Part I - February - March, 1862 Artist Charles Hoffbauer's epic mural Spring, one of the Four Seasons of the Confederacy, in the Virginia Historical Society's Richmond headquarters known as the Battle Abbey depicts Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and his hard-marching Foot Cavalry. This three-part thread is intended to be both a synopsis of Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign of Spring, 1862, plus an index to my past threads on the subject with links embedded in appropriate places. The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia The Blue Ridge Mountain chain, today Shenandoah National Park, borders the Valley on the east separating it from the Virginia Tidewater. http://civilwartalk.com/threads/shenandoah-national-park-virginia.83215/#post-628026 The broad valley watered by the Shenandoah River was during the Civil War the scene of several memorable individual battles and at least two stirring campaigns. The area's importance lay in its agricultural abundance, vital to the war effort of the struggling Confederacy, plus its unique geographical position relative to the Seat of War farther to the east. It was separated from the latter by the mountain range known as the Blue Ridge, penetrated by only a few widely-spaced passes known in Virginia as gaps. Both North and South vied for control of the region which was at first under Confederate control dating from the secession of Virginia and seizure of the U. S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, which was soon placed under the command of a stern former professor from the Virginia Military Institute, Thomas Jonathan Jackson. Map by Hal Jesperson, www.cwmaps There are several significant facts concerning the terrain in the valley, as can be seen on the campaign map above. For one thing, the Shenandoah River flows north, meaning that to travel south one is going up the valley towards its watershed; conversely north is down the valley. The Shenandoah River proper is formed of two principal branches, the North Shenandoah and the South Shenandoah which meet at Front Royal. Between them is a forty-mile-long ridge known as the Massanutten Mountain which has a single gap at New Market leading to the town of Luray; to the west of the Massanutten lies the twenty-mile-wide main valley, while east of it is the narrow Luray Valley. The principal road was the Valley Turnpike, a wide, straight, hard-surfaced road that remained passable in all seasons. There were other lesser turnpikes, such as the Parkersburg-to-Staunton Turnpike in the south; most other roads became bottomless morasses in inclement weather like that during which the campaign occurred. Railroads connected Winchester with Harpers Ferry in the north and Staunton with Charlottesville and on to Richmond in the south, while another central route led from Strasburg through Front Royal and on to Manassas. The Campaign Opens, February 26, 1862 The town of Harpers Ferry, Virginia, now West Virginia, nestled in the gap created by the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. http://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-battle-of-harpers-ferry-jacksons-greatest-victory.104193/ Several different Federal expeditions attempted to wrest control of the Valley beginning in early 1862 when Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks crossed the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry. It was only a short march from there to the headquarters at Winchester of the commander of the Valley District, Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson, now styled Stonewall after his performance at the battle of Manassas the previous year. http://civilwartalk.com/threads/jackson-at-first-manassas.87115/#post-683290 Jackson's Winchester headquarters , now preserved as a museum. http://civilwartalk.com/threads/stonewalls-winchester-va.91319/#post-740316 Jackson was in a quandary as how best to respond to this threat, alerting his force on hand which consisted only of his own small division and the 7th Virginia Cavalry led by Col. Turner Ashby. After some indecision involving the movements of his men he determined to attack Banks north of Winchester, but was thwarted when his supply train moved farther to the south than he intended. Outnumbered seriously, he was forced to withdraw up the Valley all the way to Mount Jackson. The Battle of Kernstown, March 23, 1862 The Pritchard House on the slope of Pritchards Hill stands at the center of the Kernstown battlefield park. http://civilwartalk.com/threads/jacksons-valley-campaign-begins-the-battle-of-kernstown.122430/ Soon, however, Jackson received intelligence supplied by his cavalry chief Ashby that having captured Winchester Banks was now abandoning the town leaving only a small garrison there. Jackson decided to strike what he believed was only a small brigade of four regiments under Col. Nathan Kimball so moved his division by forced march to Kernstown, a hamlet only a few miles south of Winchester. Meanwhile, on March 22nd Ashby's troopers skirmished with Kimball's men, wounding division commander Brig. Gen. James Shields in the process but failing to discover the important fact that instead of a single brigade of Federals Shields' entire division was present. The following day Jackson brought up his command but outnumbered by Kimball was forced to abandon the field at the end of the day, retreating by night back up the valley the way he had come. Kernstown was the only outright defeat suffered by Jackson during the Valley Campaign but nevertheless served his overreaching purpose to keep as many Federals as possible in the Shenandoah and away from the main theater of operations east of the Blue Ridge when Banks entire corps was directed to remain in the Valley. Union Commanders in the Valley Campaign Jackson's principal opponents during the campaign, left-to-right: Nathaniel Prentiss Banks, former congressman and governor of Massachusetts had no military background whatsoever but was made Major General of Volunteers in 1861 by President Lincoln for his early support of the war effort; Irish immigrant Brig. Gen. James Shields was another political general who had been an Illinois congressman and friend of the new president; and Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont, famous as The Pathfinder of the American West, a leader in the movement for California's independence from Mexico and statehood, and the first Republican candidate for President in 1856. Although a military man by reputation, the fact was that Fremont was a topographical engineer, explorer, and map maker but had only led very small expeditions and had no experience commanding large bodies of troops. Of the three, although Shields had had some previous military experience, he never personally faced Jackson in battle though it was troops under his command that fought the first and last battles of the campaign; Shields himself was wounded by a shell splinter during a skirmish with Ashby's cavalry the day before Kernstown but liked to boast that it was he who had beaten Stonewall in his only defeat!