In two previous posts which may be read here, and here we have looked at Jackson’s Valley Campaign down to the battle of First Winchester on May 25, 1862. With that victory Jackson had cleared the Valley of major Union forces and alarmed Lincoln who planned to use the armies of Fremont, Banks and McDowell to trap and destroy Jackson’s Army of the Valley. Fremont with an army of approximately 15,000 men was to march from Franklin, 30 miles west of the Valley, re-enter the Valley at Harrisonburg in Jackson’ rear and co-operate with Banks in destroying Jackson’s army. McDowell at Fredericksburg was ordered to suspend his advance on Richmond and send 20,000 troops to Front Royal to cooperate in an offensive against Jackson. Banks was to be the centerpiece of this offensive, but he and his army were badly shaken from First Winchester and he would stay on the far side of the Potomac until June 10, 1862 ensuring that the remainder of the Valley Campaign would not involve any fresh defeats on his record.
Jackson demonstrated against Harper’s Ferry, northeast of the Valley, on May 29th-30th. Learning that Shield’s division from McDowell’s army had taken Front Royal, Jackson hurried back to the Valley. Jackson began to retreat to Winchester, with Banks adamantly refusing to move from Harper’s Ferry in pursuit. Jackson reached Winchester and continued south to Strasburg, unmolested either by Shields or the slow-moving Fremont marching from the West. Jackson was under orders to proceed to Richmond to join the Army of Northern Virginia in defending Richmond. Jackson could easily have slipped away from Fremont and Shields, but he decided to stay in the Valley until he had defeated both Fremont and Shields. Holding the town of Port Republic, and the bridges over the rivers near the town, he could prevent Fremont and Shields from uniting and defeat them in detail.
At the hamlet of Cross Keys, northwest of Port Republic, on June 8, General Richard S. Ewell’s force of 5800 defeated Fremont’s army of 11,500, Fremont seemingly unable to launch a coordinated attack, as his army suffered a piecemeal defeat. Fremont retreated, and Jackson assembled his army at Port Republic and launched an attack on Shields the next day. After a stubborn resistance Shields retreated and the Valley Campaign was at an end. Jackson and his men were in command of the Valley and remained so until Jackson and his army left to join Lee on June 18th.
During the Valley campaign, Jackson with a force of 17,000 men held down Union forces of 40,000, preventing these troops from reinforcing McClellan in his drive on Richmond. He and his troops won five victories and captured badly needed supplies from the beaten Union forces. (The Confederate troops took to calling Union General Nathaniel Banks “Commissary Banks” as a result.) Perhaps most importantly Jackson and his army helped establish a tradition of battlefield success that would serve Confederate forces in good stead during the three years of lop-sided warfare that awaited them. It is trite to call Jackson’s Valley Campaign a military masterpiece, but it is also true.
Here is Jackson’s official report on the last portion of the Valley Campaign: (more…)