Review of the Valley Campaign - by G.F.R. Henderson
In March, 1862, more than 200,000 Federals were prepared to invade Virginia. McClellan, before McDowell was withheld, reckoned on placing 150,000 men at West Point. Fremont, in West Virginia, commanded 30,000, including the force in the Kanawha Valley; and Banks had crossed the Potomac with over 30,000.
Less than 60,000 Confederate soldiers were available to oppose this enormous host, and the numerical disproportion was increased by the vast material resources of the North. The only advantages which the Southerners possessed were that they were operating in their own country, and that their cavalry was the more efficient. Their leaders, therefore, could count on receiving more ample and more accurate information than their adversaries.* (* “If I were mindful only of my own glory, I would choose always to make war in my own country, for there every man is a spy, and the enemy can make no movement of which I am not informed.” Frederick the Great's Instructions to his Generals.) But, except in these respects, everything was against them. In mettle and in discipline the troops were fairly matched. On both sides the higher commands, with few exceptions, were held by regular officers, who had received the same training. On both sides the staff was inexperienced. If the Confederate infantry were better marksmen than the majority of the Federals, they were not so well armed; and the Federal artillery, both in materiel and in handling, was the more efficient.
The odds against the South were great; and to those who believed that Providence sides with the big battalions, that numbers, armament, discipline, and tactical efficiency, are all that is required to ensure success, the fall of Richmond must have seemed inevitable.
But within three months of the day that McClellan started for the Peninsula the odds had been much reduced. The Confederates had won no startling victories. Except in the Valley, and there only small detachments were concerned, the fighting had been indecisive. The North had no reason to believe that her soldiers, save only the cavalry, were in any way inferior to their adversaries. And yet, on June 26, where were the “big battalions?” 105,000 men were intrenched within sight of the spires of Richmond; but where were the rest? Where were the 70,000* (* At the date of the action at Front Royal, May 23, the following was the strength of the detached forces: Banks, 10,000; Fremont, 25,000; McDowell (including Shields, but excluding McCall), 35,000.) that should have aided McClellan, have encircled the rebel capital on every side, cut the communications, closed the sources of supply, and have overwhelmed the starving garrison? How came it that Fremont and Banks were no further south than they were in March? that the Shenandoah Valley still poured its produce into Richmond? that McDowell had not yet crossed the Rappahannock? What mysterious power had compelled Lincoln to retain a force larger than the whole Confederate army “to protect the national capital from danger and insult?”
It was not hard fighting. The Valley campaign, from Kernstown to Port Republic, had not cost the Federals more than 7000 men; and, with the exception of Cross Keys, the battles had been well contested. It was not the difficulties of supply or movement. It was not absence of information; for until Jackson vanished from the sight of both friend and foe on June 17, spies and “contrabands"* (i.e. Fugitive slaves) had done good work. (* The blacks, however, appear to have been as unreliable as regards numbers as McClellan's detectives. “If a negro were asked how many Confederates he had seen at a certain point, his answer was very likely to be: “I dunno, Massa, but I guess about a million.””—McClellan's Own Story page 254.) Nor was it want of will on the part of the Northern Government. None were more anxious than Lincoln and Stanton to capture Richmond, to disperse the rebels, and to restore the Union. They had made stupendous efforts to organise a sufficient army. To equip that army as no army had ever been equipped before they had spared neither expense nor labour; and it can hardly be denied that they had created a vast machine, perhaps in part imperfect, but, considering the weakness of the enemy, not ill-adapted for the work before it.
There was but one thing they had overlooked, and that was that their host would require intelligent control. So complete was the mechanism, so simple a matter it appeared to set the machine in motion, and to keep it in the right course, that they believed that their untutored hands, guided by common-sense and sound abilities, were perfectly capable of guiding it, without mishap, to the appointed goal. Men who, aware of their ignorance, would probably have shrunk from assuming charge of a squad of infantry in action, had no hesitation whatever in attempting to direct a mighty army, a task which Napoleon has assured us requires profound study, incessant application, and wide experience.* (* “In consequence of the excessive growth of armies tactics have lost in weight, and the strategical design, rather than the detail of the movements, has become the decisive factor in the issue at a campaign. The strategical design depends, as a rule, upon the decision of cabinets, and upon the resources placed at the disposal of the commander. Consequently, either the leading statesmen should have correct views of the science of war, or should make up for their ignorance by giving their entire confidence to the man to whom the supreme command of the army is entrusted. Otherwise, the germs of defeat and national ruin may be contained in the first preparations for war.”—The Archduke Charles of Austria.)
They were in fact ignorant—and how many statesmen, and even soldiers, are in like case?—that strategy, the art of manoeuvring armies, is an art in itself, an art which none may master by the light of nature, but to which, if he is to attain success, a man must serve a long apprenticeship.
The rules of strategy are few and simple. They may be learned in a week. They may be taught by familiar illustrations or a dozen diagrams. But such knowledge will no more teach a man to lead an army like Napoleon than a knowledge of grammar will teach him to write like Gibbon. Lincoln, when the army he had so zealously toiled to organise, reeled back in confusion from Virginia, set himself to learn the art of war. He collected, says his biographer, a great library of military books; and, if it were not pathetic, it would be almost ludicrous, to read of the great President, in the midst of his absorbing labours and his ever-growing anxieties, poring night after night, when his capital was asleep, over the pages of Jomini and Clausewitz. And what was the result? In 1864, when Grant was appointed to the command of the Union armies, he said: “I neither ask nor desire to know anything of your plans. Take the responsibility and act, and call on me for assistance.” He had learned at last that no man is a born strategist.
The mistakes of Lincoln and Stanton are not to be condoned by pointing to McClellan.
McClellan designed the plan for the invasion of Virginia, and the plan failed. But this is not to say that the plan was in itself a bad one. Nine times out of ten it would have succeeded. In many respects it was admirable. It did away with a long line of land communications, passing through a hostile country. It brought the naval power of the Federals into combination with the military. It secured two great waterways, the York and the James, by which the army could be easily supplied, which required no guards, and by which heavy ordnance could be brought up to bombard the fortifications of Richmond. But it had one flaw. It left Washington, in the opinion of the President and of the nation, insecure; and this flaw, which would have escaped the notice of an ordinary enemy, was at once detected by Lee and Jackson. Moreover, had McClellan been left in control of the whole theatre of war, Jackson's manoeuvres would probably have failed to produce so decisive an effect. The fight at Kernstown would not have induced McClellan to strike 40,000 men off the strength of the invading army. He had not been deceived when Jackson threatened Harper's Ferry at the end of May. The reinforcements sent from Richmond after Port Republic had not blinded him, nor did he for a moment believe that Washington was in actual danger. There is this, however, to be said: had McClellan been in sole command, public opinion, alarmed for Washington, would have possibly compelled him to do exactly what Lincoln did, and to retain nearly half the army on the Potomac.
So much for the leading of civilians. On the other hand, the failure of the Federals to concentrate more than 105,000 men at the decisive point, and even to establish those 105,000 in a favourable position, was mainly due to the superior strategy of the Confederates. Those were indeed skilful manoeuvres which prevented McDowell from marching to the Chickahominy; and, at the critical moment, when Lee was on the point of attacking McClellan, which drew McDowell, Banks, and Fremont on a wild-goose chase towards Charlottesville. The weak joint in the enemy's armour, the national anxiety for Washington, was early recognised. Kernstown induced Lincoln, departing from the original scheme of operations, to form four independent armies, each acting on a different line. Two months later, when McClellan was near Richmond it was of essential importance that the move of these armies should be combined, Jackson once more intervened; Banks was driven across the Potomac, and again the Federal concentration was postponed. Lastly, the battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic, followed by the dispatch of Whiting and Lawton to the Valley, led the Northern President to commit his worst mistake. For the second time the plan of campaign was changed, and McClellan was left isolated at the moment he most needed help.
The brains of two great leaders had done more for the Confederacy than 200,000 soldiers had done for the Union. Without quitting his desk, and leaving the execution of his plans to Jackson, Lee had relieved Richmond of the pressure of 70,000 Federals, and had lured the remainder into the position he most wished to find them. The Confederacy, notwithstanding the enormous disparity of force, had once more gained the upper hand; and from this instance, as from a score of others, it may be deduced that Providence is more inclined to side with the big brains than with the big battalions.
It was not mere natural ability that had triumphed. Lee, in this respect, was assuredly not more highly gifted than Lincoln, or Jackson than McClellan. But, whether by accident or design, Davis had selected for command of the Confederate army, and had retained in the Valley, two past masters in the art of strategy. If it was accident he was singularly favoured by fortune. He might have selected many soldiers of high rank and long service, who would have been as innocent of strategical skill as Lincoln himself. His choice might have fallen on the most dashing leader, the strictest disciplinarian, the best drill, in the Confederate army; and yet the man who united all these qualities might have been altogether ignorant of the higher art of war. Mr. Davis himself had been a soldier. He was a graduate of West Point, and in the Mexican campaign he had commanded a volunteer regiment with much distinction. But as a director of military operations he was a greater marplot than even Stanton. It by no means follows that because a man has lived his life in camp and barrack, has long experience of command, and even long experience of war, that he can apply the rules of strategy before the enemy. In the first place he may lack the character, the inflexible resolution, the broad grasp, the vivid imagination, the power of patient thought, the cool head, and, above all, the moral courage. In the second place, there are few schools where strategy may be learned, and, in any case, a long and laborious course of study is the only means of acquiring the capacity to handle armies and outwit an equal adversary. The light of common-sense alone is insufficient; nor will a few months' reading give more than a smattering of knowledge.
“Read and RE-READ,” said Napoleon, “the eighty-eight campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus, Turenne, Eugene, and Frederick. Take them as your models, for it is the only means of becoming a great leader, and of mastering the secrets of the art of war. Your intelligence, enlightened by such study, will then reject methods contrary to those adopted by these great men.”
In America, as elsewhere, it had not been recognised before the Civil War, even by the military authorities, that if armies are to be handled with success they must be directed by trained strategists. No Kriegsakademie or its equivalent existed in the United States, and the officers whom common-sense induced to follow the advice of Napoleon had to pursue their studies by themselves. To these the campaigns of the great Emperor offered an epitome of all that had gone before; the campaigns of Washington explained how the principles of the art might be best applied to their own country, and Mexico had supplied them with practical experience. Of the West Point graduates there were many who had acquired from these sources a wide knowledge of the art of generalship, and among them were no more earnest students than the three Virginians, Lee, Jackson, and Johnston.
When Jackson accepted an appointment for the Military Institute, it was with the avowed intention of training his intellect for war. In his retirement at Lexington he had kept before his eyes the possibility that he might some day be recalled to the Army. He had already acquired such practical knowledge of his profession as the United States service could afford. He had become familiar with the characteristics of the regular soldier. He knew how to command, to maintain discipline, and the regulations were at his fingers' ends. A few years had been sufficient to teach him all that could be learned from the routine of a regiment, as they had been sufficient to teach Napoleon, Frederick, and Lee. But there remained over and above the intellectual part of war, and with characteristic thoroughness he had set himself to master it. His reward came quickly. The Valley campaign practically saved Richmond. In a few short months the quiet gentleman of Lexington became, in the estimation of both friend and foe, a very thunderbolt of war; and his name, which a year previous had hardly been known beyond the Valley, was already famous.
It is, perhaps, true that Johnston and Lee had a larger share in Jackson's success than has been generally recognised. It was due to Johnston that Jackson was retained in the Valley when McClellan moved to the Peninsula; and his, too, was the fundamental idea of the campaign, that the Federals in the Valley were to be prevented from reinforcing the army which threatened Richmond. To Lee belongs still further credit. From the moment he assumed command we find the Confederate operations directed on a definite and well-considered plan; a defensive attitude round Richmond, a vigorous offensive in the Valley, leading to the dispersion of the enemy, and a Confederate concentration on the Chickahominy. His operations were very bold. When McClellan, with far superior numbers, was already within twenty miles of Richmond, he had permitted Jackson to retain Ewell's 8000 in the Valley, and he would have given him the brigades of Branch and Mahone. From Lee, too, came the suggestion that a blow should be struck at Banks, that he should be driven back to the Potomac, and that the North should be threatened with invasion. From him, too, at a moment when McClellan's breastworks could be actually seen from Richmond, came the 7000 men under Whiting and Lawton, the news of whose arrival in the Valley had spread such consternation amongst the Federals. But it is to be remembered that Jackson viewed the situation in exactly the same light as his superiors. The instructions he received were exactly the instructions he would have given had he been in command at Richmond; and it may be questioned whether even he would have carried them out with such whole-hearted vigour if he had not thoroughly agreed with every detail.
Lee's strategy was indeed remarkable. He knew McClellan and he knew Lincoln. He knew that the former was over-cautious; he knew that the latter was over-anxious. No sudden assault on the Richmond lines, weak as they were, was to be apprehended, and a threat against Washington was certain to have great results. Hence the audacity which, at a moment apparently most critical, sent 17,000 of the best troops in the Confederacy as far northward as Harper's Ferry, and, a fortnight later, weakened the garrison of Richmond by 7000 infantry. He was surely a great leader who, in the face of an overwhelming enemy, dared assume so vast a responsibility. But it is to be remembered that Lee made no suggestion whatever as to the manner in which his ideas were to be worked out. Everything was left to Jackson. The swift manoeuvres which surprised in succession his various enemies emanated from himself alone. It was his brain that conceived the march by Mechum's Station to M'Dowell, the march that surprised Fremont and bewildered Banks. It was his brain that conceived the rapid transfer of the Valley army from the one side of the Massanuttons to the other, the march that surprised Kenly and drove Banks in panic to the Potomac. It was his brain that conceived the double victory of Cross Keys and Port Republic; and if Lee's strategy was brilliant, that displayed by Jackson on the minor theatre of war was no less masterly. The instructions he received at the end of April, before he moved against Milroy, were simply to the effect that a successful blow at Banks might have the happiest results. But such a blow was not easy. Banks was strongly posted and numerically superior to Jackson, while Fremont, in equal strength, was threatening Staunton. Taking instant advantage of the separation of the hostile columns, Jackson struck at Milroy, and having checked Fremont, returned to the Valley to find Banks retreating. At this moment he received orders from Lee to threaten Washington. Without an instant's hesitation he marched northward. By May 28, had the Federals received warning of his advance, they might have concentrated 80,000 men at Strasburg and Front Royal; or, while Banks was reinforced, McDowell might have moved on Gordonsville, cutting Jackson's line of retreat on Richmond.
But Jackson took as little count of numbers as did Cromwell. Concealing his march with his usual skill he dashed with his 16,000 men into the midst of his enemies. Driving Banks before him, and well aware that Fremont and McDowell were converging in his rear, he advanced boldly on Harper's Ferry, routed Saxton's outposts, and remained for two days on the Potomac, with 62,000 Federals within a few days' march. Then, retreating rapidly up the Valley, beneath the southern peaks of the Massanuttons he turned fiercely at bay; and the pursuing columns, mustering together nearly twice his numbers, were thrust back with heavy loss at the very moment they were combining to crush him.* (* “An operation which stamps him as a military genius of the highest order.” Lord Wolseley, North American Review volume 149 No. 2 page 166.) A week later he had vanished, and when he appeared on the Chickahominy, Banks, Fremont, and McDowell were still guarding the roads to Washington, and McClellan was waiting for McDowell. 175,000 men absolutely paralysed by 16,000! Only Napoleon's campaign of 1814 affords a parallel to this extraordinary spectacle.* (* “These brilliant successes appear to me models of their kind, both in conception and execution. They should be closely studied by all officers who wish to learn the art and science of war.”—Ibid.)
Jackson's task was undoubtedly facilitated by the ignorance of Lincoln and the incapacity of his political generals. But in estimating his achievements, this ignorance and incapacity are only of secondary importance. The historians do not dwell upon the mistakes of Colli, Beaulieu, and Wurmser in 1796, but on the brilliant resolution with which Napoleon took advantage of them; and the salient features, both of the Valley Campaign and of that of 1796, are the untiring vigilance with which opportunities were looked for, the skill with which they were detected, and the daring rapidity with which they were seized.
History often unconsciously injures the reputation of great soldiers. The more detailed the narrative, the less brilliant seems success, the less excusable defeat. When we are made fully acquainted with the dispositions of both sides, the correct solution of the problem, strategical or tactical, is generally so plain that we may easily be led to believe that it must needs have spontaneously suggested itself to the victorious leader; and, as a natural corollary, that success is due rather to force of will than to force of intellect; to vigilance, energy, and audacity, rather than to insight and calculation. It is asserted, for instance, by superficial critics that both Wellington and Napoleon, in the campaign of 1815, committed unpardonable errors. Undoubtedly, at first sight, it is inconceivable that the one should have disregarded the probability of the French invading Belgium by the Charleroi road, or that the other, on the morning of the great battle, should never have suspected that Blucher was close at hand. But the critic's knowledge of the situation is far more ample and accurate than that of either commander. Had either Wellington before Quatre Bras, or Napoleon on the fateful June 18 known what we know now, matters would have turned out very differently. “If,” said Frederick the Great, “we had exact information of our enemy's dispositions, we should beat him every time;” but exact information is never forthcoming. A general in the field literally walks in darkness, and his success will be in proportion to the facility with which his mental vision can pierce the veil. His manoeuvres, to a greater or less degree, must always be based on probabilities, for his most recent reports almost invariably relate to events which, at best, are several hours old; and, meanwhile, what has the enemy been doing? This it is the most essential part of his business to discover, and it is a matter of hard thinking and sound judgment. From the indications furnished by his reports, and from the consideration of many circumstances, with some of which he is only imperfectly acquainted, he must divine the intentions of his opponent. It is not pretended that even the widest experience and the finest intellect confer infallibility. But clearness of perception and the power of deduction, together with the strength of purpose which they create, are the fount and origin of great achievements; and when we find a campaign in which they played a predominant part, we may fairly rate it as a masterpiece of war. It can hardly be disputed that these qualities played such a part on the Shenandoah. For instance; when Jackson left the Valley to march against Milroy, many things might have happened which would have brought about disaster:—
1. Banks, who was reported to have 21,000 men at Harrisonburg, might have moved on Staunton, joined hands with Milroy, and crushed Edward Johnson.
2. Banks might have attacked Ewell's 8000 with superior numbers.
3. Fremont, if he got warning of Jackson's purpose, might have reinforced Milroy, occupied a strong position, and requested Banks to threaten or attack the Confederates in rear.
4. Fremont might have withdrawn his advanced brigade, and have reinforced Banks from Moorefield.
5. Banks might have been reinforced by Blenker, of whose whereabouts Jackson was uncertain.
6. Banks might have marched to join McDowell at Fredericksburg.
7. McClellan might have pressed Johnston so closely that a decisive battle could not have been long delayed.
8. McDowell might have marched on Richmond, intervening between the Valley army and the capital.
Such an array of possibilities would have justified a passive attitude on Elk Run. A calculation of the chances, however, showed Jackson that the dangers of action were illusory. “Never take counsel of your fears,” was a maxim often on his lips. Unlike many others, he first made up his mind what he wanted to do, and then, and not till then, did he consider what his opponents might do to thwart him. To seize the initiative was his chief preoccupation, and in this case it did not seem difficult to do so. He knew that Banks was unenterprising. It was improbable that McDowell would advance until McClellan was near Richmond, and McClellan was very slow. To prevent Fremont getting an inkling of his design in time to cross it was not impossible, and Lincoln's anxiety for Washington might be relied on to keep Banks in the Valley.
It is true that Jackson's force was very small. But the manifestation of military genius is not affected by numbers. The handling of masses is a mechanical art, of which knowledge and experience are the key; but it is the manner in which the grand principles of war are applied which marks the great leader, and these principles may be applied as resolutely and effectively with 10,000 men as with 100,000.
“In meditation,” says Bacon, “all dangers should be seen; in execution none, unless they are very formidable.” It was on this precept that Jackson acted. Not a single one of his manoeuvres but was based on a close and judicial survey of the situation. Every risk was weighed. Nothing was left to chance. “There was never a commander,” says his chief of the staff, “whose foresight was more complete. Nothing emerged which had not been considered before in his mind; no possibility was overlooked; he was never surprised.”* (* Dabney volume 1 page 76.) The character of his opponent, the morale of the hostile troops, the nature of the ground, and the manner in which physical features could be turned to account, were all matters of the most careful consideration. He was a constant student of the map, and his topographical engineer was one of the most important officers on his staff. “It could readily be seen,” writes Major Hotchkiss, “that in the preparations he made for securing success he had fully in mind what Napoleon had done under similar circumstances; resembling Napoleon especially in this, that he was very particular in securing maps, and in acquiring topographical information. He furnished me with every facility that I desired for securing topographical information and for making maps, allowing me a complete transportation outfit for my exclusive use and sending men into the enemy's country to procure copies of local maps when I expressed a desire to have them. I do not think he had an accurate knowledge of the Valley previous to the war. When I first reported to him for duty, at the beginning of March 1862, he told me that he wanted “a complete map of the entire Shenandoah Valley from Harper's Ferry to Lexington, one showing every point of offence and defence,” and to that task I immediately addressed myself. As a rule he did not refer to maps in the field, making his study of them in advance. He undoubtedly had the power of retaining the topography of the country in his imagination. He had spent his youth among the mountains, where there were but few waggon roads but many bridle and foot paths. His early occupation made it necessary for him to become familiar with such intricate ways; and I think this had a very important bearing on his ability to promptly recognise the topographical features of the country, and to recall them whenever it became necessary to make use of them. He was quick in comprehending topographical features. I made it a point, nevertheless, to be always ready to give him a graphic representation of any particular point of the region where operations were going on, making a rapid sketch of the topography in his presence, and using different coloured pencils for greater clearness in the definition of surface features. The carefully prepared map generally had too many points of detail, and did not sufficiently emphasise features apparently insignificant, but from a military standpoint most important. I may add that Jackson not only studied the general maps of the country, but made a particular study of those of any district where he expected to march or fight, constantly using sketch maps made upon the ground to inform him as to portions of the field of operations that did not immediately come under his own observation. I often made rough sketches for him when on the march, or during engagements, in answer to his requests for information.”* (* Letter to the author.)
It is little wonder that it should have been said by his soldiers that “he knew every hole and corner of the Valley as if he had made it himself.”
But to give attention to topography was not all that Jackson had learned from Napoleon. “As a strategist,” says Dabney, “the first Napoleon was undoubtedly his model. He had studied his campaigns diligently, and he was accustomed to remark with enthusiasm upon the evidences of his genius. “Napoleon,” he said, “was the first to show what an army could be made to accomplish. He had shown what was the value of time as an element of strategic combination, and that good troops, if well cared for, could be made to march twenty-five miles daily, and win battles besides.” And he had learned more than this. “We must make this campaign,” he said at the beginning of 1868, “an exceedingly active one. Only thus can a weaker country cope with a stronger; it must make up in activity what it lacks in strength. A defensive campaign can only be made successful by taking the aggressive at the proper time. Napoleon never waited for his adversary to become fully prepared, but struck him the first blow.””
It would perhaps be difficult, in the writings of Napoleon, to find a passage which embodies his conception of war in terms as definite as these; but no words could convey it more clearly. It is sometimes forgotten that Napoleon was often outnumbered at the outset of a campaign. It was not only in the campaigns of Italy, of Leipsic, of 1814, and of Waterloo, that the hostile armies were larger than his own. In those of Ulm, Austerlitz, Eckmuhl, and Dresden, he was numerically inferior on the whole theatre of war; but while the French troops were concentrated under a single chief, the armies of the Allies were scattered over a wide area, and unable to support each other. Before they could come together, Napoleon, moving with the utmost rapidity, struck the first blow, and they were defeated in succession. The first principle of war is to concentrate superior force at the decisive point, that is, upon the field of battle. But it is exceedingly seldom that by standing still, and leaving the initiative to the enemy, that this principle can be observed, for a numerically inferior force, if it once permits its enemy to concentrate, can hardly hope for success. True generalship is, therefore, “to make up in activity for lack of strength; to strike the enemy in detail, and overthrow his columns in succession. And the highest art of all is to compel him to disperse his army, and then to concentrate superior force against each fraction in turn.”
It is such strategy as this that “gains the ends of States and makes men heroes.” Napoleon did not discover it. Every single general who deserves to be entitled great has used it. Frederick, threatened by Austria, France, Russia, Saxony, and Sweden, used it in self-defence, and from the Seven Years' War the little kingdom of Prussia emerged as a first-class Power. It was such strategy which won back the Peninsula; not the lines of Torres Vedras, but the bold march northwards to Vittoria.* (* “In six weeks, Wellington marched with 100,000 men six hundred miles, passed six great rivers, gained one decisive battle, invested two fortresses, and drove 120,000 veteran troops from Spain.” The War in the Peninsula, Napier volume 5 page 132.) It was on the same lines that Lee and Jackson acted. Lee, in compelling the Federals to keep their columns separated, manoeuvred with a skill which has seldom been surpassed; Jackson, falling as it were from the skies into the midst of his astonished foes, struck right and left before they could combine, and defeated in detail every detachment which crossed his path.
It is when regarded in connection with the operations of the main armies that the Valley campaign stands out in its true colours; but, at the same time, even as an isolated incident, it is in the highest degree interesting. It has been compared, and not inaptly, with the Italian campaign of 1796. And it may even be questioned whether, in some respects, it was not more brilliant. The odds against the Confederates were far greater than against the French. Jackson had to deal with a homogeneous enemy, with generals anxious to render each other loyal support, and not with the contingents of different States. His marches were far longer than Napoleon's. The theatre of war was not less difficult. His troops were not veterans, but, in great part, the very rawest of recruits. The enemy's officers and soldiers were not inferior to his own; their leaders were at least equal in capacity to Colli, Beaulieu, and Alvinzi, and the statesmen who directed them were not more purblind than the Aulic Council. Moreover, Jackson was merely the commander of a detached force, which might at any moment be required at Richmond. The risks which Napoleon freely accepted he could not afford. He dared not deliver battle unless he were certain of success, and his one preoccupation was to lose as few men as possible. But be this as it may, in the secrecy of the Confederate movements, the rapidity of the marches, and the skilful use of topographical features, the Valley campaign bears strong traces of the Napoleonic methods. Seldom has the value of these methods been more forcibly illustrated. Three times was McDowell to have marched to join McClellan: first, at the beginning of April, when he was held back by Kernstown; second, on May 26, when he was held back by Front Royal and Winchester; third, on June 25, when he was held back by Jackson's disappearance after Port Republic. Above all, the campaign reveals a most perfect appreciation of the surest means of dealing with superior numbers. “In my personal intercourse with Jackson,” writes General Imboden, “in the early part of the war, he often said that there were two things never to be lost sight of by a military commander. “Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never give up the pursuit as long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number. The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible manoeuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.”* (* Battles and Leaders volume 2 page 297.) And again: “To move swiftly, strike vigorously, and secure all the fruits of victory, is the secret of successful war.””
These maxims were the outcome of his studies, “drawn absolutely and merely,” says Lord Wolseley, “from his knowledge of war, as learned from the great leaders of former days; “* (* North American Review volume 149 page 168.) and if he made war by rule, as he had regulated his conduct as a cadet, it can hardly be denied that his rules were of the soundest. They are a complete summary of the tactics which wrought such havoc in the Valley. The order in which they are placed is interesting. “To mystify, mislead, and surprise,” is the first precept. How thoroughly it was applied! The measures by which his adversaries were to be deceived were as carefully thought out as the maps had been closely studied. The troops moved almost as often by country roads and farm tracks as by the turnpikes. The longer route, even when time was of importance, was often preferred, if it was well concealed, to the shorter. No precaution, however trivial, that might prevent information reaching the enemy was neglected. In order that he might give his final instructions to Colonel Munford before marching to Richmond, he told that officer to meet him at ten o'clock at night in Mount Sidney. “I will be on my horse,” he wrote, “at the north end of the town, so you need not inquire after me.”* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 914.) “Le bon general ordinaire” would have scoffed at the atmosphere of mystery which enveloped the Confederate camp. The march from Elk Run Valley to Port Republic, with its accompaniments of continuous quagmire and dreary bivouacs, he would have ridiculed as a most useless stratagem. The infinite pains with which Jackson sought to conceal, even from his most trusted staff officers, his movements, his intentions, and his thoughts, a commander less thorough would have pronounced useless. The long night ride to Richmond, on June 22, with its untoward delays and provoking contretemps, sounds like an excess of precaution which was absolutely pedantic.* (* He instructed the orderly that accompanied him, and who knew the roads, to call him “Colonel') But war, according to Napoleon, is made up of accidents. The country was full of spies; the Southern newspapers were sometimes indiscreet; and the simple fact that Jackson had been seen near Richmond would have warned McClellan that his right wing was in jeopardy. Few men would have taken such infinite trouble to hide the departure from the Valley and the march across Virginia to attack McClellan. But soldiers of experience, alive to the full bearing of seemingly petty details, appreciate his skill.* (* “The manner,” says Lord Wolseley, “in which he thus mystified his enemy regarding this most important movement is a masterpiece.” North American Review volume 149 pages 166 and 167.) According to the dictum of Napoleon, “there are no such things as trifles in war.”
It was not, however, on such expedients that Jackson principally relied to keep his enemy in the dark. The use he made of his cavalry is perhaps the most brilliant tactical feature of the campaign. Ashby's squadrons were the means whereby the Federals were mystified. Not only was a screen established which perfectly concealed the movements of the Valley army, but constant demonstrations, at far distant points, alarmed and bewildered the Federal commanders. In his employment of cavalry Jackson was in advance of his age. His patrols were kept out two or three marches to front and flank; neither by day nor by night were they permitted to lose touch of the enemy; and thus no movement could take place without their knowledge. Such tactics had not been seen since the days of Napoleon. The Confederate horsemen in the Valley were far better handled than those of France or Austria in 1859, of Prussia or Austria in 1866, of France in 1870, of England, France, or Russia in the Crimea.
In the flank march on Sebastopol the hostile armies passed within a few miles, in an open country, without either of them being aware of the proximity of the other, and the English headquarter staff almost rode into a Russian baggage-train. At Solferino and at Sadowa, armies which were counted by hundreds of thousands encamped almost within sight of each other's watch-fires, without the slightest suspicion that the enemy lay over the next ridge. The practice of Napoleon had been forgotten. The great cloud of horsemen which, riding sometimes a hundred miles to the front, veiled the march of the Grand Army had vanished from memory. The vast importance ascribed by the Emperor to procuring early information of his enemy and hiding his own movements had been overlooked; and it was left to an American soldier to revive his methods.
The application of Jackson's second precept, “to hurl your own force on the weakest part of the enemy's,” was made possible by his vigorous application of the first. The Federals, mystified and misled by demonstrations of the cavalry, and unable to procure information, never knew at what point they should concentrate, and support invariably came too late. Jackson's tactical successes were achieved over comparatively small forces. Except at Cross Keys, and there he only intended to check Fremont for the moment, he never encountered more than 10,000 men on any single field. No great victory, like Austerlitz or Salamanca, was won over equal numbers. No Chancellorsville, where a huge army was overthrown by one scarce half the size, is reckoned amongst the triumphs of the Valley campaign. But it is to be remembered that Jackson was always outnumbered, and outnumbered heavily, on the theatre of war; and if he defeated his enemies in detail, their overthrow was not less decisive than if it had been brought about at one time and at one place. The fact that they were unable to combine their superior numbers before the blow fell is in itself the strongest testimony to his ability. “How often,” says Napier, “have we not heard the genius of Buonaparte slighted, and his victories talked of as destitute of merit, because, at the point of attack, he was superior in numbers to his enemies! This very fact, which has been so often converted into a sort of reproach, constitutes his greatest and truest praise. He so directed his attack as at once to divide his enemy, and to fall with the mass of his own forces upon a point where their division, or the distribution of their army, left them unable to resist him. It is not in man to defeat armies by the breath of his mouth; nor was Buonaparte commissioned, like Gideon, to confound and destroy a host with three hundred men. He knew that everything depended ultimately upon physical superiority; and his genius was shown in this, that, though outnumbered on the whole, he was always superior to his enemies at the decisive point.”*
(* The following table, of which the idea is borrowed from The Principles of Strategy, by Captain Bigelow, U.S.A., may be found interesting. Under the heading “Strategic” appear the numbers available on the theatre of operations; under the heading “Tactical” the numbers present on the field of battle. See also note at the end of the volume.
The material results of the Valley campaign were by no means inconsiderable. 8500 prisoners were either paroled or sent to Richmond. 3500 Federals were killed or wounded. An immense quantity of stores was captured, and probably as much destroyed. 9 guns were taken and over 10,000 rifles, while the loss of the Confederates was no more than 2500 killed and wounded, 600 prisoners, and 3 guns. It may be added that the constant surprises, together with the successive conflict with superior numbers, had the worst effect on the morale of the Federal soldiers. The troops commanded by Fremont, Shields, Banks, Saxton, and Geary were all infected. Officers resigned and men deserted. On the least alarm there was a decided tendency to “stampede.” The generals thought only of retreat. Fremont, after Cross Keys, did not think that his men would stand, and many of his men declared that it was “only murder” to fight without reinforcements.* (* O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 402.)
When to those results is added the strategical effect of the campaign, it can hardly be denied that the success he achieved was out of all proportion to Jackson's strength. Few generals have done so much with means so small. Not only were the Valley troops comparatively few in numbers, but they were volunteers, and volunteers of a type that was altogether novel. Even in the War of the Revolution many of the regimental officers, and indeed many of the soldiers, were men who had served in the Indian and French wars under the English flag. But there were not more than half a dozen regular officers in the whole Army of the Valley. Except Jackson himself, and his chief of artillery, not one of the staff had more than a year's service. Twelve months previous several of the brigadiers had been civilians. The regimental officers were as green as the men; and although military offences were few, the bonds of discipline were slight. When the march to M'Dowell was begun, which was to end five weeks later at Port Republic, a considerable number of the so-called “effectives” had only been drilled for a few hours. The cavalry on parade was little better than a mob; on the line of march they kept or left the ranks as the humour took them. It is true that the Federals were hardly more efficient. But Jackson's operations were essentially offensive, and offensive operations, as was shown at Bull Run, are ill-suited to raw troops. Attack cannot be carried to a triumphant issue unless every fraction of the force co-operates with those on either hand; and co-operation is hardly to be expected from inexperienced officers. Moreover, offensive operations, especially when a small force is manoeuvring against the fraction of a larger, depend for success on order, rapidity, and endurance; and it is in these qualities, as a rule, that raw troops are particularly deficient. Yet Jackson, like Napoleon at Ulm, might have boasted with truth that he had “destroyed the enemy merely by marches,” and his men accomplished feats of which the hardiest veterans might well be proud.
From April 29 to June 5, that is, in thirty-eight days, they marched four hundred miles, fought three battles and numerous combats, and were victorious in all. Several of the marches exceeded twenty-five miles a day; and in retreat, from the Potomac to Port Republic, the army made one hundred and four miles between the morning of May 30 and the night of June 5, that is, fifteen miles daily without a rest day intervening. This record, if we take into consideration the infamous roads, is remarkable; and it well may be asked by what means these half-trained troops were enabled to accomplish such a feat?* (* “Campaigning in France,” says General Sheridan, who was with the Prussian Headquarter Staff in 1870, “that is, the marching, camping, and subsisting of an army, is an easy matter, very unlike anything we had in the War of the Rebellion. To repeat: the country is rich, beautiful, and densely populated, subsistence abundant, and the roads all macadamised highways; thus the conditions are altogether different from those existing with us...I can but leave to conjecture how the Germans would have got along on bottomless roads—often none at all—through the swamps and quicksands of Northern Virginia.”—Memoirs. volume 2 page 450.)
Jackson's rules for marching have been preserved. “He never broke down his men by long-continued movement. He rested the whole column very often, but only for a few minutes at a time. He liked to see the men lie flat on the ground to rest, and would say, “A man rests all over when he lies down.”"* (* Battles and Leaders volume 2 pages 297, 298.) Nor did he often call upon his troops for extraordinary exertions. In the period between his departure from Elk Run Mountain to the battle of Port Republic there were only four series of forced marches.* (* From April 17 to April 19, when he moved to Elk Run Valley; May 6 to May 8, when he moved against Milroy; May 18 to May 25, when he moved against Banks; and May 29 to June 1, when he passed south between Fremont and Shields.) “The hardships of forced marches,” he said, “are often more painful than the dangers of battle.” It was only, in short, when he intended a surprise, or when a rapid retreat was imperative, that he sacrificed everything to speed. The troops marched light, carrying only rifles, blankets, haversacks, and ammunition. When long distances were to be covered, those men who still retained their knapsacks were ordered to leave them behind. No heavy trains accompanied the army. The ambulances and ammunition waggons were always present; but the supply waggons were often far in rear. In their haversacks the men carried several days' rations; and when these were consumed they lived either on the farmers, or on the stores they had captured from the enemy.
It is not to be supposed, however, that the ranks remained full. “I had rather,” said Jackson, “lose one man in marching than five in fighting,” and to this rule he rigorously adhered. He never gave the enemy warning by a deliberate approach along the main roads; and if there was a chance of effecting a surprise, or if the enemy was already flying, it mattered little how many men fell out. And fall out they did, in large numbers. Between May 17 and the battle of Cross Keys the army was reduced from 16,500 men to 18,000. Not more than 500 had been killed or wounded, so there were no less than 3000 absentees. Many were footsore and found no place in the ambulances. Many were sick; others on detachment; but a large proportion had absented themselves without asking leave. Two days after Winchester, in a letter to Ewell, Jackson writes that “the evil of straggling has become enormous.”
Such severe exertion as the march against Kenly, the pursuit of Banks, and the retreat from the Potomac, would have told their tale upon the hardiest veterans. When the German armies, suddenly changing direction from west to north, pushed on to Sedan by forced marches, large numbers of the infantry succumbed to pure exhaustion. When the Light Division, in 1818, pressing forward after Sauroren to intercept the French retreat, marched nineteen consecutive hours in very sultry weather, and over forty miles of mountain roads, “many men fell and died convulsed and frothing at the mouth, while others, whose spirit and strength had never before been quelled, leant on their muskets and muttered in sullen tones that they yielded for the first time.”* (* The War in the Peninsula, Napier volume 5 page 244.)
But the men that fell out on the march to Sedan and in the passes of the Pyrenees were physically incapable of further effort. They were not stragglers in the true sense of the term; and in an army broken to discipline straggling on the line of march is practically unknown. The sickly and feeble may fall away, but every sound man may confidently be relied upon to keep his place. The secret of full ranks is good officers and strict discipline; and the most marked difference between regular troops and those hastily organised is this—with the former the waste of men will be small, with the latter very great. In all armies, however constituted, there is a large proportion of men whose hearts are not in the business.* (* General Sheridan is said to have declared that 25 per cent of the Federal soldiers lacked the military spirit.)
When hard marching and heavy fighting are in prospect the inclination of such men is to make themselves scarce, and when discipline is relaxed they will soon find the opportunity. But when their instincts of obedience are strong, when the only home they know is with the colours, when the credit of their regiment is at stake—and even the most worthless have some feeling for their own corps—engrained habit and familiar associations overcome their natural weakness. The troop-horse bereft of his rider at once seeks his comrades, and pushes his way, with empty saddle, into his place in the ranks. And so the soldier by profession, faint-hearted as he may be, marches shoulder to shoulder with his comrades, and acquires a fictitious, but not unuseful, courage from his contact with braver men.
It is true that the want of good boots told heavily on the Confederates. A pair already half-worn, such as many of the men started with, was hardly calculated to last out a march of several hundred miles over rocky tracks, and fresh supplies were seldom forthcoming. There was a dearth both of shoe-leather and shoe-factories in the South; and if Mr. Davis, before the blockade was established, had indented on the shoemakers of Europe, he would have added very largely to the efficiency of his armies. A few cargoes of good boots would have been more useful than a shipload of rifled guns.
Nevertheless, the absentees from the ranks were not all footsore. The vice of straggling was by no means confined to Jackson's command. It was the curse of both armies, Federal and Confederate. The Official Records, as well as the memoirs of participants, teem with references to it. It was an evil which the severest punishments seemed incapable of checking. It was in vain that it was denounced in orders, that the men were appealed to, warned, and threatened. Nor were the faint-hearted alone at fault. The day after Jackson's victory at M'Dowell, Johnston, falling back before McClellan, addressed General Lee as follows:—
“Stragglers cover the country, and Richmond is no doubt filled with the absent without leave...The men are full of spirit when near the enemy, but at other times to avoid restraint leave their regiments in crowds.”* (* O.R. volume 11 part 3 page 503.) A letter from a divisional general followed:—
“It is with deep mortification that I report that several thousand soldiers and many individuals with commissions have fled to Richmond under pretext of sickness. They have even thrown away their arms that their flight might not be impeded. Cannot these miserable wretches be arrested and returned to their regiments, where they can have their heads shaved and be drummed out of the service?”* (* Ibid page 506.)
Jackson, then, had to contend with difficulties which a general in command of regular troops would not have been called on to provide against; and in other respects also he suffered from the constitution of his army. The one thing lacking in the Valley campaign was a decisive victory over a considerable detachment of the Federal army, the annihilation of one of the converging forces, and large capture of guns and prisoners. A victory as complete as Rivoli would have completed its dramatic interest. But for this Jackson himself was hardly to blame. The misconduct of the Confederate cavalry on May 24 and 25 permitted Banks to escape destruction; and the delay at the temporary bridge near Port Republic, due, mainly, to the disinclination of the troops to face the ford, and the want of resolute obedience on the part of their commanders, saved Fremont from the same fate. Had Shields' advanced brigades been driven back, as Jackson designed, while the day was still young, the operations of the Valley army would in all probability have been crowned by a brilliant triumph over nearly equal forces. Fremont, already fearful and irresolute, was hardly the man to withstand the vigour of Jackson's onset; and that onset would assuredly have been made if more careful arrangements had been made to secure the bridge. This was not the only mistake committed by the staff. The needlessly long march of the main body when approaching Front Royal on May 28 might well have been obviated. But for this delay the troops might have pushed on before nightfall to within easy reach of the Valley turnpike, and Banks have been cut off from Winchester.
It is hardly necessary to say that, even with regular troops, the same mistakes might have occurred. They are by no means without parallel, and even those committed by the Federals have their exact counterpart in European warfare. At the beginning of August, 1870, the French army, like Banks' division on May 28, 1862, was in two portions, divided by a range of mountains. The staff was aware that the Germans were in superior strength, but their dispositions were unknown. Like Banks, they neglected to reconnoitre; and when a weak detachment beyond the mountains was suddenly overwhelmed, they still refused to believe that attack was imminent. The crushing defeats of Worth and Spicheren were the result.
The staff of a regular army is not always infallible. It would be hard to match the extraordinary series of blunders made by the staffs of the three armies—English, French, and Prussian—in the campaign of Waterloo, and yet there was probably no senior officer present in Belgium who had not seen several campaigns. But the art of war has made vast strides since Waterloo, and even since 1870. Under Moltke's system, which has been applied in a greater or less degree to nearly all professional armies, the chance of mistakes has been much reduced. The staff is no longer casually educated and selected haphazard; the peace training of both officers and men is far more thorough; and those essential details on which the most brilliant conceptions, tactical and strategical, depend for success stand much less chance of being overlooked than in 1815. It is by the standard of a modern army, and not of those whose only school in peace was the parade-ground, that the American armies must be judged.
That Jackson's tactical skill, and his quick eye for ground, had much to do with his victories can hardly be questioned. At Kernstown and Port Republic he seized the key of the position without a moment's hesitation. At Winchester, when Ewell was checked upon the right, three strong brigades, suddenly thrown forward on the opposite flank, completely rolled up the Federal line. At Cross Keys the position selected for Ewell proved too formidable for Fremont, despite his superiority in guns. At Port Republic, Taylor's unexpected approach through the tangled forest was at once decisive of the engagement. The cavalry charge at Front Royal was admirably timed; and the manner in which Ashby was employed throughout the campaign, not only to screen the advance but to check pursuit, was a proof of the highest tactical ability. Nor should the quick insight into the direction of Shields' march on June 1, and the destruction of the bridges by which he could communicate with Fremont, be omitted. It is true that the operations in the Valley were not absolutely faultless. When Jackson was bent on an effective blow his impatience to bring the enemy to bay robbed him more than once of complete success. On the march to M'Dowell Johnson's brigade, the advanced guard, had been permitted to precede the main body by seven miles, and, consequently, when Milroy attacked there was not sufficient force at hand for a decisive counterstroke. Moreover, with an ill-trained staff a careful supervision was most essential, and the waggon bridge at Port Republic should have been inspected by a trustworthy staff officer before Winder rushed across to fall on Tyler.
Errors of this nature, however instructive they may be to the student of war, are but spots upon the sun; and in finding in his subordinate such breadth of view and such vigour of execution, Lee was fortunate indeed. Jackson was no less fortunate when Ashby came under his command. That dashing captain of free-lances was undoubtedly a most valuable colleague. It was something to have a cavalry leader who could not only fight and reconnoitre, but who had sagacity enough to divine the enemy's intentions. But the ideas that governed the employment of the cavalry were Jackson's alone. He it was who placed the squadrons across Fremont's road from Wardensville, who ordered the demonstrations against Banks, before both M'Dowell and Front Royal, and those which caused Fremont to retreat after Port Republic. More admirable still was the quickness with which he recognised the use that might be made of mounted riflemen. From the Potomac to Port Republic his horsemen covered his retreat, dismounting behind every stream and along the borders of every wood, checking the pursuers with their fire, compelling them to deploy their infantry, and then retreating rapidly to the next position. Day after day were the Federal advanced guards held in check, their columns delayed, and the generals irritated by their slippery foe. Meanwhile, the Confederate infantry, falling back at their leisure, were relieved of all annoyance. And if the cavalry was suddenly driven in, support was invariably at hand, and a compact brigade of infantry, supported by artillery, sent the pursuing horsemen to the right-about. The retreat of the Valley army was managed with the same skill as its advance, and the rear-guard tactics of the campaign are no less remarkable than those of the attack.
To judge from the Valley campaign, Jackson handled his horsemen with more skill than any other commander, Confederate or Federal. A cavalry that could defend itself on foot as well as charge in the saddle was practically a new arm, of far greater efficiency than cavalry of the old type, and Jackson at once recognised, not only its value; but the manner in which it could be most effectively employed. He was not led away by the specious advantages, so eagerly urged by young and ambitious soldiers, of the so-called raids. Even Lee himself, cool-headed as he was, appears to have been fascinated by the idea of throwing a great body of horsemen across his enemy's communications, spreading terror amongst his supply trains, cutting his telegraphs, and destroying his magazines. In hardly a single instance did such expeditions inflict more than temporary discomfort on the enemy; and the armies were led more than once into false manoeuvres, for want of the information which only the cavalry could supply. Lee at Malvern Hill and Gettysburg, Hooker at Chancellorsville, Grant at Spotsylvania, owed defeat, in great measure, to the absence of their mounted troops. In the Valley, on the contrary, success was made possible because the cavalry was kept to its legitimate duty—that is, to procure information, to screen all movements, to take part in battle at the decisive moment, and to carry out the pursuit.
With all his regard for Napoleon's maxims, Jackson was no slave to rule. In war, circumstances vary to such an extent that a manoeuvre, which at one time is manifestly unsound, may at another be the most judicious. The so-called rules are never binding; they merely point out the risks which are generally entailed by some particular course of action. There is no principle on which Napoleon lays more stress than that a general should never divide his force, either on the field of battle or the theatre of war. But when he marched to M'Dowell and left Ewell at Swift Run Gap, Jackson deliberately divided his forces and left Banks between them, knowing that the apparent risk, with an opponent like Banks, was no risk at all. At the battle of Winchester, too, there was a gap of a mile between the brigades on the left of the Kernstown road and Ewell on the right; and owing to the intervening hills, one wing was invisible to the other. Here again, like Moltke at Koniggratz, Jackson realised that the principle might be disregarded not only with impunity but with effect. He was not like Lord Galway, “a man who was in war what Moliere's doctors were in medicine, who thought it much more honourable to fail according to rule than to succeed by innovation.”* (* Macaulay.)
But the triumphs of the Valley campaign were not due alone to the orders issued by Lee and Jackson. The Confederate troops displayed extraordinary endurance. When the stragglers were eliminated their stauncher comrades proved themselves true as steel. In every engagement the regiments fought with stubborn courage. They sometimes failed to break the enemy's line at the first rush; but, except at Kernstown, the Federals never drove them from their position, and Taylor's advance at Winchester, Trimble's counterstroke at Cross Keys, the storming of the battery at Port Republic, and the charge of the cavalry at Cedarville, were the deeds of brave and resolute men.
A retreat is the most exhausting of military movements. It is costly in men, “more so,” says Napoleon, “than two battles,” and it shakes the faith of the soldiers in their general and in themselves. Jackson's army retreated for seven days before Fremont, dwindling in numbers at every step, and yet it never fought better than when it turned at bay. From first to last it believed itself superior to its enemies; from first to last it was equal to the tasks which its exacting commander imposed upon it, and its spirit was indomitable throughout. “One male a week and three foights a day,” according to one of Jackson's Irishmen, was the rule in the campaigns of 1862. The forced marches were not made in luxury. Not seldom only half-rations were issued, and more often none at all. The weather, for many days in succession, was abominable, and the forest bivouacs were comfortless in the extreme. On May 25 twenty per cent of Trimble's brigade went into action barefoot; and had it not been for the stores captured in Winchester, the march to the Potomac, and the subsequent unmolested retreat to Woodstock, would have been hardly possible.
If the troops were volunteers, weak in discipline and prone to straggling, they none the less bore themselves with conspicuous gallantry. Their native characteristics came prominently to the front. Patient under hardships, vigorous in attack, and stubborn in defence, they showed themselves worthy of their commander. Their enthusiastic patriotism was not without effect on their bearing before the enemy. Every private in the ranks believed that he was fighting in the sacred cause of liberty, and the spirit which nerved the resolution of the Confederate soldier was the same which inspired the resistance of their revolutionary forefathers. His hatred of the Yankee, as he contemptuously styled the Northerner, was even more bitter than the wrath which Washington's soldiers felt towards England; and it was intensified by the fact that his detested foeman had not only dared to invade the South, but had proclaimed his intention, in no uncertain tones, of dealing with the Sovereign States exactly as he pleased.
But it was something more than native courage and enthusiastic patriotism which inspired the barefooted heroes of Winchester. It would be difficult to prove that in other parts of the theatre of war the Confederate troops were inferior to those that held the Valley. Yet they were certainly less successful, and in very many instances they had failed to put forth the same resolute energy as the men who followed Jackson.
But it is hardly possible to discuss the spirit of an army apart from that of its commander. If, in strategy wholly, and in tactics in great part, success emanates from a single brain, the morale of the troops is not less dependent on the influence of one man. “Better an army of stags,” runs the old proverb, “led by a lion, than an army of lions led by a stag.”
Their leader's character had already made a sensible impression on the Valley soldiers. Jackson was as untheatrical as Wellington. He was hardly to be distinguished, even by his dress, from the private in the ranks. Soon after his arrival at Richmond he called on Mrs. Pendleton, the wife of the reverend captain of the Rockbridge battery. The negro servant left him standing in the hall, thinking that this quiet soldier, clad in a faded and sunburnt uniform, need not be treated with further ceremony.* (* Memoirs of W.N. Pendleton, D.D., Brigadier-General, C.S.A. page 201.) Headquarters in camp were an ordinary bell-tent, or a room in the nearest cottage, and they were often without guard or sentry. In bivouac the general rolled himself in his blankets, and lay down under a tree or in a fence corner. He could sleep anywhere, in the saddle, under fire, or in church; and he could compel sleep to come to him when and where he pleased. He cared as little for good quarters as a mountain hunter, and he was as abstemious as a Red Indian on the war-path. He lived as plainly as the men, and often shared their rations. The majority of the cavalry were better mounted, and many of his officers were better dressed. He was not given to addressing his troops, either in mass or as individuals. His praises he reserved for his official reports, and then he was generous. In camp he was as silent as the Sphinx, and he never posed, except in action, as the commander of an army. Off duty he was the gentlest and most unpretentious of men, and the most approachable of generals. He was always scrupulously polite; and the private soldier who asked him a question might be sure of a most courteous reply. But there was no man with whom it was less safe to take liberties; and where duty was concerned he became a different being. The gentle tones grew curt and peremptory, and the absent demeanour gave place to a most purposeful energy. His vigilance was marvellous: his eye was everywhere; he let nothing pass without his personal scrutiny. The unfortunate officer accused of indolence or neglect found the shy and quiet professor transformed into the most implacable of masters. No matter how high the rank of the offender, the crime met with the punishment it deserved. The scouts compared him with Lee. The latter was so genial that it was a pleasure to report to him. Jackson cross-questioned them on every detail, treating them as a lawyer does a hostile witness, and his keen blue eyes seemed to search their very souls.
“Nor did the men escape when they misbehaved. Ashby's cavalry were reprimanded in general orders for their indiscipline at Middletown, and again at Port Republic; and if either officer or regiment displeased the general, it was duly mentioned in his published reports.” (1 It is worth remark that Jackson's methods of punishment showed his deep knowledge of his soldiers. The sentence on the men who were tempted from their duty, during Banks' retreat, by the plunder on the Winchester road was that they should not be allowed to serve with the advanced guard until further orders. It was considered terribly severe. O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 902.)
But the troops knew that their grave leader, so uncommunicative in camp, and so unrelenting to misconduct, was constantly occupied with their well-being. They knew that he spared them, when opportunity offered, as he never spared himself. His camaraderie was expressed in something more than words. The hospitals constructed in the Valley excited the admiration even of the Federals, and Jackson's wounded were his first care. Whatever it might cost the army, the ambulances must be got safely away, and the sick and disabled soldiers transferred to their own people. But, at the same time, the troops had long since learned that, as administered by Jackson, the military code was a stern reality. They had seen men shot for striking their officers, and they knew that for insubordination or disobedience it was idle to plead excuse. They had thought their general harsh, and even cruel; but as their experience increased they recognised the wisdom of his severity, and when they looked upon that kindly face, grave and determined as it was, they realised how closely his firmness was allied to tenderness. They had learned how highly he esteemed them. Once, in his twelve months of command, he had spoken from his heart. When, on the heights near Centreville, he bade farewell to his old brigade, his pride in their achievements had broken through the barriers of his reserve, and his ringing words had not yet been forgotten. If he was swift to blame, his general orders and official dispatches gave full credit to every gallant action, and each man felt himself a hero because his general so regarded him.
They had learned, too, that Jackson's commendation was worth having. They had seen him in action, the coolest of them all, riding along the line of battle with as much composure as if the hail of bullets was no more than summer rain. They had seen him far in advance of the charging lines, cheering them to the pursuit; and they knew the tremendous vigour of his flank attacks.
But it was not only confidence in the skill of their commander that inspired the troops. It was impossible not to admire the man who, after a sleepless night, a long march, and hard fighting, would say to his officers, “We must push on—we must push on!” as unconcernedly as if his muscles were of steel and hunger an unknown sensation. Such fortitude was contagious. The men caught something of his resolution, of his untiring energy, and his unhesitating audacity. The regiments which drove Banks to the Potomac were very different from those that crawled to Romney through the blinding sleet, or that fell back with the loss of one-sixth their number from the Kernstown Ridge. It has been related of Jackson that when he had once made up his mind, “he seemed to discard all idea of defeat, and to regard the issue as assured. A man less open to the conviction that he was beaten could not be imagined.” To this frame of mind he brought his soldiers. Jackson's brigade at Bull Run, Jackson's division in the Valley, Jackson's army corps later in the war, were all imbued with the characteristics of their leader. The exertions that he demanded of them seemed beyond the powers of mortal men, but with Jackson leading them the troops felt themselves able to accomplish impossibilities. “I never saw one of Jackson's couriers approach,” said Ewell, “without expecting an order to assault the North Pole!” But had the order been given neither Ewell nor the Valley troops would have questioned it.
With the senior officers of his little army Jackson's relations were in some instances less cordial than with the men. His staff was devoted to him, for they had learned to know him. At the beginning of the Valley campaign some of them thought him mad; before it was over they believed him to be a genius. He lived with his military family on the most intimate terms, and his unfailing courtesy, his utter absence of self-assertion, his sweet temper, and his tactful consideration for others, no matter how humble their rank, were irresistible. On duty, indeed, his staff officers fared badly. Tireless himself, regardless of all personal comforts, he seemed to think that others were fashioned in the same mould. After a weary day's marching or fighting, it was no unusual thing for him to send them for a ride of thirty or forty miles through the night. And he gave the order with no more thought than if he were sending them with a message to the next tent. But off duty he was simply a personal friend, bent on making all things pleasant. “Never,” says Dr. Hunter McGuire, “can I forget his kindness and gentleness to me when I was in great sorrow and trouble. He came to my tent and spent hours with me, comforting me in his simple, kindly, Christian way, showing a depth of friendship and affection which can never be forgotten. There is no measuring the intensity with which the very soul of Jackson burned in battle. Out of it he was very gentle. Indeed, as I look back on the two years that I was daily, indeed hourly, with him, his gentleness as a man, his tenderness to those in trouble or affliction—the tenderness indeed of a woman—impress me more than his wonderful prowess as a warrior.”
It was with his generals and colonels that there was sometimes a lack of sympathy. Many of these were older than himself. Ewell and Whiting were his seniors in point of service, and there can be little doubt that it was sometimes a little hard to receive peremptory orders from a younger man. Jackson's secrecy was often irritating. Men who were over-sensitive thought it implied a want of confidence. Those overburdened with dignity objected to being treated like the private soldiers; and those over-conscious of superior wisdom were injured because their advice was not asked. Before the march to Richmond there was much discontent. General Whiting, on reaching Staunton with his division, rode at once to Port Republic to report. “The distance,” says General Imboden, “was twenty miles, and Whiting returned after midnight. He was in a towering passion, and declared that Jackson had treated him outrageously. I asked, 'How is that possible, General?—he is very polite to everyone.'
“'Oh, hang him! he was polite enough. But he didn't say one word about his plans. I finally asked him for orders, telling him what troops I had. He simply told me to go back to Staunton, and he would send me orders to-morrow. I haven't the slightest idea what they will be. I believe he has no more sense than my horse.'“* (* Battles and Leaders page 297.)
The orders, when they came, simply directed him to take his troops by railway to Gordonsville, through which they had passed two days before, and gave no reason whatever for the movement.
General Whiting was not the only Confederate officer who was mystified. When the troops left the Valley not a single soul in the army, save Jackson alone, knew the object of their march. He had even gone out of his way to blind his most trusted subordinates.
“During the preceding afternoon,” says Major Hotchkiss, “he sent for me to his tent, and asked me to bring maps of the country from Port Republic to Lexington (at the head of the Valley), as he wished to examine them. I took the map to his tent, and for about half an hour we talked concerning the roads and streams, and points of offence and defence of that region, just as though he had in mind a march in that direction. After this interval had passed he thanked me and said that that would do. About half an hour later he sent for me again, and remarked that there had been some fighting down about Richmond, referring, of course, to the battle of Seven Pines, and that he would like to see the map of the field of the operations. I brought the maps of the district round Richmond, and we spent nearly twice as much time over those, talking about the streams, the roads, the condition of the country, and so forth. On retiring to my tent I said to myself, “Old Jack” is going to Richmond.”* (* Letter to the author.)
Even the faithful Dabney was left in the dark till the troops had reached Mechum's Station. There, calling him into a room in the hotel, the general locked the door and explained the object of his march. But it was under seal of secrecy; and Ewell, the second in command, complained to the chief of the staff that Jackson had gone off by train, leaving him without orders, or even a hint of what was in the wind. In fact, a few days after the battle of Port Republic, Ewell had sent some of his staff on leave of absence, telling them that large reinforcements were coming up, and that the next move would be “to beat up Banks' quarters about Strasburg.”
When Jackson was informed of the irritation of his generals he merely smiled, and said, “If I can deceive my own friends I can make certain of deceiving the enemy.” Nothing shook his faith in Frederick the Great's maxim, which he was fond of quoting: “If I thought my coat knew my plans, I would take it off and burn it.” An anecdote told by one of his brigadiers illustrates his reluctance to say more than necessary. Previous to the march to Richmond this officer met Jackson riding through Staunton. “Colonel,” said the general, “have you received the order?” “No, sir.” “Want you to march.” “When, sir?” “Now.” “Which way?” “Get in the cars—go with Lawton.” “How must I send my train and the battery?” “By the road.” “Well, General, I hate to ask questions, but it is impossible to send my waggons off without knowing which road to send them.” “Oh!”—laughing—“send them by the road the others go.”
At last, when they saw how constant fortune was to their reticent leader, his subordinates ceased to complain; but unfortunately there was another source of trouble. Jackson had no regard whatever for persons. Reversing the usual procedure, he held that the choleric word of the soldier was rank blasphemy in the captain; the higher the rank of the offender the more severe, in his opinion, should be the punishment. Not only did he hold that he who would rule others must himself set the example of punctiliousness, but that to whom much is given, from him much is to be expected. Honour and promotion fall to the lot of the officer. His name is associated in dispatches with the valorous deeds of he command, while the private soldier fights on unnoticed in the crowd. To his colonels, therefore, Jackson was a strict master, and stricter to his generals. If he had reason to believe that his subordinates were indolent or disobedient, he visited their shortcomings with a heavy hand. No excuse availed. Arrest and report followed immediately on detection, and if the cure was rude, the plague of incompetency was radically dealt with. Spirited young soldiers, proud of their high rank, and in no way underrating their own capacity, rebelled against such discipline; and the knowledge that they were closely watched, that their omissions would be visited on their heads with unfaltering severity, sometimes created a barrier between them and their commander.
But it was only wilful disobedience or actual insubordination that roused Jackson's wrath. “If he found in an officer,” says Dabney, “a hearty and zealous purpose to do all his duty, he was the most tolerant and gracious of superiors, overlooking blunders and mistakes with unbounded patience, and repairing them through his own exertions, without even a sign of vexation.” The delay at the bridge on the morning of Port Republic, so fatal to his design of crushing Fremont, caused no outburst of wrath. He received his adjutant-general's report with equanimity, regarding the accident as due to the will of Providence, and therefore to be accepted without complaint.* (* Dabney, Southern Historical Society Papers volume 11 page 152.)
Whether the nobler side of Jackson's character had a share in creating the confidence which his soldiers already placed in him must be matter of conjecture. It was well known in the ranks that he was superior to the frailties of human nature; that he was as thorough a Christian as he was a soldier; that he feared the world as little as he did the enemy.* (* His devout habits were no secret in the camp. Jim, most faithful of servants, declared that he could always tell when there was going to be a battle. “The general,” he said, “is a great man for prayin'. He pray night and morning—all times. But when I see him git up several times in the night, an' go off an' pray, den I know there is goin' to be somethin' to pay, an' I go right away and pack his haversack!”) In all things he was consistent; his sincerity was as clear as the noonday sun, and his faith as firmly rooted as the Massanuttons. Publicly and privately, in official dispatches and in ordinary conversation, the success of his army was ascribed to the Almighty. Every victory, as soon as opportunity offered, was followed by the order: “The chaplains will hold divine service in their respective regiments.” “The General Commanding,” ran the order after Winchester, “would warmly express to the officers and men under his command his joy in their achievements, and his thanks for their brilliant gallantry in action, and their patient obedience under the hardships of forced marches, often more painful to the brave soldier than the danger of battle. 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 of to-day and that of the army is to recognise 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 service 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 possible, all military exercises; and the chaplains of regiments will hold divine service in their several charges at 4 o'clock P.M.”* (* Dabney volume 2 pages 114-5.)
Whenever it was possible Sunday was always set apart for a day of rest; and the claims of the day were seldom altogether disregarded.* (* “Sometimes,” says Major Hotchkiss, “Jackson would keep two or three Sundays running, so as to make up arrears, and balance the account!”) On the morning of Cross Keys it is related that a large portion of Elzey's brigade were at service, and that the crash of the enemy's artillery interrupted the “thirdly” of the chaplain's sermon.
It has been sometimes asserted that Jackson was of the same type as the saints militant who followed Cromwell, who, when they were not slaughtering their enemies, would expound the harsh tenets of their unlovely creed to the grim circle of belted Ironsides. He has been described as taking the lead at religious meetings, as distributing tracts from tent to tent, as acting as aide-de-camp to his chaplains, and as consigning to perdition all those “whose doxy was not his doxy.”
Nothing is further from the truth. “His views of each denomination,” says his wife, “had been obtained from itself, not from its opponents. Hence he could see excellences in all. Even of the Roman Catholic Church he had a much more favourable impression than most Protestants, and he fraternised with all Evangelical denominations. During a visit to New York, one Sabbath morning, we chanced to find ourselves at the door of an Episcopal Church at the hour of worship. He proposed that we should enter; and as it was a day for the celebration of the Communion, he remained for that service, and it was with the utmost reverence and solemnity that he walked up the chancel and knelt to receive the elements.”
Jackson, then, was by no means imbued with the belief that the Presbyterian was the one true Church, and that all others were in error. Nor did he attempt, in the very slightest degree, to usurp the functions of his chaplains. Although he invariably went to sleep during their sermons, he was deeply interested in their endeavours, and gave them all the assistance in his power. But he no more thought of taking their duties on himself than of interfering with the treatment of the men in hospital. He spoke no “words in season,” even to his intimates. He had no “message” for them. Where religion was concerned, so long as duly qualified instructors were available, he conceived it his business to listen and not to teach. Morning and evening prayers were the rule at his headquarters, but if any of his staff chose to remain absent, the general made no remark. Yet all suspicion of indifference to vice was effectually removed. Nothing ungenerous or unclean was said in his presence without incurring his displeasure, always unmistakably expressed, and although he made no parade of his piety he was far too manly to hide it.
Yet he was never a prominent figure at the camp services. Rather than occupy a conspicuous place he would seat himself amongst the privates; and the only share he took in directing the proceedings was to beckon men to the seats that respect had left empty beside him. Those who picture him as an enthusiastic fanatic, invading, like the Puritan dragoons, the pulpits of the chaplains, and leading the devotions of his troops with the same fervour that he displayed in battle, have utterly misread his character. The humblest soldier in the Confederate army was not more modest and unassuming than Stonewall Jackson.
Federal strength at M'Dowell. Fremont's return of April 30 is as
Schenck reports that the total force ENGAGED at M'Dowell was 1768 of Milroy's brigade, and about 500 of his own, total 2268; and that he himself brought to M'Dowell 1800 infantry, a battery, and 250 cavalry—say, 1600 men.
Milroy's command may fairly be estimated at 3500; Schenck brought 1600 men; there were therefore available for action at M'Dowell 5100 Federals.
Fremont's strength at Cross Keys.
The return of May 31 gives:—13,520 officers and men.
Fremont, in his report of the battle, says that on May 29 he had over 11,000 men, which, deducting guards, garrisons, working parties and stragglers, were reduced to 10,500 combatants at Cross Keys.
But he does not include in this last estimate Bayard's cavalry, which joined him at Strasburg.
On May 31 Bayard had 1844 officers and men; he had suffered some loss in fighting Ashby, and his strength at the battle may be put down as 1750.
All garrisons, guards and working parties are included in the Confederate numbers, so they should be added to the Federal estimate. We may fairly say, then, that at Cross Keys the following troops were available:—
Strength of the Federals, May 17-25.
On April 30 Banks' “effective” numbers were as follows:—
Donnelly's Brigade 2,747
On May 23 he had:—
Strasburg: Infantry 4,476
From the Harper's Ferry Garrison:—
Strasburg: Cavalry 800
On May 31, after losing 2019 men at Front Royal and Winchester, he had, the Harper's Ferry troops having been added to his command:—
10,500 effectives on May 23 is therefore a fair estimate.
Geary's 2000 at Rectortown, as they were acting under Mr. Stanton's orders, have not been included.
Source: Stonewall Jackson And The American Civil War by G.F.R. Henderson