Shenandoah Valley 1864 The Valley--October 25, 1864 Richmond Enquirer


Apr 19, 2011
(After reading the article, the famous George Picket quote came to mind: "I always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.")

From the October 25, 1864 Richmond Enquirer

The Valley! The Valley! The Valley

What humiliation has attended our cause in this Valley made gloriously historical by the lamented Jackson! From Lynchburg to Harper's Ferry, from the Ridge of the Alleghenies where victory and honor and glory once shed their charming blessings over our cause, there now hangs the gloomy cloud of defeat, disgrace and demoralization. It is often said with a sign: "The news from the Valley is not so bad as we expected." What was expected that could have been worse, than the shameful defeat into which a victory was turned, not by the generalship of Sheridan, not by the valor of his infantry, not by the charge of his cavalry, but by the unaccountable but not less shameful and disgraceful panic of our own troop.

The well-known bravery of these troops forbids the suspicion that fear caused this disgraceful flight and abandonment of artillery. Such a supposition is refuted by the fact that they had but a few hours, before won a great and splendid victory. It will not do to say the cavalry gave way—for all accounts agree that the infantry abandoned the artillery. What caused this panic? Our men went into action well enough; they fought bravely and gallantly; victory attended their efforts and encourage them to push on—all went well because the enemy was flying before them. But they moment they saw a disposition on the part of the of the face, the first check received, they halted, hesitated, turned, fled; from a victorious army; in the twinkling of an eye, they were routed and demoralized.

There is no propriety in making excusing and plastering over with soft and honeyed phrases this most infamous defeat. To say that our men lost their victory by stopping to plunder the captured camps is an excuse more disgraceful than the defeat. After four years of war, the discipline that cannot prevent plundering stragglers from throwing away the gathered fruits of a hard-fought battle is criminally defective. The officers that cannot restrain their men from plundering, and keep them in the ranks not fit to command.

A change of commanders is demanded in the Valley. Early has the best he could. We have no doubt, but his mode of fighting is tool expensive, in artillery at least. A friend, writing of the "grand cavalry fight" in the Valley, speak of it as a fight "wherein there were less men killed than there were pieces of artillery taken by the enemy." This last victorious-defeat swept away twenty-three pieces, and eighteen more just captured from the enemy—forty-one in all.

There never has been panic under General Lee—and there never will be—because the troops feel that that not only a brave, but a wise head, watches over them. If a flank is turned, they feel that it was not wanted the enemy to do==at least what he was prepared for; and soon would be all right. This is confidence. When brave and experienced troops break and retreat, as our troops have repeatedly done under General Early, it is because they do not feel that the head that directs them is competent to provide for the exigency that is upon them. This panic can be explained in no other way. If the army had been new troops, fear and inexperience might have accounted for the flight, but it is impossible to attribute either the veterans whom Ewell commanded so successfully until, at an unfortunate moment, he was supposed to be unfit for the arduous duties of an active campaign, and relieved for Gen. Early.

The past cannot be mended—the captured artillery is, no doubt, ere now parading the streets of some Yankee city as the trophies at some Republican mass meeting. But the future should be provided for, and some commander seat to that army can gain its confidence and restore its morale. While General Joseph E. Johnston is reposing in Macon, without a command, the Valley is being plundered and devastated by the enemy. The people of Virginia have lost no confidence in General Johnston. By them he is still regarded as a brave soldier and a son of whom the State is proud. We believe that his patriotism is of noble and lofty character that will render service of the cause wherever he may order. To seem him once more in command in his native State would be gratifying to the people of State, who feel deeply his removal from command in Georgia. An opportunity is no presented, which we hope will e quickly embraced by the President, to restore Johnston to command. His presence in the Valley would restore confidence and morale and assure the enemy that their victory, were not the end of the campaign o our part. The reappointment of Johnston would silence the voice of faction and restore unity and harmony to the country.