General Taylor about the Last Phase of the Campaign
...On the 7th of June we marched to a place within four miles of Port Republic, called Cross Keys, where several roads met. Near at hand was the meeting-house of a sect of German Quakers, Tunkers or Dunkards, as they are indifferently named. Here Jackson determined to await and fight Fremont, who followed him hard; but as a part of Shields's force was now unpleasantly near, he pushed on to Port Republic with Winder's and other infantry, and a battery, which camped on the hither bank of the river. Jackson himself, with his staff and a mounted escort, crossed the bridge and passed the night in the village.|
Ewell, in immediate charge at Cross Keys, was ready early in the morning of the 8th, when Fremont attacked. The ground was undulating, with much wood, and no extended view could be had. In my front the attack, if such it could be called, was feeble in the extreme - an affair of skirmishers, in which the enemy yielded to the slightest pressure. A staff officer of Jackson's, in hot haste, came with orders from his chief to march my brigade double-quick to Port Republic. Elzey's brigade, in second line to the rear, was asked to take my place and relieve my skirmishers; then, advising the staff officer to notify Ewell, whom he had not seen, we started on the run, for such a message from Jackson meant business. Two of the intervening miles were quickly passed, when another officer appeared with orders to halt. In half an hour, during which the sound of battle at Cross Keys thickened, Jackson came. As before stated, he had passed the night in the village, with his staff and escort. Up as usual at dawn, he started alone to recross the bridge, leaving his people to follow. The bridge was a few yards below the last house in the village, and some mist overhung the river. Under cover of this a small body of horse, with one gun, from Shields's forces, had reached the east end of the bridge and trained the gun on it. Jackson was within an ace of capture. As he spurred across, the gun was fired on him, but without effect, and the sound brought up staff and escort, when the horse retired north. This incident occasioned the order to me. After relating it (all save his own danger), Jackson passed on to Ewell. Thither I followed, to remain in reserve until the general forward movement in the afternoon, by which Fremont was driven back with loss of prisoners. We did not persist far, as Shields's force was near upon us. From Ewell I learned that there had been some pretty fighting in the morning, though less than might have been expected from Fremont's numbers. I know not if the presence of this commander had a benumbing influence on his troops, but certainly his advanced cavalry and infantry had proved bold and enterprising.
In the evening we moved to the river and camped. Winder's and other brigades crossed the bridge, and during the night Ewell, with most of the army, drew near, leaving Trimble's brigade and the horse at Cross Keys. No one apprehended another advance by Fremont. The following morning, Sunday, June 9, my command passed the bridge, moved several hundred yards down the road, and halted. Our trains had gone east over the Blue Ridge. The sun appeared above the mountain while the men were quietly breakfasting. Suddenly, from below, was heard the din of battle, loud and sustained, artillery and small arms. The men sprang into ranks, formed column, and marched, and I galloped forward a short mile to see the following scene:
From the mountain, clothed to its base with undergrowth and timber, a level - clear, open, and smooth - extended to the river. This plain was some thousand yards in width. Half a mile north, a gorge, through which flowed a small stream, cut the mountain at a right angle. The northern shoulder of this gorge projected farther into the plain than the southern, and on an elevated plateau of the shoulder were placed six guns, sweeping every inch of the plain to the south. Federal lines, their right touching the river, were advancing steadily, with banners flying and arms gleaming in the sun. A gallant show, they came on. Winder's and another brigade, with a battery, opposed them. This small force was suffering cruelly, and its skirmishers were driven in on their thin supporting line. As my Irishmen predicted, "Shields's boys were after fighting." Below, Ewell was hurrying his men over the bridge, but it looked as if we should be doubled up on him ere he could cross and develop much strength. Jackson was on the road, a little in advance of his line, where the fire was hottest, with reins on his horse's neck, seemingly in prayer. Attracted by my approach, he said, in his usual voice, "Delightful excitement." I replied that it was pleasant to learn he was enjoying himself, but thought he might have an indigestion of such fun if the six-gun battery was not silenced. He summoned a young officer from his staff, and pointed up the mountain. The head of my approaching column was turned short up the slope, and speedily came to a path running parallel with the river. We took this path, the guide leading the way. From him I learned that the plateau occupied by the battery had been used for a charcoal kiln, and the path we were following, made by the burners in hauling wood, came upon the gorge opposite the battery. Moving briskly, we reached the hither side a few yards from the guns. Infantry was posted near, and riflemen were in the undergrowth on the slope above. Our approach, masked by timber, was unexpected.
The battery was firing rapidly, enabled from elevation to fire over the advancing lines. The head of my column began to deploy under cover for attack, when the sounds of battle to our rear appeared to recede, and a loud Federal cheer was heard, proving Jackson to be hard pressed. It was rather an anxious moment, demanding instant action. Leaving a staff officer to direct my rear regiment - the 7th, Colonel Hays - to form in the wood as a reserve, I ordered the attack, though the deployment was not completed, and our rapid march by a narrow path had occasioned some disorder. With a rush and shout the gorge was passed and we were in the battery. Surprise had aided us, but the enemy's infantry rallied in a moment and drove us out. We returned, to be driven a second time. The riflemen on the slope worried us no little, and two companies of the 9th regiment were sent up the gorge to gain ground above and dislodge them, which was accomplished. The fighting in and around the battery was hand to hand, and many fell from bayonet wounds. Even the artillerymen used their rammers in a way not laid down in the Manual, and died at their guns. As Conan said to the devil, " 'Twas claw for claw." I called for Hays, but he, the promptest of men, and his splendid regiment, could not be found. Something unexpected had occurred, but there was no time for speculation. With a desperate rally, in which I believe the drummer-boys shared, we carried the battery for the third time, and held it. Infantry and riflemen had been driven off, and we began to feel a little comfortable, when the enemy, arrested in his advance by our attack, appeared. He had countermarched, and, with left near the river, came into full view of our situation. Wheeling to the right, with colors advanced, like a solid wall he marched straight upon us. There seemed nothing left but to set our backs to the mountain and die hard. At the instant, crashing through the underwood, came Ewell, outriding staff and escort. He produced the effect of a reenforcement, and was welcomed with cheers. The line before us halted and threw forward skirmishers. A moment later, a shell came shrieking along it, loud Confederate cheers reached our delighted ears, and Jackson, freed from his toils, rushed up like a whirlwind, the enemy in rapid retreat. We turned the captured guns on them as they passed, Ewell serving as a gunner. Though rapid, the retreat never became a rout. Fortune had refused her smiles, but Shields's brave "boys" preserved their organization and were formidable to the last; and had Shields himself, with his whole command, been on the field, we should have had tough work indeed.
Jackson came up, with intense light in his eyes, grasped my hand, and said the brigade should have the captured battery. I thought the men would go mad with cheering, especially the Irishmen. A huge fellow, with one eye closed and half his whiskers burned by powder, was riding cock-horse on a gun, and, catching my attention, yelled out, "We told you to bet on your boys." Their success against brother Patlanders seemed doubly welcome. Strange people, these Irish! Fighting every one's battles, and cheerfully taking the hot end of the poker, they are only found wanting when engaged in what they believe to be their national cause. Excepting the defense of Limerick under brilliant Sarsfield, I recall no domestic struggle in which they have shown their worth.
While Jackson pursued the enemy without much effect, as his cavalry, left in front of Fremont, could not get over till late, we attended to the wounded and performed the last offices to the dead, our own and the Federal. I have never seen so many dead and wounded in the same limited space. A large farmhouse on the plain, opposite the mouth of the gorge, was converted into a hospital. Ere long my lost 7th regiment, sadly cut up, rejoined. This regiment was in rear of the column when we left Jackson to gain the path in the woods, and before it filed out of the road his thin line was so pressed that Jackson ordered Hays to stop the enemy's rush. This was done, for the 7th would have stopped a herd of elephants, but at a fearful cost. Colonel Hays was severely wounded, among many others, and the number of killed was large. Upon my promotion to Major-General, Hays succeeded to the command of the brigade, served through the war, returned to the practice of the law, and died in New Orleans. He was brother to Colonel Jack Hays, formerly of Texas, now of California, and shared much of the fighting ability of that renowned partisan.
The young officer who guided us through the wood deserves mention, as he was one of the first to reach the battery, where he was killed. Lieutenant English, near Harper's Ferry, Virginia, proved to be his name and place of birth.
Many hours passed in discharge of sad duties to the wounded and dead, during which Fremont appeared on the opposite bank of the river and opened his guns; but, observing doubtless our occupation, he ceased his fire, and after a short time withdrew. It may be added here that Jackson had caused such alarm at Washington as to start Milroy, Banks, Fremont, and Shields toward that capital, and the great valley was cleared of the enemy.
We passed the night high up the mountain, where we moved to reach our supply wagons. A cold rain was falling, and before we found them every one was tired and famished. I rather took it out of the train-master for pushing so far up, although I had lunched comfortably from the haversack of a dead Federal. It is not pleasant to think of now, but war is a little hardening.
On the l2th of June the army moved down to the river, above Port Republic, where the valley was wide, with many trees, and no enemy to worry or make us afraid. Here closed Jackson's wonderful Valley campaign of 1862.
Taken from: Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Late War, by Richard Taylor