Confederates Capture Harpers Ferry in 1861
Jackson Buyes Little Sorrel
Federal Capture Romney for the first time
Army of the Shenandoah Moves to Manassas
Confederates Capture Harpers Ferry in 1861
The United States arsenal and armory at Harper's Ferry, at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, was the coveted object that first led to military operations in the Shenandoah valley in 1861. Ex-Governor Wise, early in April, urged the authorities at Richmond, by letter, to press forward on three points, the first, "Harper's Ferry, to cut off. the West, to form camp for Baltimore and point of attack on Washington from the west."
In Richmond, on the night of April 16th, when it became evident that the Virginia convention would pass an ordinance of secession, Wise called together at the Exchange hotel a number of officers of the armed and equipped companies of the Virginia militia: Turner and Richard Ashby of Fauquier, O. R. Funsten of Clarke, all captains of cavalry companies; Capt. John D. Imboden, of the Staunton artillery; Capt. John A. Harman of Staunton; Nat Tyler, editor of the Richmond Enquirer, and Capt. Alfred M. Barbour, late civil superintendent of the United States armory at Harper's Ferry. These gentlemen, most of them ardent secessionists, discussed and agreed upon a plan for the capture of Harper's Ferry, to be put in execution on the 17th, as soon as the convention voted to secede, if the concurrence of Governor Letcher and railway transportation could be secured. Col. Edmund Fontaine, president of the Virginia Central railroad, and John S. Barbour, president of the Orange & Alexandria railroad, being called in consultation about midnight, agreed to provide the necessary trains for the movement of troops if requested to do so by Governor Letcher. A committee was then sent to the governor, which roused him from sleep and laid before him the scheme for the capture of the armory and arsenal. He refused to take any official steps until after the passage of the ordinance of secession, but agreed, contingent upon that event, that he would next day order the movement by telegraph. He was then informed what companies would be under arms and ready to move at a moment's notice. This self-constituted committee then wired the captains of the companies along the above-named railways to be ready to move the next day, by orders from the governor, which, it was stated, would be to aid in capturing the Gosport navy yard, as a precaution lest information of the movement should reach Washington. It was well known that the guard at Harper's Ferry was only 45 men and could easily be captured if surprised; but Wise had information from Washington that a Massachusetts regiment, 1,000 strong, had been ordered to Harper's Ferry.
After the close of the conference the Ashbys, Funsten, Harman and Imboden secured ammunition and 100 stand of arms for the Martinsburg light infantry from the Virginia armory at Richmond, and had these moved to the railway station and loaded on a train before sunrise of the 17th.
Imboden, by telegraph, ordered all volunteer companies in the county of Augusta to assemble at Staunton at 4 p.m. of the 17th for marching orders. This produced great excitement, as that was a strong Union county, and the people assembled in Staunton in great numbers. When Imboden reached that place, in the afternoon of the 17th, he found his own company, the Staunton artillery, and Capt. William S. H. Baylor's West Augusta guards, an infantry company, drawn up to receive him. There were also present Maj.-Gen. Kenton Harper, commanding the Fifth division of the Virginia militia, and Brig.-Gen. William H. Harman, commanding the Thirteenth brigade of the Virginia militia, who had a telegram from Letcher ordering them into service and referring them to Imboden for information. He informed them, confidentially, of what had been done. Letcher had wired Harper to take chief command of the movement and Harman to call out the armed companies of his brigade. At 5 p.m. Harper left for Winchester by rapid conveyance, after ordering Harman to take command of the trains and troops that might report en route. Reaching Winchester at noon of the 18th, Harper received orders from Letcher to go on to Harper's Ferry.
The two companies from Staunton left by the Virginia Central railroad about sunset; at Charlottesville they were joined by Capt. W. B. Mallory's Monticello guards and Capt. R. T. W. Duke's Albemarle rifles, and at Culpeper by a rifle company. Manassas Junction was reached at about sunrise of the 18th, when Harman impressed a Manassas Gap railroad train to take the lead toward Strasburg, followed by the other trains that had brought troops to the junction. The Ashbys and Funsten left Richmond on the 16th to collect their cavalry companies, and those of the Black Horse cavalry under Capts. John Scott and R. Welby Carter of Fauquier; these to march across the Blue ridge and rendezvous near Harper's Ferry. Ashby sent men on the night of the 17th to cut the w/res between Manassas and Alexandria and keep them cut for several days, to prevent information of this movement reaching Washington. Before 10 a.m. of the 18th, the trains reached Strasburg and the infantry companies took up the line of march for Winchester. Imboden, with great difficulty, secured horses for his battery, and by noon followed on to Winchester, 18 miles, which he reached about dark. The troops were coldly received by the majority of the people of that conservative town, quite unlike their conduct during the following years of heroic endurance.
Harper, reaching Winchester in advance, when the infantry arrived sent them forward by rail to Charlestown, 8 miles from Harper's Ferry, and then ordered back the train for the artillery. About midnight the infantry marched to Halltown, within 4 miles of Harper's Ferry, to which point the artillery was taken by train and the guns run forward by hand to Bolivar heights and put in position to shell the place if necessary. Harper, who thought the Massachusetts regiment had arrived at Harper's Ferry, was making his arrangements to attack the armory and arsenal at daybreak of the 19th, when at about 10 p. m. of the 18th a brilliant light from the direction of the armory convinced him that the Federal troops in charge had fired it and fled. He promptly advanced and took possession, but too late to extinguish the flames, which destroyed nearly 20,000 rifles and pistols, although the workshops, the armory proper and the rifle works up the Shenandoah were saved.
On January 2, 1861, Supt. A.M. Barbour had informed the United States ordnance bureau that he apprehended an assault on the armory, and that he had organized the armorers into volunteer companies for its protection. The next day, Maj. H. J. Hunt, of the Second artillery, was assigned to command at Harper's Ferry and Lieut. R. Jones was ordered to report to him for duty with 60 picked men of the mounted rifles from Carlisle barracks. Hunt was instructed by Adjutant-General Cooper to dispose his force to protect the armory, but to make no display of it that would cause irritation. He arrived and took command on the 5th. On the 2d of April, Lieutenant Jones succeeded Hunt in command. His force on the I8th of April was but 45 men. Just before that date he sent a message to Secretary of War Cameron, asking for a large reinforcement if it was the intention to save the contents of the armory. To this he had no reply and was left to act on his own judgment. On Thursday morning, April 18th, Col. A. M. Barbour, who had resigned the superintendency of the armory a short time before and was now a member of the Virginia convention from Jefferson county, arrived at Harper's Ferry and thoughtlessly stated in public that the convention had passed an ordinance of secession; that the governor had called out the volunteers to repulse any effort to reinforce the command at Harper's Ferry, and that Virginia intended to take possession of the armory and arsenal. This caused much excitement, as the citizens were under the impression that an unlawful seizure of the United States property was to be made, which they determined to oppose. In the meantime, Colonel Allen called out the local regiment, the Second Virginia, to assemble at Charlestown. Apprised of these things, Superintendent Kingsbury (Barbour's successor)and Lieutenant Jones, knowing they could not resist an attack by any considerable force, made arrangements to destroy the property. Dismissing the operatives with the assurance that they should resume work on the 19th, they closed the gates of the armory and posted sentinels; removed the foot bridges across the canal, and placed kegs and sacks of powder in the arsenal buildings, using bedticks for this purpose; scattered powder over the floors of the shops, and placed barrels of it so as to not only destroy the buildings but any persons who might approach them. They then sent out mounted sentinels for two or three miles on different roads to watch the approach of the Virginia troops. One of these, about 9 p.m., hailed Colonel Allen and his command on the road to Charlestown; when the colonel ordered a charge to capture him, he rode off rapidly and reported to Jones, who at about 10 p.m. fired the buildings and crossed with his command into Maryland and retreated. By great exertions, notwithstanding the danger from explosions, the citizens (who had gathered in large numbers) and soldiers promptly proceeded to put out the fires and prevent them from spreading, thus saving many thousand stand of arms from the arsenal and preventing any damage to the armory, the removal of the machinery from which, to Richmond, was immediately begun.
On the 22nd, news reached Harper's Ferry that Virginia had passed the ordinance of secession, relieving the fears of many of the officers and troops that had been assembled there, that they had been acting unlawfully.
Within a week after the capture of Harper's Ferry some 1,300 Virginia troops, the armed and equipped volunteer companies of the militia, were there assembled under the commands of Brigadier-Generals Carson, Meem and Harman, from whose jurisdictions they had been summoned, and all under Major-General Harper, as division commander of the militia. These officers, in the full and brilliant uniforms of their rank, and each with a large staff, made an imposing display as they rode through the camps and around the vicinity of Harper's Ferry. The reign of the militia lasted about ten days, during which the only marked event was an ordering of the command under arms, on the night of the 25th, to capture a train of Federal troops reported as coming from the West, but which was found to have on it only General Harney of the United States army, who was taken prisoner. Letcher, on the 20th, had prohibited the Baltimore & Ohio from passing troops across Virginia over that road.
Imboden relates that he improvised caissons for his artillery from horse carts found in the armory; procured harness from Baltimore with his own means, and ordered red flannel shirts and other service clothing for his men from Richmond to replace the fine dress uniforms with which they came to camp.
On the 27th of April, Maj. Thomas J. Jackson, of the Virginia military institute, was appointed colonel of Virginia volunteers and ordered to Harper's Ferry to take command of the forces there assembled. At the same time an order was issued decapitating every militia officer in the State's volunteer service above the rank of captain, the vacancies thus created to be filled by the governor and his council of three. Colonel Jackson arrived at Harper's Ferry on the 29th of April and took command on the 30th. This order, resolving the Virginia forces into units of organization, created much indignation among the deposed officers, and greatly excited the troops they had commanded. In the midst of this excitement, Imboden ordered the Staunton artillery into line and informed them that they were required to muster into service, either for twelve months or the war, at their option, but urged them to go in for the full period, as it would be much to their credit to do so and set a good example to others. His men shouted unanimously, "For the war !" They were at once mustered in, and their captain had the pleasure of handing to Colonel Jackson the roll of the first company mustered in "for the war," for which the colonel expressed his thanks and asked that the same be conveyed to the men. Jackson then requested Imboden to muster in the two other artillery companies present, which he did and returned the rolls before sunset. This action of the artillerists was followed the next day by the other troops; all were mustered in, and the organization into regiments and battalions began. Soon after this, Letcher appointed Harper colonel of the Fifth Virginia, Harman, lieutenant-colonel, and Baylor, major, and thus was organized one of the finest regiments of the famous Stonewall brigade.
The period of Jackson's command at Harper's Ferry was marked by few notable incidents. The colonel commanding, in the simple uniform of a major on duty at the Virginia military institute, quietly, but firmly and unceasingly, worked to change citizens that had patriotically rushed to arms, most of them young men, many of them mere boys, into disciplined soldiers, nearly all the officers needing this as badly as the privates. His long experience as a trainer and drill-master of the same kind of material at the military institute fitted him admirably for such work.
Jackson buyes Little Sorrel
Jackson regulated the trains on the Baltimore & Ohio, seeing that they were not used to the detriment of Virginia, as Governor Letcher ordered, and when supplies from Baltimore for Virginia were detained by Butler at the Relay house, May 9th, he retaliated by seizing five carloads of beeves and one of horses from the West, intended for Federal use, and appropriated them to the use of his own army; buying from the quartermaster one of the captured horses, to which he took a fancy, that became famous as his favorite war-horse, "Little Sorrel."
As soon as he took command at Harper's Ferry there was an immediate change in the condition of the camp. Orders for instruction in military duties and for regular drills were at once issued, and strict military discipline enforced. He also began the construction of defenses on the surrounding heights, both in Virginia and in Maryland, to put his position in a state of defense against any attack that might be made by the Federal forces that were being pushed forward from Washington up the north bank of the Potomac, down the Cumberland valley from Chambersburg toward Hagerstown, and from the northwest by McClellan along the line of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad. His outposts were extended along the Baltimore & Ohio to Point of Rocks, 12 miles below Harper's Ferry, whence a wagon bridge crossed the Potomac into Virginia and where the railroad from Baltimore reached that river, thus guarding his position against the approach of Federal troops under General Butler from toward Baltimore, and of those under Colonel Stone up the Potomac from Washington. The staff departments of his command were promptly organized, with Maj. John A. Harman, as quartermaster, Maj. Wells J. Hawks, commissary, and Dr. Hunter McGuire, medical director. These gentlemen and Lieutenant Pendleton (afterward lieutenant-colonel), and others appointed later, continued as the efficient heads of departments during his subsequent famous military career.
About this time Lieut.-Col. J.E.B. Stuart reported to Jackson for duty, and the latter ordered the consolidation of all his cavalry companies into a battalion, to be commanded by Stuart, thus relieving Capt. Turner Ashby, the idol of all the troopers, from chief command of the cavalry. One of the bravest, shrewdest and most daring men ever put on outpost duty, he was lacking in the disciplinary qualities which Stuart, as a trained soldier, had in such an eminent degree. Ashby felt so aggrieved by this action that he determined to resign his captaincy, but was persuaded by Imboden to pay Jackson a visit and discuss the situation, the result of which was that the companies present were divided into two regiments, one under command of Col. Angus W. McDonald, with Ashby as lieutenant-colonel, who soon became its colonel, and the other under Stuart.
When on the 17th of April Virginia passed in convention its ordinance of secession, Brig.-Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was stationed at Washington as quartermaster-general of the United States army. This action of Virginia was not known in Washington until Saturday, the 19th, when he at once wrote his resignation. On Monday morning he offered it to the secretary of war, who accepted it. That done, he left Washington on Tuesday, with his family, for Richmond, but in consequence of railway accidents did not reach there until Thursday the 25th, when Governor Letcher at once gave him the appointment of major-general of Virginia volunteers, and Maj.-Gen. R. E. Lee, who had been appointed commander-in-chief of the Virginia forces on the 22nd, assigned to him the duty of organizing and instructing the volunteers who were then arriving in Richmond. General Lee had already selected the points to be occupied for the defense of the State and the number of troops to be assigned to each. These points were: Norfolk, in front of Yorktown; the front of Fredericksburg; Manassas Junction, Harper's Ferry and Grafton. Johnston was assisted in the duties assigned him at Richmond by Lieutenant-Colonel Pemberton, Majors Jackson and Gilham, and Capt. T. L. Preston, who had all recently reported for duty. Johnston was employed in this way some two weeks, when, Virginia having joined the Southern Confederacy, President Davis offered him, by telegraph, a brigadier-generalship in the Confederate army, which he promptly accepted, and on reporting to the war department at Montgomery was assigned by President Davis to the command at Harper's Ferry. He reached that place Friday, May 23d, accompanied by his staff, Col. E. Kirby Smith, assistant adjutant-general (afterward lieutenant-general); Maj. W. H. C. Whiting, of the engineers (who fell at Fort Fisher a major-general); Maj. A. McLean, quartermaster, and Capt. T. L. Preston, assistant adjutant-general. Within an hour after his arrival, Col. T. J. Jackson called on General Johnston, learned the object of his coming, and saw his orders; but when Johnston, the next morning, sent him orders announcing the change of commanders to be made known to the troops, Jackson courteously replied that he did not "feel at liberty to transfer his command to another without further instructions from Governor Letcher or General Lee;" but offered to furnish Johnston at once every facility for obtaining information relative to the post. Jackson soon learned that the Virginia forces had been turned over to the Confederacy, when he promptly obeyed Johnston's orders.
On assuming command at Harper's Ferry, Johnston had under him the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Tenth, Thirteenth and Twenty-seventh Virginia regiments of infantry; the Second and Eleventh Mississippi; the Fourth Alabama; a Maryland and a Kentucky battalion; four companies of Virginia artillery, of four guns each, but without caissons, horses or harness; and the First regiment of Virginia cavalry, about 250 men, including Capt. Turner Ashby's company, temporarily attached to it by Colonel Jackson; about 5,200 effective men in all. Among the officers present were T. J. Jackson and A. P. Hill, who became lieutenant-generals; Stuart, "matchless as a commander of outposts," as Johnston wrote, and Capt. W. N. Pendleton, who became brigadier-general and Lee's chief of artillery. As Johnston wrote, the troops were undisciplined, of course, also "badly armed and equipped--several regiments being without accouterments; were almost destitute of ammunition, and, like all new troops assembled in large bodies, they were suffering very much from sickness; nearly 40 per cent. of the total being in the hospitals, there or elsewhere, from the effects of measles and mumps."
Johnston had been distinctly informed, in his conversations with Lee and Davis, that they regarded Harper's Ferry as a natural fortress commanding the entrance to the valley of Virginia from Pennsylvania' and Maryland, and that his command was not of a military district, or of an active army, but of a fortress and its garrison. A study of the strategic environments at Harper's Ferry, after extended reconnoissance, convinced Johnston that the route of invasion into the valley from Pennsylvania was across the Potomac at Williamsport to Martinsburg, 20 miles west of Harper's Ferry and beyond the control of its garrison; and a careful examination of the position and its immediate surroundings, made on May 25th, with Engineer Whiting, convinced him that the place could not be held, even against equal numbers, by the force then in hand; that it was untenable unless he also had possession of the neighboring heights north of the Potomac and east of the Shenandoah, as artillery on those heights could sweep every part of the position and it could easily be turned by the fords of the rivers.
When Johnston took command at Harper's Ferry, the three Federal armies threatening Virginia, each, directly or indirectly, also menaced his position. He supposed that they would co-operate with Richmond as their objective, and from what he could learn, that Patterson and McClellan would direct their first movements so as to combine at Winchester. He considered it absolutely necessary that the troops in the Shenandoah valley under his command should be always ready, not only to meet the attack of Patterson from the northeast and of McClellan from the northwest, but also to unite quickly with the army of the Potomac at Manassas Junction, whenever threatened by McDowell. For such purposes he regarded his army at Harper's Ferry wrongly placed, since Patterson, coming from Chambersburg and marching through Williamsport and Martinsburg toward Winchester, would pass a day's march to the west of it. The only direct road from Harper's Ferry to Manassas, that down the south bank of the Potomac and across by way of Leesburg, was under the enemy's guns on the north side of the river; and if McClellan should come in by the Northwestern turnpike to Winchester, he would be completely in the rear of Johnston's army. For these reasons it was manifest that Winchester, and not Harper's Ferry, was the point to occupy, and he expressed these views in several letters in May and June to the authorities at Richmond, who in reply dissented from his opinions, and held the maintenance of the existing arrangements necessary for retaining command of the valley and communication with Maryland. Notwithstanding, Johnston decided that he would hold Harper's Ferry only until his command was needed elsewhere in consequence of movements of the enemy, and continued to urge the change of location of his command. He also conferred with Beauregard (who took command at Manassas Junction, opposing McDowell's advance, a week after Johnston took command at Harper's Ferry), and he, because of their mutual dependence for aid, concurred in Johnston's views.
During this period Stuart and Ashby with their cavalry held Johnston's front along the Potomac from the Point of Rocks entirely across the Shenandoah valley to within the North mountains, as they had done for Jackson. Johnston had cartridge boxes, belts and cartridges manufactured in the neighboring towns and villages, and smuggled in percussion caps, in small quantities, from Baltimore. At Captain Pendleton's suggestion, caissons were constructed by fixing roughly-made ammunition chests on the running gear of farm wagons. Horses and harness were collected for the artillery, and horses and wagons for field transportation, from the surrounding country; and the removal of machinery from the armory to Richmond was continued. The two heavy guns that Jackson had placed in battery west of the village, Johnston mounted on Furnace ridge, the extension of Bolivar heights to the Potomac, to command the approach by railway from the west. During the first week in June the Seventh and Eighth Georgia and the Second Tennessee regiments reached Harper's Ferry.
Federal Capture Romney for the first time
On June loth, Col. Lew Wallace, with the Eleventh Indiana, occupied Cumberland, Md., and on the 15th Patterson advanced his troops to Hagerstown from Chambersburg, Pa., where he had been collecting, organizing and instructing them for some days. From the information he could gather, Johnston concluded that Patterson had about 18,000 men, in twenty-four regiments of infantry, and several companies of artillery and cavalry. Johnston had at that time at Harper's Ferry about 7,000 men of all arms. At sunrise, June 13th, Johnston was advised, from Winchester, that 2,000 Federal troops, supposed to be the advance guard of McClellan's army, had marched into Romney, 43 miles west of Winchester by turnpike. As this information came from most reliable sources, Johnston at once sent Col. A. P. Hill, with his Thirteenth Virginia, regiment, and Col. S. B. Gibbons, with his Tenth Virginia, by special train to Winchester. Colonel Hill, in command, was instructed to also take Colonel Vaughn's Third Tennessee regiment, which had just reached Winchester, as part of his detachment, move toward Romney without delay, and do the best he could to retard the progress of the Federal troops toward the Shenandoah valley.
When Patterson ordered Lew Wallace to occupy Cumberland with the Eleventh Indiana, June loth, he warned him to be very cautious, but the ambitious colonel, learning that a considerable Confederate force was quartered at Romney, Hampshire county, in the South Branch valley, left Cumberland at 10 p.m. of the 12th, with eight companies of infantry, about 500 in number, and went by rail 21 miles southwest to New Creek (Keyser) station of the Baltimore & Ohio. On the morning of the 13th, about 4 a.m., he started to march across the mountains, by a rough country road, hoping to reach Romney, 23 miles distant, by about 8 a.m. When within a mile and a half of the town, coming from the west from Mechanicsburg, his advance was fired upon by a mounted picket, which fell back and gave the alarm, although the camp had an hour's previous notice of his coming. Pushing forward to the bridge over the South Branch, he saw the little band of Confederates drawn up on the bluff in front of the town, supporting a battery of two guns which commanded the road by which he must approach. Wallace's advance guard crossed the bridge on a run, and came under a warm fire from the windows of a large brick house not far to the right, which continued for several minutes, during which a second company crossed the bridge, and following up a ravine got into a position from which it drove the Confederates from the house and into the mountain back of it. Wallace then pushed a flanking party up a hill to the right, but before these men got within rifle range, the Confederates limbered up their guns and retreated over the bluff. The Federals at once entered, taking possession of empty houses and a lot of negroes, and searching for arms, and after a short stay returned to Cumberland, making a forced march. It was this movement that misled Johnston and induced him to send Hill to Romney.
The advance of Patterson to Hagerstown, within a day's march of Martinsburg, and the reported Federal advance toward Romney, convinced Johnston that the time had come to abandon Harper's Ferry and put his army in a defensive or active offensive position; so during the 13th and 14th the heavy baggage of the troops (Johnston says nearly every private soldier had a trunk), the property of the quartermaster and commissary departments, and the remaining machinery of the armory were sent by rail to Winchester, and the bridges over the Potomac, from the Point of Rocks to Shepherdstown, were destroyed. The machinery from the armory was sent forward, by wagons, from Winchester to Strasburg, and thence by the Manassas Gap railroad to Richmond.
The Confederates evacuated Harper's Ferry on the morning of the 15th, moved out on the Berryville road and bivouacked three or four miles beyond Charlestown. The next morning, before the resumption of the march, the cavalry outposts reported that the advance of Patterson's army had crossed the Potomac below Williamsport and was marching on Martinsburg. Johnston at once decided to oppose this advance toward Winchester by marching across the country to Bunker Hill, midway on the turnpike between Martinsburg and Winchester, and by thus opposing Patterson prevent his anticipated junction with McClellan. While waiting for a guide, he received a letter from Cooper, dated June 13th, giving him permission to abandon Harper's Ferry and retire toward Winchester, and, if not sustained by the people of the valley so that he could turn on the enemy before reaching Winchester, to continue to retire to the Manassas Gap road; that it was hoped he could make an effective stand,even against superior forces, in some of the mountain passes; but if he was forced so far as to make a junction with Beauregard, he would leave the enemy free to occupy the valley of Virginia and move on the rear of Manassas Junction.
Johnston broke camp at 9 a.m., June I6th, and marching through Smithfield, reached Bunker Hill in the afternoon and bivouacked on Mill creek, the full-flowing branch of the Opequan running through that village from the west, where armies so often encamped during the subsequent years of the war. Next morning the troops were advanced toward Martinsburg, to high ground favorable for battle, to await the approach of the Federal army. About noon, information came that Patterson had recrossed the Potomac, because, it was supposed, of Johnston's movement, but really because Wallace, at Cumberland, had reported himself hard pressed by Hill's move on Romney, and Patterson ordered five regiments of infantry and cavalry and artillery up the Potomac to his support. Johnston then followed out his original intention and marched toward Winchester, going into camp some 3 miles east of the town, on the Martinsburg road, but replacing his cavalry in observation along the Potomac, under Colonel Stuart, who, as Johnston says, "had already won its full confidence and mine."
Mansfield, in command at Washington, notified Colonel Stone, on the Potomac line, that the Confederates were evacuating Harper's Ferry and advised him to watch the lower Potomac fords, as though he feared Johnston might advance on Washington. On the 16th he informed Stone that the large force reported at Manassas Junction was probably that of Johnston from Harper's Ferry. In view of the demonstrations in front of Washington, Scott, on the 18th, thought of having Patterson march from Hagerstown to Frederick and join Stone in a movement down the Potomac, from Leesburg, to meet one by McDowell moving up the river. After reaching Romney, Col. A. P. Hill, resenting Wallace's raid, sent Col. J. C. Vaughn with two companies of his Tennesseeans and two of the Thirteenth Virginia to New Creek depot by the same back road Wallace used, to attack a Federal force there located. Vaughn found the enemy well posted on the north bank of the Potomac near the railroad bridge, but with no pickets out. After reconnoitering he gave orders, at 5 a.m. of the 19th, to charge the position. The order was gallantly and enthusiastically executed, but as soon as his men came in sight of the enemy, the latter broke and fled in all directions, firing a few random shots and wounding one of Vaughn's men. They did not fire their two pieces of artillery, which were captured loaded but spiked. These and the enemy's colors were brought away, and the railroad bridge over New creek was burned. Vaughn made a march of 36 miles between 8 p.m. of the 18th and noon of the 19th, when he returned to his camp. Hill commended the handsome manner in which his orders had been executed, and Johnston called attention to "the difference it exhibited between the spirit of our troops and that of those of the United States."
Assured that no considerable body of Federal troops was approaching from the west, Hill's detachment was called back to Winchester. Some rough gunstocks having been left at Harper's Ferry, Lieut.-Col. G. H. Steuart was sent, with his Maryland battalion, to bring these away, which he did, leaving nothing there worth removing. Jackson's brigade was left near Martinsburg, in supporting distance of the cavalry along the Potomac.
While Johnston was tarrying at Winchester, President Davis wrote him that, while governed by circumstances, he must bear in mind that the general purpose of his command was to resist invasion and repel the invaders whenever it could be done; that reinforcements had been steadily sent forward to Manassas Junction, and that others would be sent to that place and to him as the current of events might determine on which line to advance; that a large supply of ammunition had been sent him on the 19th, and more would be sent the next day; that the movements of the enemy indicated the importance attached to the valley of Virginia, and to the power he would acquire if he could advance as far as Staunton, cut off communication with the West and South, and operate on the flank and rear of Beauregard's army, at the same time provisioning his own army from the valley of the Shenandoah, and by so doing dispensing with a long line of transportation from Pennsylvania; therefore, everything should be destroyed that would facilitate such a movement through the valley.
In the meantime, the army of the Shenandoah was strengthened by the arrival of more regular army officers and of regiments from different States, and Johnston, early in July, proceeded to organize four brigades of infantry: The First, a Virginia brigade, under Col. T. J. Jackson, composed of the Second, Fourth, Fifth and Twenty-seventh Virginia regiments and Pendleton's Rockbridge artillery; the Second, under Col. F. S. Bartow, composed of the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Georgia regiments, Duncan's and Pope's Kentucky battalions, and Alburtis' Virginia battery; the Third, under Brig.-Gen. B. E. Bee, composed of the Fourth Alabama, Second and Eleventh Mississippi, First Tennessee, and Imboden's Virginia battery; the Fourth, under Col. Arnold Elzey, composed of the First Maryland battalion, Third Tennessee, Tenth and Thirteenth Virginia, and Grove's battery, leaving the First Virginia cavalry and the Thirty-third Virginia infantry unbrigaded. These commands numbered, on June 30, 1861, 10,654 present for duty, of which 10,000 were infantry, 334 cavalry and 278 artillery.
Learning that Patterson was again preparing to cross the Potomac, Jackson was sent with his brigade to the vicinity of Martinsburg to support the cavalry, and at the same time protect and aid an agent of the government who was sent to select and remove locomotives from the Baltimore & Ohio railroad shops at Martinsburg, hauling them with horses along the turnpike through Winchester to the Manassas Gap railroad at Strasburg. Jackson was also instructed to destroy all Baltimore & Ohio rolling stock that could not be brought away. On June 22d, President Davis wrote General Johnston that if the enemy had withdrawn from his front to make an attack east of the Blue ridge, they would probably attempt to advance from Leesburg to seize the Manassas Gap railroad and turn Beauregard's left, and if he had timely information of this, he might make a flank attack through the passes of the Blue ridge, and in conjunction with Beauregard achieve a glorious and beneficial victory.
During this waiting time some 2,500 of the militia of Frederick, Shenandoah and adjacent counties, were assembled at Winchester, under Brigadier-Generals Carson and Meem. To encourage these and add to their efficiency, Major Whiting, of the engineers, was directed to throw up some light defensive works, on the most commanding positions northeast of the town, and have some heavy guns, found in Winchester, mounted there.
Jackson's Brigade Gets Blooded at Falling Waters
Maj.-Gen. Robert Patterson, with the Federal army which he had concentrated, left Hagerstown June 30th, with the intention of invading Virginia in two columns, one crossing the Potomac at Dam No. 4, and the other at Williamsport, to converge at Hainesville, near which, at Camp Stephens, was encamped Jackson's brigade. Finding the fording difficult at Dam No. 4, his whole force crossed the Potomac at Williamsport, July 2d, and advanced on the main road toward Martinsburg, detaching Negley's brigade, a mile beyond the ford, to march by way of Hedgesville and guard the right, coming into the main road again at Hainesville. About 5 miles from the ford, Patterson's skirmishers became engaged with the Confederates, posted in a clump of trees, and soon with the main force in front, sheltered by fences, woods and houses.
From Darkesville, July 3rd, Jackson made report concerning this battle, his first engagement with the enemy. At about 7:30 a.m. of the 2d, Colonel Stuart informed him that the Federal troops had advanced to within 4 miles of Camp Stephens, and he promptly sent forward Colonel Harper's Fifth Virginia regiment and Captain Pendleton's Rockbridge battery, and gave orders for moving baggage to the rear and advancing his other regiments: that reaching the vicinity of Falling Waters he found the Federals in position, as indicated by Stuart, when he directed Harper to deploy two companies, under Major Baylor, to the right of the road; that the enemy soon advanced, deployed and opened fire, when Harper's skirmishers drove them back on their reserve; that from a house and barn, of which he had taken possession, an apparently deadly fire was poured on the advancing foe until his position was about being turned, when he ordered Harper to gradually fall back; that the enemy opened with artillery, to which Captain Pendleton replied, with one of his guns, from a good position in the rear with a solid shot which entirely cleared the road of the enemy crowding it in front. Satisfied that the enemy were in force, Jackson, as Johnston had ordered, then fell back, checking the enemy as they advanced through the fields and woods, in line as skirmishers and endeavoring to outflank him, by deploying his men and by an occasional shot from Pendleton's gun. Allen's and Preston's regiments had also been advanced to support Harper if necessary, and once Allen took position for that purpose, but was not brought into action, as Jackson had already accomplished the object of his movement.
Before Jackson's arrival on the field, Stuart, leaving Captain White with his company to watch on the main road and fall back before the enemy, had moved forward, by a road farther to the west, to turn Patterson's right flank, and, if possible, capture his advance. Informed of Stuart's intention, but fearing that he might be cut off, Jackson had informed him by messenger, that he would make a stand about a mile and a half in front of Martinsburg and wait for him; but Stuart joined him soon after he had posted Harper's regiment and a single gun, at Falling Waters. Leaving Stuart in front of Martinsburg, Jackson fell back to Big Spring, 2 miles the other side, where he encamped for the night, and the next day retired to Darkesville. Patterson entered Martinsburg at noon of July 3rd.
Stuart reported to Jackson the capture of a whole company of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania, with the exception of the captain, after killing three; that one of the enemy was killed by Captain Carter's negro servant and one of Captain Patrick's company; that the captured 49 of the enemy were from the Fifteenth Pennsylvania, the First Wisconsin and the Second United States cavalry. Jackson highly commended Stuart and his command, and wrote of the former, "He has exhibited those qualities which are calculated to make him eminent in his arm of the service." Jackson concluded his report with the reasons which induced him to advance on the enemy. They were: "A desire to capture him if his strength was only a few hundred; if he should appear in force, to hold him in check until his baggage wagons could be loaded and moved in column to the rear."
Jackson's brigade, on the 30th of June, had 128 officers and 2,043 men of the infantry, and 4 officers and 81 men of the artillery, present for duty. Stuart's cavalry had 21 officers and 3I3 men. At that time, Patterson had present for duty in his command, the department of Pennsylvania, I4,344, of which 395 were cavalry, 258 artillery and 13,69I infantry. This force was composed entirely of three months' men, under Lincoln's call for 75,000, with the exception of the Fourth Connecticut infantry, four companies of United States cavalry, and three of United States artillery.
In his account of "the affair at Falling Waters," as he calls it, Johnston wrote, after describing Jackson's operations, that hearing of this attack, at sunset of the 2d, he ordered the rest of his army forward, from the front of Winchester, and met Jackson's brigade, retiring, at Darkesville, about daybreak of the 3d; that he there bivouacked his whole army, in order of battle, expecting the Federals to advance and attack, and waited four days, in this expectation, supposing that Patterson had invaded Virginia for that purpose; but, as Patterson did not come on, and being unwilling to attack superior numbers in a town so defensible as Martinsburg, with its numerous stone and brick buildings, he ordered his troops back to Winchester, much to their disappointment, as they were all eager to fight. Johnston's effective force at that time was not quite 9,000 men of all arms.
In a letter to General Cooper, from Darkesville, July 4, 1861, transmitting the reports of Colonel Jackson and Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart, General Johnston wrote: "Each of these two officers has, since the commencement of hostilities, been exercising the command corresponding to the next grade above the commission he holds, and proved himself fully competent to such command. I therefore respectfully recommend that Colonel Jackson be promoted without delay to the grade of brigadier-general, and Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart to that of colonel."
Capt. W. N. Pendleton wrote, concerning the affair at Falling Waters, that the enemy praised the Confederate artillery firing. Pendleton says his orders for aiming the gun were: "Steady, now; aim at the horses' knees," which he considered the first important lesson for making efficient artillerists.
Stuart's exploit at Falling Waters, which introduced this young Scotch-Irish Virginia cavalryman as a wily strategist and bold fighter, furnishes a good opportunity for telling how he got into the Virginia army and more about this exploit, as told by his biographer, Maj. H. B. McClellan.
In March, 1861, Lieut. J. E. B. Stuart obtained a two months' leave of absence from his regiment, the First United States cavalry, then at Fort Lyon, Kan., a portion of which he spent with his family in St. Louis. After three weeks of anxious waiting on Virginia's action, he returned to Fort Riley, where he learned that Virginia had adopted an ordinance of secession. As his leave had not yet expired, he promptly removed his family to St. Louis, and himself took steamboat for Memphis, forwarding from Cairo, to the United States war department, his resignation as an officer in the United States army, at about the same time that he received notice that he had been promoted to a captaincy in his regiment. He reached Wytheville, Va., the nearest railway station to his old home in Patrick county, on the 7th of May, the very day his resignation was accepted by the United States war department. Informed of this, he went at once to Richmond, and offered his sword in defense of Virginia, his native State, and on the loth was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of infantry, in the Virginia army, and ordered to report to Col. T. J. Jackson at Harper's Ferry. On reporting for duty he was assigned to the command of the cavalry, some 350 men, then in the Shenandoah valley. With this small force, with the skill, energy and activity that had already won him reputation, he held, and efficiently watched, a front of nearly 100 miles along the Potomac, from east of the Blue ridge entirely across the Shenandoah valley and nearly to the Alleghany range, and duly reported every forward movement of the enemy. His early discovery of Patterson's move across the Potomac, at Williamsport, the 1st of July, enabled Johnston to send Jackson's brigade to the assistance of the cavalry north of Martinsburg, and to participate in the creditable affair at Falling Waters. There he displayed the prompt courage for which he afterward became famous, and converted threatened disaster into victory, when, riding alone in advance of his men, and emerging suddenly from a thick piece of woods, he found himself confronting a body of Federal infantry only separated from him by a fence. Quickly comprehending the possibilities of the emergency, he unhesitatingly rode forward and ordered some of the Federal soldiers, who probably mistook him for one of their own officers, as he was still dressed in his United States uniform, to throw down the fence. This order was promptly obeyed. He then ordered the whole party to lay down their arms and surrender, on the peril of their lives. Bewildered by this audacity and boldness, they obeyed, when Stuart, filing them off through the gap in the fence, soon had them surrounded by his troopers, his prize proving to be 49 men, nearly an entire company of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania volunteers, from the right of Patterson's line of battle.
On the l0th of July, President Davis wrote to Johnston that he was trying, by every means at his command, to reinforce him; that he expected to send off Colonel Forney's regiment the next morning, and others as fast as railway transportation could be secured. On the 13th he gave notice that another regiment, fully equipped, was sent him that day; that he could get 20,000 men from Mississippi, if they could be armed, and that he had numerous tenders of troops from Georgia, but he had to answer all that he had no arms to spare them.
The lower valley of the Shenandoah (the northeastern part of Virginia's unfailing storehouse for supplying Confederate armies) furnished Johnston an abundant supply of provisions and forage, which the people, staunchly loyal, were willing to sell to his quartermasters and commissaries on credit, so he had no need for subsistence supplies from Richmond, except rations of coffee and sugar. He wrote that under the management of Maj. G. W. T. Kearsley, his chief commissary, the valley could have abundantly supplied an army four times as large as his. The great difficulty was to procure ammunition, as but little had been imported and the partially organized Confederate ordnance department had neither time nor means to prepare the half that was needed. The small supply brought from Harper's Ferry was increased by some from Richmond and by sending officers elsewhere to collect caps as well as cartridges.
On the 15th of July, Stuart reported that Patterson's army had advanced from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill, where it remained the next day; but on the 17th it moved from that village and the Winchester road, by its left, to Smithfield, a few miles on the turnpike road to Charlestown. This suggested to Johnston that the Federal commander designed to continue his movement on through Berryville, to place his army between the Confederates at Winchester and those at Manassas Junction, to hold Johnston in the valley while McDowell was assailing Beauregard; or, perhaps, to attack Winchester from the south and turn its slight intrenchments.
After the Confederate army retired from Darkesville toward Winchester, the Thirty-third Virginia, under Col. A. C. Cummings, was added to Jackson's brigade; the Sixth North Carolina to Bee's; the Eleventh Georgia to Bartow's, the Ninth Georgia having joined that brigade soon after the troops left Winchester; and a fifth brigade was formed, for Brig.-Gen. E. Kirby Smith, of the Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Alabama and the Nineteenth Mississippi regiments, and Stanard's Virginia battery. At that time the effective strength of the regiments in the army of the Shenandoah did not much exceed 500 men each, so many were sick with measles, mumps, and other diseases to which unseasoned troops are subject.
Army of the Shenandoah Moves to Manassas
About 1 a.m., July 18th, Johnston received a telegram from Adjutant-General Cooper informing him that Beauregard was attacked, and that to strike the enemy a decisive blow a junction of all their effective forces was needed; and directing him, if it was practicable to make the movement, to send his sick and baggage across to Culpeper Court House, but, in all arrangements, to exercise his own discretion. A half hour later, a telegram from Beauregard informed Johnston of his urgent need for the aid he had promised him in the emergency now arrived. Confident that the troops under his command could render no service in the valley so important to the Confederacy as preventing a Federal victory at Manassas Junction, Johnston unhesitatingly decided to hasten to that point with his whole army, the only question being whether to first attempt to defeat Patterson, or, by a secret movement, elude him. The latter course he considered the quickest and safest, if it could be accomplished. He relied on Stuart to furnish him the means of judging whether this could be done, while his troops were preparing to march. The Federal cavalry, chiefly regulars, had the advantage in arms and discipline, but kept close to the infantry; Stuart, on the contrary, held his men far in advance of the Confederate infantry camps and kept his pickets and scouts near the enemy, and by so doing could quickly learn of their movements, at the same time concealing his own. His report to Johnston showed that at 9 o'clock of the 18th, Patterson had not advanced from Smithfield, a point so far from Johnston's road to Manassas that Patterson could neither prevent nor delay his march. Stuart's information proved the expediency of moving as soon as possible.
Johnston had, at that time, at Winchester, some 1,700 sick men. If he waited to remove these to Culpeper Court House, it would cause a delay of days when hours were of importance. Therefore he provided for these in Winchester, leaving for their defense the militia brigades of Carson and Meem, which were quite strong enough to defend the place and the district. Moreover, there was no doubt but that Patterson would follow, with his main body, the movement to Manassas, as soon as he discovered it; but to delay that discovery, Stuart was instructed to establish as complete a cordon as his regiment could make, and as near as practicable to the Federal army, to prevent information reaching it from the direction of Winchester or Berryville; to maintain his close picketing until the night of the 18th, and then follow the army through Ashby's gap. Stuart screened this movement of Johnston's whole army from the valley so effectually that Patterson did not know that it had been made until the 21st, when the army of the Shenandoah was bravely participating in the battle of Bull Run.
Johnston's troops left their camp at Winchester about noon, June I8th, Jackson's brigade leading the march. When the rear of the command was a mile or two beyond Winchester, all the different regiments were at the same time informed of the object of the movement and the necessity for a forced march, and exhorted to strive to reach the field of contention in time to take part in the great battle that had already begun. Johnston, accustomed to the steady gait of regular soldiers, was greatly discouraged by the slow rate of marching of the volunteers and the frequent delays, and nearly despaired of reaching Beauregard in time to aid him in battle. This induced him to dispatch Major Whiting, of the engineers, to Piedmont station of the Manassas Gap railroad, the nearest one on his line of march through Ashby's gap, to ascertain whether railway trains could be procured for transporting his troops to their destination quicker than they could reach it by marching, and if these trains could be secured, to make the necessary transportation arrangements. Whiting, in returning, met Johnston at Paris, a hamlet near the top of the Blue ridge, with a favorable report. The head of Jackson's brigade reached Paris, 17 miles from Winchester, about two hours after dark. The four other brigades halted for the night on the Shenandoah, 4 miles back from Paris and 13 from Winchester. The next day, Friday, July 19th, Johnston's infantry were all across the Blue ridge, as were also his artillery and cavalry, under Colonels Pendleton and Stuart, and all on their way eager to reach the field of conflict.
After the affair at Falling Waters, Patterson, as we have seen, did not enter Martinsburg until the 3d; and though he informed Scott that day that he was in "hot pursuit" of the enemy, he remained there until the 15th, giving as excuse that he had not transportation enough to supply his army for more than three days at a time, and as he could get nothing from the country he had invaded, while the enemy could, he was compelled to send back to Hagerstown for all his subsistence. He was also under the impression that Johnston's army had been increased to 13,000 men. On the 4th, he wired that as soon as he could get a supply of provisions he intended to advance on Winchester, "to drive the enemy from that place, if any remained," and then move toward Charlestown, to which point he believed Stone was advancing from toward Washington, by way of Harper's Ferry; and then, if it was not too hazardous, he would continue to Leesburg, but unless he was reinforced with long term men, he would have to abandon the country, as the time of most of his army was about to expire, on the 15th of July.
Scott, who had on the 1st informed Patterson that he hoped to move a column of 35,000 men the next week, aggressively, toward Manassas Junction, promised reinforcements and said that Stone was in supporting distance, with all his force, opposite Harper's Ferry. He suggested that after defeating the enemy, Patterson could continue the pursuit, if not too hazardous, and advance toward Alexandria by way of Leesburg, but must move with great caution through the dangerous defiles. Patterson replied that large reinforcements had come from Manassas to Johnston, who probably then had "26,000 men and 24 field guns, some of them rifled and of large caliber."
Patterson must have been greatly confused by Scott's unintelligible orders, directing movements to Alexandria by way of Strasburg, etc., but, stimulated by the arrival of reinforcements and the prospect of more, he issued orders on the 8th for a movement the next day, in two parallel columns, toward Winchester; but instead of marching he called a council of war, participated in by the heads of his staff departments and his brigade commanders, in which there was a general concurrence of expressed opinions, that it would be a very dangerous business to move toward Winchester, each having a professional reason for his conclusions; the quartermaster and the commissary saying they could get neither sufficient transportation nor supplies for such an extended movement; the engineers considering the line of the movement a false one, and the position then held a dangerous one, as Johnston could easily flank it, and all agreed that they ought to go at once to Shepherdstown, Charlestown, or Harper's Ferry. Stone suggested that from the latter place they could best threaten Johnston .
Later, the same day, Scott added to Patterson's distractions by telling him that they had information, doubtless reliable, that the Confederates intended to draw him far back from the Potomac, where Johnston could defeat him, when the latter would join Wise, and moving upon McClellan, in the northwest, conquer him; and then their joint forces would march back and join Beauregard in an assault upon Washington. Concerning this marvelous scheme, Patterson-replied, on the 12th, that it confirmed his impression as to the insecurity of his position, and he asked permission to transfer his depot to Harper's Ferry and his forces to the Charlestown line, as defeat in the Shenandoah valley would be ruin everywhere. Scott at once gave his consent, suggesting that later he could march to Alexandria, by way of Hillsboro and Leesburg, but that he must not recross the Potomac.
The news of McClellan's success at Rich mountain, on the 12th, elated Patterson, but he maintained that his column was the keystone of the Combined movements, and it must be preserved in order to secure the fruits of that and other victories; that it would not do to hazard that result by a defeat, and he would act cautiously while preparing to strike. Scott promptly replied that if he was not strong enough to defeat Johnston the coming week, he must make demonstrations to detain him in the valley.
After having tarried twelve days at Martinsburg, in his "hot pursuit" of Johnston, Patterson, on the 15th, advanced 12 miles to Bunker Hill, only opposed by Stuart's cavalry (he said some 600), which fell back, skirmishing with his advance and barricading the road behind them, which Patterson interpreted as "showing that the enemy had no confidence even in their large force." The day after he reached Bunker Hill, Patterson, realizing that his ninety days' race with time was about up, and that the prospect of having Johnston's army as a prize had vanished, informed Scott that the term of service of most of his command had about expired, and he felt confident that many of these would lay down their arms the very day their term of enlistment ended; therefore, he could not think of advancing toward Winchester until these men were replaced with three years' men. On July 17th he began his retrograde movement (the newspapers called it an advance) by leaving the Winchester road, crossing the Opequan, and posting his army along the road from Smithfield to Charlestown. Scott telegraphed him that he had learned, through the Philadelphia papers, of his "advance," and added: "Do not let the enemy amuse you and delay you with a small force in front while he reinforces the junction with his main body." Next day Scott repeated his injunction:
"I have certainly been expecting you to beat the enemy. If not, to hear that you had felt him strongly, or, at least, had occupied him by threats and demonstrations. You have been at least his equal, and, I suppose, his superior in numbers. Has he not stolen' a march and sent reinforcements toward Manassas Junction? A week is enough to win victories. The time of the volunteers counts from day of muster into the service of the United States. You must not retreat across the Potomac. If necessary, when abandoned by the short term volunteers, intrench somewhere and wait for reinforcements."
Three times on that same 18th of July, while Johnston's army was rapidly marching from the valley toward Manassas, Patterson telegraphed Scott, insisting that the enemy had not stolen a march on him; that he had held Johnston in Winchester and accomplished more than Scott had asked or could well have expected in the face of an enemy of superior numbers. The determination of his three months' men to go home still troubled him, and on the 19th, he said that only three regiments had consented to stay for ten days, and repeated that from his last information, Johnston was still at Winchester and being daily reinforced. That day, July 19th, Patterson was honorably discharged from the service of the United States, to take effect on the 27th, and Maj.-Gen. N. P. Banks was directed to assume command of the army under Patterson, and of the department of the Shenandoah.
From Harper's Ferry, on the 21st, Patterson reported that Winchester was abandoned the day before by all armed parties; that Johnston had left to operate on McDowell's right, and that he could not follow because he had but few active troops, all the others being barefooted and ordered home when their term of service should expire.
Patterson, on the 23rd, was sending his train across the river at Harper's Ferry, intending to go to Washington with all his available force unless ordered to the contrary; but Scott advised him that this force was not wanted at Washington, but "it is expected you will hold Harper's Ferry unless threatened by a force well ascertained to be competent to expel you." Patterson replied that he considered the occupation of Harper's Ferry, with his small force, as hazardous, and that not less than 20,000 men were needed to hold it against a formidable enemy.
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