«MAJ. GEN. CHARLES S. HAMILTON HISTORY of THE THIRD REGIMENT of WISCONSIN VETERAN VOLUNTEER INFANTRY 1861 — 1865. BY EDWIN E. BRYANT Late Adjutant. ...»
Jackson’s advance pushed on with all speed towards Middletown, a little village on the Strasburg pike, five miles north of Strasburg, and thirteen miles from Winchester in the hope to intercept and cut off Banks and capture his entire command. While his advance had attacked and pursued Kenly at Front Royal, his main body was slowly moving upon that place. The fact that Banks’ command was not cut off and entirely destroyed is due to a blunder and to the terror of a scared boy. Mention has been made that Jackson had turned off to the left from the main traveled road in his advance so as to come down upon the town unperceived from an unexpected quarter. But he never intended his whole command to march over that steep, rough, crooked path.
He was up with the head of his column, and when Kenly’s pickets were driven in, he sent back a boy orderly — a green recruit from a cavalry regiment — to direct his rear brigade to come straight on by the main road and not to take the circuitous path in the hills, which the head of the column had taken. The lad started with his message; but when Kenly’s artillery opened, the youngster, scared out of his wits, thought only of escape and cantered for home. So Jackson’s troops all marched over the jagged mountain road and came much belated into Front Royal on the night of the 23rd, wearied utterly by the long, needless march. Pursuit that night was out of the question; and, hence, Banks was given a chance of escape that would have been lost had not Jackson’s plans miscarried through the terrors of his panic-stricken ED. NOTE: John Reese Kenly, born in Baltimore, MD, 11 Jan 1818, died at Baltimore on 20 Dec 1891.
Banks at Strasburg did not know until late in the night of the 23rd of the havoc that had been played with his outpost at Front Royal, nor of the purposes of Jackson. At about 10 o’clock he swore, says Gordon, “By G—, sir, I will not retreat! We have more to fear, sir, from the opinions of our friends than the bayonets of our enemies.” Gordon urged a speedy retreat, for he fully divined the purposes of the energetic Jackson.
Ruger had been recalled from Buckton. On the morning of the 24th Banks’ mind was wavering to and fro, whether to stay or fall back. In the forenoon he issued an order to Gordon that “our force will remain at Strasburg until further orders.” He had reports that Jackson’s advance had returned to Front Royal. But a few minutes later, he sent other orders to move at once toward Middletown. At three o’clock in the morning he had started out some ambulances with the sick, and some hundreds of Shields’ broken down men, partly on foot. His main column moved out at a brisk pace about eleven. The long train of stores and equipage was headed by Col. Donnelly’s brigade, followed by Gordon’s. The Third Wisconsin started out by no means fresh for such a march, as it had marched nearly all night to Buckton and back, bringing in Company G, who, from their excitement of the day before, and their anxious vigil of the night were hardly in spirit for a forced march. So, on the morning of the 24th, Jackson’s columns started from Front Royal toward Winchester on the turnpike northward, while Banks a few hours later started out for the same destination on the Strasburg, or main valley turnpike, each eagerly pressing forward. It was then a foot race to Winchester — as Banks says in his report, “the key of the valley and to us the place of safety.” The day was cool and misty. When about two miles in the march, signs of panic ahead were apparent. Frightened teamsters came galloping back on their mules in a frenzy of fear. A wagon train a few miles ahead had become demoralized, seeing or thinking they saw rebel cavalry. Behind us the town was smoking. The stores for which there was no transportation were set on fire. Before us a mingled mass of terrified wagoners, and the column of infantry and artillery pushing on. It was a wild, exciting march. Droves of horses from a cavalry corral were started with the column. They would take fright and dash through the columns. The train of wagons was interspersed with refugees fleeing for life, men, women and children, colored men and women, some carrying babes, or leading little ones, and all panting, sweating and scampering along under the spur of a mortal fear. When the teamsters would become scared, the wagon masters, rough, resolute men would curse, swear and yell out orders adding to the tumult.
A theatrical company had followed us up the valley, giving nightly performances in a large tent, by which means they gathered up much of the money of the soldiers. They were the pictures of despair, as in this hasty
-50retreat their tent and baggage was left behind, and their actors and actresses were fleeing in terror and misery. The troops were cool, kept their places, and none shared in the panic that afflicted the camp followers and refugees.
While Jackson’s advance was pursuing Kenly, he was urging forward his tired men. He dispositions for the 24th, were to strike the valley pike near Middletown. He sent Ashby to that point by a cross road from Cedarville on the Front Royal pike, following with his infantry. Ewell marched by the Front Royal pike directly on Winchester. His force being treble that of Banks, he could safely divide it, and with one column strike us in flank, and with the other head us off. An advance party of Ewell’s cavalry pushed on to Newtown on the valley pike at dawn, and there struck a part of the ambulance train which left Strasburg at 3 A.M., captured a few prisoners and killed some of the unarmed sick. Stewart20 sent a few cavalry men up the Strasburg pike; and they firing a few shots had created a panic which extended to the rear.21 When these alarms reached Banks, he gathered in his flying teamsters, reorganized his columns, and pushed Donnelly rapidly forward to Middletown.
Here the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania were sent out to dislodge a squadron of rebel cavalry on the right. This was handsomely done. A section of Cothren’s New York battery was brought up, then the Twenty-eighth New York; and the enemy were driven back two miles. This “episode,” Banks thinks, saved his column. Stewart drew off and joined Ewell. The head of our column pushed on to Newton, six miles down the valley.
The space between the two places was a continuous line of wagons.
At 1 o’clock Gordon’s brigade was there, but as the column neared Newtown the roar of cannon in the rear was ominous. Soon cavalrymen came galloping down from behind with report that Jackson had attacked the rear. This was too true. He had pushed on to Middletown and struck our column just as the rear guard of cavalry were passing through the town. They made a gallant effort to cut their way through. There were six companies of the Fifth new York cavalry, and six of the first Vermont cavalry. They made, as Jackson says in his report, a “spirited resistance” before “this fragment of the Federals fell back to Strasburg,” with the rear wagons, some thirty-two in number.
There they gathered up Capt. Collis’s Philadelphia company of Zouaves d’Afrique, who had been left to burn the bridge across Cedar creek, and finding themselves cut off had returned to Strasburg, and taken a side road to the left, marched by a dirt road down the valley. Approaching Winchester ED. NOTE: Bryant erroneously refers to J. E. B. Stuart as “Stewart.” Banks says in his report, “The column had passed Cedar Creek, about three miles from Strasburg, ~ ~ when information was received from the front that the enemy had attacked the train and was in full possession of the road at Middletown. This report was confirmed by the return of fugitives, refugees and wagons which came tumbling to the rear in fearful confusion.”
-51they found themselves again cut off, and pushing to the west came down part of them on the east side of the North mountain and part on the west side, and escaped into Maryland at Cherry Run. General Hatch, with part of his cavalry, after the clash with the head of Jackson’s column at Middletown, turned with his artillery to the left at Middletown, pushed down the valley by a parallel road, and rejoined the column at Newtown.
Jackson having cut our column and driven back our near guard at Middletown pushed on with all speed down the valley in pursuit of our fugitive trains. He had it all his own way between Middletown and Newtown. There were many wagons then on the road. He sent Ashby on ahead; and the hardriders of that lively cavalry became demoralized over the rich booty. They stopped and scattered to plunder the abandoned wagons;22 and many of them loaded with booty straggled off on the side roads to store it away in places of safety. Their lust for pillage compelled Ashby to discontinue pursuit.
Poague’s artillery, unsupported by cavalry, pushed on to near Newtown.
Jackson with his “foot cavalry” pressed on. At Newtown he met opposition.
Gordon’s brigade had reached there at about 2 o’clock and passed on. Banks then made his appearance and directed Gordon to send back a new rear guard to Newtown. Colonel Colgrove, with the Twenty-seventh Indiana, was sent back, and with his line of 431 men boldly confronted Jackson’s advance.
The Second Massachusetts and Twenty-eighth New York and a section of Cothren’s battery with two Parrots under Lieut. Cushing went back, too. This drove them out of Newtown and forced his advancing column to halt, deploy, plant guns on high ground and begin a furious cannonade. This little rear guard held Jackson there from 4 o’clock until dark, enabling Hatch to rejoin there with his cavalry, having come be detour down from Middletown.
Jackson admits in his report that this stand “retarded them until near dark.” They were held in check for four hours. Then as darkness stole on Gordon slowly fell back, assured from a prisoner captured that Jackson’s force was overwhelming and would soon surround him.
But, meantime, our column had swept on to Winchester. The Third Wisconsin was not engaged during the day, as it had been on the march during most of the previous night.
Before falling back Gordon set fire to all the disabled wagons, distributing to the Indiana men such clothing as was in them. He then assigned Lieut.-Col. Andrews to slowly retreat. The enemy followed on. As they came though Newtown, says Cooke, the people gave Jackson the Among the wagons cut off from escape, deserted by the teamsters and burned by our people to keep them from falling into the enemy’s hands, were several used by the companies of our regiment. Company G lost its company wagon and property. Company D lost the wagon containing its rations and cooking utensils, and went from Strasburg to the Potomac, two days and a night, without food.
-52welcome of a conqueror. “They illuminated their homes, embraced the soldiers; and bringing into the streets bread, meat, pickles, pies and everything they could raise, forced them upon their half-starved countrymen.” Captain Cogswell and Capt. Abbott of the Second, were the rear guard, Capt.
Williams’ company were flankers. A company in the road moved in squares to resist cavalry, and a platoon on each side was ready to give a volley as any appeared. Jackson pushing on with his escort came uncomfortably near and received a volley that sent them scurrying back out of range, and their artillery was called up. Again, Jackson brought up his cavalry escort, says Dabney, and ordered them in crisp, sharp tones, “Charge them, charge them.” Another volley from our rear guard sent them back pell-mell. Jackson in anger, said, “Shameful! Did you see any one struck? They need not have run, at least until they were hurt.”23 Jackson then called up three regiments of the Stonewall brigade, and the Confederate historian speaks of it as a “night combat.” Andrews came slowly in pressed closely, but doling out the ground stingily to his pursuers. His wounded he brought in on gun carriages. Gordon came in to Winchester with his Twenty-seventh Indiana and Twenty-eighth new York at 11 o’clock. The Second Massachusetts came in at 2 o’clock in the morning, and threw themselves down in bivouac for a brief rest.
Colonel Gordon at once sought out Gen. Banks. He found him in his room, having enjoyed the luxury of a bath. Meanwhile Gen. Jackson spent the hours of that chilly morning in making his dispositions for another attack at daybreak. He was at the front at earliest dawn without overcoat or cloak, taking note of every movement, and overseeing every arrangement. As the day drew on, his troops were in position. Ewell, who had been moved down on the Front Royal pike and slept in arms within a mile of Winchester, was close at hand. In the early morning Jackson gave in quiet undertone, the word, “Forward.” His soldiers, chill and stiff from their bivouac, arose and prepared to fight the battle of Winchester.
Dabney; Life of Jackson, p. 103. [ED. NOTE: presumably Robert Lewis Dabney, 5 Mar 1820 - 3 Jan 1898, though I could not find a text with this title.]
ENERAL JACKSON was up all that night, out on his front arranging for G battle, while Gen. Banks took a bath and retired. General Williams, too, put on his long, red flannel night-gown and snuggled up in bed at the hotel. Colonels Gordon and Donnelly and the colonels of regiments made such dispositions for attack as they could, having arrived after dark, and placed their brigades thus: Gordon’s right was on the ridge running southwest from town, west of the turnpike, and about half a mile from the suburbs; the Second Massachusetts was on the right, well up the ridge, Cothren’s battery was on the bluff end of the crest of the ridge facing south. On his left the Third took position, its left resting on the Strasburg pike. A little in reserve were the Twenty-ninth Pennsylvania and Twenty-seventh Indiana, ready to be moved when needed. Near the turnpike two guns were posted, supported by Col. Hatch’s cavalry. On our left Col. Donnelly placed his brigade — the Twenty-eighth New York on the left, the Fifth Connecticut in center and the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania on the right, in crescent form to face south and southeast the roads from Front Royal and Millwood. Behind him on higher ground were the eight guns of Best’s battery. With this little force of about 3,600 effective men, Banks resolved to “test the strength and substance” of an enemy 17,500 strong, with eleven batteries of forty eight guns, three times out own number. This enemy was to be resisted on ground selected haphazard by brigade commanders as they came in during the night.