Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign
The material results of the Valley campaign were by no means inconsiderable. 8,500 prisoners were either paroled or sent to Richmond. 3,500 Federals were killed or wounded. An immense quantity of stores was captured, and probably as much destroyed. 9 guns were taken and over 10,000 rifles, while the loss of the Confederates was no more than 2,500 killed and wounded, 600 prisoners, and 3 guns. It may be added that the constant surprises, together with the successive conflict with superior numbers, had the worst effect on the moral of the Federal soldiers. The troops commanded by Frémont, Shields, Banks, Saxton, and Geary were all infected. Officers resigned and men deserted. On the least alarm there was a decided tendency to “stampede.” The generals thought only of retreat. Frémont, after Cross Keys, did not think that his men would stand, and many of his men declared that it was “only murder” to fight without reinforcements.1
When to those results is added the strategical effect of the campaign, it can hardly be denied that the success he achieved was out of all proportion to Jackson’s strength. Few generals have done so much with means so small. Not only were the Valley troops comparatively few in
1 O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 402.
numbers, but they were volunteers, and volunteers of a type that was altogether novel. Even in the War of the Revolution many of the regimental officers, and indeed many of the soldiers, were men who had served in the Indian and French wars under the English flag. But there were not more than half a dozen regular officers in the whole Army of the Valley. Except Jackson himself, and his chief of artillery, not one of the staff had more than a year’s service. Twelve months previous several of the brigadiers had been civilians. The regimental officers were as green as the men; and although military offences were few, the bonds of discipline were slight. When the march to M’Dowell was begun, which was to end five weeks later at Port Republic, a considerable number of the so-called “effectives” had only been drilled for a few hours. The cavalry on parade was little better than a mob; on the line of march they kept or left the ranks as the humour took them. It is true that the Federals were hardly more efficient. But Jackson’s operations were essentially offensive, and offensive operations, as was shown at Bull Run, are ill-suited to raw troops. Attack cannot be carried to a triumphant issue unless every fraction of the force co-operates with those on either hand; and co-operation is hardly to be expected from inexperienced officers. Moreover, offensive operations, especially when a small force is manœuvring against the fraction of a larger, depend for success on order, rapidity, and endurance; and it is in these qualities, as a rule, that raw troops are particularly deficient. Yet Jackson, like Napoleon at Ulm, might have boasted with truth that he had “destroyed the enemy merely by marches,” and his men accomplished feats of which the hardiest veterans might well be proud.
From April 29 to June 5, that is, in thirty-eight days, they marched four hundred miles, fought three battles and numerous combats, and were victorious in all. Several of the marches exceeded twenty-five miles a day; and in retreat, from the Potomac to Port Republic, the army made one hundred and four miles between the morning of May 30 and the night of June 5, that is, fifteen miles daily
without a rest day intervening. This record, if we take into consideration the infamous roads, is remarkable; and it well may be asked by what means these half-trained troops were enabled to accomplish such a feat?1
Jackson’s rules for marching have been preserved. “He never broke down his men by long-continued movement. He rested the whole column very often, but only for a few minutes at a time. He liked to see the men lie flat on the ground to rest, and would say, ‘A man rests all over when he lies down.’ ’2 Nor did he often call upon his troops for extraordinary exertions. In the period between his departure from Elk Run Mountain to the battle of Port Republic there were only four series of forced marches.3 “The hardships of forced marches,” he said, “are often more painful than the dangers of battle.” It was only, in short, when he intended a surprise, or when a rapid retreat was imperative, that he sacrificed everything to speed. The troops marched light, carrying only rifles, blankets, haversacks, and ammunition. When long distances were to be covered, those men who still retained their knapsacks were ordered to leave them behind. No heavy trains accompanied the army. The ambulances and ammunition waggons were always present; but the supply waggons were often far in rear. In their haversacks the men carried several days’ rations; and when these were consumed they lived either on the farmers, or on the stores they had captured from the enemy.
It is not to be supposed, however, that the ranks
1 “Campaigning in France,” says
General Sheridan, who was
with the Prussian Headquarter Staff in 1870, “that is, the marching,
camping, and subsisting of an army, is an easy matter, very unlike
anything we had in the War of the Rebellion. To repeat: the country
is rich, beautiful, and densely populated, subsistence abundant, and
the roads all macadamised highways; thus the conditions are
altogether different from those existing with us. . . . I can but
leave to conjecture how the Germans would have got along on
bottomless roads—often none at all—through the swamps and quicksands
of Northern Virginia.”—Memoirs, vol. ii, p. 450.
2 Battles and Leaders, vol. ii, pp. 297, 298.
3 From April 17 to April 19, when he moved to Elk Run Valley; May 6 to May 8, when he moved against Milroy; May 18 to May 25, when he moved against Banks; and May 29 to June 1, when he passed south between Frémont and Shields.
remained full. “I had rather,” said Jackson, “lose one man in marching than five in fighting,” and to this rule he rigorously adhered. He never gave the enemy warning by a deliberate approach along the main roads; and if there was a chance of effecting a surprise, or if the enemy was already flying, it mattered little how many men fell out. And fall out they did, in large numbers. Not more than 500 had been killed or wounded, so there were no less than 3,000 absentees. Many were footsore and found no place in the ambulances. Many were sick; others on detachment; but a large proportion had absented themselves without asking leave. Two days after Winchester, in a letter to Ewell, Jackson writes that “the evil of straggling has become enormous.”
Such severe exertion as the march against Kenly, the pursuit of Banks, and the retreat from the Potomac, would have told their tale upon the hardiest veterans. When the German armies, suddenly changing direction from west to north, pushed on to Sedan by forced marches, large numbers of the infantry succumbed to pure exhaustion. When the Light Division, in 1818, pressing forward after Sauroren to intercept the French retreat, marched nineteen consecutive hours in very sultry weather, and over forty miles of mountain roads, “many men fell and died convulsed and frothing at the mouth, while others, whose spirit and strength had never before been quelled, leant on their muskets and muttered in sullen tones that they yielded for the first time.”1
But the men that fell out on the march to Sedan and in the passes of the Pyrenees were physically incapable of further effort. They were not stragglers in the true sense of the term; and in an army broken to discipline straggling on the line of march is practically unknown. The sickly and feeble may fall away, but every sound man may confidently be relied upon to keep his place. The secret of full ranks is good officers and strict discipline; and the most marked difference between regular troops and those hastily
1 The War in the Peninsula, Napier, vol. v, p. 244.
organised is this—with the former the waste of men will be small, with the latter very great. In all armies, however constituted, there is a large proportion of men whose hearts are not in the business.1
When hard marching and heavy fighting are in prospect the inclination of such men is to make themselves scarce, and when discipline is relaxed they will soon find the opportunity. But when their instincts of obedience are strong, when the only home they know is with the colours, when the credit of their regiment is at stake—and even the most worthless have some feeling for their own corps—engrained habit and familiar associations overcome their natural weakness. The troop-horse bereft of his rider at once seeks his comrades, and pushes his way, with empty saddle, into his place in the ranks. And so the soldier by profession, faint-hearted as he may be, marches shoulder to shoulder with his comrades, and acquires a fictitious, but not unuseful, courage from his contact with braver men.
It is true that the want of good boots told heavily on the Confederates. A pair already half-worn, such as many of the men started with, was hardly calculated to last out a march of several hundred miles over rocky tracks, and fresh supplies were seldom forthcoming. There was a dearth both of shoe-leather and shoe-factories in the South; and if Mr. Davis, before the blockade was established, had indented on the shoemakers of Europe, he would have added very largely to the efficiency of his armies. A few cargoes of good boots would have been more useful than a shipload of rifled guns.
Nevertheless, the absentees from the ranks were not all footsore. The vice of straggling was by no means confined to Jackson’s command. It was the curse of both armies, Federal and Confederate. The Official Records, as well as the memoirs of participants, teem with references to it. It was an evil which the severest punishments seemed incapable of checking. It was in vain that it was
1 General Sheridan is said to have declared that 25 per cent of the Federal soldiers lacked the military spirit.
denounced in orders, that the men were appealed to, warned, and threatened. Nor were the faint-hearted alone at fault. The day after Jackson’s victory at M’Dowell, Johnston, falling back before McClellan, addressed General Lee as follows:—
“Stragglers cover the country, and Richmond is no doubt filled with the absent without leave. . . . The men are full of spirit when near the enemy, but at other times to avoid restraint leave their regiments in crowds.”1 A letter from a divisional general followed:—
“It is with deep mortification that I report that several thousand soldiers and many individuals with commissions have fled to Richmond under pretext of sickness. They have even thrown away their arms that their flight might not be impeded. Cannot these miserable wretches be arrested and returned to their regiments, where they can have their heads shaved and be drummed out of the service?’2
Jackson, then, had to contend with difficulties which a general in command of regular troops would not have been called on to provide against; and in other respects also he suffered from the constitution of his army. The one thing lacking in the Valley campaign was a decisive victory over a considerable detachment of the Federal army, the annihilation of one of the converging forces, and large capture of guns and prisoners. A victory as complete as Rivoli would have completed its dramatic interest. But for this Jackson himself was hardly to blame. The misconduct of the Confederate cavalry on May 24 and 25 permitted Banks to escape destruction; and the delay at the temporary bridge near Port Republic, due, mainly, to the disinclination of the troops to face the ford, and the want of resolute obedience on the part of their commanders, saved Frémont from the same fate. Had Shields’ advanced brigades been driven back, as Jackson designed, while the day was still young, the operations of the Valley army would in all probability have been crowned by a brilliant triumph over nearly
1 O.R., vol. xi, part iii,p. 503.
2 Ibid, p. 506.
equal forces. Frémont, already fearful and irresolute, was hardly the man to withstand the vigour of Jackson’s onset; and that onset would assuredly have been made if more careful arrangements had been made to secure the bridge. This was not the only mistake committed by the staff. The needlessly long march of the main body when approaching Front Royal on May 28 might well have been obviated. But for this delay the troops might have pushed on before nightfall to within easy reach of the Valley turnpike, and Banks have been cut off from Winchester.
It is hardly necessary to say that, even with regular troops, the same mistakes might have occurred. They are by no means without parallel, and even those committed by the Federals have their exact counterpart in European warfare. At the beginning of August, 1870, the French army, like Banks’ division on May 28, 1862, was in two portions, divided by a range of mountains. The staff was aware that the Germans were in superior strength, but their dispositions were unknown. Like Banks, they neglected to reconnoitre; and when a weak detachment beyond the mountains was suddenly overwhelmed, they still refused to believe that attack was imminent. The crushing defeats of Wörth and Spicheren were the result.
The staff of a regular army is not always infallible. It would be hard to match the extraordinary series of blunders made by the staffs of the three armies—English, French, and Prussian—in the campaign of Waterloo, and yet there was probably no senior officer present in Belgium who had not seen several campaigns. But the art of war has made vast strides since Waterloo, and even since 1870. Under Moltke’s system, which has been applied in a greater or less degree to nearly all professional armies, the chance of mistakes has been much reduced. The staff is no longer casually educated and selected haphazard; the peace training of both officers and men is far more thorough; and those essential details on which the most brilliant conceptions, tactical and strategical, depend for success stand much less chance of being overlooked than in 1815. It is by the standard of a modern army, and not of those
whose only school in peace was the parade-ground, that the American armies must be judged.
That Jackson’s tactical skill, and his quick eye for ground, had much to do with his victories can hardly be questioned. At Kernstown and Port Republic he seized the key of the position without a moment’s hesitation. At Winchester, when Ewell was checked upon the right, three strong brigades, suddenly thrown forward on the opposite flank, completely rolled up the Federal line. At Cross Keys the position selected for Ewell proved too formidable for Frémont, despite his superiority in guns. At Port Republic, Taylor’s unexpected approach through the tangled forest was at once decisive of the engagement. The cavalry charge at Front Royal was admirably timed; and the manner in which Ashby was employed throughout the campaign, not only to screen the advance but to check pursuit, was a proof of the highest tactical ability. Nor should the quick insight into the direction of Shields’ march on June 1, and the destruction of the bridges by which he could communicate with Frémont, be omitted. It is true that the operations in the Valley were not absolutely faultless. When Jackson was bent on an effective blow his impatience to bring the enemy to bay robbed him more than once of complete success. On the march to M’Dowell Johnson’s brigade, the advanced guard, had been permitted to precede the main body by seven miles, and, consequently, when Milroy attacked there was not sufficient force at hand for a decisive counterstroke. Moreover, with an ill-trained staff a careful supervision was most essential, and the waggon bridge at Port Republic should have been inspected by a trustworthy staff officer before Winder rushed across to fall on Tyler.
Errors of this nature, however instructive they may be to the student of war, are but spots upon the sun; and in finding in his subordinate such breadth of view and such vigour of execution, Lee was fortunate indeed. Jackson was no less fortunate when Ashby came under his command. That dashing captain of free-lances was undoubtedly a most valuable colleague. It was something to have a
cavalry leader who could not only fight and reconnoitre, but who had sagacity enough to divine the enemy’s intentions. But the ideas that governed the employment of the cavalry were Jackson’s alone. He it was who placed the squadrons across Frémont’s road from Wardensville, who ordered the demonstrations against Banks, before both M’Dowell and Front Royal, and those which caused Frémont to retreat after Port Republic. More admirable still was the quickness with which he recognised the use that might be made of mounted riflemen. From the Potomac to Port Republic his horsemen covered his retreat, dismounting behind every stream and along the borders of every wood, checking the pursuers with their fire, compelling them to deploy their infantry, and then retreating rapidly to the next position. Day after day were the Federal advanced guards held in check, their columns delayed, and the generals irritated by their slippery foe. Meanwhile, the Confederate infantry, falling back at their leisure, were relieved of all annoyance. And if the cavalry was suddenly driven in, support was invariably at hand, and a compact brigade of infantry, supported by artillery, sent the pursuing horsemen to the right-about. The retreat of the Valley army was managed with the same skill as its advance, and the rear-guard tactics of the campaign are no less remarkable than those of the attack.
To judge from the Valley campaign, Jackson handled his horsemen with more skill than any other commander, Confederate or Federal. A cavalry that could defend itself on foot as well as charge in the saddle was practically a new arm, of far greater efficiency than cavalry of the old type, and Jackson at once recognised, not only its value; but the manner in which it could be most effectively employed. He was not led away by the specious advantages, so eagerly urged by young and ambitious soldiers, of the so-called raids. Even Lee himself, cool-headed as he was, appears to have been fascinated by the idea of throwing a great body of horsemen across his enemy’s communications, spreading terror amongst his supply trains, cutting his
telegraphs, and destroying his magazines. In hardly a single instance did such expeditions inflict more than temporary discomfort on the enemy; and the armies were led more than once into false manœuvres, for want of the information which only the cavalry could supply. Lee at Malvern Hill and Gettysburg, Hooker at Chancellorsville, Grant at Spotsylvania, owed defeat, in great measure, to the absence of their mounted troops. In the Valley, on the contrary, success was made possible because the cavalry was kept to its legitimate duty—that is, to procure information, to screen all movements, to take part in battle at the decisive moment, and to carry out the pursuit.
With all his regard for Napoleon’s maxims, Jackson was no slave to rule. In war, circumstances vary to such an extent that a manœuvre, which at one time is manifestly unsound, may at another be the most judicious. The so-called rules are never binding; they merely point out the risks which are generally entailed by some particular course of action. There is no principle on which Napoleon lays more stress than that a general should never divide his force, either on the field of battle or the theatre of war. But when he marched to M’Dowell and left Ewell at Swift Run Gap, Jackson deliberately divided his forces and left Banks between them, knowing that the apparent risk, with an opponent like Banks, was no risk at all. At the battle of Winchester, too, there was a gap of a mile between the brigades on the left of the Kernstown road and Ewell on the right; and owing to the intervening hills, one wing was invisible to the other. Here again, like Moltke at Königgrätz, Jackson realised that the principle might be disregarded not only with impunity but with effect. He was not like Lord Galway, “a man who was in war what Molière’s doctors were in medicine, who thought it much more honourable to fail according to rule than to succeed by innovation.”1
But the triumphs of the Valley campaign were not due alone to the orders issued by Lee and Jackson. The Confederate troops displayed extraordinary endurance. When
the stragglers were eliminated their stauncher comrades proved themselves true as steel. In every engagement the regiments fought with stubborn courage. They sometimes failed to break the enemy’s line at the first rush; but, except at Kernstown, the Federals never drove them from their position, and Taylor’s advance at Winchester, Trimble’s counterstroke at Cross Keys, the storming of the battery at Port Republic, and the charge of the cavalry at Cedarville, were the deeds of brave and resolute men.
A retreat is the most exhausting of military movements. It is costly in men, “more so,” says Napoleon, “than two battles,” and it shakes the faith of the soldiers in their general and in themselves. Jackson’s army retreated for seven days before Frémont, dwindling in numbers at every step, and yet it never fought better than when it turned at bay. From first to last it believed itself superior to its enemies; from first to last it was equal to the tasks which its exacting commander imposed upon it, and its spirit was indomitable throughout. “One meal a week and three fights a day,” according to one of Jackson’s Irishmen, was the rule in the campaigns of 1862. The forced marches were not made in luxury. Not seldom only half-rations were issued, and more often none at all. The weather, for many days in succession, was abominable, and the forest bivouacs were comfortless in the extreme. On May 25 twenty per cent of Trimble’s brigade went into action barefoot; and had it not been for the stores captured in Winchester, the march to the Potomac, and the subsequent unmolested retreat to Woodstock, would have been hardly possible.
If the troops were volunteers, weak in discipline and prone to straggling, they none the less bore themselves with conspicuous gallantry. Their native characteristics came prominently to the front. Patient under hardships, vigorous in attack, and stubborn in defence, they showed themselves worthy of their commander. Their enthusiastic patriotism was not without effect on their bearing before the enemy. Every private in the ranks believed that he was fighting in the sacred cause of liberty, and the spirit
which nerved the resolution of the Confederate soldier was the same which inspired the resistance of their revolutionary forefathers. His hatred of the Yankee, as he contemptuously styled the Northerner, was even more bitter than the wrath which Washington’s soldiers felt towards England; and it was intensified by the fact that his detested foeman had not only dared to invade the South, but had proclaimed his intention, in no uncertain tones, of dealing with the Sovereign States exactly as he pleased.
But it was something more than native courage and enthusiastic patriotism which inspired the barefooted heroes of Winchester. It would be difficult to prove that in other parts of the theatre of war the Confederate troops were inferior to those that held the Valley. Yet they were certainly less successful, and in very many instances they had failed to put forth the same resolute energy as the men who followed Jackson.
But it is hardly possible to discuss the spirit of an army apart from that of its commander. If, in strategy wholly, and in tactics in great part, success emanates from a single brain, the moral of the troops is not less dependent on the influence of one man. “Better an army of stags,” runs the old proverb, “led by a lion, than an army of lions led by a stag.”
Their leader’s character had already made a sensible impression on the Valley soldiers. Jackson was as untheatrical as Wellington. He was hardly to be distinguished, even by his dress, from the private in the ranks. Soon after his arrival at Richmond he called on Mrs. Pendleton, the wife of the reverend captain of the Rockbridge battery. The negro servant left him standing in the hall, thinking that this quiet soldier, clad in a faded and sunburnt uniform, need not be treated with further ceremony.1 Headquarters in camp were an ordinary bell-tent, or a room in the nearest cottage, and they were often without guard or sentry. In bivouac the general rolled himself in his blankets, and lay down under a tree or in a fence corner. He could sleep
1 Memoirs of W. N. Pendleton, D.D., Brigadier-General, C.S.A., p. 201.
anywhere, in the saddle, under fire, or in church; and he could compel sleep to come to him when and where he pleased. He cared as little for good quarters as a mountain hunter, and he was as abstemious as a Red Indian on the war-path. He lived as plainly as the men, and often shared their rations. The majority of the cavalry were better mounted, and many of his officers were better dressed. He was not given to addressing his troops, either in mass or as individuals. His praises he reserved for his official reports, and then he was generous. In camp he was as silent as the Sphinx, and he never posed, except in action, as the commander of an army. Off duty he was the gentlest and most unpretentious of men, and the most approachable of generals. He was always scrupulously polite; and the private soldier who asked him a question might be sure of a most courteous reply. But there was no man with whom it was less safe to take liberties; and where duty was concerned he became a different being. The gentle tones grew curt and peremptory, and the absent demeanour gave place to a most purposeful energy. His vigilance was marvellous: his eye was everywhere; he let nothing pass without his personal scrutiny. The unfortunate officer accused of indolence or neglect found the shy and quiet professor transformed into the most implacable of masters. No matter how high the rank of the offender, the crime met with the punishment it deserved. The scouts compared him with Lee. The latter was so genial that it was a pleasure to report to him. Jackson cross-questioned them on every detail, treating them as a lawyer does a hostile witness, and his keen blue eyes seemed to search their very souls.
Nor did the men escape when they misbehaved. Ashby’s cavalry were reprimanded in general orders for their indiscipline at Middletown, and again at Port Republic; and if either officer or regiment displeased the general, it was duly mentioned in his published reports.1
1 It is worth remark that Jackson’s methods of punishment showed his deep knowledge of his soldiers. The sentence on the men who were tempted from their duty, during Banks’ retreat, by the plunder on the Winchester road was that they should not be allowed to serve with the advanced guard until further orders. It was considered terribly severe. O.R., vol. xii, part iii, p. 902.
But the troops knew that their grave leader, so uncommunicative in camp, and so unrelenting to misconduct, was constantly occupied with their well-being. They knew that he spared them, when opportunity offered, as he never spared himself. His camaraderie was expressed in something more than words. The hospitals constructed in the Valley excited the admiration even of the Federals, and Jackson’s wounded were his first care. Whatever it might cost the army, the ambulances must be got safely away, and the sick and disabled soldiers transferred to their own people. But, at the same time, the troops had long since learned that, as administered by Jackson, the military code was a stern reality. They had seen men shot for striking their officers, and they knew that for insubordination or disobedience it was idle to plead excuse. They had thought their general harsh, and even cruel; but as their experience increased they recognised the wisdom of his severity, and when they looked upon that kindly face, grave and determined as it was, they realised how closely his firmness was allied to tenderness. They had learned how highly he esteemed them. Once, in his twelve months of command, he had spoken from his heart. When, on the heights near Centreville, he bade farewell to his old brigade, his pride in their achievements had broken through the barriers of his reserve, and his ringing words had not yet been forgotten. If he was swift to blame, his general orders and official dispatches gave full credit to every gallant action, and each man felt himself a hero because his general so regarded him.
They had learned, too, that Jackson’s commendation was worth having. They had seen him in action, the coolest of them all, riding along the line of battle with as much composure as if the hail of bullets was no more than summer rain. They had seen him far in advance of the charging lines, cheering them to the pursuit; and they knew the tremendous vigour of his flank attacks.
But it was not only confidence in the skill of their
commander that inspired the troops. It was impossible not to admire the man who, after a sleepless night, a long march, and hard fighting, would say to his officers, “We must push on—we must push on!” as unconcernedly as if his muscles were of steel and hunger an unknown sensation. Such fortitude was contagious. The men caught something of his resolution, of his untiring energy, and his unhesitating audacity. The regiments which drove Banks to the Potomac were very different from those that crawled to Romney through the blinding sleet, or that fell back with the loss of one-sixth their number from the Kernstown Ridge. It has been related of Jackson that when he had once made up his mind, “he seemed to discard all idea of defeat, and to regard the issue as assured. A man less open to the conviction that he was beaten could not be imagined.” To this frame of mind he brought his soldiers. Jackson’s brigade at Bull Run, Jackson’s division in the Valley, Jackson’s army corps later in the war, were all imbued with the characteristics of their leader. The exertions that he demanded of them seemed beyond the powers of mortal men, but with Jackson leading them the troops felt themselves able to accomplish impossibilities. “I never saw one of Jackson’s couriers approach,” said Ewell, “without expecting an order to assault the North Pole!” But had the order been given neither Ewell nor the Valley troops would have questioned it.
With the senior officers of his little army Jackson’s relations were in some instances less cordial than with the men. His staff was devoted to him, for they had learned to know him. At the beginning of the Valley campaign some of them thought him mad; before it was over they believed him to be a genius. He lived with his military family on the most intimate terms, and his unfailing courtesy, his utter absence of self-assertion, his sweet temper, and his tactful consideration for others, no matter how humble their rank, were irresistible. On duty, indeed, his staff officers fared badly. Tireless himself, regardless of all personal comforts, he seemed to think that others were fashioned in the same mould. After
a weary day’s marching or fighting, it was no unusual thing for him to send them for a ride of thirty or forty miles through the night. And he gave the order with no more thought than if he were sending them with a message to the next tent. But off duty he was simply a personal friend, bent on making all things pleasant. “Never,” says Dr. Hunter McGuire, “can I forget his kindness and gentleness to me when I was in great sorrow and trouble. He came to my tent and spent hours with me, comforting me in his simple, kindly, Christian way, showing a depth of friendship and affection which can never be forgotten. There is no measuring the intensity with which the very soul of Jackson burned in battle. Out of it he was very gentle. Indeed, as I look back on the two years that I was daily, indeed hourly, with him, his gentleness as a man, his tenderness to those in trouble or affliction—the tenderness indeed of a woman—impress me more than his wonderful prowess as a warrior.”
It was with his generals and colonels that there was sometimes a lack of sympathy. Many of these were older than himself. Ewell and Whiting were his seniors in point of service, and there can be little doubt that it was sometimes a little hard to receive peremptory orders from a younger man. Jackson’s secrecy was often irritating. Men who were over-sensitive thought it implied a want of confidence. Those overburdened with dignity objected to being treated like the private soldiers; and those over-conscious of superior wisdom were injured because their advice was not asked. Before the march to Richmond there was much discontent. General Whiting, on reaching Staunton with his division, rode at once to Port Republic to report. “The distance,” says General Imboden, “was twenty miles, and Whiting returned after midnight. He was in a towering passion, and declared that Jackson had treated him outrageously. I asked, ‘How is that possible, General?—he is very polite to everyone.’
“ ‘Oh, hang him! he was polite enough. But he didn’t say one word about his plans. I finally asked him for orders, telling him what troops I had. He
simply told me to go back to Staunton, and he would send me orders to-morrow. I haven’t the slightest idea what they will be. I believe he has no more sense than my horse.’ ”1
The orders, when they came, simply directed him to take his troops by railway to Gordonsville, through which they had passed two days before, and gave no reason whatever for the movement.
General Whiting was not the only Confederate officer who was mystified. When the troops left the Valley not a single soul in the army, save Jackson alone, knew the object of their march. He had even gone out of his way to blind his most trusted subordinates.
“During the preceding afternoon,” says Major Hotchkiss, “he sent for me to his tent, and asked me to bring maps of the country from Port Republic to Lexington (at the head of the Valley), as he wished to examine them. I took the map to his tent, and for about half an hour we talked concerning the roads and streams, and points of offence and defence of that region, just as though he had in mind a march in that direction. After this interval had passed he thanked me and said that that would do. About half an hour later he sent for me again, and remarked that there had been some fighting down about Richmond, referring, of course, to the battle of Seven Pines, and that he would like to see the map of the field of the operations. I brought the maps of the district round Richmond, and we spent nearly twice as much time over those, talking about the streams, the roads, the condition of the country, and so forth. On retiring to my tent I said to myself, “Old Jack” is going to Richmond.”2
Even the faithful Dabney was left in the dark till the troops had reached Mechum’s Station. There, calling him into a room in the hotel, the general locked the door and explained the object of his march. But it was under seal of secrecy; and Ewell, the second in command, complained to the chief of the staff that Jackson had gone off by train, leaving him without orders, or even a hint of what was in
Battles and Leaders, p. 297.
2 Letter to the author.
the wind. In fact, a few days after the battle of Port Republic, Ewell had sent some of his staff on leave of absence, telling them that large reinforcements were coming up, and that the next move would be “to beat up Banks’ quarters about Strasburg.”
When Jackson was informed of the irritation of his generals he merely smiled, and said, “If I can deceive my own friends I can make certain of deceiving the enemy.” Nothing shook his faith in Frederick the Great’s maxim, which he was fond of quoting: “If I thought my coat knew my plans, I would take it off and burn it.” An anecdote told by one of his brigadiers illustrates his reluctance to say more than necessary. Previous to the march to Richmond this officer met Jackson riding through Staunton. “Colonel,” said the general, “have you received the order?” “No, sir.” “Want you to march.” “When, sir?” “Now.” “Which way?” “Get in the cars—go with Lawton.” “How must I send my train and the battery?” “By the road.” “Well, General, I hate to ask questions, but it is impossible to send my waggons off without knowing which road to send them.” “Oh!”—laughing—“send them by the road the others go.”
At last, when they saw how constant fortune was to their reticent leader, his subordinates ceased to complain; but unfortunately there was another source of trouble. Jackson had no regard whatever for persons. Reversing the usual procedure, he held that the choleric word of the soldier was rank blasphemy in the captain; the higher the rank of the offender the more severe, in his opinion, should be the punishment. Not only did he hold that he who would rule others must himself set the example of punctiliousness, but that to whom much is given, from him much is to be expected. Honour and promotion fall to the lot of the officer. His name is associated in dispatches with the valorous deeds of he command, while the private soldier fights on unnoticed in the crowd. To his colonels, therefore, Jackson was a strict master, and stricter to his generals. If he had reason to believe that his subordinates were indolent or disobedient, he visited their shortcomings with
a heavy hand. No excuse availed. Arrest and report followed immediately on detection, and if the cure was rude, the plague of incompetency was radically dealt with. Spirited young soldiers, proud of their high rank, and in no way underrating their own capacity, rebelled against such discipline; and the knowledge that they were closely watched, that their omissions would be visited on their heads with unfaltering severity, sometimes created a barrier between them and their commander.
But it was only wilful disobedience or actual insubordination that roused Jackson’s wrath. “If he found in an officer,” says Dabney, “a hearty and zealous purpose to do all his duty, he was the most tolerant and gracious of superiors, overlooking blunders and mistakes with unbounded patience, and repairing them through his own exertions, without even a sign of vexation.” The delay at the bridge on the morning of Port Republic, so fatal to his design of crushing Frémont, caused no outburst of wrath. He received his adjutant-general’s report with equanimity, regarding the accident as due to the will of Providence, and therefore to be accepted without complaint.1
Whether the nobler side of Jackson’s character had a share in creating the confidence which his soldiers already placed in him must be matter of conjecture. It was well known in the ranks that he was superior to the frailties of human nature; that he was as thorough a Christian as he was a soldier; that he feared the world as little as he did the enemy.2 In all things he was consistent; his sincerity was as clear as the noonday sun, and his faith as firmly rooted as the Massanuttons. Publicly and privately, in official dispatches and in ordinary conversation, the success of his army was ascribed to the Almighty. Every victory, as
1 Dabney, Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. xi,
2 His devout habits were no secret in the camp. Jim, most faithful of servants, declared that he could always tell when there was going to be a battle. “The general,” he said, “is a great man for prayin’. He pray night and morning—all times. But when I see him git up several times in the night, an’ go off an’ pray, den I know there is goin’ to be somethin’ to pay,” an’ I go right away and pack his haversack!”
soon as opportunity offered, was followed by the order: “The chaplains will hold divine service in their respective regiments.” “The General Commanding,” ran the order after Winchester, “would warmly express to the officers and men under his command his joy in their achievements, and his thanks for their brilliant gallantry in action, and their patient obedience under the hardships of forced marches, often more painful to the brave soldier than the danger of battle. 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 of to-day and that of the army is to recognise 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 service to us and our country in heartfelt acts of religious worship. For this purpose the troops will remain in camp to-day, suspending, as far as possible, all military exercises; and the chaplains of regiments will hold divine service in their several charges at 4 o’clock p.m.”1
Whenever it was possible Sunday was always set apart for a day of rest; and the claims of the day were seldom altogether disregarded.2 On the morning of Cross Keys it is related that a large portion of Elzey’s brigade were at service, and that the crash of the enemy’s artillery interrupted the “thirdly” of the chaplain’s sermon.
It has been sometimes asserted that Jackson was of the same type as the saints militant who followed Cromwell, who, when they were not slaughtering their enemies, would expound the harsh tenets of their unlovely creed to the grim circle of belted Ironsides. He has been described
Dabney, vol. ii, pp. 114–5.
2 “Sometimes,” says Major Hotchkiss, “Jackson would keep two or three Sundays running, so as to make up arrears, and balance the account!’
as taking the lead at religious meetings, as distributing tracts from tent to tent, as acting as aide-de-camp to his chaplains, and as consigning to perdition all those “whose doxy was not his doxy.”
Nothing is further from the truth. “His views of each denomination,” says his wife, “had been obtained from itself, not from its opponents. Hence he could see excellences in all. Even of the Roman Catholic Church he had a much more favourable impression than most Protestants, and he fraternised with all Evangelical denominations. During a visit to New York, one Sabbath morning, we chanced to find ourselves at the door of an Episcopal Church at the hour of worship. He proposed that we should enter; and as it was a day for the celebration of the Communion, he remained for that service, and it was with the utmost reverence and solemnity that he walked up the chancel and knelt to receive the elements.”
Jackson, then, was by no means imbued with the belief that the Presbyterian was the one true Church, and that all others were in error. Nor did he attempt, in the very slightest degree, to usurp the functions of his chaplains. Although he invariably went to sleep during their sermons, he was deeply interested in their endeavours, and gave them all the assistance in his power. But he no more thought of taking their duties on himself than of interfering with the treatment of the men in hospital. He spoke no “words in season,” even to his intimates. He had no “message” for them. Where religion was concerned, so long as duly qualified instructors were available, he conceived it his business to listen and not to teach. Morning and evening prayers were the rule at his headquarters, but if any of his staff chose to remain absent, the general made no remark. Yet all suspicion of indifference to vice was effectually removed. Nothing ungenerous or unclean was said in his presence without incurring his displeasure, always unmistakably expressed, and although he made no parade of his piety he was far too manly to hide it.
Yet he was never a prominent figure at the camp services. Rather than occupy a conspicuous place he
would seat himself amongst the privates; and the only share he took in directing the proceedings was to beckon men to the seats that respect had left empty beside him. Those who picture him as an enthusiastic fanatic, invading, like the Puritan dragoons, the pulpits of the chaplains, and leading the devotions of his troops with the same fervour that he displayed in battle, have utterly misread his character. The humblest soldier in the Confederate army was not more modest and unassuming than Stonewall Jackson.
Frémont’s return of April 30 is as follows:—
of May 10:—
of May 31:—
Schenck reports that the total force engaged at M’Dowell was 1,768 of Milroy’s brigade, and about 500 of his own, total 2,268; and that he himself brought to M’Dowell 1,300 infantry, a battery, and 250 cavalry—say, 1,600 men.
Milroy’s command may fairly be estimated at 3,500; Schenck brought
1,600 men; there were therefore available for action at M’Dowell
Frémont’s strength at Cross Keys.
The return of May 31 gives:—13,520 officers and men.
Frémont, in his report of the battle, says that on May 29 he had over 11,000 men, which, deducting guards, garrisons, working parties and stragglers, were reduced to 10,500 combatants at Cross Keys.
But he does not include in this last estimate Bayard’s cavalry, which joined him at Strasburg.
On May 31 Bayard had 1,844 officers and men; he had suffered some loss in fighting Ashby, and his strength at the battle may be put down as 1,750.
All garrisons, guards and working parties are included in the Confederate numbers, so they should be added to the Federal estimate. We may fairly say, then, that at Cross Keys the following troops were available:—
Strength of the Federals, May 17–25.
On April 30 Banks’ “effective” numbers were as follows:—
On May 23 he had:—
At Front Royal, Buckton, &c.
From the Harper’s Ferry Garrison:—
At Strasburg: Cavalry
On May 31, after losing 2,019 men at Front Royal and Winchester, he had, the Harper’s Ferry troops having been added to his command:—
10,500 effectives on May 23 is therefore a fair estimate.
Geary’s 2,000 at Rectortown, as they were acting under Mr. Stanton’s orders, have not been included.
Site Copyright 2003-2008 Son of the South. For Questions or comments about this collection,
Are you Scared and Confused? Read My Snake Story, a story of hope and encouragement, to help you face your fears.