Jacksons Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Phase 1 march 23 - may 251862

The dawn of 1862 was nearly the sunset of the Confederacy. As spring brought new life to the landscape, the obscure and eccentric Stonewall Jackson brought new hope to a besieged South. Jackson, the Confederate commander in the Shenandoah Valley, had a meager 6,000 troops with which to contest the 38,000 Federals under General Nathaniel P. Banks.

After forcing Jackson to retreat to Mount Jackson, Banks confidently began sending his troops east to reinforce McClellan's army. Learning this, Jackson boldly struck the Federals at Kernstown on March 23. The Federals defeated Jackson - the only defeat of his career - and inflicted 718 casualties, with the loss of 590. However, Jackson gained a strategic victory when Lincoln, believing that Jackson would not have attacked Banks unless he had a sizable force, cancelled the transfer of Banks's division to McClellan.

Cooperating with Major General Richard S. Ewell's 8,500-man division, Jackson spirited his troops to the mountain hamlet of McDowell, where he defeated a Federal force on May 8. Forcing the Federals to retreat, Jackson's Valley Army drove a wedge between the converging Federal forces of Banks and Major General John C. Fremont.

Turning his attention back to Banks, Jackson advanced down the Valley to New Market. Crossing the Massanutten Mountain into the Luray Valley, the Confederates surprised and overran a Federal outpost at Front Royal. Capturing the town on May 23, the Confederates assaulted Banks's rear. Banks retreated to Winchester, arriving just ahead of the Confederates. Banks attempted to defend the strategic city, but Jackson flanked his position with ease on May 25, and routed the Federals from their defenses. Jackson pursued the fleeing Federal army to the outskirts of Harper's Ferry.

Stonewall Jackson's small Valley Army had turned the tables on Banks and the Washington government, and now held control of the entire Shenandoah Valley.

Gen. Robert Huston Milroy (above) whose division was defeated by Jackson at McDowell, on May 8. Although he lacked sufficient numbers to halt the Confederate advance, Milroy's defense was spirited. When forced to withdraw he hampered his pursuers by setting fire to the woods along the road.

Though lacking co-ordination, and bewildered by the lightning advance of the Confederates, many Federal units exhibited a courageous and pugnacious spirit. Lieut. Col. Thomas Kane (below) led his 13 th Pennsylvania Reserves against Jackson at Harrisonburg on June 6. His small command was decimated and Kane was captured after being wounded.

Having concentrated his forces on the village of McDowell (above), Gen. Milroy, reinforced by Shenk's brigade from Franklin, pre-empted the Confederate attack and caught Jackson unawares. Lacking sufficient strength to follow-up his assault, Milroy retreated. Casualties were 256 Union and 498 Confederate.

At Winchester, Federal forces were initially able to withstand the Confederate assaults (below) but eventually the Union line broke, precipitating a confused retreat toward Harper's Ferry. A considerable stockpile of Union supplies were lost. Union casualties totaled 1,714, Confederate 400.


Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment