The Winter Expedition to Romney, by John Esten Cooke

General Jackson        ...Jackson proceeded to Winchester, and taking command of the forces there, applied himself energetically to the work of organizing the raw levies from the surrounding country. Gen. Loring's command from Western Virginia was subsequently assigned to him-and he succeeded in regaining his old Stonewall Brigade, which returned to him, and went into camp near Kernstown, in the latter days of November. On the 1st of January, 1862, Gen. Jackson sent out an expedition to Bath and Romney, where the Federal forces were committing the most wanton depredations, and ruling the whole region with a rod of iron. The day was exceedingly bright and beautiful-the air soft and balmy-and the men left behind them their overcoats, and even their blankets, expecting the wagons to follow and join them before these articles were needed. The wagons did not come up, however; and on the third day of the march, when, after winding about among by-ways and paths they had reached Unger's Cross Roads, the weather suddenly changed, and a freezing snow storm came on. From Unger's three roads radiate-one to Romney, another to Martinsburg, and a third to Bath, better known as Berkeley Springs. The latter road was the one which Jackson now pursued.

        This expedition is only remarkable for the great powers of endurance which it betrayed in the men; peremptory orders from the War Office at Richmond having arrested his further advance, almost before he had commenced the execution of the design which he had in view. The weather was really terrible. It has been truthfully said that Napoleon's passage of the Alps scarcely surpassed the march. Rain, snow, hail, sleet, beat upon the troops who were without tents, overcoats, or blankets, as has been stated; and had it not been for bivouac fires many of the soldiers must have perished. Subsequently, from the close proximity of the enemy not even fires were allowed, and the feet of some of the men froze to the soles of their boots. "I built a big fire," says a gallant young soldier whose notes of the march are before us, "and went to sleep by it; but waked up about 12 o'clock at night and found the fire out, and about three inches of snow over me." He, like the rest, had left his blankets, and this winding sheet covered that night the whole slumbering army. The difficulties of the march were fourfold for the trains. The roads were covered with ice two inches thick and so thoroughly glazed by the sleet that horses and men kept their feet only with the greatest difficulty. Men were slipping and their guns going off all along the line-" thousands fell fiat every day," says an eye-witness-and both men and horses were often seriously hurt. The knees and muzzles of the horses were terribly injured-they' were seen limping along, crippled and streaming with blood-but still Jackson pressed on. Wagon after wagon slid off and turned bottom upward, in spite of every attempt to steady them. One train of wagons and artillery took from daylight until 3 P. m., to pass hilly point-heavy details of men steadying the animals, and almost lifting the vehicles along.

        Jackson, however, continued his march, his plans not admitting of delay; and soon came upon the advance of the enemy about six miles from Bath, in Morgan county. Here he had a sharp skirmish, the Virginians, under Col. Patton, driving the enemy back, and capturing about thirty prisoners. This was followed up by an attack on the force which held possession of the town, who were in like manner defeated and driven across the Potomac, which they were forced to wade on one of the coldest nights ever known in that region. Jackson, having cleared the path thus far, now made a flank movement in the direction of Romney to fall upon the Federal force stationed there, and committing every outrage upon the citizens. His movements were rapid but not so rapid as those of the enemy. They were at least 12,000 in number, but had no desire to meet the Confederates, evacuating Romney and falling back before Jackson got within a day's march of the place. Large supplies were captured at Romney, to which Jackson now advanced, and the enemy in his front was completely dispersed. It behooved him to guard his communications however from attack, and leaving Gen. Loring at Romney, he returned with his old Stonewall Brigade to Winchester to watch the enemy toward Harper's Ferry. Such was the position of affairs when the order above mentioned was sent to Gen. Loring to fall back from Romney. This he promptly did, and soon afterward the enemies were in possession of Moorefield. The facts of this expedition are little known. When they are fully met forth, as they doubtless will be some day, the movements and designs of Jackson will be understood and appreciated at their just value.

        Operations during the remainder of the winter were not important, though Dam No. 5, on the Potomac, was completely destroyed, and the enemy to that extent damaged. A desultory warfare of pickets was kept up along the river-both armies awaiting the opening of Spring for serious military movements. Early in March the enemy began to move, and Jackson received information that they were about to attack him at Winchester with an overwhelming force. Shields soon afterwards advanced, and Jackson offered battle to his advance force on two successive days. This was, however, declined, and the main body of the enemy having come up, Jackson, on March 11th, evacuated Winchester, slowly falling back before them. He had, as was usual with him, secured every thing in the shape of public stores, and none of the fruits of his expeditions fell again into the hands of the enemy. Trains, cars, engines from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had all been sent to the rear-and the men had been greeted with the unique spectacle of one huge railroad engine rolling slowly along the valley turnpike toward Staunton, drawn by forty-two horses. Nothing was thus left for the enemy, pressing now into Winchester, and Jackson's little army of about 3,000 men continued slowly to retire in face of the foe. Ashby with his cavalry held the rear, and obstinately disputed every inch of ground with the on-pressing enemy. Chew's battery supported him, and the roar of the guns was the "lullaby and reveille" of the little army.

Taken from "The life of Stonewall Jackson. From official papers, contemporary narratives, and personal acquaintance" - by John Esten Cooke

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