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Falling Waters-Jackson's Baptism of Fire

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 Darkes-ville. 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, 14,344, 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.

Stuart Shows His Metal

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.

(Taken from The Confederate Military History, Volume 3, Chapter VI)

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