The Battle of Front Royal
| On the May 21st, Jackson crossed the Massanuttons by the turnpike leading from New Market, to Luray, and being joined on the road by the portion of Ewell's division that had followed down the eastern valley, he, with between 16,000 and 17,000 men and 48 guns, encamped that evening on the South Fork of the Shenandoah. On the 22nd, with
Ewell in advance, he marched quietly, but rapidly, down the Luray valley and bivouacked his advance within 10 miles of Front Royal. A West Virginian from Martinsburg, the famous Confederate woman spy Belle Boyd, ran out of Front Royal to apprise Stonewall of the enemy's strength and dispositions there.|
On Friday morning, May 23rd, the cavalry of Ashby and Flournoy, which had preceded the army, crossed the South Fork of the Shenandoah at McCoy's ford, and, following along the eastern foot of the Massanuttons by a road between that mountain and the river, soon reached a fork of the road, where it divided into two bodies, one under Flournoy proceeding down between the rivers to capture the bridges at the fork and prevent a retreat of the Federals at Front Royal toward Winchester, while the other under Ashby, moving farther to the left, was to cut the railroad and telegraph at Buckton, between Front Royal and Strasburg, thus breaking communication between those places and preventing the sending of reinforcements to the latter. In order to flank the enemy's position at Front Royal, concerning which he was well informed through Ashby's local scouts, and prevent a retreat eastward across the Blue ridge, Jackson, when his advance reached Asbury chapel on the river road, 4 miles from Front Royal, turned the head of his main body eastward, by a by-road up the slope of the Blue ridge, until he reached the turnpike leading from Gooney Manor to Front Royal, which was well up on the side of the mountain and led into the eastern side of the town. That road reached, the head of his column, consisting of the First Maryland Confederate regiment and a Louisiana battalion, supported by Taylor's Louisiana brigade, advanced rapidly into and through the town to the camp of the Federal forces which were mainly Maryland troops with two pieces of artillery, on a hill between Front Royal and the Shenandoah, overlooking the forks of the river and near the railway and turnpike bridges which they were specially guarding. Two companies of cavalry had just arrived from Strasburg in time to resist the Confederate advance.
The Federal opposition was spirited, but being attacked in front by the force that first reached them, and then in flank by one that Ewell had turned to the left from his command, and discovering the advance of Flournoy's Confederate cavalry between the rivers that would soon block his way toward Winchester, Colonel Kenly, the Federal commander, abandoned his position before the infantry closed down upon him, and retreated across the two rivers, firing his camp and attempting to fire the bridges. The Confederates pressed him so closely that he did but little damage to the bridge over the South Fork, but did sufficient to that over the North Fork to check the pursuit. Having gained the commanding bluff of Guard hill, beyond the rivers, which the road to Winchester crosses, Kenly attempted to further check the Confederate advance with the artillery that he had brought off, but Flournoy's cavalry soon dashed through the river, after a few shots from a Confederate battery had driven off the Federal artillery, and continued the pursuit. Covering his retreat with two companies of New York cavalry, Kenly hurried toward Winchester. With invincible ardor Flournoy pressed after him with his four companies of cavalry, charged and routed Kenly's cavalry rear guard, and came upon the rear of his infantry, which he found drawn up on either side of the road with his artillery in the road to meet him. Jackson had joined in the pursuit, and, inspired by his presence and enthusiastic bearing, Flournoy did not hesitate to attack the enemy's artillery and infantry in position, but dashed upon and routed them. They rallied again and made a gallant stand in an orchard in the rear of the position from which they had been driven; but this stand was in vain; they had become thoroughly demoralized and so magnified Flournoy's troopers into an army of 'horsemen, when they dashed among them with the assurance of victory and scattered them, in wild disorder, but taking most of them prisoners when they threw down their arms and surrendered. Reinforced by the coming of two more of his companies, Flournoy pushed the pursuit to within four miles of Winchester, capturing one gun near the fighting ground and soon after the wagon train and the other gun, abandoned in the road, sending the latter back with two plough horses taken from a farmer's field.
The victory was complete. A large quantity of stores was captured in Front Royal; the Federal camp was taken; the wagon bridges across the two rivers were saved for the passage of the Confederate army and its trains and artillery, and 904 of the enemy made the list of killed, wounded and captured, while the Confederate loss was but 26 killed and wounded. Ashby's movement had been successful, he having reached Buckton before the enemy were aware of the move on Front Royal, and cut the telegraph and railway, capturing the blockhouse guarding that station, after a spirited resistance, his attacking party being the troopers from that immediate vicinity; his attack turned back a train of cars, which was captured near Front Royal.
Late in the day Jackson established headquarters at Cedarville, some 5 miles from Front Royal on the road to Winchester, near the scene of the last conflict between Flournoy and Kenly, where a country road leaves the Front Royal and Winchester pike and leads to the Valley turnpike at Middletown, some 8 miles in the rear of Banks' position at Strasburg, which he was firmly holding in anticipation of a front attack while Jackson was successfully turning his left, at Front Royal, routing and capturing his men and cutting his communications with Manassas and Washington, concerning which he had no information until after nightfall, attaching but little importance to the message which Kenly sent him by a courier, informing him that an overwhelming force had descended from the Blue ridge on his position at Front Royal. Jackson and his staff slept near the picket line, on the ground in the front yard of McCoy's house at Cedarville, while his army bivouacked along the road between that place and Front Royal.