May 8, 1862: Battle of McDowell

Tuesday, May 8, AD 2012

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; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number. The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.

General Thomas J. Jackson

True genius is a rarity on this planet, and it is amazing when it suddenly appears.  Humans who display it often do so unexpectedly.  So it was with Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson, nicknamed Stonewall, after the decisive role played by his forces at the battle of First Manassas (First Bull Run) in 1861.  The name probably seemed appropriate to the few observers at the time who had followed his career.  Jackson had a reputation as an unimaginative, albeit valiant, soldier.  As a Professor of Natural Philosophy, Optics and Artillery Tactics (!) at VMI prior to the War he had a reputation as a deadly dull instructor who would repeat his lectures word for word if his students failed to grasp the lesson that he was teaching.  He once spent a night in an office at VMI because his superior told him to wait for him, and then forgot about his appointment with Jackson.  Other than his part in the victory at First Manassas, Jackson had distinguished himself mostly by being an almost fanatically strict disciplinarian.  If genius were needed in the War, Jackson would not have been the man even those who admired him would turn to.  Yes, the nickname Stonewall suited this stolid soldier.

It took the Valley Campaign of 1862,where he outmarched and outfought numerous Union armies, each larger than the force he led, for Jackson to astonish North and South with the fact that behind this dull facade lurked one of the Great Captains of History.

 

Jackson opened the Campaign on March 23, 1862 with an attack on part of General Nathaniel Bank’s Union forces in the Shenandoah at Kernstown.  Outnumbered almost three to one, Jackson suffered a tactical defeat but a strategic victory.  This attack by a Confederate force so far north in the Valley and so close to Washington caused Lincoln to take a division from the Army of the Potomac and send it to the Shenandoah,  to cancel any plans to reinforce the Army of the Potomac with troops from the Shenandoah and to order that McDowell’s corps would stay close to Washington during the ensuing Peninsula Campaign, rather than advancing overland towards Richmond to help McClellan on the Virginia Peninsula.  Few defeats have been so beneficial as First Kernstown (there was a second battle of Kernstown during the 1864 Valley Campaign) was for the Confederacy.

The Valley Campaign now entered a long quiet period during which Jackson’s command skirmished with the various Union forces beginning to mass against his army.  On May 7, 1862 Jackson saw an opportunity on the southwestern fringe of the Valley as Fremont’s men under General Robert Milroy, consisting of three regiments, were in an exposed position south of McDowell.  Milroy on Shenandoah Mountain escaped an attempted encirclement by Jackson and  withdrew to McDowell.  There he was joined at 10:00 AM on May 8th, by Brigadier General Robert Schenck and his command that had arrived with after a forced march from Franklin, West Virginia.  Schenck being senior took command of the combined force of approximately 6500 opposing Jackson’s army of 6000.  Fighting continued until dark with the Union force, which had been on attack most of the day, withdrawing in good order.  Casualties were fairly light:  259 for the Union (34 killed, 220 wounded, 5 missing), and for the Confederates 420 (116 killed, 300 wounded, 4 missing).  It could be argued that tactically the battle was a draw, but in the following week the Union force retreated back to Franklin with Jackson pursuing all the way, returning to the Valley on May 15, 1862.  This turned what was a tactical draw into a strategic victory.  More posts on the Valley Campaign during this May and June.  Here is Jackson’s report on the battle of McDowell:

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2 Responses to May 8, 1862: Battle of McDowell

Stonewall Jackson’s Way

Saturday, July 17, AD 2010

Something for the weekend.  Stonewall Jackson’s Way, sung by the endlessly talented Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.

Of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, nicknamed Stonewall by General Barnard Bee at the battle of Bull Run, it was said he lived by the New Testament and fought by the Old.  Certainly throughout his life he was a convinced Christian.  As a young man he would attend services of various Christian denominations.  In Mexico, during his service in the Mexican War, he attended mass, although sadly he did not convert to Catholicism.  Instead he eventually became a Presbyterian.  His Bible was his constant companion, and he would often speak of God and theological matters in private conversation.

Jackson in his professional life was a soldier.  Just before the Civil War he was a professor of natural and experimental philosophy (science) and artillery instruction at the Virginia Military Institute.  As a teacher he made a good soldier.  His lectures were rather dry.  If his students seemed to fail to grasp a lecture, he would repeat it the next day, word for word.

His home life was a mixture of sorrow and joy.  His first wife died in childbirth along with their still-born son, a tragedy that would have crushed many a man less iron-willed than  Jackson.  His second marriage, like his first, was happy, but heartache also haunted it.  A daughter died shortly after birth in 1858.  A second daughter was born in 1862, shortly before Jackson’s own death in 1863.

He and his second wife established and taught a Sunday school for black slaves.  At the time it was against the law in Virginia to teach slaves to read, but apparently that is precisely what Jackson and his wife did.   One of the last letters he ever posted was his regular contribution he mailed off throughout the war for the financial support of the Sunday school for slaves he and his wife had founded.

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18 Responses to Stonewall Jackson’s Way

  • Thank you sir. I know we have had our tussles over the War for Southern Independence before and I do know that we both agree that men of honor should be remembered.

    Rally behind the Virginian!

  • Thank you for this page. It is nice to know he is still remembered as a lover of God, if he had more time on earth he would have become Catholic, don’t ask me how I know this, I just do. God Bless You!

  • I just want to point out that I live less than a mile from the statue of Gen. Jackson that appeared at the end of the vignette of mostly Kunstler paintings and that statue stands very close to the spot that Gen. Jackson actually sat atop his steed – it is on the field of battle – that battle was First Manassas. It happened on a field and not in the stream of water that runs nearby – that stream is Bull Run. You Yankees have a funny way about naming battles. Y’all make me laugh.

  • Thank you AK and ginaelise for your kind words. Jackson was an American original: a military genius and a man who dedicated his life to God. His importance in the Civil War is demonstrated by the dimming of the chances for Southern victory immediately after his death.

    After the war, on May 10th, 1881, in New Orleans a statue and monument to Stonewall Jackson were unveiled. Father D. Hubert, who served as a chaplain during the war with Hay’s Lousiana Brigade, gave the benediction. I have always been struck by this phrase in his prayer: “And Thou knowest O Lord, when Thou didst decide that the Confederacy should not succeed, Thou hadst first to remove thy servant, Stonewall Jackson.”

  • An ancestor gave his life at First Bull Run with the 69th NY Militia.

    Jackson’s military philosophy is identical to the Nazi General Staff’s blitzkrieg, except their army was equipped with panzers and stukas.

    Jackson’s infantry was so fast and mile-devouring that it was called “foot cavalry.”

    We will never know. I imagine if General Jackson had lived, the Confederates would have taken that unmanned hill the first evening at Gettysburg; or would have defeated the Union left on the second day; or would have moved earlier and faster on the center the third day.

    AK: You mean the unconstitutional War of Northern Aggression. The federals named the battles for creeks/rivers (Antietam, Bull Run), the Confeccderates for towns and cities.

  • T. Shaw,

    I don’t have a problem with calling the conflict the War of Northern Aggression; however, it seems to me to miss the point. All wars are aggressive and I think we lose some of the uniqueness of the conflict when we identify it thus.

    We don’t call the War for American Independence the War of British Aggression. I prefer the War for Southern Independence because it echos the same purpose as the war of 1775.

    I think Yankees miss the point when they name battles after bodies of water. For the most part, the war was a land war and although naval operations played a part, especially with the Southern tech innovation of the CSS Hunley, the most decisive battles took place in towns and cities bringing us the horrible modern innovation of total war (especially perpetrated by Sherman’s destructive march).

    I visit the Manassas Battlefield often, but I have never set foot in Bull Run.

  • I prefer the Northern Crusade for Human Liberty myself. 🙂

  • That may be a nice thought; however, the anti-slavery nature of the war was not the intent of the North when they thought they could destroy Lee’s Army at First Manassas. The noble cause of freeing African slaves was not employed until the North needed propaganda to prevent European powers from entering the conflict on the side of the CSA. It worked – Christian nations are not prone to want to be known for entering conflicts in order to secure the ‘rights’ of some of God’s children to enslave others of His children. At least not publicly.

    Trampling states’ rights in order to ‘liberate’ blacks was a benefit to no one. We are still dealing with it. Wouldn’t it have been better to free blacks more organically rather then subject all of us, including blacks, into slavery?

  • “Wouldn’t it have been better to free blacks more organically rather then subject all of us, including blacks, into slavery?”

    Considering that the Confederate Constitution specifically forbade the Confederate Congress from enancting any anti-slavery legislation, I can only imagine that Confederate victory would have meant the continuation of black slavery for the foreseeable future. I suspect that virtually all the black slaves then, and virtually all their descendants now, are quite happy that the war ended slavery. Come to think of it, that was also the view of Robert E. Lee at the end of the war. He said that he rejoiced that the war had ended slavery. Additionally AK, calling what defeated Southerners experienced as slavery is simple hyperbole. Real slavery is what blacks suffered in this country for over two and a half centuries. It took a Civil War to end this stain on American honor, and it was worth every drop of blood shed to accomplish that task.

  • Our Constitution forbade women, blacks and eighteen year-olds from voting and we amended it. Slavery would have ended and the Confederate Constitution would have been amended. Of course, we can’t know that, but I doubt the CSA would be the last place in the West with legalized slavery. Not only did great men find slavery morally reprehensible, like Gens. Lee & Jackson, but it would also have become economically unviable.

    Gen. Lee did see the silver lining in the defeat of the South in that slavery ended. He also said he would rather have died with his sword in hand had he known the evil manner in which the victors occupied the South. However slavery ended is a good thing simply because slavery ended. The issue is that 600,000 Americans did not need to die to do it and we did not need to lose states’ rights to do it.

    Additionally, the money power that instigated the war in order to divide the emerging United States, has now succeeded in making all of us, blacks too, slaves. The difference is that African slaves knew they were in shackles. Modern slavery uses invisible shackles and convinces the slave that he is free and happy. It is much, much harder to gain freedom when you aren’t aware that you are in a cage.

    Also, please note that my defense of the position of the South is NOT a defense of the Southern position on slavery. I love my chosen homeland despite the stain of slavery, not because of it. Losing states’ rights has been one of the gravest mistakes America has made because it forces all of us to be subservient to an out-of-control national Leviathan, well on its way to becoming a regional (North American) monster with designs for a global totalitarianism. This is not good for anybody whether their ancestors were salves 150 years ago or over 2,000 years ago.

  • We did not lose states rights due to the Civil War. I know this is a favorite neoCon talking point, but American history says otherwise. The real growth in the powers of the federal governments dates to the Progressive era, beginning with Wilson but exploding with FDR. In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War to the beginning of the Progressive era federalism was still respected, and the 10th amendment more than a simple truism.

    And I’m sure the CSA would have gotten around to ending slavery. We could have caught it all on video when they made the announcement.

  • Wow, I am not sure how “Civil War” got butchered into “silver due,” but that might be the greatest typo ever. No wonder I hate typing on laptops.

  • Corrected it for you Paul, although I do agree that was a typo for the record books!

    “Our Constitution forbade women, blacks and eighteen year-olds from voting and we amended it.”

    Actually our Constitution was completely silent on who could vote. Blacks voted in some northern and southern states prior to the Civil War, although all southern states forbade free negroes from voting by the time of the Civil War. Women began voting in Wyoming in 1869, and voted in some Western states and a few Eastern states, including I am pleased to say Illinois, prior to the amendment granting female suffrage. Several states allowed 18 year olds to vote prior to the 26th amendment.

  • favorite neoCon talking point

    You mean Thomas Woods, not Elliot Abrams, right?

  • You mean Thomas Woods, not Elliot Abrams, right?

    Yeah. You can tell by the capitalized C.

    Not to derail the thread even further, but I use the term half-jestingly mainly because neoCons so despise neocons. But I do wish we’d stop adding neo- to every political term. Usually it is just a stand-in for “bad,” and in most cases the thing described as neo ain’t so neo.

  • Great post. Jackson was a fascinating character, with a surprisingly soft side. After his service in the Mexican War, his habitual term of endearment for his wife was “mi esposa.”

  • “And I’m sure the CSA would have gotten around to ending slavery. We could have caught it all on video when they made the announcement.”

    What an absurd insult Mr. Zummo!

    The answer to your marxist comment is that the 13th Amendment passed by the former seceded states whereas the 14th did not.(Video was a pipe dream then).It took the radical reconstruction acts to expel the same states so the ILLEGAL ratification of the 14th could take place!

    Duh! What history did you learn in the government indoctrinated schools? Face it. Lincoln was a marxist. He and Karl Marx corresponded often and admired each other. What other reason would explain why exiled Marx followers were made colonels and generals in the Union army?

    No sir our troubles began in 1865 and have worsened since. True Wilson and FDR accelerated the problems, but ole Abe started them when he perverted the Constitution.

    The CSA was correct in seceding. You just can’t accept the truth or are forever entitled to remain DUPED.

    PS Not related to the yankee Elliot.

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