The Battle of Kernstown, Va. - Reports of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson, C. S. Army, commanding the Valley District, with resolution of the Confederate Congress.
HEADQUARTERS VALLEY DISTRICT,
Near Mount Jackson, March 29, 1862.
MY DEAR GENERAL: My information, from a spy who left Winchester on day before yesterday, is that from 8,000 to 10,000 of the enemy came in pursuit of me on Monday, and that nearly the same number has come from Winchester in the direction of Strasburg since then; that they had been leaving in this direction every day since Sunday up to the time of his leaving town, and that there must be about Strasburg between 16,000 and 20,000. From the report of Captain Hess, who has charge of a party of observation, there were about 10,000 who came out on Monday. No passes, not even to negroes, are given to leave Winchester in the direction of Strasburg. On the roads leading northward persons leave town without passes. The enemy continued to return to Winchester from Castleman's from near 10 a.m. till near 4 p.m., and it is believed that all the force that had recently gone to Castleman's, with the exception of about three regiments, returned, and all the force at Winchester, with the exception of two or three regiments, has moved toward Strasburg.
There are no troops left at the encampment near Mrs. Carter's, beyond Winchester. The lowest estimate made in Winchester of the killed and wounded of the enemy is 1,000; the highest 1,500. Mr. Philip Williams, of Winchester, whom you probably know, says that he feels safe in putting the number at 1,200. My impression is that the estimate is too large, though I can only judge from the history of battles and what I saw. Three hundred and forty-one of my command fell into the hands of the enemy, so far as could be ascertained in Winchester; of this number, 81 killed and about 40 so badly wounded that they could not be sent off to the east. A committee of the citizens buried our dead, and the wounded have received that attention which only women can give.
Philip Williams has been told by a gentleman from Baltimore that there is an expedition fitting out against Magruder, and he attaches importance to the statement. It is well to remark that Mr. Williams is a warm friend to our cause, but sustains no other relation to the Army. I make this statement lest this letter might fall into the hands of the enemy.
The Federal troops at Moore field have taken possession of the keys of the court-house and jail. It appears that one object of their incursion is to unite that section of the State to the Peirpoint government.
Very truly, yours,
T. J. JACKSON.
General JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON.
HEADQUARTERS VALLEY DISTRICT,
Near Mount Jackson, Va., April 9, 1862.
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the battle near Kernstown, Va., on Sunday, March 23:
On the preceding Friday evening a dispatch was received from Col. Turner Ashby, commanding the cavalry, stating that the enemy had evacuated Strasburg. Apprehensive that the Federals would leave this military district, I determined to follow them with all my available force. Ashby, with his cavalry and Chew's battery, was already in front. Col. S. V. Fulkerson's brigade, consisting of the Twenty-third and Thirty-seventh Regiments Virginia Volunteers and Shumaker's battery, was near Woodstock. Brig. Gen. R. B. Garnett's brigade, consisting of the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Twenty-seventh, and Thirty third Regiments Virginia Volunteers, and McLaughlin's, Carpenter's, and Waters' batteries, was near 2 miles below Mount Jackson. Col. J. S. Burks' brigade, consisting of the Twenty-first, Forty-second, and Forty-eighth Regiments Virginia Volunteers and the First Virginia Battalion, Provisional Army Confederate States, and Marye's battery, was near 2 miles above Mount Jackson.
The three brigades were ordered to march at dawn of the following morning. All the regiments, except the Forty-eighth (Col. John A. Campbell's), which was the rear guard, arrived within a mile or two of Kernstown by 2 p.m. on the 23d, and directions were given for bivouacking.
During the march information had reached me from a reliable source that the Federals were sending off their stores and troops from Winchester, and after arriving near Kernstown I learned from a source which had been remarkable for its reliability that the enemy's infantry force at Winchester did not exceed four regiments. A large Federal force was leaving the valley, and had already reached Castleman's Ferry on the Shenandoah. Though it was very desirable to prevent the enemy from leaving the valley, yet I deemed it best not to attack until morning. But subsequently ascertaining that the Federals had a position from which our threes could be seen, I concluded that it would be dangerous to postpone it until the next day, as re-enforcements might be brought up during the night.
After ascertaining that the troops, part of which had marched over 14 miles since dawn, and Garnett's and Burks' brigades, which had made a forced march of near 25 miles the day previous, were in good spirits at the prospect of meeting the enemy, I determined to advance at once.
Leaving Colonel Ashby, with his command, on the Valley turnpike, with Colonel Burks' brigade as a support to the batteries, and also to act as reserve, I moved with one piece of Carpenter's battery and Colonel Fulkerson's brigade, supported by General Garnett's, to our left, for the purpose of securing a commanding position on the enemy's right, and thus, turning him by that flank, force him back from his strong position in front, which prevented a direct advance.
Soon after, Captain Carpenter brought up his other pieces, also McLaughlin's and Waters' batteries came forward, the eminence was reached, and the three batteries, under their respective captains, commenced playing on the enemy, whose position was now commanded. We continued to advance our artillery, keeping up a continuous fire upon the Federals on our right, while Col. John Echols, with his regiment (the Twenty-seventh), with its skirmishers thrown forward, kept in advance and opened the infantry engagement, in which it was supported by the Twenty-first, under Lieut. Col. J. M. Patton, jr., as no other regiment of General Garnett had yet come up. Well did these two regiments do their duty, driving back the enemy twice in quick succession.
Soon a severe wound compelled the noble leader of the Twenty-seventh to leave the field, and the command devolved upon its lieutenant colonel, the dauntless Grigsby. Great praise is due to the officers and men of both regiments.
Colonel Fulkerson having advanced his brigade, consisting of the Twenty-third and Thirty-seventh, which were, respectively, commanded by Lieut. Cols. A. O. Taliaferro and R. P. Carson, to the left of Colonel Echols, judiciously posted it behind a stone wall toward which the enemy was rapidly advancing, and opened a destructive fire, which drove back the Northern forces in great disorder after sustaining a heavy loss and leaving the colors of one of their regiments upon the field. This part of the enemy's routed troops having to some extent rallied in another position was also driven from this by Colonel Fulkerson. The officers and men of this brigade merit special mention.
Soon after the Twenty-seventh had become engaged General Garnett, with the Second, Fourth, and Thirty-third Regiments, commanded, respectively, by Col. J. W. Allen, Lieut. Col. C. A. Ronald, and Col. A. C. Cummings, moved forward and joined in the battle, which now became general. The First Virginia Battalion, Provisional Army Confederate States, under Capt. D. B. Bridgford, though it unfortunately became separated in advancing, was in the engagement, and from near 5 to 6.30 p.m. there was almost a continuous roar of musketry. The enemy's repulsed regiments were replaced by fresh ones from his large reserve. As the ammunition of some of our men became exhausted noble instances were seen of their borrowing from comrades, by whose sides they continued to fight, as though resolved to die rather than give way.
Lieutenant-Colonel Ronald, commanding the Fourth, having been injured during the early part of the engagement by being thrown from his horse, the command of the regiment devolved upon Maj. A. G. Pendleton.
Though our troops were fighting under great disadvantages, I regret that General Garnett should have given the order to fall back, as otherwise the enemy's advance would at least have been retarded, and the remaining part of my infantry reserve have had a better opportunity for coming up and taking part in the engagement if the enemy continued to press forward. As General Garnett fell back he was pursued by the enemy, who, thus turning Colonel Fulkerson's right, forced him to fall back.
Soon after this the Fifth Regiment, under Col. W. H. Harman, came up, and I directed it to advance and support our infantry; but before it met the enemy General Garnett ordered it back, and thus the enemy were permitted unresisted to continue the pursuit. So soon as I saw Colonel Harman filing his regiment to the rear I took steps to remedy, as far as practicable, this ill-timed movement by directing him to occupy and hold the woods immediately in his rear; and calling General Garnett's attention to the importance of rallying his troops, he turned and assigned the Fifth a position, which it held until the arrival of Colonel Burks with the Forty-second, under Lieut. Col. D. A. Langhorne. Colonel Barks and the officers and men of the Forty-second proved themselves worthy of the cause they were defending by the spirit with which this regiment took and held its position until its left was turned by the Federals, pressing upon the Fifth as it fell back.
Col. John A. Campbell was rapidly advancing with his regiment to take part in the struggle, but night and an indisposition on the part of the enemy to press farther had terminated the battle, which had commenced near 4 p.m.
Leaving Ashby in front, the remainder of my command fell back to its wagons and bivouacked for the night. Our artillery had played its part well, though we lost two pieces, one belonging to Waters and the other to McLaughlin, the former from having upset when hard pressed by the enemy and the latter from having its horses killed when it was on the eve of leaving the field, which it had so well swept with canister as to have driven back the enemy from a part of it over which he was pressing near the close of the battle.
During the engagement Colonel Ashby, with a portion of his command, including Chew's battery, which rendered valuable service, remained on our right, and not only protected our rear in the vicinity of the Valley turnpike, but also served to threaten the enemy's front and left. Colonel Ashby fully sustained his deservedly high reputation by the able manner in which he discharged the important trust confided to him.
Owing to the most of our infantry having marched between 35 and 40 miles since the morning of the previous day many were left behind. Our number present on the evening of the battle was, of infantry 3,087, of which 2,742 were engaged; twenty-seven pieces of artillery, of which eighteen were engaged. Owing to recent heavy cavalry duty and the extent of country to be picketed only 290 of this arm were present to take part in the engagement.
There is reason to believe that the Federal infantry on the field numbered over 11,000, of which probably over 8,000 were engaged. It may be that our artillery engaged equaled that of the enemy, and that their cavalry exceeded ours in number.
Our loss was, killed, 6 officers, 12 non-commissioned officers, and 62 privates; wounded, 27 officers, 53 non-commissioned officers, and 262 privates, of which number some 70 were left on the field; missing, 13 officers, 21 non-commissioned officers, and 235 privates. Nearly all the missing were captured.
A few days after the battle a Federal officer stated that their loss in killed was 418. Their wounded, upon the supposition that it bears the same relation to their killed as ours, must be such as to make their total loss more than three times that of ours.
Our wounded received that care and attention from the patriotic ladies of Winchester which they know so well how to give, and our killed were buried by the loyal citizens of that town. The hospitality of Baltimoreans relieved the wants of the captured. For these acts of kindness, on both sides of the Potomac, I am under lasting obligations.
The officers and men of the various regiments and batteries deserve great praise.
In consequence of Maj. F. B. Jones, Second Regiment Virginia Volunteers, being familiar with the locality, he was detached from his regiment and acted as a staff officer during the engagement, and from his familiarity with the country, added to his zeal and daring, rendered very valuable service.
Dr. Hunter McGuire, medical director, discharged his duties in a manner which proved him admirably qualified for his position. Maj. J. A. Harman, chief quartermaster, ably discharged his duties. Maj. W. J. Hawks, chief commissary, with his usual foresight, had the wants of his department well supplied.
First Lieut. G.G. Junkin, aide-de-camp and acting assistant adjutant-general, faithfully and efficiently devoted himself to his duties until near the close of the engagement, when, I regret to say, he was captured by the enemy.
First Lieut. A. S. Pendleton, aide-de-camp, who is an officer eminently qualified for his duties, discharged them in a highly satisfactory manner.
First Lieut. J. K. Boswell, chief engineer, rendered valuable service. Though Winchester was not recovered, yet the more important object for the present, that of calling back troops that were leaving the valley, and thus preventing a junction of Banks' command with other forces, was accomplished, in addition to his heavy loss in killed and wounded. Under these circumstances I feel justified in saying that, though the field is in possession of the enemy, yet the most essential fruits of the battle are ours.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. J. JACKSON,
Maj. THOMAS G. RHETT,
General Orders No. 37.
HDQRS. DEPT. OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
Rapidan, April 8, 1862.
The commanding general has the pleasure to publish to the troops under his command the following resolution of Congress, and at the same time to express his own sense of the admirable conduct of Major-General Jackson and his division, by which they fully earned the high reward bestowed by Congress:
Resolved by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, That the thanks of Congress are due, and they are hereby tendered, to Maj. Gen. T. J. Jackson and the officers and men under his command for their gallant and meritorious service in the, successful engagement with a greatly superior force of the enemy, near Kernstown, Frederick County, Virginia, on the 23d day of March, 1862.
By command of Major-General Johnston:
THOS. G. RHETT,
Taken from: O.R. - SERIES I - VOLUME 15 [S# 15]