Stonewall Jackson

’s 1862 Valley Campaign Essay, Research Paper Many traits are associated with Thomas Jonathan Jackson and his leadership in the confederacy. He is known for stark determination, military

’s 1862 Valley Campaign Essay, Research Paper

Many traits are associated with Thomas Jonathan Jackson and his

leadership in the confederacy. He is known for stark determination, military

genius beyond all others, and the ability to turn any army into a fighting machine.

Jackson became legendary when a South Carolina general, seeking to rally his

own men at Bull Run, pointed to Jackson and shouted, ?Look, there is Jackson

and his men standing like a stone wall against the enemy.? Thus he forever

became ?Stonewall? Jackson. Jackson?s military legacy had begun even before

this moment, when he diverted 20,000 northern troops in the Shenendoah Valley

of Virginia, with only 7,000 troops of him own. The image of Stonewall Jackson

has forever been one of the most fascinating associated with Civil War military


However, the true military genius of Jackson lies in his understanding of

movement in war. He could maneuver a brigade under the nose of opposing

armies, march his men farther and faster than anyone before, and understood

the critical importance of railroads to the war effort. Using all these techniques,

he single-handedly distracted much of the Union force headed to Richmond

(including McClellan). The operations of Jackson in the Shenendoah during the

first half of the year 1862 constitute one of the most brilliant episodes of military

movement in history and continue to be a standard for military study today.

Beginning with the Battle of Kernstown on March 23 and ending with the

Battle of Fort Republic on June 9, Stonewall Jackson produced the single

greatest military operation in the Civil War. The almost impossible marches, the

unbelievable defeats of armies triple the size of his own, and the continuous

confusion the Union faced made his maneuvers legendary. Two factors gave

the region military value. The Army of Northern Virginia was almost dependent

on its agricultural products. And secondly, it became a fortress that had to be

occupied to advance into Virginia (specifically Richmond) [Appendix A].

Jackson recognized that this valley was the key to military movement, and

military supremacy, in the eastern theater.

Soon after the battle of Bull Run ?Jackson was promoted to command the

Valley District of Virginia.?1 His command revolved solely around the

Shenendoah, of which the Union forces held Romney and the north side of the

Potomac. Jackson had only a small regiment at his disposal to try and regain

this territory. The campaign had no definitive beginning, but the movement

during the month of March signaled the first action. On March 23 at Kernstown,

Jackson was handed his only ?loss? when he battled Nathaniel Banks and his

9000 men with less than 3000 of his own men. Jackson?s regiment was routed,

but the battle caused Banks to postpone his move on Washington, thus ?freezing

a large body of union troops in the valley?2. Moreover, it ?convinced President

Lincoln that Jackson?s army could be cut of and destroyed.?3 He now retired up

the valley. He appeared suddenly at McDowell on May 8 and sent a Federal

force on retreat. One confederate officer recalled the effects of the battle:

?Jackson?s prompt action and bold attack had completely changed McClellan?s

plans, and instead of establishing Banks near Manassas, he ordered him to

remain in the valley, and even sent [reinforcements], to aid in driving back

Jackson?.4 ?Marching with the speed that earned his troops the nickname the

?foot cavalry? he attacked and defeated a small union garrison at Front Royal?5

and then fell upon Bank?s retreating main army at Winchester on May 25. Here

he defeated 64,000 troops with his own 17,000 by flanking his position in the

city. Stonewall Jackson?s small valley army had ?turned the tables on Banks and

the Washington government, and now held control of the entire Shenendoah.?6

Threatened by Jackson?s close proximity to Washington, Lincoln diverted

Federal troops to surround his army. Jackson watched three Federal columns

converge to destroy him, but narrowly escaped by falling back on Harper?s Ferry

on May 31, forcing part of his army to march 50 miles in two days to elude the

trap. Jackson continued to withdraw up the valley with Union forces in hot

pursuit. Jackson foresaw the two Federal columns? converging on Port

Republic; therefore, he concentrated forces there and kept Fremont and Shields

separated. General Richard Ewell held off Fremont?s forces at Cross Keys to

allow Jackson time to plan a strike. Jackson?s forces crossed the Shenendoah

River and attacked Shields on June 9. After a vicious battle, the Federals were

routed and retreated northward, leaving Jackson ?master of the Valley.?7 He had

?thwarted every Union effort made against him.?8 He did so through a

combination of hard marches, knowledge of terrain, unexpected tactics,

singleness of purpose, heavy attacks concentrated at one point, and self

confidence arising from the thought that God was on his side. However,

Jackson?s rout is explained best by his own words to an officer at the battle of

Cross Keys:

Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible.

And when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit

so long as your men have strength to follow. Such tactics win

every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in

detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.9

Adroitly executing his astute military intellect, Jackson had ?occupied

nearly 60,000 troops in the fruitless effort to bring him to bay.?10

These movements had a profound impact on the Civil War, having both

immediate and lasting effects. The most obvious effect is the diversion Jackson

caused on Union forces heading toward Richmond. Becuase of Jackson?s

movements, Lincoln dispatched 20,000 troops to check him. While these troops

were on there way, Jackson stealthily slipped between them and stationed at

Ashland, directly north of the capital. ?Protecting Richmond was the key to

Confederate success?11, and Jackson preserved its safety with his movements

in the Valley.

Each battle in the campaign had strong ramifications that were felt in

Washington and throughout the Union. The bold attack on Kernstown, though

unsuccessful, led to many important results. The first effect was the recall of

Federal troops from Manassas to the Valley by the petition of General Shields.

He explained the reasoning behind this move stating, ?Though the battle had

been won, I still could not believe Jackson would have [struck] so far from the

main body without reinforcements; so to be prepared for such a contingency, I

set to bring together all the troops within my reach.?12 Thus a body of 20,000

troops was thought necessary to guard against Jackson?s 3000 and the

imaginary reinforcements. McClellan was also deprived of 10,000 men in his

command that were placed defending against Jackson. And finally Lincoln felt

so insecure over the defense of Washington, that he ordered McDowell?s entire

corps to be added to 70,000 already in defense, rather than letting them assist

McClellan. Thus by striking to prevent General Johnston from leaving the

Valley, Jackson had accomplished much more than he expected. His ?trickery?

had achieved all he could have hoped for.

At the tactical level, the battle of McDowell can be viewed as a draw.

However, strategically it was a brilliant success for Jackson and the South.

Through the use of terrain and leadership, Jackson demonstrated his ability to

concentrate his men against a smaller section of the opposition, without letting

the opposition concentrate against him. The news of Banks defeat here caused

the Federal government to call upon all the states to send militias to protect

Washington against the pursuit. Jackson was showing the Union that the

Confederacy was not going to be easily defeated. He carried the momentum of

this win to Front Royal and Winchester later in the month.

At Front Royal and Winchester the Federal forces came to learn that

?Jackson was not to be caught by any of the combination of movements they

could bring about.?13 While it was true he had only a quarter of the men

concentrating on his rear, he had no doubt of the ability to divide these forces

and meet them on his own grounds with superior tactical strength.

The battle of Cross Keys signaled the end of the campaign with the end of

the pursuit on Jackson. Here he brilliantly defeated two separated armies under

the command of Fremont and Shields by deft maneuvering and clever use of

terrain. With this double victory, Jackson ended his campaign and was free to

join Lee at Seven Pines.

In this exciting months campaign, Jackson made great captures of stores

and prisoners; but this was not the chief result. Without gaining a single tactical

victory, he had achieved a great strategic victory, for by skillfully moving his

15,000 men, he had neutralized a force of 60,000. It is perhaps not too much to

say that he saved Richmond, for he had caused McClellan?s forces to be greatly

diverted to the Valley and not concentrated on Richmond.

However, this diversion was not the goal of Jackson when he entered the

Valley. Jackson saw the Shenendoah as the lifeline of the Confederacy. It was

the clearest path to Richmond from the North, contained many agricultural

products, and was the location of many train lines that fed the Confederate

troops. Crucial to understanding the importance of the Valley to Jackson were

the railroads. The B&O, W&P, and more importantly the Manassas Gap

Railroad all ran through some part of the valley [Appendix B]. Jackson

understood the parallel between victory on the rails and victory in the war.

The Manassas Gap Railroad can easily be called the ?meatline on the

Confederacy.?14 Along its tracks were found the largest meat packing plant in

the Confederacy and three depots of stores that fed the largest section of troops.

It was the most commonly used rail to transport newly arriving soldiers into the

army as well. In the spring of 1862, Union forces were closing in on the tracks,

and ?only such Confederates as Lee and Jackson understood the magnitude of

the loss.?15

Jackson also understood the importance that movement of supplies

played in the North. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was a ?regular target for

Jackson?s men who smashed its tracks and took its supplies.?16 It was one of

his cherished objectives to destroy that railroad and reclaim northwestern


During the entire campaign, Banks was receiving his supplies on the

Manassas Gap and then having them carted to him. ?Jackson reasoned that if

the road were cut at Front Royal, Banks would be forced to rely on a long wagon

haul from Winchester; that such a supply would be so vulnerable to cavalry

raids,?17 he could force Banks to fall back down the valley. He calculated that

by using the Massanuttens as a barrier he could swiftly take the rail at Front

Royal before Banks became aware of the purpose. He swept out of the woods,

and routed the Federal troops left to guard the railroad, leaving Banks cut off

from his supply line. Jackson?s recapture of the little town and railway spelled

disaster for Banks. He could now easily dispel Banks back to Winchester and

out of the Potomac completely. Clearly ?Stonewall Jackson knew how to use a

railroad? to escape victorious against larger foes.

On May 19th Jackson had began his valley campaign-a campaign that

resulted in brilliant success for the Southern cause. With the defeat of Fremont

on June 8th and Shields on 9th, he had been on march for 23 days; covered 200

miles; had McDowell?s? forces from Fredericksburg rerouted; had seized valuable

supplies at Front Royal, Winchester, and Martinsburg, and, although surrounded

by 60,000 men, had escaped the snares set for him and brought home prisoners

and captured goods. And he had done this with a comparatively small loss of

men. The Battle of Port Republic was his most costly victory, but its results were

so brilliant that it was a fitting close to a scene of warfare that will live in history

with the great campaigns of the world. It raised the fame of Jackson to the

highest pinnacle of military renown, giving him a position among the greatest

soldiers of the age.

The battles of Jackson?s Valley Campaign are known to students of the

war, not only in the United States, but across the world. General Norman

Shwarzkopf recently cited Jackson?s campaign as one of the guiding lights

behind his strategy in the Middle East. Field Marshall Erwin Rommel visited the

valley and followed in Jackson?s footsteps through the valley to understand the

genius behind it. The military skills which Stonewall Jackson used in the

Shenendoah Valley campaign have been analyzed and studied by war historians

for generations in hopes of repeating the brilliant execution.

Many future military leaders used Jackson as a basis for their command.

In England, from 1875 on, many officers were expected to read the

autobiography of Stonewall Jackson, with special emphasis on the Shenendoah

in order to learn ?a correct application of strategy of interior lines.?18 Erwin

Rommel, commander of the German forces in Africa, used the Valley Campaign

to learn to successfully defeat armies larger in size. Clearly, Stonewall

Jackson?s legacy in the valley lives on forever.

Jackson?s brilliance in the Shenendoah is directly linked to his

consummate understanding of the fact that to win in war is to understand the

movements of war. By marching his men under the nose of other commanders,

isolating smaller sections of armies that could easily be defeated, capitalizing on

railroads opportunities, understanding the necessary sections that the union

must travel to attack, and attacking the correct sections of the valley, Stonewall

had developed a military acumen that was unprecedented. In a matter of a short

time since enrollment into the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee and he were

controlling the fate of the war despite Federal advantages in industry, railroads,

men, and supplies. With Jackson?s death at Chancellorsville, many believe the

hopes of a southern victory died. Jackson had shown that military genius can

defeat superior numbers repeatedly, but the death of the consummate

commander caused the South to lose its greatest hope.

Historians and war experts agree that Jackson?s Valley campaign of 1862

is one of the greatest examples of military movement in history. However,

Jackson would not take credit for the brilliant upsets and victories saying simply,

?God has been our shield, and to his name be all the glory.?19