Part I - The Campaign Opens Shenandoah Valley native Kieth Rocco depicts the climax of the Battle of Kernstown as Union troops drive the Stonewall Brigade of Richard B. Garnett away from their position at the stone wall on Sandy Ridge. The evening of March 11, 1862 was a gloomy one indeed at the Winchester headquarters of Major General Thomas J. Jackson (#1 above; numbers correspond to map in Part III) as he announced his plans to attack the advance Union force of Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks which threatened the town from the north, east, and possibly west. There is no record of that meeting between Jackson and his regimental and brigade commanders, but it's likely they tried to discourage him, seeing as how for the past several days their men had been marching to and fro, occasionally skirmishing with the enemy, and were then scattered in small groups around town. The deciding moment came when Jackson was informed the bulk of his infantry had marched seven miles south in search of their supply wagons, too far to return for the risky night assault Jackson contemplated. The meeting broke up, the officers ordered to head their units south away from the Federals. As he rode in silence with his medical officer, Dr. Hunter McGuire, a Winchester native who was weeping at the thought of abandoning his home, Jackson suddenly exploded, "That's the last council of war I'll ever hold!" And so it was. Since assuming command in the Shenandoah Valley with Winchester as his headquarters in November, 1861, Jackson had sought an active pursuit of the war, with a January campaign to nearby Romney in miserable weather that nevertheless compelled Union troops to abandon the region for the winter. Things finally changed in late February, however, when the 10,000-man division (soon raised to the level of a corps) of Banks crossed the Potomac at Harpers Ferry and began a slow descent on Winchester, largest town in the area and center of a strategic road network. As the map below shows, Union troops also returned to Romney and Moorefield, now W. Va. By March 10, elements of the division of James Shields of Banks corps had arrived less than ten miles to the north at Stephenson's Depot, with more coming from the east through the gap in the direction of Leesburg. Jackson had been ordered by his superior, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, to try to hold his position in the Valley and to keep as many Federal soldiers possible there to prevent their moving east over the Blue Ridge Mountains to the main seat of war around Manassas Junction. Johnston himself had been forced to withdraw his army from Centreville back to Gordonsville and eventually all the way to Richmond, leaving Jackson isolated in the lower (northern) Shenandoah Valley. It was with a heavy heart that he abandoned Winchester and its primitive and incomplete fortifications like Ft. Collier (#2 above), trudging first to Strasburg where operations stalled for over a week; then on March 20 when Shields occupied that town, twenty miles further south to Mt. Jackson. Map by Hal Jesperson, www.cwmaps Nathaniel Banks,below at left, received instructions to bring his corps to Manassas, from where it could either move to Alexandria to board transports that would take it to join Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's army outside Richmond or march south to Fredericksburg. Banks considered Jackson defeated and likely on his way to join Johnston's main army, intending to leave only a brigade of Shields' division at Winchester. The morning of March 22, Banks himself left town for Harpers Ferry, taking with him the division of Brig. Gen. Alpheus Williams. Meanwhile, movement of the Federal forces had been constantly monitored by Jackson through his aggressive cavalry commander, Col. Turner Ashby, who determined that only a small brigade of four regiments had been left at Winchester, prompting Jackson to once again resume the offensive. Ashby's skirmishers drove in some of Shields' pickets; when the general (above at right) rode to the scene of the action, he was struck by a splinter from a shell thrown by one of the small cannon of the three-gun battery of Capt. Robert Chew that accompanied Ashby. Wounded, Shields played no part in the coming battle, turning over command to his senior brigade commander, Col. Nathan G. Kimball, above center, looking somewhat bemused in a CDV by Matthew Brady. Kimball had earlier defeated Gen. Robert E. Lee in the mountains of western (now West) Virginia and after Kernstown could boast of being the only Federal commander to best both Lee and Jackson! Ashby withdrew his regiment and Chew's battery to the south of the village of Kernstown where the following morning he met Jackson near Opequon Church where the Civil War Centennial markers above now stand (#3). So far, Ashby had seen only a single brigade and its camps and so informed Jackson who determined to attack with his 4,500 men what he thought were only about 3000 Federals; in reality, Shields' entire division was present, over three times that number.