Stonewall Jackson and Harper's Ferry

 

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Stonewall Jackson Free Online Books | Stonewall Jackson in Civil War | Stonewall Jackson Biography | Stonewall Jackson Obituary | Stonewall Jackson's Last Words | Stonewall Jackson Birthday | Stonewall Jackson Quotes

STONEWALL JACKSON
Chapter V
Harper's Ferry

Stonewall Jackson Index | Stonewall Jackson at West Point | Stonewall Jackson and Mexican War | Stonewall Jackson Lexington | Stonewall Jackson and Secession | Stonewall Jackson and Harper's Ferry | Stonewall Jackson at Battle of Bull Run | Stonewall Jackson at Romney | Stonewall Jackson at Kernstown | Battle of McDowell | Battle of Winchester | Battle of Cross Keys and Port Republic | Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign | The Seven Days Battle | Battle of Frayser's Farm and Malvern Hill | Battle of Cedar Run | Second Battle of Bull Run | Battle of Second Bull Run Conclusion | Battle of Harper's Ferry | Battle of Sharpsburg | Battle of Fredericksburg | The Army of Northern Virginia | Stonewall Jackson's Winter Quarters | Battle of Chancellorsville | Battle of Chancellorsville Conclusion


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 SOUTHERN VOLUNTEERS  104

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,

THE SOUTHERN VOLUNTEERS  105

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

THE SOUTHERN VOLUNTEERS  106

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

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.

THE TASK OF THE NORTH  107

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

THE THEATRE OF WAR  108

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.

THE THEATRE OF WAR  109

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

THE THEATRE OF WAR  110

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.


Civil War Map in 1861

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

THE RESOURCES OF THE SOUTH  111

command of an army,1 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,2 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.3 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

1.  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.
2  Grant’s Memoirs, vol. i, p. 168.
3  Cf. U.S. Census Returns 1860.

THE SEA-POWER  112

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

THE SEA-POWER  113

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,

COLONEL OF VOLUNTEERS  114

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

COLONEL OF VOLUNTEERS  115

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

COLONEL OF VOLUNTEERS  116

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,

DISCIPLINE  117

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

DISCIPLINE  118

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

THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY  119

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

THE SHENDANDOAH VALLEY  120

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

THE BALTIMORE AND OHIO RAILWAY  121

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

THE BALTIMORE AND OHIO RAILWAY  122

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.”1

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

Battles and Leaders, vol. i.

THE FIRST BRIGADE  123

assigned to the command of the First Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah.1

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.2

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

1  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.
2  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.

THE FIRST BRIGADE  124

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,

JOHNSTON RETIRES  125

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?”1

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.2 Johnston, however, believed his troops unfitted for active manœuvres, and he was permitted to choose his own course. The incident is of small

1  O.R., vol. ii, p. 814.
Ibid., pp. 881, 889, 897, 898, 901, 923.

JOHNSTON RETIRES  126

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

STUART  127

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?’ ”1

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

1  Cooke, p. 47.

FALLING WATERS  128

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

FALLING WATERS  129

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.1 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

1  O.R., vol. ii, p. 157.

FALLING WATERS  130

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 STRATEGIC SITUATION  131

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.1 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,

1  O.R., vol. ii, p. 515.

THE STRATEGIC SITUATION  132

therefore, was to be postponed until the Washington column advanced.1

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,

1  O.R., vol. ii, p. 507.

STONEWALL JACKSON'S MARCH TO MANASSAS JUNCTION  133

unless a paymaster goes with them, they will be indecently clad and have just cause of complaint.”1

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.

1  O.R., vol. ii, pp. 169, 170.

STONEWALL JACKSON'S MARCH TO MANASSAS JUNCTION  134

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.1 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.2

1  “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.
2  Letter to Mrs. Jackson, Memoirs, p. 176.


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