ePub 版

sacks, oil-cloths, cartridge boxes, haversacks, swords, arms, clothes, and accoutrements of every description. “The rush of the retreat,” says a writer at the time, “is represented to have been more ridiculously terrible than that at Manassas.” Ashby had come up with the trains and the rear of the retreating Federals, and his batteries were firing upon them all along the turnpike. A shell or round shot would strike one of the wagons and overturn it, and before those behind could stop their headway, they would thunder down on the ruins of the first; others would tumble in, so as to block up the road completely; and in among the disorganized cavalry and infantry escorting the trains, trampled the horsemen of Ashby, taking prisoners or cutting down such as resisted. There was no discipline or order in the retreat, and few officers were visible. General Banks had retired to Winchester, whence he took the cars for Harper's Ferry. He is said to have been overwhelmed with chagrin at his misadventure, and even to have shed tears, declaring that “he had been sacrificed by his Government.” Ashby's pursuit was hot, and a remarkable proof of the demoralization of the Federal troops is given by a well-accredited incident of the retreat. “In the ardor of pursuit,” writes a gentleman of character and veracity, “Ashby had separated himself from his men, and had gotten abreast of the Yankee column of cavalry which was rushing down the turnpike. Alone, he charged 500 of them, dashed through their line, firing his pistols right and left as he did so; then wheeling about, he again charged through them, and summoned them to surrender. All who heard his voice obeyed, threw down their arms, and dismounted, until some of the men came up and took charge of them. In one instance he took thirty in this way.” Ashby caught a guidon from the hands of its bearer on this occasion, and this was afterwards suspended in the Virginia Capitol. The incident above given is not necessarily impossible, nor even improbable. Troops retreating in disorder become entirely disheartened, and lose the character of soldiers, despair inducing them to surrender without resistance.

The cavalrymen of Ashby's command did not imitate his example in looking first to the defeat of the enemy. Their misconduct nearly prevented Jackson from securing the fruits of all his marching and fighting. Up to this time all opposition had been borne down, and there was every reason to believe that, if General Banks ever reached Winchester, it would be without a train, if not without an army. The cavalry and infantry under Ashby now disappointed all these hopes, and, in spite of every exertion on the part of their commander, betook themselves to pillaging the Federal wagons. In vain did Ashby attempt to rally them to the serious work before them, and push on after the Federal column, now retreating in greater disorder than before. His orders were not heard, or disobeyed. The ranks of the pursuers were scattered, in hot pursuit, not of the enemy, but of plunder. The choice contents of the wagons were too much for their equanimity, and, forgetting their duty as soldiers, they became thoroughly disorganized, and gave themselves up to indiscriminate pillage. The consequences of this gross neglect of duty were soon seen: the enemy, who should have been persistently followed, took advantage of the respite, and turned savagely upon Jackson’s artillery, which had pushed on ahead, and was now near Newtown, without any species of support. They brought up four pieces of artillery, and planted them in the outskirts of the town, opening a furious fire upon the Confederate batteries. Jackson hastened to the front, and when he arrived at Newtown, found Poague with two guns engaged in a hot combat with the Federal artillery, which continued to check his further advance until dark. This conduct of his advance force profoundly enraged Jackson, and many hot words grew out of it afterwards. He was much displeased with Ashby, whose fault as a soldier was too great a relaxation of the reins of discipline in his command; and as that officer felt that he had made every exertion to correct the evil, he resented this imputation on the part of his command, and for a time there was a marked coldness between himself and Jackson. Proud and sensitive to any reflection upon himself or his troops, Ashby held himself aloof from Jackson, like Achilles in his tent; and the stern Agamemnon, knowing that he had done right, made no overtures for a renewal of amicable relations. But this did not last, the cloud soon passed away, and when Ashby fell, Jackson wrote a noble epitaph for the fallen soldier, which would be sufficient, if nothing else remained, to hand down his name to posterity. At nightfall, the Federal artillery, which had held the Confederate advance in check at Newtown, retired from the field; and Jackson determined to push on after General Banks to Winchester. The troops accordingly passed through Newtown, and continued their march—the way “illumined by burning wagons, pontoon boats, and other stores.” The scene in the little village of Newtown was inspiring, and communicated a new impulse to the troops. “It beggared description,” writes an officer who witnessed it. “Every house was illuminated by the inhabitants, women and even men weeping for joy, and cheering us till they were hoarse. They seemed ready to embrace every soldier; and so it was all along the road, bringing to them and forcing on the half-starved fellows, as they swept by in pursuit of the enemy, pies, bread, pickles, meat, and every thing they could raise.” The inhabitants were indeed crazy with joy at the sight of the gray uniforms of their own people. Beyond Newtown, the spectacle along the roads was even more striking than that presented near Middletown. Hundreds of abandoned, overturned, or burning wagons, filled with stores of every description, were encountered by the troops, and excited their longing as they pressed rapidly on. But no benefit could be derived from these spoils of the enemy, as the delay produced by the pillage had made it necessary to push on, and stop for nothing. At various stages of their march throughout the long night, the Federal forces made vain attempts to check their further progress. Soon after leaving Newtown, the advance was fired on by a concealed force, but the 33d Virginia, Colonel Neff, soon dispersed them. Near the old battle-ground of Kernstown, a more serious attempt was made to check Jackson's advance. As the troops approached that point, a sudden fire on their right, left, and front at the same moment, revealed an ambuscade of importance; and three regiments of the Stonewall Brigade were thrown forward to engage the enemy. They attacked with great gallantry, and heavy firing continued for some time, but the enemy, growing disheartened, finally retired, and the army resumed its march. The Federal forces continued to ambuscade thus from point to point during the remainder of the night, but were regularly repulsed by the force in advance, and the army now drew near Winchester. The main body was halted for about an hour to rest, but the advance force still pressed on, Jackson's design being to occupy the heights commanding the town, before daylight warned the enemy of his presence.

As he advanced, about dawn, toward the coveted position, he received the welcome announcement that Ewell, pushing on from Newtown, had reached, early in the night, a position about three miles from the town, on his right, and had thrown forward pickets a mile in advance.

The plans of the Confederate commander were thus fairly in progress of fulfilment, and he instantly made his dispositions to attack the enemy.


JAckson's advance force approached the lofty hill, on the southwestern side of Winchester, soon after daylight, on the morning of the 25th of May.

This position was occupied by the Federal skirmishers in force, and General Winder was directed to take the Stonewall Brigade, and seize upon the heights as soon as possible. This was promptly done. The 5th Virginia was thrown forward in advance as skirmishers, and the remainder of the brigade having been drawn up in line of battle, a sudden rush was made for the hill. The enemy made a sharp and resolute resistance, firing heavy volleys as the Confederates charged toward their position, but the spirit of the Federal troops no longer responded to the call. They recoiled before the Confederate fire, retreated from their position, and the Southern troops, uttering loud cheers, gained the crest and were in possession of the hill. Prompt measures were taken to improve this advantage, and open the attack with an energy which should give the Federal forces no time to prepare. They had hastily opened with a battery directly in front, and to dislodge these guns Carpenter's and Cutshaw's batteries, with two Parrott guns from the Rockbridge artillery, were rapidly placed in position and opened fire. The battle speedily commenced in good earnest. It was absolutely necessary, if the Federal forces expected to hold the town of Winchester, that the Confederates should be dislodged from their commanding position; and a body of Federal sharpshooters was promptly thrown forward to feel Jackson's left, and drive him, if possible, from the hill. At the same moment another Federal battery began to thunder on the left, and a dangerous enfilade fire was poured on the Southern lines. This advance of infantry, and the fire of the new battery, was promptly responded to by Jackson. The battery in his front had been reduced to silence, and his guns were now turned on the enemy's sharpshooters, who hastily retreated behind a heavy stone fence, which protected them. From this excellent position they opened a galling and destructive fire on the cannoneers and horses attached to the Confederate batteries, which were now engaged hotly on the left. The combined fire of their sharpshooters and artillery was so heavy that Captain Poague, who was most exposed to the enemy, was compelled to change position, in the midst of a storm of balls. He rapidly withdrew his guns; moved to the left and rear, and again taking position, poured a determined fire upon the enfilading batteries of the enemy. The Federal sharpshooters continued to fire from their

« 上一頁繼續 »