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CHAPTER XV.

1862.

BANKS AND FREMONT IN THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY.

Banks takes command — Bridges over Shenandoah protected — Jackson driven out of the Valley — Doubts as to his further intentions — Effect of Banks's movements — Position of our forces in Virginia—Jackson assumes the offensive — His plan to capture Banks — Kenly's disaster at Front Royal — Banks's position and danger — One of three courses before him — Determines to retreat to Winchester — Affair at Middletown — Activity of tho rebels — Battle at Winchester — Retreat to Martinsburg and thence to the Potomac — Saved by crossing the river — Losses on the retreat — Success of Jackson's plans — President calls for more troop* —The Mountain Department and General Fremont — His labors there — Movements at Monterey, Romney> Lewisburg — Fremont ordered to go to Banks's help and to cut off Jackson if possible — Fremont's plan — Crosses the mountains — Advance comes up with enemy near Strasburg — Eweli's attack on Harper's Ferry — Jackson's sudden retreat — Fremont a day too late — Jackson's policy as to fighting — Rebels retreat through Woodstock, etc. — Encounter at Harrisburg — Ashby killed — Battle at Cross Keys, losses, etc. — Jackson's position critical — Colonel Carroll and his advance movement — Attack of the rebels in force on Shields's advance — Battlo of Port Republic — Success of the rebel plans — Fremont and Shields retire — Army changes — Fremont resigns.

In a previous cnapter (see p. 136) we have spoken of Gen. Shields's active movements in Virginia, and his success over Stonewall Jackson near Winchester. This was towards the close of the month of March. Gen. Banks,

1863

who was in command of the army corps which comprised his own and Shields's divisions, arrived on the battle-ground just before the close of the engagement described on p. 137. The rebels continued their retreat, and, whenever possible, burned the bridges on the road. At Edenburg, a halt was made by the advance under Shields, so as to allow time to build the bridge over the creek there. Ashby's cavalry gave occasion for some sharp skirmishing ; but Banks, on the 17th of April, entered Mount Jackson, pursuing the ene ny beyond to New Market, of which he took possession the following day.

On the 19th of April, Banks went in force to see to the protection of the bridges on the south fork of the Shenandoah in the Masanutten Valley. He succeeded in his purpose, although the rebels made vigorous efforts to destroy the bridges; from such information as he could collect, he was of opinion that Jackson had left this valley. On the 22d of April, Banks wrote to Washington, announcing that "the rebel Jackson has left the Valley of Virginia permanently, and is on the way to Gordonsville, by the way of the mountains." Two days after, a reconnaissance was made towards Staunton; the town was entered without opposition. The Shenandoah divided Jackson's rear guard from our forces at Strasburg and other points of the valley, and, apparently, the troublesome enemy had taken his final departure.

The position of affair's was not, how

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evei, without its anxieties. It was very difficult to get any reliable information. The "contrabands" here, as elsewhere, were useful in this respect, and from them and some refugees it was learned, that Jackson was posted eighteen miles from Harrisonburg on the other side of the south fork of the Shenandoah. His force, including Ashby's cavalry, was thought to be more than 8,000, and among other reinforcements, Ewell's brigade was said to be on its way to join him. With some 10,000 men in hand, well supplied with artillery and cavalry, it was quite probable that Jackson would speedily assume the offensive.

Banks's success thus far was of no material value. He was expected to occupy Staunton, and, at kast, threaten the enemy on the line of the Virginia Central Railroad; but from necessity or policy, early in May, his main force fell back to Strasburg, whence a large portion of his command was withdrawn for the reinforcement of the army in Eastern Virginia. The Army of the Potomac, under McClellan, had, as we have seen (p. 137), embarked for the Peninsula; while Fredericksburg had just surrendered to the forces of McDowell, who, having been detained for the defence of Washington, and wishing to co-operate directly with McClellan, had pushed his corps to the Rappahannock, where he was ready for either movement.

The rebels, meanwhile, were not inactive. Ewell was gathering his men for service in the eastern part of the valley, while Jackson further south crossed the western boundary of the

VOL IV—22

valley, attacked Milroy in Highland County, and compelled him and Sehenck to retreat to Franklin with great haste and much loss. At Franklin, however, by the aid of Gen. Fremont, a successful stand was made. Towards the latter part of the month of May, Jackson commenced more directly aegressive movements, having in view, no doubt, the important end to which allusion has been made on a previous page (see p. 165). He determined by a bold dash to attempt the capture of Gen. Banks and his entire force. Accordingly a heavy column was sent up the valley, between the Blue Ridge and Massanutten Mountain range to Front Royal, where the Manassas Railroad crosses the Shenandoah, twelve miles from Strasburg. The plan was to capture Col. Kenly, with a force of about 1,000 men, and then pushing on to Winchester, to get in the rear of Banks.

On the 23d of May, the enemy were found to be advancing in force, and our men had the alternative either to run away, or attempt a stand against overwhelming numbers. Kenly chose the latter, and for two hours fought bravely against the rebels. He then fell back across the Shenandoah, destroying one of the bridges; before the larger one, however, could be burned he was flanked by the rebels in great numbers and crushed entirely.

That same evening, at Strasburg, Banks received the news of Kenly's loss. He speedily ascertained by scouts, that Jackson was advancing with at least 15,000 or 20,000 men, and divining at once that the rebel commander must be intending to occupy Winchester and cut c /f all supplies and reinforcements, and thus compel his surrender, he promptly decided upon his line of action. One of three course.'} was open to him : either a retreat across Little North Mountain to the Potomac, or an attack upon the enemy's flank on the Front Royal road, or a rapid movement direct upon Winchester. The two former were out of the question; so there was no alternative but to start at once, and if possible occupy Winchester in advance of Jackson.

The advance guard was called in long before daylight, May 24th. The disabled men, left by Shields, and the wagon train were ordered forward to Winchester. Gen. Hatch, with the cavalry and artillery, undertook the defence of the real-, and between nine and ten o'clock the column was on the march. Our men had marched only a few miles when the enemy attacked the train in front, instead of the rear. The troops were ordered to the front, and encountered the rebels in force at Middletown, thirteen miles from Winchester. Our men fought bravely, and drove the enemy back. This episode, with the change of front, occupied nearly an hour, but it saved Banks's column. Had the enemy vigorously attacked the train while at the head of the column, it would have been thrown into such dire confusion as to have made a successful continuation of the march impossible.

Various and energetic efforts were made by detachments to join the main column, but in every case they were prevented by the enemy, who pressed steadily and vigorously upon our men.

At five o'clock P.m. the advance guard reached Winchester, where the strength and purpose of the enemy became more fully known to Banks. Jackson's force was probably not le3s than 25,000, and it was expected that an attack would be made at daybreak. Banks deter mined to test the strength of the enemy, and ordered the men to prepare for battle, his entire force being only about 6,000. About four o'clock on the morning of the 25th of May, the artillery opened fire, which was continued to the close of the battle. The enemy's force was massed apparently on Banks's right) and their manoeuvres indicate! a purpose to turn him upon the Berryville road; but the steady fire of our lines held them in check for several hours.

The large force of the enemy rendering it unwise to attempt further fighting, the retreat was continued, in the direction of Martinsburg, in three paral lei columns, each protected by an efficient rear guard. The enemy kept up the pursuit promptly and vigorously; Banks's movements, however,were rapid and without loss. At Martinsburg the column halted two and a half hours and arrived at the Potomac at sundown, forty eight-hours after the first news of the attack on Front Royal. It was a march of 53 miles, 35 of which were performed in one day. Fortunately the enemy did not appear. The single ferry over the river was occupied by the ammunition trains, and the ford by the wagon trains. Several boats belonging to the pontoon train, brought from Strasburg, were launched and given up to the use of the soldiers, and the crossing was achieved with entire success. "There never were more thankful hearts," says Banks, with true feeling, "in the same number of men, than when, at midday on the 26th of May, we stood on the opposite shore.''

Cu. XV.] FREMONT AND THE MOUNTAIN DEPARTMENT.

Our loss in killed, wounded, etc., was short of 1,000. All the guns were saved; the wagon train, nearly 500 in number, was almost all saved, and the greater part of the supplies were preserved.

The retreat of Banks, in face of the serious difficulties in his way, was held to evince talent of a high order, and he received the warm thanks of the government for what he bad done. Jackson had made special efforts to capture Banks.* He did not indeed accomplish that; but the other and more important part of his scheme was entirely successful. As we have seeu (see p. 165), McDowell, on the 24th of May, was ordered to march to the help of Banks, and of course to deprive McClellan of his expected aid on the eve of assaulting Richmond. He obeyed the order so positively given, and the authorities at Washington were startled and almost terrified at finding the rebels under Jackson once more on the banks of the Potomac.

The governors of the loyal states were urgently called upon for more troops, and in order to facilitate their transportation, the president, hy authority of Congress (p. 149), took military ISG2 POS9e9Sion of all the railroads in the United States. This

• Jackson, at Winchester, on the 28th of May, issued a general order characterized hy his usual peculiarities, and lauding the troops which had " finally driven the boastful host which was ravishing our beautiful country into utter rout."

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was on the 25th of May. The governors of the states responded promptly to the call of the president, and set to work at once to furnish the troops required.

It will be recollected, that President Lincoln, by his war order, March llth, (p. 132), had created a new military department,* called the Mountain Department, and had placed Gen. Fremont in command. It included the entire range ot Western Virginia and a part of Tennessee. Fremont, it was hoped and expected, would be of material service, as occasion offered, in outflanking the rebels in Southern Virginia, in cutting off the Richmond communications, or in occupying important points in Eastern Tennessee; but the raid of Jackson turned his energies in a different direction.

Two months were passed in preparing and organizing his corps, under serious difficulties, owing to the insufficient provision made for the new department. The first movement was in Highland County, where Milroy, at Monterey, had a sharp skirmish with a body of rebels who attacked his camp. A few days latter, April 23d, a party of our men from Romney, had a sharp encounter with a body of guerrillas; and on the 8th of May, a sharp fight occurred twelve miles beyond Monterey. After

* Mr. Swinton speaks with great but not undeserved severity of the folly and violation of the first principles of war, in having, as was now the case in Northern Virginia, three distinct armies, planted on three separate lines of operation, under three independent commanders. "One hardly wishes to inquire by whose crude and fatuitous inspiration these thin-u were done; but such was the spectacle presented by the Union forces in Virginia; the main army already held in check on the Chickahominy, and these detached columns inviting destruction in detail."—" Armyoftht Potomac," p. 123.

a march of three days, they reached Franklin, having lost, in killed and wounded, '233. On the 20th of May, Col. Crook, in command at Lewisburg, made a successful dash through Covington to the Virginia Central Railroad, burning the bridge at Jackson River. He was attacked by Heath, with a large force, but routed him entirely.

It was on the night of May 24th, that Fremont received, at Franklin, the president's order to march to the relief of Banks, in the valley of the Shenandoah. His entire force, numbering 11,500 men, consisted of Blenker's division, the brigades of Schenck and Milroy, and a light brigade of Ohio and Virginia troops, under Col . Cluseret, a French officer in the service. Fremont's army at this time was by no means in a good condition to move. They were in a region cut off from proper supplies, and their morale was anything but en couraging. Fremont was unwilling, however, to lose a moment's time in the present emergency,* and the troops, promptly and cheerfully, took the road to Petersburg the next morning. Fur. nished only with ammunition and rations for three days, they pursued their way through Moorefield, by forced marches over mountain roads, rendered unusually difficult by the inclement season. In the course of a week the advance, under Col. Cluseret, came up, near Strasburg, with Jackson's forces,

•^.Fremont has been criticised with some severity for not marching to Harrisonburg instead of taking the course he did. If he could have done so, which has been pronounced by seme as impossible, he might have got so far in Jackson's rear as effectually to have cut him off. The distance from Franklin to Harrisonburg was about 60 miles, while Strasburg was 100 miles distant

already having begun their hasty retreat up the valley.

On Banks's retreat to the Potomac (p. 170), Gen. Saxton was put in command of the forces sent to Harper's Ferry to maintain that position. Sharp skirmishes occurred, but without advantage to the rebels. On the night of the 30th of May, Jackson ordered Ewell with his men to storm our position. The attempt was made about dark, and continued for an hour; and again about midnight; but to no purpose.

The next day, Jackson was in full retreat up the valley, which it was Fremont's design to intercept when he crossed the mountains at Strasburg. Ewell followed and joined Jackson, June 1st. Fremont came upoL the enemy's rear the same day, near Strasburg, on the road to Winchester. Jackson declined all offers of battle; his policy was to avoid fighting; and so he pushed on through Strasburg, and succeeded in passing between McDowell's advance on the one side and Fremont's on the other. Thus the rebel general proved himself too active for his pursuers.

Fremont was joined at Strasburg by a body of cavalry, under Gen. Bayard, which formed a portion of McDowell's corps, and came very opportunely to his aid. Pursuing the rebels through Woodstock, Edenburg and Mount Jackson, they making every resistance possible, burning bridges, etc., Fremont crossed the Shenandoah, J me 5th, on a pontoon bridge, and came lp with them beyond New Market. A sharp encounter attended the arrival of our advance the next day at Harrisonburg, and

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