|We were now on the flank, and would soon be in the rear of General Banks,
whose army numbered about 18,000, while ours numbered about 16,000. But he
was equally on our flank, and could, by a bold movement on Front Royal, have
recaptured his stores and prisoners, and planted himself in our rear. Whether
this would have been a wise thing for him to do is another question, and
he does not seem to have long hesitated as to "entering the lists" (as he
expresses it in his report) "for a race to the Potomac."
General Ewell, with Trimble's brigade and some cavalry, was sent on the morning
of Saturday, May 24th, by the direct road to Winchester, while Jackson moved
his main body across to Middletown, on the main "Valley Pike."
Coming in sight of Middletown, Jackson saw that the pike was filled with
a rapidly retreating column, and immediately he ordered Captain Poague, of
the famous Rockbridge artillery, to open on the moving mass, while General
Dick Taylor was ordered to charge with his splendid Louisiana brigade. The
best troops find a sudden attack on them while retreating in column a severe
test, and these broke in wildest confusion, the main body hurrying on towards
Winchester, while a part retreated back to Strausburg. Our brigade was hurried
forward at a double quick, but only got there in time to see the rear of
the retreating column, and witness the wild confusion presented by upturned
wagons, dead and wounded horses and men, muskets, knapsacks, etc., scattered
over the fields, while pursued and pursuers were disappearing in the distance.
Our column now pressed on along the main pike to Winchester, passing along
the whole route the deserted wagons of the enemy. At Newton there was a temporary
check to our advance, which gave the enemy time to fire their wagons, and
from that point we marched for miles (night had now set in) by the light
of burning wagons, baggage and stores. Jackson was himself at the head of
the column, and was frequently in great personal peril from the ambuscades
of the enemy, and the fire of their rear guard. It was a very weary, tedious
night march, but was enlivened by the music of our bands, the cheers that
would ring out along the whole column, and the jests of the men, which would
create loud bursts of laughter.
An hour before daybreak our column halted, and the men snatched a little
sleep, while Jackson himself stood sentinel at the head of the column, receiving
reports from the skirmishers, who pressed slowly on, and giving frequent
orders to direct their movements. "At early dawn" (a favorite hour with Stonewall
for beginning to march), Jackson gave the quiet order, which aroused the
column from its hasty slumber, and moved it forward on the enemy, who had
taken a strong position on the hills commanding the approach to Winchester.
Jackson personally reconnoitered the position, going so close to the skirmish
line of the enemy, that two officers were wounded at his side, and immediately
<shv9_235> made his dispositions. Gen. Ewell was on the direct road
from Front Royal, fighting his way towards the town; Gen. Jackson's division
and Taylor's brigade were advancing on the enemy to the left of the pike,
and Elzey's brigade was held in reserve on the pike.
Jackson seemed on this occasion the very personification of the genius of
battle, as he galloped from point to point on the field, and gave his sharp,
crisp orders. Riding up to the Thirty third Virginia regiment (the gallant
Colonel Neff commanding) in the midst of the battle, he said to the colonel,
pointing to a hill near by, "I expect the enemy to bring artillery to occupy
that hill, and they must not do it! Do you understand me, sir? They must
not do it! Keep a good look out, and your men well in hand, and if they attempt
to come, charge them with the bayonet, and seize their guns! Clamp them,
sir, on the spot!" And his clenched hand, ringing voice and energetic manner,
as he gave this order, all betokened that he meant just what he said. But
when the critical moment came he ordered forward his whole line, and gave
to all near him the emphatic order, 'Forward after the enemy!" The whole
line swept gallantly onward, the brave resistance of the enemy was of but
short duration, and while Ewell drove everything before him on the east of
the town, Taylor and Jackson's old division swept down from the western side
of the pike, Elzey moved rapidly forward on the pike, the enemy gave way
at every point and we pushed them pell mell into the streets of Winchester.
The scene that ensued beggars all description. The women and children of
Winchester, wild with delight, rushed out into the streets utterly regardless
of the death dealing missiles which flew thick and fast on every side. At
one point we had actually to advance a guard to clear the streets of women
that our men might fire on the retreating enemy. With waving handkerchiefs,
exclamations of delight and tears of joy, they hailed us as their deliverers.
One beautiful young lady exclaimed, "Oh! you brave, noble, ragged, dirty
darlings, you! I am so glad to see you."
A lady came up to Major Sherrard, of my regiment, (who was an acquaintance
of hers,) and said: "I want you to bring some of your men and take charge
of my prisoners." He went with her and found that she had locked up in her
parlor nine Federal soldiers (four of them officers) who had rushed in there
for safety. Colonel W.H.S. Baylor, of the Fifth Virginia regiment, as he
was hurrying his command through in pursuit of the enemy, put two prisoners
in charge of a lady, and gave her a pistol to guard them. She joyfully accepted,
and faithfully fulfilled the trust -- turning them over to the Provost Marshal
when he had established his quarters. As the ladies, many of whom were his
personal friends; crowded around General Jackson exclaiming, "Thank God we
are free! Thank God we are free once more," he is said to have waved his
cap in the air, and to have joined lustily in the cheers of the soldiers
and the citizens. But he did not linger amid these congratulations. He dashed
on after the retreating enemy, and soon sent back the characteristic order:
"Let every battery and every brigade push forward to the Potomac." He keenly
felt the absence of his cavalry at this juncture, and said in his official
report: "There is good reason for believing that 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's
army would have made its escape to the Potomac."
The gallant Colonel Ashby had gone off with his cavalry in pursuit of a force
in the direction of Romney, and was thus unfortunately absent at this important
It was soon found impossible for our broken down infantry to overtake the
fleeing foe, who threw away guns, knapsacks, and everything which could impede
their progress, and accordingly we were halted five miles from Winchester.
There were immense quantities of stores of every kind captured at both Winchester
and Martinsburg, and our fellows revelled in the supplies of every description,
which the sutlers had accumulated in Winchester.
It was the capture of these immense quantities of medical, ordnance, commissary,
and especially quartermaster stores, which originated the soubriquet by which
ever afterwards we knew General Banks, as "Stonewall Jackson's Quartermaster."
I remember that at the battle of Slaughter's Mountain when we learned from
a prisoner that General Banks was in command of the forces opposed to us,
it rang all along our line: "Send in your requisitions, boys, for whatever
you want in the way of clothing. Stonewall's Quartermaster -- General Banks
-- has come with a full supply to issue." We have a kindly feeling for General
Banks. He treated the people of the Valley much more leniently than his
successors in command there. He has shown on occasion (not always) that he
has some appreciation of the fact that the war closed with the surrender
of the Confederate armies. And he certainly did make us a first rate
quartermaster, and General Dick Taylor an admirable commissary. But it must
be confessed that he did not seem to manage matters well either in the Valley,
or on Red River. Yet we will give him a chance to be heard in his own behalf.
"It is seldom" says General Banks in his report, "that a river crossing of
such magnitude is achieved with greater success, and there never were more
grateful hearts in the same number of men than when, at midday of the 26th,
we stood on the opposite shore. My command had not suffered an attack and
rout. It had accomplished a premeditated march of nearly sixty miles in the
face of the enemy, defeating his plans, and giving him battle wherever he
An old "Rebel" must be pardoned for thinking that General Banks did not exert
himself very strenuously to find his enemy on that memorable campaign, and
that those were glorious days when we marched "down the Valley after 'Stonewall's
How we came back will be seen in our next Paper.
Cite: Southern Historical Society Papers
Vol. IX. Richmond, Va., May, 1881. No. 5.
Reminiscences Of The Army Of Northern Virginia.
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Section: Main ::
Order of Battle