Captain James H. Wood about Jackson's Final Victories in the Valley
We then returned by forced march to Winchester. "The 3d brigade" in the lead. On this strenuous march our strength and endurance were put to a severe test. On the second forenoon of our march, if my memory serves me well, we reached Strasburg, thence to the right, two miles out on the Moorfield road. Here we took position to resist the advance of Fremont who was already nearby. At the same time Haze's brigade was ordered to the left on the Front Royal road to resist the threatened advance of Shields from the direction of Manassas. These two brigades were entrusted with the duty of holding open this gap through which the valley pike passed, against these two armies, numbering approximately 25,000 and 12,000 men, until the trains including our immense captures and the army of approximately 10,000 worn Confederates passed through and on up the valley.|
The margin of time allowed in the calculation was narrow, but accurate with not a moment to spare, as in fact we had scarcely taken position when Fremont's advance came in sight and was surprised to find us in waiting and to meet the fire of our skirmish line, the Federals retired to await further preparation for advance. The rest of the afternoon was occupied in maneuvering and reconnoitering by the Federals, and at nightfall their plans seemed matured for an advance in the early morning. But the delay gave the Confederate trains, including captures of stores, prisoners and arms, time to pass up the valley, then during the night the two brigades returned to the pike and brought up the rear. Thus our army was extricated from its extreme peril of a little while before.
Fremont followed in Jackson's wake, while Shields pushed up the Lu Ray Valley on the east side of the Shenandoah, now swollen out of its banks by recent rains, and hence not fordable and without bridges as high up as Port Republic. The bridges, except at Port Republic, had been burned by our cavalry a few days before by order of Jackson. Now followed by an army superior in numbers, while another army was paralleling his march with evident purpose to intercept or impede his progress and thus force an engagement with this combined and overwhelming force, but not disturbed by this apparent peril, Jackson slowly retired before Fremont to Harrisonburg, and there turned sharply to the left toward Port Republic. At this turn the Federals ("Pennsylvania Buck Tails") made a flank attack in force on our rear guard. Col. Bradley T. Johnston of the Maryland line, supported by Ashby, repulsed this attack, inflicting considerable loss on the enemy. Our own loss in numbers was not great, but among the killed was the redoubtable Ashby, which sad loss was deeply lamented by the entire army. No leader stood higher in the estimation of his comrades or had promise of a brighter future.
Passing on we reached the heights on the north side of the Shenandoah, overlooking Port Republic, located in the fork of the river, and a tributary stream entering it on the south side. On the following morning, June the 8th, being adjutant, I read to the regiment, then on Sunday morning inspection, an order for divine service to be held by the chaplains in their respective regiments. Before inspection had been finished two or three artillery shots in the direction of the village of Port Republic were heard. At this time, Capt. Henry Clinton Wood, who had gone to the village on a business errand, came in breathless haste and stated to our Colonel, Fulkerson, that the enemy were in possession of the bridge. This was a wooden structure spanning the main branch of the Shenandoah River from our side to the village. Without hesitation the regiment was formed and proceeded at double quick time through an intervening wheat field to the bridge. On reaching the top of the ridge we saw a cavalry force with two pieces of artillery in possession of the Port Republic end of the bridge. They used their artillery on us with damaging effect, killing two and wounding others. We soon reached the road leading to the bridge, and when within about a hundred yards of it met Jackson riding rapidly from the direction of the bridge.
I was with my colonel at the head of the regiment and saw and heard what occurred and what was said. Jackson turned his horse and in his characteristic way, said, "Charge right through colonel, charge right through." As he spoke he seized and swung his cap about his head, uttering a low cheer, adding, "Colonel, hold this place at all hazards." He then turned his horse and rode swiftly toward Cross Keys, where the battle had already begun. We rushed on, and when near the mouth of the bridge the enemy fired one or both of his pieces that were planted at the other end, but the charges took effect in the sides of the bridge and did no injury to us. We captured the pieces and a number of prisoners and horses. No other troops than "The Regiment," and no other commander than our colonel had any part in the capture of this bridge, artillery and prisoners. It was then said, and I believe from the circumstances it is impossible to question its truth, that Jackson, whose headquarters were in Port Republic, had reached the bridge after the Federals, and by the ruse of commanding a change of position of one of the pieces, and while this order was being obeyed, dashed through and met our regiment. This has been questioned, but the facts above stated would seem to be conclusive except as to the ruse, but, that Jackson reached and passed through the bridge after the Federals had taken it and placed their artillery and used it on our approaching column when we were more than a quarter of a mile away cannot be successfully controverted if circumstantial evidence can be relied upon.
The battle of Cross Keys now became more general and continued during the day. In the afternoon the Federals were pressed back as indicated by the sound which continued to recede and were finally beaten and driven from the field which was occupied by the Confederates. The casualties on both sides were heavy. Nothing of importance occurred during the day at Port Republic, except that a few shells were fired by the advance force of Shields, resulting, however, in but little injury. Shields was in hearing of the battle of Cross Keys, but was unable to give or receive aid to or from Fremont on that or the following day because of the intervening Shenandoah, still swollen out of its banks. There was no bridge save that at Port Republic, which in the emergency was a prize well worth a great effort to obtain. Shields had rushed up the river to attain this prize, his force was now near the village; and doubtless he felt elation at the prospect of seizing this bridge, the only avenue of escape for Jackson, who in such event would have been between the two Federal armies and at their mercy, but "the best laid schemes o' mice and men gang af't agley."
By dawn of Monday the 9th Jackson had crossed his army from the north to the south side of the Shenandoah, burned the bridge, crossed the swollen south branch and moved on Shields, but two miles below. The attack nearest the river was made by two brigades of Jackson's old division with their accustomed vigor. The opposing force with marked gallantry resisted this attack, and being now reinforced, repulsed the Confederates. Our brigade was hurried to their assistance, but before we reached that part of the field Jackson himself, as was then said, rode into the thick of the battle and called to his men that the Stonewall brigade never retreats. This rallied them to a renewal of the attack, which was now fortunately aided by Taylor's brigade, which had moved along the mountain side under cover of the timber and undergrowth, gaining the left flank of the Federals and at this propitious moment made a vigorous attack. Thus pressed in front and flank, the Federals gave way and broke into a precipitous rout. Many prisoners were taken and the remaining force pursued by the infantry, until exhaustion put an end to further pursuit by them, but was taken up by the cavalry. When the Federals gave way in retreat Jackson came riding slowly from the left toward the road. His head was bowed and his right hand, gauntleted, was pointing upward. He was alone and seemed oblivious to all around him and presented the appearance of being in supplication or rendering thanks. A number of guns and a quantity of ammunition were also captured. The Federal loss was much greater than the Confederate, caused largely by the Federals becoming confused and thrown together in compact bodies, on which artillery and small arms did greatest execution.
During the day Fremont's army had pushed forward from Cross Keys to the summit of the ridge, bordering the river on the north and had planted a number of batteries of artillery commanding the road over which we had advanced. We could plainly see, but were out of range of these guns frowning upon us, and we well knew the impossibility of returning by this route. Earlier in the day, however, Jackson had directed his engineers to construct a road along the side of the Blue Ridge to Browns Gap Road, leading across the Blue Ridge. This was done and before nightfall our army passed over this new road in full view of the Federal army and guns, but out of range, and bivouacked along the mountain side for that and two or three succeeding nights, enjoying a greatly needed rest.
The ensuing quiet of Jackson so mystified the Federals that they returned to the valley and towards Winchester. Jackson then returned his army to the valley and went into camp near Weirs Cave. After a few days a rumor gained currency that an advance down the valley was soon to be made by Jackson. The enemy now began to collect his forces for this expected advance. The rumor was strengthened by the arrival at Staunton of Whiting's division to join Jackson. Thus matters stood at the end of this remarkable campaign of but a little over one month, during which brief time the battles of McDowell, of Front Royal, of Middletown, of Winchester, the angle at Harrisonburg, of Cross Keys, and of Port Republic had been fought and won, and a distance marched of approximately two hundred miles, and the armies of Fremont and Shields were now remote from facilities of transportation and communication with Washington and McClellan. This campaign alone is sufficient to give Jackson and his army a fame that will live in history. Jackson was now more so than before the idol of his army and of the people of the South. He had become known and now shown out like a star of hope, but he was yet to win greater renown.
Taken from: The War; "Stonewall" Jackson, His Campaigns, and Battles, the Regiment as I Saw Them, by James H. Wood, Captain Co. "D", 37th Va. Infty. Regiment