|The day after the capture of Winchester we spent in resting on the green
sward and reveling in the stores which we had captured from General Banks,
and the large number of sutlers who had brought to Winchester supplies of
every description. It was very amusing to see the relish with which our boys
would discard beef and "hardtack" and feast on potted meats, pickled oysters,
lobsters, genuine coffee, bakers' bread, ham, canned fruits, oranges, figs,
all kinds of confectionery, and various other luxuries to which, even at
that date, the Confederacy was a stranger.
Clothing of every pattern was abundant, and was eagerly seized on by the
"ragged rebels" until their regulation gray was fast disappearing and blue
uniforms becoming the prevailing fashion. "Old Jack" soon put a stop to this
transformation, however, by issuing an order to his provost guard to arrest
all men in blue uniform and treat them as prisoners of war until they gave
satisfactory proof that they were Confederates.
General Jackson himself was so completely exhausted that so soon as he ceased
his pursuit of the enemy he rode into Winchester, secured quarters at a hotel,
refused all offers of food, threw himself across a bed with his clothes,
boots, and even spurs on, and was soon fast asleep.
The next day was observed, as was Jackson's custom, as a day of rest and
thanksgiving for victory, and there was read to us a ringing general order
which recounted the marches and victories of the past four weeks, congratulated
the troops on their patient endurance and splendid courage, and concluded
"The explanation of the severe exertions to which the commanding general
called the army, which were endured by them with such cheerful confidence
in him, is now given in the victory of yesterday. He receives this proof
of their confidence in the past with pride and gratitude, and asks only a
similar confidence in the future.
"But his chief duty today and that of the army is to recognize devoutly the
hand of a protecting Providence in the brilliant successes of the last three
days (which have given us the results of a great victory without great losses);
and to make the oblation of our thanks to God for his mercies to us and our
country, in heartfelt acts of religious worship. For this purpose the troops
will remain in camp today, suspending as far as practicable all military
exercises, and the chaplains of regiments will hold divine services in their
several charges at 4 o'clock P.M."
It was an impressive scene as we gathered in large congregations at that
thanksgiving service, and among the most devout of the worshipers in the
service held at the Thirty third Virginia regiment was the iron chief who
had led us to the great victory gained. On Wednesday morning, May 28th, we
were in motion for the Potomac, and having driven the enemy back from Charlestown
to Harper's Ferry, were proceeding to invest this position, when the situation
suddenly changed into one which would have unnerved a less determined commander,
and have demoralized troops of less implicit confidence in their chief.
McClellan had been gradually closing in on Richmond, and was only waiting
for McDowell's column to swoop down from Fredericksburg in order to make
his grand assault. But the movements of Jackson and the rout of Banks so
alarmed the authorities at Washington that the following dispatch changed
the whole situation.
Washington, May 20, 1862.
General Fremont has been ordered by telegraph to move from Franklin on
Harrisonburg to relieve General Banks, and capture or destroy Jackson's and
Ewell's force. You are instructed, laying aside for the present the movement
on Richmond, to put twenty thousand men in motion at once for the Shenandoah,
moving on the line or in advance of the line of the Manassas Gap railroad.
Your object will be the capture of the forces of Jackson and Ewell, either
in cooperation with General Fremont, or in case want of supplies or of
transportation interferes with his movement, it is believed the force with
which you move will be sufficient to accomplish the object alone. The information
thus far received here makes it probable that if the enemy operates actively
against General Banks, you will not be able to count on much assistance from
him, but may even have to release him. Reports received this moment are that
Banks is fighting with Ewell eight miles from Winchester.
Major General McDowell.
General McDowell at once proceeded, though with a heavy heart as his dispatches
show, to execute this order. Fremont put his column in motion, and while
we were lingering in the lower valley two armies were closing in on our rear,
while a third was concentrating to push us on our retreat.
Jackson had left at Front Royal to guard the stores and prisoners there,
the gallant Twelfth Georgia Regiment, which, if rightly handled, could have
held the gaps in the mountains for some time against greatly superior forces,
but somehow the affair was badly managed, and the advance of Shield's dashed
into the village in right gallant style, and recaptured the prisoners, the
stores having been burned by an enterprising quartermaster.
The news reached Jackson just as he had posted the Second Virginia Regiment
on Loudon Heights, and was preparing to attack the enemy. How he received
these unpleasant tidings is best told by one of his staff (Colonel A.R. Boteler).
As Jackson, on information of Shield's advance, was returning on a special
train to Winchester, the following scene occurred: "At one of the wayside
stations a courier was seen galloping down from Winchester, and Jackson clutched
at the dispatch which he brought. 'What news?' he asked briefly.
"'Colonel Conner is cut off and captured at Front Royal, General."
"'Good!' was the quiet reply. 'What more?'
"'Shields is there with four thousand men.'
"'Good -- very good!'"
And after spending some time in deep abstraction, and then slowly reading
and tearing to pieces the dispatch (a common habit with him), he leaned forward
on his hands and immediately went to sleep. Not long afterward he roused
himself and said to Colonel Boteler: "I am going to send you to Richmond
for reinforcements. Banks has halted at Williamsport and is being reinforced
from Pennsylvania, Dix, you see, is in my front and is being reinforced by
the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. I have a dispatch informing me of the advance
of the enemy upon Front Royal, which is captured, and Fremont is now advancing
toward Wardensville. Thus, you see, I am nearly surrounded by a very large
"What is your own, General?"
"I will tell you, but you must not repeat what I say, except at Richmond.
To meet this force I have only 15,000 effective men."
"What will you do if they cut you off, General?"
After a moment's hesitation Jackson cooly replied:
"I will fall back on Maryland for reinforcements."
He evidently meant what he said, and it is a matter of curious speculation
as to what would have been the result of such a movement. Whether "My Maryland"
would have "come" at that time - - what impetus would have been given to
the panic which induced the Secretary of War to telegraph the Governor of
Massachusetts to "send all of the troops you can forward immediately. Banks
completely routed. Intelligence from various quarters leaves no doubt that
the enemy in great force are advancing on Washington." Whether Jackson would
have captured Washington or have been captured himself all of these questions
must be left to conjecture, for Jackson did not allow himself to be cut off,
and his "foot cavalry" proved fully equal to the emergency.
On the afternoon of the 30th of May we "entered the lists for a race" to
Strausburg. I can never forget that march. "Press forward," was the constant
order, and when the troops were well nigh exhausted, word was passed down
the column: "General Jackson desires the command to push forward much further
tonight in order to accomplish a very important object," and every man bent
his energies to meet the requirement of our loved chieftain, while the muddy,
weary road was enlivened by jest and song and cheers. The whole of the Stonewall
brigade marched that day thirty five miles, while the Second Virginia regiment
accomplished a march of more than forty miles without rations, and fairly
won the sobriquet of "foot cavalry."
Meantime the main army had hurried on to Strausburg, upon which point Fremont
was rapidly advancing, while Shields was waiting to join him from Front Royal.
The head of Ewell's column filed to the right at Strausburg, and was soon
engaged in a sharp skirmish with Fremont's advance, to whom we offered the
gage of battle, until the Stonewall brigade and the Second Virginia regiment
could come up. The object of the halt having been thus accomplished, Jackson
leisurely moved up the Valley with his prisoners and his immense wagon trains,
loaded with captured stores of every description.
The incidents of this retreat were stirring. Shields moved up the Luray Valley
with the evident purpose of crossing the Massanutton by New Market Gap, and
thus striking Jackson in flank if not in rear; but this purpose was defeated
by our watchful chief, who sent parties to burn the White House bridge over
the Shenandoah on the road to New Market, and the Columbia, some miles higher
up the river. General Fremont pressed our rear with energy and gallantry,
and some of the exploits of his cavalry displayed a heroism which elicited
the highest admiration of our men, although stern old "Stonewall" did say
to Colonel Patton, who expressed to him a regret that three gallant fellows
who charged alone through his regiment were killed: "Shoot them, Colonel,
I don't want them to be so brave."
A number of gallant charges were made on our rear guard, and temporary advantages
were gained, but Turner Ashby (who had recently won his wreath and stars,
and was the idol of our whole army,) brought up our rear, and met these gallant
dashes with a cool courage, which soon restored order, and usually inflicted
more loss than we received.
I recall many scenes of those marches as the "foot cavalry ran from three
armies" (for General Banks was now pressing on too), but I may not linger
to describe them in detail. One picture may serve for the whole. Starting
at "early dawn," we would tramp all day along the weary pike, the monotony
of the march only varied by the ringing of carbines, the sharp reports of
the horse artillery, or the shouts of charging squadrons, as Ashby received
the attack of the enemy, or in turn assumed the offensive; and as the shades
of evening gathered on the mountain tops, even the best men would fall out
of ranks and declare that they could go no further. But presently the word
is passed back, "the head of the column is going into camp." Immediately
the weary grow fresh again, the laggard hastens forward, and there on some
green sward, upon the banks of the beautiful Shenandoah (though we had but
the hard ground for our couch, rocks for our pillows, and the blue canopy
of heaven for our covering), we lay us down to a rest O! so sweet, after
the hard day's march. But before the bivouac is silent for the night, a little
company gathers at some convenient spot, hard by, and strikes up some old
familiar hymn, which serves as a prayer call, well understood. From all parts
of the camp men gather around this group, until a large congregation has
assembled, the song grows louder and clearer, and often as the passage of
God's word is read, and a few simple comments made before joining in prayer...
"Something on the soldier's cheek
Washed off the stain of powder."
I can vividly recall, even now, after the lapse of years, not a few beaming
faces who united in those evening services who were soon summoned to strike
golden harps and join in the song of the celestial choir. But the weary march
is soon to end, and "the foot cavalry," are to be at last "caught" by their
eager pursuers. Yet ere this ocurred the whole army, and indeed the whole
Confederacy, was to be thrown into the deepest grief at the tragic fall of
Sir Percy Wyndham, an Englishman, who had served as a Captain in the Austrian
army, and as Colonel under Garibaldi, and had been given a commission as
Colonel in the Federal army, led Fremont's advance on the morning of the
6th of June, when we marched from Harrisonburg across towards Port Republic,
and confidently expressed his belief that his long coveted opportunity of
"bagging Ashby" had arrived.
The result was, that by a very simple strategy, Ashby completely turned the
tables on his Lordship, and "bagged" him, together with sixty three of his
gallant troopers. But we had scarcely time to enjoy the account of this brilliant
little affair, when on the same afternoon we had from the rear the sad report,
"Ashby has fallen." Hurrying to ascertain the truth of the rumor (for he
was a near relative of mine), I learned the sad details from General Ewell
and others who were present. The enemy having pressed forward more vigorously
than usual (doubtless with a view of retarding our column until Shields,
who had continued to press up the Luray Valley, could reach Port Republic),
Ashby had called for infantry supports, and the Fifty eighth Virginia and
first Maryland regiments had been sent to him. With these he was executing
a movement on the famous "Pennsylvania Bucktails" (which proved eminently
successful after his fall), when, seeing that the enemy had the advantage
of position, he called on the Fifty eighth Virginia to charge, and had just
uttered his crisp order, "Virginians, charge," when his horse was shot under
him. He had extricated himself from the dying animal, and was shouting the
order, "Men, cease firing! Charge! for God's sake, charge!" when the fatal
bullet stopped the brilliant career of this splendid soldier.
A native of Fauquier county, and a gentleman of high descent and stainless
character, Turner Ashby had entered the service at the first sound of the
bugle, and when asked at Harper's Ferry "What flag are you going to fight
under, the Palmetto, or what?" he produced a Virginia flag and said "Here
is the flag I intend to fight under." He had followed that flag with all
of the devotion of knighthood, he had displayed upon numberless occasions
a cool courage or heroic daring which made him the pride of the army, and
the special idol of the Valley of Virginia, and he fell with a reputation
scarcely equalled by any of our cavaliers. His splendid white horse, his
raven locks, his chivalric bearing, his tender sympathies, stainless character,
and heroic deeds will live in the songs and traditions of that region as
long as those blue mountains shall sentinel the scenes of his exploits, or
the beautiful Shenandoah flows along its emerald bed.
His most fitting eulogy, however, was the following brief tribute in General
Jackson's report: "An official report is not an appropriate place for more
than a passing notice of the distinguished dead, but the close relation which
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
tone of character heroic, and his sagacity almost intuitive in divining the
purposes and movements of the enemy."
The gallant Marylanders, under Colonel B.T. Johnson, aided by the Fifty eighth
Virginia, had a bloody revenge on the "Bucktails" and drove them from the
field, capturing their Colonel (Kane) and inflicting heavy loss. Yet, as
this was not Jackson's chosen field of battle, he continued his retreat to
"Cross Keys," where Ewell was ordered to check Fremont, while with the rest
of his force Jackson advanced to pay his respects to General Shields, who
was hurrying up on the east side of the river, having been prevented from
crossing over at any point below by the burning of the bridges and the swollen
condition of the river. On the morning of the 8th of June Jackson had his
headquarters in the little village of Port Republic (located in the forks
of the Shenandoah) while most of his command were on the west side of the
river. He had a strong cavalry picket down the river to watch Shields, but
the Federal advance made a gallant dash on these which drove them back in
great confusion, and followed them so closely as to get possession of the
bridge and place a piece of artillery in position to sweep it. Jackson then
found himself suddenly in the critical situation of being cut off from his
army, with Shields holding the bridge by which, in case of disaster, they
should retreat. He did not hesitate to adopt the boldest course. Riding up
to the officer in charge of the piece of artillery, he sternly called out,
"Who ordered you to post that gun there, sir? Bring it over here! "The officer
mistook him for a Federal general and was preparing to obey the order when
Jackson galloped across the bridge and was soon leading in person one of
his regiments, which charged through the bridge, drove off the enemy and
saved the army from the threatened disaster.
At this same hour in the early morning of June 8th, Fremont advanced on Ewell
at Cross Keys. I remember that Rev. Dr. Geo. B. Taylor (now missionary at
Rome, Italy), the efficient chaplain of the Twenty fifth Virginia Regiment,
was preaching to our brigade at that early hour -- that he was interrupted
at "thirdly" by the advance of the enemy -- and that the noise of battle
soon succeeded the voice of the minister of the "Gospel of peace."
Fremont's attack was not as vigorous as was expected, was easily repulsed,
and in the afternoon Ewell assumed the offensive and drove the enemy back
But I have already exceeded my limits and must reserve for my next sketch
a brief statement of how Shields "caught" Jackson the next day at Port Republic,
of how Fremont and Shields both concluded that they had "caught a Tartar,"
and of how (after resting for a season) the "foot cavalry" suddenly appeared
on the Chickahominy, and assisted in McClellan's famous "change of base."
Cite: Southern Historical Society Papers
Vol IX. Richmond, Va., June, 1881 No. 6
Reminiscences Of The Army Of Northern Virginia
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Section: Main ::
Order of Battle