|PAPER No. 5.
HOW FREMONT AND SHIELDS "CAUGHT" STONEWALL JACKSON.
The day after the capture of Winchester we spent in
resting on the green sward and reveling in the stores
which we had captured from General Banks, and the
large number of sutlers who had brought to Winchester
supplies of every description. It was very amusing to see the relish with
which our boys would discard beef and "hardtack" and feast on potted meats,
pickled oysters, lobsters, genuine coffee, bakers' bread, ham, canned
fruits, oranges, figs, all kinds of confectionery, and
various other luxuries to which, even at that date, the Confederacy was
a stranger. Clothing of every pattern was abundant, and was eagerly seized
on by the "ragged rebels" until
their regulation gray was fast disappearing and blue
uniforms becoming the prevailing fashion. "Old Jack"
soon put a stop to this transformation, however, by
issuing an order to his provost guard to arrest all men
in blue uniform and treat them as prisoners of war until
they gave satisfactory proof that they were Confederates.
General Jackson himself was so completely exhausted
that so soon as he ceased his pursuit of the enemy he
rode into Winchester, secured quarters at a hotel, refused
all offers of food, threw himself across a bed with his clothes, boots,
and even spurs on, and was soon fast asleep.
The next day was observed, as was Jackson's custom,
as a day of rest and Thanksgiving for victory, and there
was read to us a ringing general order which recounted
the marches and victories of the past four weeks, congratulated
the troops on their patient endurance and splendid courage, and concluded
"The explanation of the severe exertions to which the
commanding general called the army, which were
endured by them with such cheerful confidence in him,
is now given in the victory of yesterday. He receives
this proof of their confidence in the past with pride
and gratitude, and asks only a similar confidence in the future.
"But his chief duty to-day and that of the army is to
recognize devoutly the hand of a protecting Providence
in the brilliant successes of the last three days (which
have given us the results of a great victory without
great losses); and to make the oblation of our thanks to God
for his mercies to us and our country, in heartfelt acts
of religious worship. For this purpose the troops will remain
in camp to-day, suspending as far as practicable all
military exercises, and the chaplains of regiments will hold divine services
in their several charges at 4 o'clock P. M."
It was an impressive scene as we gathered in large congregations
at that Thanksgiving service, and among
the most devout of the worshipers in the service held
the Thirty-third Virginia regiment was the iron chief
who had led us to the great victory gained. On Wednesday morning, May 28th,
we were in motion for the Potomac, and having driven the enemy back from
Charleston to Harper's Ferry, were proceeding to invest this position,
when the situation suddenly changed into one which would have unnerved
a less determined commander, and have demoralized troops of less implicit
confidence in their chief.
McClellan had been gradually closing in on Richmond,
and was only waiting for McDowell's column to swoop down
from Fredericksburg in order to make his grand assault. But the movements
of Jackson and the rout of Banks so alarmed the authorities at Washington
that the following dispatch changed the whole situation:
WASHINGTON, May 20, 1862.
General Fremont has been ordered by telegraph to move
from Franklin on Harrisonburg to relieve General Banks, and capture or
destroy Jackson's and Ewell's force. You are instructed, laying aside for
the present the movement on Richmond, to put twenty thousand men in motion
at once for the Shenandoah, moving on the line or in advance of the line
of the Manassas Gap railroad. Your object will be the capture of the forces
of Jackson and Ewell, either
in co-operation with General Fremont, or in case want
of supplies or of transportation interferes with his movement, it is believed
the force with which you more will be sufficient to accomplish the object
alone. The information thus far received here makes it probable that if
the enemy operates actively against General Banks, you will not be able
to count on much assistance from him, but may even have to release him.
Reports received this moment are that Banks is fighting with Ewell eight
miles from Winchester.
General McDowell at once proceeded, though with a
heavy heart as his dispatches show, to execute this order.
Fremont put his column in motion, and while we were lingering in the lower
valley two armies were closing in on our rear, while a third was concentrating
to push us on our retreat.
Jackson had left at Front Royal to guard the stores and
prisoners there, the gallant Twelfth Georgia Regiment, which, if rightly
handled could have held the gaps in the mountains for some time against
greatly superior forces, but somehow the affair was badly managed and the
advance of Shield's dashed into the village in right gallant style, and
re-captured the prisoners, the stores having
been burned by an enterprising quarter-master.
The news reached Jackson just as he had posted the Second
Virginia Regiment on Loudon Heights, and was preparing to attack the enemy.
How he received these unpleasant tidings is best told by one of his staff
(Colonel A. R. Boteler). As Jackson, on information of Shield's advance,
was returning on a special train to Winchester,
the following scene occurred: "At one of the wayside
stations a courier was seen galloping down from Winchester, and Jackson
clutched at the dispatch which
he brought. "What news?' he asked briefly.
"'Colonel Conner is cut off and captured at Front Royal,
"'Good!' was the quiet reply. 'What more?'
"'Shields is there with four thousand men.'
And after spending some time in deep abstraction, and
then slowly reading and tearing to pieces the dispatch
(a common habit with him), he leaned forward on his hands
and immediately went to sleep. Not long afterward he roused himself and
said to Colonel Boteler: "I am going to send you to Richmond for reinforcements.
Banks has halted at Williamsport and is being reinforced from Pennsylvania,
Dix, you see, is in my front and is being reinforced by the Baltimore and
Ohio railroad. I have a dispatch informing me of the advance of the
enemy upon Front Royal, which is captured, and Fremont is now
advancing toward Wardensville. Thus, you see, I am
nearly surrounded by a very large force."
"What is our own, General.?"
"I will tell you, but you must not repeat what I say,
except at Richmond. To meet this force I have only 15,000 effective men."
"What will you do if they cut you off, General?"
After a moment's hesitation Jackson cooly replied: "I
will fall back on Maryland for reinforcements."
He evidently meant what he said, and it is a matter of
curious speculation as to what would have been the result of such a movement.
Whether "My Maryland" would
have "come" at that time-what impetus would have been
given to the panic which induced the Secretary of War
to telegraph the Governor of Massachusetts to "send all
of the troops you can forward immediately. Banks
completely routed. Intelligence from various quarters
leaves no doubt that the enemy in great force are
advancing on Washington." Whether Jackson would have
captured Washington or have been captured himself all
of these questions must be left to conjecture, for Jackson
did not allow himself to be cut off, and his "foot cavalry" proved fully
equal to the emergency.
On the afternoon of the 30th of May we "entered the lists
for a race' to Strausburg. I can never forget that march. "Press forward,"
was the constant order, and when the troops were well night exhausted,
word was passed down the column: "General Jackson desires the command to
push forward much further to-night in order to accomplish
a very important object," and every man bent his energies to meet the requirement
of our loved chieftain, while the muddy, weary road was enlivened by jest
and song and cheers. The whole of the Stonewall brigade marched that day
thirty-five miles, while the Second Virginia regiment accomplished a march
of more than forty miles without rations, and fairly won the sobriquet
of "foot cavalry."
Meantime the main army had hurried on to Strausburg, upon
which point Fremont was rapidly advancing, while Shields was waiting to
join him from Front Royal. The head of Ewell's column filed to the right
and was soon engaged in a sharp skirmish with Fremont's
advance, to whom we offered the gage of battle, until the Stonewall brigade
and the Second Virginia regiment could come up. The object of the halt
having been thus accomplished, Jackson leisurely moved up the Valley with
his prisoners and his immense wagon trains, loaded with captured stores
of every description.
The incidents of this retreat were stirring. Shields moved
up the Luray Valley with the evident purpose of crossing
the Massanutton by New Market Gap, and thus striking Jackson in flank if
not in rear; but this purpose was defeated by our watchful chief, who sent
parties to burn the White House bridge over the Shenandoah on the road
to New Market, and the Columbia, some miles higher up the river. General
Fremont pressed our rear with energy and gallantry, and some of the exploits
of his cavalry displayed a heroism which elicited the highest admiration
of our men, although stern old "Stonewall" did say to
Colonel Patton, who expressed to him a regret that three gallant fellows
who charged alone through his regiment were killed: "Shoot them, Colonel,
I don't want them
to be so brave."
A number of gallant charges were made on our rear
guard, and temporary advantages were gained,
Turner Ashby (who had recently won his wreath and
stars, and was the idol of our whole army,) brought
up our rear, and met these gallant dashes with a cool
courage, which soon restored order, and usually inflicted more loss than
I recall many scenes of those marches as the "foot
cavalry ran from three armies" (for General Banks was
now pressing on too), but I may not linger to describe
them in detail. One picture may serve for
the whole. Starting at "early dawn," we would tramp all day along
the weary pike, the monotony of the march only varied
by the ringing of carbines, the sharp reports of the
horse-artillery, or the shouts of charging squadrons, as Ashby received
the attack of the enemy, or in turn
assumed the offensive; and as the shades of evening
gathered on the mountain tops, even the best men would fall out of ranks
and declare that they could go no further. But presently the word is passed
back, "the head of the column is going into camp." Immediately the weary
grow fresh again, the laggard hastens forward, and there on
some green sward, upon the banks of the beautiful Shenandoah
(though we had but the hard ground for our couch, rocks for our pillows,
and the blue canopy of heaven for our covering), we lay us down to a rest-O!
so sweet, after the hard day's march. But before the bivouac is silent
for the night, a little company gathers at some convenient spot, hard by,
and strikes up some old familiar hymn, which serves as a prayer-call, well
understood. From all parts of the camp men gather around this group, until
a large congregation has assembled, the song grows louder and clearer,
and often as the passage of God's
word is read, and a few simple comments made before joining
"Something on the soldier's cheek
Washed off the stain of powder."
I can vividly recall, even now, after the lapse of years,
not a few beaming faces who united in those evening services
who were soon summoned to strike golden
harps and join in the song of the celestial choir. But
the weary march is soon to end, and "the foot cavalry," are
to be at last "caught" by their eager pursuers. Yet ere
this occurred the whole army, and indeed the whole Confederacy, was to
be thrown into the deepest grief at
the tragic fall of Ashby.
Sir Percy Wyndham, an Englishman, who had served as
a Captain in the Austrian army, and as Colonel under
Garibaldi, and had been given a commission as Colonel
in the Federal army, led Fremont's advance on the morning
of the 6th of June, when we marched from Harrisonburg across towards Port
Republic, and confidently expressed his belief that his long-coveted opportunity
of "bagging Ashby" had arrived.
The result was, that by a very simple strategy, Ashby
completely turned the tables on his Lordship, and "bagged" him, together
with sixty-three of his gallant troopers. But we had scarcely time to enjoy
the account of this brilliant little affair, when on the same afternoon
we had from the rear the sad report, "Ashby has fallen." Hurrying to ascertain
the truth of the rumor (for he was a near relative of mine), I learned
the sad details from General Ewell and others who were present. The enemy
having pressed forward more vigorously than usual (doubtless with a view
of retarding our column until Shields, who had continued
to press up the Luray Valley, could reach Port Republic),
Ashby had called for infantry supports, and the Fifty-eighth Virginia and
first Maryland regiments had been sent to him. With these he was executing
a movement on the famous "Pennsylvania Bucktails" (which proved eminently
successful after his fall), when, seeing that the enemy had the advantage
of position, he called on the Fifty-eighth Virginia to charge, and had
just uttered his crisp order, "Virginians, charge, " when his horse was
shot under him. He had extricated himself from the dying animal, and was
shouting the order, "Men, cease firing! Charge! for God's sake, charge!"
when the fatal bullet stopped the brilliant career of this splendid soldier.
A native of Fauquier country, and a gentleman of high
descent and stainless character, Turner Ashby had entered the service at
the first sound of the bugle, and when asked at Harper's Ferry "What flag
are you going to fight under, the Palmetto, or what?" he produced a Virginia
flag and said "Here is the flag I intend to fight under." He had fallowed
that flag with all of the devotion of knighthood,
he had displayed upon numberless occasions a cool
courage or heroic daring which made him the pride of
the army, and the special idol of the Valley of Virginia,
and he fell with a reputation scarcely equalled by any
of our cavaliers. His splendid white horse, his raven locks,
his chivalric bearing, his tender sympathies, stainless
character, and heroic deeds will live in the songs and traditions of that
region as long as those blue mountains shall sentinel the scenes of his
exploits, or the beautiful Shenandoah flows along its emerald bed.
His most fitting eulogy, however, was the following
brief tribute in General Jackson's report: "An official
report is not an appropriate place for more than a passing
notice of the distinguished dead, but the close relation which General
Ashby bore to my command for most of
the previous twelve months will justify me in saying
as a partisan officer I never knew his superior. His
daring was proverbial, his powers of endurance almost incredible, his tone
of character heroic, and his sagacity almost intuitive in driving the purposes
and movements of the enemy."
The gallant Marylanders, under Colonel B. T. Johnson,
aided by the Fifty-eighth Virginia, had a bloody revenge
on the "Bucktails" and drove them from the field, capturing
their Colonel (Kane) and inflicting heavy loss. Yet, as this was not Jackson's
chosen field of battle, he continued his retreat to "Cross Keys," where
Ewell was ordered to check Fremont, while with the rest of his force Jackson
advanced to pay his respects to General Shields, who was hurrying up on
the east side of the river, having been prevented from crossing over at
any point below by the burning of
the bridges and the swollen condition of the river. On
the morning of the 8th of June Jackson had hi headquarters in the little
village of Port Republic (located in the forks of the Shenandoah) while
most of his command were on the west side of the river. He had a strong
cavalry picket down the river to watch Shields, but the Federal advance
made a gallant dash on these which drove them back in great confusion,
and followed them so closely as to get possession of the bridge and place
a piece of artillery
in position to sweep it. Jackson then found
himself suddenly in the critical situation of being cut off from
his army, with Shields holding the bridge by which, in
case of disaster, they should retreat. He did not hesitate
to adopt the boldest course. Riding up to the officer
in charge of the piece of artillery, he sternly called out,
"Who ordered out to post that gun there, sir" Bring it
over here!" The officer mistook him for a Federal general
and was preparing to obey the order when Jackson
galloped across the bridge and was soon leading in
person one of his regiments, which charged through the
bridge, drove off the enemy and saved the army from
the threatened disaster.
At this same hour in the early morning of June 8th, Fremont
advanced on Ewell at Cross Keys. I remember that Rev. Dr. Geo. B. Taylor
(now missionary at Rome, Italy), the efficient chaplain of the Twenty-fifth
Virginia Regiment, was preaching to our brigade at that early hour-that
he was interrupted at "thirdly" by the advance
of the enemy-and that the noise of battle soon succeeded
the voice of the minister of the "Gospel of peace."
Fremont's attack was not as vigorous as was expected,
was easily repulsed, and in the afternoon Ewell assumed
the offensive and drove the enemy back some distance.
But I have already exceeded my limits and must reserve
for my next sketch a brief statement of how Shields "caught"
Jackson the next day at Port Republic, of how Fremont and Shields both
concluded that they had "caught at Tartar," and of how (after resting for
a season) the
"foot cavalry" suddenly appeared on the Chickahominy,
and assisted in McClellan's famous "change of base."
*From the Southern Historical Sociiety Papers
Volume IX, Richmond,Va, June, 1881, pages 273-281
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