175,000 men absolutely paralysed by 16,000! Only Napoleon’s campaign of 1814 affords a parallel to this extraordinary spectacle.[6]

Jackson’s task was undoubtedly facilitated by the ignorance of Lincoln and the incapacity of his political generals. But in estimating his achievements, this ignorance and incapacity are only of secondary importance. The historians do not dwell upon the mistakes of Colli, Beaulieu, and Wurmser in 1796, but on the brilliant resolution with which Napoleon took advantage of them; and the salient features, both of the Valley Campaign and of that of 1796, are the untiring vigilance with which opportunities were looked for, the skill with which they were detected, and the daring rapidity with which they were seized.

History often unconsciously injures the reputation of great soldiers. The more detailed the narrative, the less brilliant seems success, the less excusable defeat. When we are made fully acquainted with the dispositions of both sides, the correct solution of the problem, strategical or tactical, is generally so plain that we may easily be led to believe that it must needs have spontaneously suggested itself to the victorious leader; and, as a natural corollary, that success is due rather to force of will than to force of intellect; to vigilance, energy, and audacity, rather than to insight and calculation. It is asserted, for instance, by superficial critics that both Wellington and Napoleon, in the campaign of 1815, committed unpardonable errors. Undoubtedly, at first sight, it is inconceivable that the one should have disregarded the probability of the French invading Belgium by the Charleroi road, or that the other, on the morning of the great battle, should never have suspected that Blücher was close at hand. But the critic’s knowledge of the situation is far more ample and accurate than that of either commander. Had either Wellington before Quatre Bras, or Napoleon on the fateful June 18 known what we know now, matters would have turned out very differently. “If,” said Frederick the Great, “we had exact information of our enemy’s dispositions, we should beat him every time;” but exact information is never forthcoming. A general in the field literally walks in darkness, and his success will be in proportion to the facility with which his mental vision can pierce the veil. His manœuvres, to a greater or less degree, must always be based on probabilities, for his most recent reports almost invariably relate to events which, at best, are several hours old; and, meanwhile, what has the enemy been doing? This it is the most essential part of his business to discover, and it is a matter of hard thinking and sound judgment. From the indications furnished by his reports, and from the consideration of many circumstances, with some of which he is only imperfectly acquainted, he must divine the intentions of his opponent. It is not pretended that even the widest experience and the finest intellect confer infallibility. But clearness of perception and the power of deduction, together with the strength of purpose which they create, are the fount and origin of great achievements; and when we find a campaign in which they played a predominant part, we may fairly rate it as a masterpiece of war. It can hardly be disputed that these qualities played such a part on the Shenandoah. For instance; when Jackson left the Valley to march against Milroy, many things might have happened which would have brought about disaster:—

1.  Banks, who was reported to have 21,000 men at Harrisonburg, might have moved on Staunton, joined hands with Milroy, and crushed Edward Johnson.

2.  Banks might have attacked Ewell’s 8,000 with superior numbers.

3.  Frémont, if he got warning of Jackson’s purpose, might have reinforced Milroy, occupied a strong position, and requested Banks to threaten or attack the Confederates in rear.

4.  Frémont might have withdrawn his advanced brigade, and have reinforced Banks from Moorefield.

5.  Banks might have been reinforced by Blenker, of whose whereabouts Jackson was uncertain.

6.  Banks might have marched to join McDowell at Fredericksburg.

7.  McClellan might have pressed Johnston so closely that a decisive battle could not have been long delayed.

8.  McDowell might have marched on Richmond, intervening between the Valley army and the capital.

Such an array of possibilities would have justified a passive attitude on Elk Run. A calculation of the chances, however, showed Jackson that the dangers of action were illusory. “Never take counsel of your fears,” was a maxim often on his lips. Unlike many others, he first made up his mind what he wanted to do, and then, and not till then, did he consider what his opponents might do to thwart him. To seize the initiative was his chief preoccupation, and in this case it did not seem difficult to do so. He knew that Banks was unenterprising. It was improbable that McDowell would advance until McClellan was near Richmond, and McClellan was very slow. To prevent Frémont getting an inkling of his design in time to cross it was not impossible, and Lincoln’s anxiety for Washington might be relied on to keep Banks in the Valley.

It is true that Jackson’s force was very small. But the manifestation of military genius is not affected by numbers. The handling of masses is a mechanical art, of which knowledge and experience are the key; but it is the manner in which the grand principles of war are applied which marks the great leader, and these principles may be applied as resolutely and effectively with 10,000 men as with 100,000.

“In meditation,” says Bacon, “all dangers should be seen; in execution none, unless they are very formidable.” It was on this precept that Jackson acted. Not a single one of his manœuvres but was based on a close and judicial survey of the situation. Every risk was weighed. Nothing was left to chance. “There was never a commander,” says his chief of the staff, “whose foresight was more complete. Nothing emerged which had not been considered before in his mind; no possibility was overlooked; he was never surprised.”[7] The character of his opponent, the moral of the hostile troops, the nature of the ground, and the manner in which physical features could be turned to account, were all matters of the most careful consideration. He was a constant student of the map, and his topographical engineer was one of the most important officers on his staff. “It could readily be seen,” writes Major Hotchkiss, “that in the preparations he made for securing success he had fully in mind what Napoleon had done under similar circumstances; resembling Napoleon especially in this, that he was very particular in securing maps, and in acquiring topographical information. He furnished me with every facility that I desired for securing topographical information and for making maps, allowing me a complete transportation outfit for my exclusive use and sending men into the enemy’s country to procure copies of local maps when I expressed a desire to have them. I do not think he had an accurate knowledge of the Valley previous to the war. When I first reported to him for duty, at the beginning of March 1862, he told me that he wanted “a complete map of the entire Shenandoah Valley from Harper’s Ferry to Lexington, one showing every point of offence and defence,” and to that task I immediately addressed myself. As a rule he did not refer to maps in the field, making his study of them in advance. He undoubtedly had the power of retaining the topography of the country in his imagination. He had spent his youth among the mountains, where there were but few waggon roads but many bridle and foot paths. His early occupation made it necessary for him to become familiar with such intricate ways; and I think this had a very important bearing on his ability to promptly recognise the topographical features of the country, and to recall them whenever it became necessary to make use of them. He was quick in comprehending topographical features. I made it a point, nevertheless, to be always ready to give him a graphic representation of any particular point of the region where operations were going on, making a rapid sketch of the topography in his presence, and using different coloured pencils for greater clearness in the definition of surface features. The carefully prepared map generally had too many points of detail, and did not sufficiently emphasise features apparently insignificant, but from a military standpoint most important. I may add that Jackson not only studied the general maps of the country, but made a particular study of those of any district where he expected to march or fight, constantly using sketch maps made upon the ground to inform him as to portions of the field of operations that did not immediately come under his own observation. I often made rough sketches for him when on the march, or during engagements, in answer to his requests for information.”[8]

It is little wonder that it should have been said by his soldiers that “he knew every hole and corner of the Valley as if he had made it himself.”

But to give attention to topography was not all that Jackson had learned from Napoleon. “As a strategist,” says Dabney, “the first Napoleon was undoubtedly his model. He had studied his campaigns diligently, and he was accustomed to remark with enthusiasm upon the evidences of his genius. “Napoleon,” he said, “was the first to show what an army could be made to accomplish. He had shown what was the value of time as an element of strategic combination, and that good troops, if well cared for, could be made to march twenty-five miles daily, and win battles besides.” And he had learned more than this. “We must make this campaign,” he said at the beginning of 1868, “an exceedingly active one. Only thus can a weaker country cope with a stronger; it must make up in activity what it lacks in strength. A defensive campaign can only be made successful by taking the aggressive at the proper time. Napoleon never waited for his adversary to become fully prepared, but struck him the first blow.”

It would perhaps be difficult, in the writings of Napoleon, to find a passage which embodies his conception of war in terms as definite as these; but no words could convey it more clearly. It is sometimes forgotten that Napoleon was often outnumbered at the outset of a campaign. It was not only in the campaigns of Italy, of Leipsic, of 1814, and of Waterloo, that the hostile armies were larger than his own. In those of Ulm, Austerlitz, Eckmühl, and Dresden, he was numerically inferior on the whole theatre of war; but while the French troops were concentrated under a single chief, the armies of the Allies were scattered over a wide area, and unable to support each other. Before they could come together, Napoleon, moving with the utmost rapidity, struck the first blow, and they were defeated in succession. The first principle of war is to concentrate superior force at the decisive point, that is, upon the field of battle. But it is exceedingly seldom that by standing still, and leaving the initiative to the enemy, that this principle can be observed, for a numerically inferior force, if it once permits its enemy to concentrate, can hardly hope for success. True generalship is, therefore, “to make up in activity for lack of strength; to strike the enemy in detail, and overthrow his columns in succession. And the highest art of all is to compel him to disperse his army, and then to concentrate superior force against each fraction in turn.

It is such strategy as this that “gains the ends of States and makes men heroes.” Napoleon did not discover it. Every single general who deserves to be entitled great has used it. Frederick, threatened by Austria, France, Russia, Saxony, and Sweden, used it in self-defence, and from the Seven Years’ War the little kingdom of Prussia emerged as a first-class Power. It was such strategy which won back the Peninsula; not the lines of Torres Vedras, but the bold march northwards to Vittoria.[9] It was on the same lines that Lee and Jackson acted. Lee, in compelling the Federals to keep their columns separated, manœuvred with a skill which has seldom been surpassed; Jackson, falling as it were from the skies into the midst of his astonished foes, struck right and left before they could combine, and defeated in detail every detachment which crossed his path.

It is when regarded in connection with the operations of the main armies that the Valley campaign stands out in its true colours; but, at the same time, even as an isolated incident, it is in the highest degree interesting. It has been compared, and not inaptly, with the Italian campaign of 1796. And it may even be questioned whether, in some respects, it was not more brilliant. The odds against the Confederates were far greater than against the French. Jackson had to deal with a homogeneous enemy, with generals anxious to render each other loyal support, and not with the contingents of different States. His marches were far longer than Napoleon’s. The theatre of war was not less difficult. His troops were not veterans, but, in great part, the very rawest of recruits. The enemy’s officers and soldiers were not inferior to his own; their leaders were at least equal in capacity to Colli, Beaulieu, and Alvinzi, and the statesmen who directed them were not more purblind than the Aulic Council. Moreover, Jackson was merely the commander of a detached force, which might at any moment be required at Richmond. The risks which Napoleon freely accepted he could not afford. He dared not deliver battle unless he were certain of success, and his one preoccupation was to lose as few men as possible. But be this as it may, in the secrecy of the Confederate movements, the rapidity of the marches, and the skilful use of topographical features, the Valley campaign bears strong traces of the Napoleonic methods. Seldom has the value of these methods been more forcibly illustrated. Three times was McDowell to have marched to join McClellan: first, at the beginning of April, when he was held back by Kernstown; second, on May 26, when he was held back by Front Royal and Winchester; third, on June 25, when he was held back by Jackson’s disappearance after Port Republic. Above all, the campaign reveals a most perfect appreciation of the surest means of dealing with superior numbers. “In my personal intercourse with Jackson,” writes General Imboden, “in the early part of the war, he often said that there were two things never to be lost sight of by a military commander. ‘Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never give up the pursuit as long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number. The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible manœuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.’[10] And again: ‘To move swiftly, strike vigorously, and secure all the fruits of victory, is the secret of successful war.’ ”

These maxims were the outcome of his studies, “drawn absolutely and merely,” says Lord Wolseley, “from his knowledge of war, as learned from the great leaders of former days;”[11] and if he made war by rule, as he had regulated his conduct as a cadet, it can hardly be denied that his rules were of the soundest. They are a complete summary of the tactics which wrought such havoc in the Valley. The order in which they are placed is interesting. “To mystify, mislead, and surprise,” is the first precept. How thoroughly it was applied! The measures by which his adversaries were to be deceived were as carefully thought out as the maps had been closely studied. The troops moved almost as often by country roads and farm tracks as by the turnpikes. The longer route, even when time was of importance, was often preferred, if it was well concealed, to the shorter. No precaution, however trivial, that might prevent information reaching the enemy was neglected. In order that he might give his final instructions to Colonel Munford before marching to Richmond, he told that officer to meet him at ten o’clock at night in Mount Sidney. “I will be on my horse,” he wrote, “at the north end of the town, so you need not inquire after me.”[12]Le bon général ordinaire” would have scoffed at the atmosphere of mystery which enveloped the Confederate camp. The march from Elk Run Valley to Port Republic, with its accompaniments of continuous quagmire and dreary bivouacs, he would have ridiculed as a most useless stratagem. The infinite pains with which Jackson sought to conceal, even from his most trusted staff officers, his movements, his intentions, and his thoughts, a commander less thorough would have pronounced useless. The long night ride to Richmond, on June 22, with its untoward delays and provoking contretemps, sounds like an excess of precaution which was absolutely pedantic.[13] But war, according to Napoleon, is made up of accidents. The country was full of spies; the Southern newspapers were sometimes indiscreet; and the simple fact that Jackson had been seen near Richmond would have warned McClellan that his right wing was in jeopardy. Few men would have taken such infinite trouble to hide the departure from the Valley and the march across Virginia to attack McClellan. But soldiers of experience, alive to the full bearing of seemingly petty details, appreciate his skill.[14] According to the dictum of Napoleon, “there are no such things as trifles in war.”

It was not, however, on such expedients that Jackson principally relied to keep his enemy in the dark. The use he made of his cavalry is perhaps the most brilliant tactical feature of the campaign. Ashby’s squadrons were the means whereby the Federals were mystified. Not only was a screen established which perfectly concealed the movements of the Valley army, but constant demonstrations, at far distant points, alarmed and bewildered the Federal commanders. In his employment of cavalry Jackson was in advance of his age. His patrols were kept out two or three marches to front and flank; neither by day nor by night were they permitted to lose touch of the enemy; and thus no movement could take place without their knowledge. Such tactics had not been seen since the days of Napoleon. The Confederate horsemen in the Valley were far better handled than those of France or Austria in 1859, of Prussia or Austria in 1866, of France in 1870, of England, France, or Russia in the Crimea.

In the flank march on Sebastopol the hostile armies passed within a few miles, in an open country, without either of them being aware of the proximity of the other, and the English headquarter staff almost rode into a Russian baggage-train. At Solferino and at Sadowa, armies which were counted by hundreds of thousands encamped almost within sight of each other’s watch-fires, without the slightest suspicion that the enemy lay over the next ridge. The practice of Napoleon had been forgotten. The great cloud of horsemen which, riding sometimes a hundred miles to the front, veiled the march of the Grand Army had vanished from memory. The vast importance ascribed by the Emperor to procuring early information of his enemy and hiding his own movements had been overlooked; and it was left to an American soldier to revive his methods.

The application of Jackson’s second precept, “to hurl your own force on the weakest part of the enemy’s,” was made possible by his vigorous application of the first. The Federals, mystified and misled by demonstrations of the cavalry, and unable to procure information, never knew at what point they should concentrate, and support invariably came too late. Jackson’s tactical successes were achieved over comparatively small forces. Except at Cross Keys, and there he only intended to check Frémont for the moment, he never encountered more than 10,000 men on any single field. No great victory, like Austerlitz or Salamanca, was won over equal numbers. No Chancellorsville, where a huge army was overthrown by one scarce half the size, is reckoned amongst the triumphs of the Valley campaign. But it is to be remembered that Jackson was always outnumbered, and outnumbered heavily, on the theatre of war; and if he defeated his enemies in detail, their overthrow was not less decisive than if it had been brought about at one time and at one place. The fact that they were unable to combine their superior numbers before the blow fell is in itself the strongest testimony to his ability. “How often,” says Napier, “have we not heard the genius of Buonaparte slighted, and his victories talked of as destitute of merit, because, at the point of attack, he was superior in numbers to his enemies! This very fact, which has been so often converted into a sort of reproach, constitutes his greatest and truest praise. He so directed his attack as at once to divide his enemy, and to fall with the mass of his own forces upon a point where their division, or the distribution of their army, left them unable to resist him. It is not in man to defeat armies by the breath of his mouth; nor was Buonaparte commissioned, like Gideon, to confound and destroy a host with three hundred men. He knew that everything depended ultimately upon physical superiority; and his genius was shown in this, that, though outnumbered on the whole, he was always superior to his enemies at the decisive point.”[15]

The material results of the Valley campaign were by no means inconsiderable. 8,500 prisoners were either paroled or sent to Richmond. 3,500 Federals were killed or wounded. An immense quantity of stores was captured, and probably as much destroyed. 9 guns were taken and over 10,000 rifles, while the loss of the Confederates was no more than 2,500 killed and wounded, 600 prisoners, and 3 guns. It may be added that the constant surprises, together with the successive conflict with superior numbers, had the worst effect on the moral of the Federal soldiers. The troops commanded by Frémont, Shields, Banks, Saxton, and Geary were all infected. Officers resigned and men deserted. On the least alarm there was a decided tendency to “stampede.” The generals thought only of retreat. Frémont, after Cross Keys, did not think that his men would stand, and many of his men declared that it was “only murder” to fight without reinforcements.[16]

When to those results is added the strategical effect of the campaign, it can hardly be denied that the success he achieved was out of all proportion to Jackson’s strength. Few generals have done so much with means so small. Not only were the Valley troops comparatively few in numbers, but they were volunteers, and volunteers of a type that was altogether novel. Even in the War of the Revolution many of the regimental officers, and indeed many of the soldiers, were men who had served in the Indian and French wars under the English flag. But there were not more than half a dozen regular officers in the whole Army of the Valley. Except Jackson himself, and his chief of artillery, not one of the staff had more than a year’s service. Twelve months previous several of the brigadiers had been civilians. The regimental officers were as green as the men; and although military offences were few, the bonds of discipline were slight. When the march to M’Dowell was begun, which was to end five weeks later at Port Republic, a considerable number of the so-called “effectives” had only been drilled for a few hours. The cavalry on parade was little better than a mob; on the line of march they kept or left the ranks as the humour took them. It is true that the Federals were hardly more efficient. But Jackson’s operations were essentially offensive, and offensive operations, as was shown at Bull Run, are ill-suited to raw troops. Attack cannot be carried to a triumphant issue unless every fraction of the force co-operates with those on either hand; and co-operation is hardly to be expected from inexperienced officers. Moreover, offensive operations, especially when a small force is manœuvring against the fraction of a larger, depend for success on order, rapidity, and endurance; and it is in these qualities, as a rule, that raw troops are particularly deficient. Yet Jackson, like Napoleon at Ulm, might have boasted with truth that he had “destroyed the enemy merely by marches,” and his men accomplished feats of which the hardiest veterans might well be proud.

From April 29 to June 5, that is, in thirty-eight days, they marched four hundred miles, fought three battles and numerous combats, and were victorious in all. Several of the marches exceeded twenty-five miles a day; and in retreat, from the Potomac to Port Republic, the army made one hundred and four miles between the morning of May 30 and the night of June 5, that is, fifteen miles daily without a rest day intervening. This record, if we take into consideration the infamous roads, is remarkable; and it well may be asked by what means these half-trained troops were enabled to accomplish such a feat?[17]

Jackson’s rules for marching have been preserved. “He never broke down his men by long-continued movement. He rested the whole column very often, but only for a few minutes at a time. He liked to see the men lie flat on the ground to rest, and would say, ‘A man rests all over when he lies down.’ ’[18] Nor did he often call upon his troops for extraordinary exertions. In the period between his departure from Elk Run Mountain to the battle of Port Republic there were only four series of forced marches.[19] “The hardships of forced marches,” he said, “are often more painful than the dangers of battle.” It was only, in short, when he intended a surprise, or when a rapid retreat was imperative, that he sacrificed everything to speed. The troops marched light, carrying only rifles, blankets, haversacks, and ammunition. When long distances were to be covered, those men who still retained their knapsacks were ordered to leave them behind. No heavy trains accompanied the army. The ambulances and ammunition waggons were always present; but the supply waggons were often far in rear. In their haversacks the men carried several days’ rations; and when these were consumed they lived either on the farmers, or on the stores they had captured from the enemy.

It is not to be supposed, however, that the ranks remained full. “I had rather,” said Jackson, “lose one man in marching than five in fighting,” and to this rule he rigorously adhered. He never gave the enemy warning by a deliberate approach along the main roads; and if there was a chance of effecting a surprise, or if the enemy was already flying, it mattered little how many men fell out. And fall out they did, in large numbers. Between May 17 and the battle of Cross Keys the army was reduced from 16,500 men to 18,000. Not more than 500 had been killed or wounded, so there were no less than 3,000 absentees. Many were footsore and found no place in the ambulances. Many were sick; others on detachment; but a large proportion had absented themselves without asking leave. Two days after Winchester, in a letter to Ewell, Jackson writes that “the evil of straggling has become enormous.”

Such severe exertion as the march against Kenly, the pursuit of Banks, and the retreat from the Potomac, would have told their tale upon the hardiest veterans. When the German armies, suddenly changing direction from west to north, pushed on to Sedan by forced marches, large numbers of the infantry succumbed to pure exhaustion. When the Light Division, in 1818, pressing forward after Sauroren to intercept the French retreat, marched nineteen consecutive hours in very sultry weather, and over forty miles of mountain roads, “many men fell and died convulsed and frothing at the mouth, while others, whose spirit and strength had never before been quelled, leant on their muskets and muttered in sullen tones that they yielded for the first time.”[20]

But the men that fell out on the march to Sedan and in the passes of the Pyrenees were physically incapable of further effort. They were not stragglers in the true sense of the term; and in an army broken to discipline straggling on the line of march is practically unknown. The sickly and feeble may fall away, but every sound man may confidently be relied upon to keep his place. The secret of full ranks is good officers and strict discipline; and the most marked difference between regular troops and those hastily organised is this—with the former the waste of men will be small, with the latter very great. In all armies, however constituted, there is a large proportion of men whose hearts are not in the business.[21]

When hard marching and heavy fighting are in prospect the inclination of such men is to make themselves scarce, and when discipline is relaxed they will soon find the opportunity. But when their instincts of obedience are strong, when the only home they know is with the colours, when the credit of their regiment is at stake—and even the most worthless have some feeling for their own corps—engrained habit and familiar associations overcome their natural weakness. The troop-horse bereft of his rider at once seeks his comrades, and pushes his way, with empty saddle, into his place in the ranks. And so the soldier by profession, faint-hearted as he may be, marches shoulder to shoulder with his comrades, and acquires a fictitious, but not unuseful, courage from his contact with braver men.

It is true that the want of good boots told heavily on the Confederates. A pair already half-worn, such as many of the men started with, was hardly calculated to last out a march of several hundred miles over rocky tracks, and fresh supplies were seldom forthcoming. There was a dearth both of shoe-leather and shoe-factories in the South; and if Mr. Davis, before the blockade was established, had indented on the shoemakers of Europe, he would have added very largely to the efficiency of his armies. A few cargoes of good boots would have been more useful than a shipload of rifled guns.

Nevertheless, the absentees from the ranks were not all footsore. The vice of straggling was by no means confined to Jackson’s command. It was the curse of both armies, Federal and Confederate. The Official Records, as well as the memoirs of participants, teem with references to it. It was an evil which the severest punishments seemed incapable of checking. It was in vain that it was denounced in orders, that the men were appealed to, warned, and threatened. Nor were the faint-hearted alone at fault. The day after Jackson’s victory at M’Dowell, Johnston, falling back before McClellan, addressed General Lee as follows:—

“Stragglers cover the country, and Richmond is no doubt filled with the absent without leave. . . . The men are full of spirit when near the enemy, but at other times to avoid restraint leave their regiments in crowds.”[22] A letter from a divisional general followed:—

“It is with deep mortification that I report that several thousand soldiers and many individuals with commissions have fled to Richmond under pretext of sickness. They have even thrown away their arms that their flight might not be impeded. Cannot these miserable wretches be arrested and returned to their regiments, where they can have their heads shaved and be drummed out of the service?’[23]

Jackson, then, had to contend with difficulties which a general in command of regular troops would not have been called on to provide against; and in other respects also he suffered from the constitution of his army. The one thing lacking in the Valley campaign was a decisive victory over a considerable detachment of the Federal army, the annihilation of one of the converging forces, and large capture of guns and prisoners. A victory as complete as Rivoli would have completed its dramatic interest. But for this Jackson himself was hardly to blame. The misconduct of the Confederate cavalry on May 24 and 25 permitted Banks to escape destruction; and the delay at the temporary bridge near Port Republic, due, mainly, to the disinclination of the troops to face the ford, and the want of resolute obedience on the part of their commanders, saved Frémont from the same fate. Had Shields’ advanced brigades been driven back, as Jackson designed, while the day was still young, the operations of the Valley army would in all probability have been crowned by a brilliant triumph over nearly equal forces. Frémont, already fearful and irresolute, was hardly the man to withstand the vigour of Jackson’s onset; and that onset would assuredly have been made if more careful arrangements had been ma