General Stonewall Jackson & Lt. Colonel Turner Ashby
Warm Springs, Morgan County - Western Virginia
January 4, 1862
General Stonewall Jackson had a number of goals he wanted to accomplish during his January 1st 1862 expedition to several towns under the occupation of Federal troops in western Virginia. Jackson’s main priority was the defense of the Shenandoah Valley. As such he would need to clear out the Federal garrison in the town of Berkeley Springs, also known as Bath, from troops under the command of US Brigadier General Frederick W. Lander. With his northern flank secured he would then turn his attention to the Federal garrison of 5000 men located in Romney under the command of Brigadier General Benjamin F. Kelley.
After taking Romney, General Jackson planned to attack the Federal garrison and railroad hub of Cumberland Maryland. Also on the agenda was to sever or disrupt the lines of supply and transport of the enemy by destroying as much of the B&O Railroad as possible.
The expedition would also test Jackson’s newly formed army. He would learn which officers under his command he could trust and count on, and those he could not. His troops would also be tried under difficult circumstances during winter conditions, against multiple foes. In short Jackson would learn “who was worth his salt”.
On the comfortable sunny day of January 1st Confederate troops marched from Winchester towards Berkeley Springs. Jackson’s cavalry under the command of Lt. Colonel Turner Ashby led the way, followed by four brigades of infantry. The travel was easy at first, moving over flat terrain, but in the late afternoon a cold front blew through, dropping temperatures that night into the teens. The column halted at Pughtown for the night after covering 8 miles. The next day the army was on the move again pushing against a blinding snow storm. Miraculously the army was able to cover another 7 miles and camped at Unger’s Store.
By the middle of the afternoon the next day Jackson’s force had marched another eleven miles in the snow and elements of Ashby’s Cavalry had engaged the enemy 3 miles outside of Berkeley Springs. That night as the army camped in the woods near the enemy garrison of 1400 troops, another half a foot of snow fell.
The morning of January 4th the Stonewall Brigade again dug out of the snow. As the troops crawled out from under their snow-laden blankets, half-frozen, they were cursing General Jackson as the cause of their sufferings. Unbeknownst to them, the General lay close by under a tree, also snowed under, and heard all their complaints. Without a chastisement he too crawled out from under a snow covered blanket. Shaking the snow off, he made a humorous remark to the nearest men, who had no idea he had arrived during the night and lain down amongst them. News of what had happened spread throughout the ranks in short order, and fully reestablished his popularity. It was fortunate at that time for the troops to learn the metal of their leader as they were soon to go into battle.
The attack at Berkeley Springs was not as coordinated as Jackson had planned. General Loring, one of Jackson’s commanders “managed to scatter the rest of his command all over the countryside - except toward the front”. Exasperated, General Jackson rode into the confusion and took charge. By mid afternoon Jackson dashed into the city with his escort, ahead of his own skirmishers. The enemy had high-tailed it out, retreating to the town of Hancock.
Stonewall had learned much about his command that day, and he and his Stonewall Brigade established headquarters in Strother’s health resort in Berkeley Springs. Phase one of his expedition was difficult, but a success. His next test was the garrison at Romney.
January 4, 1862
They picked their way through the high country of western Virginia, led by Major General Thomas J. Jackson. Just a year earlier, he was an obscure mathematics professor at V.M.I., jokingly called "Tom Fool" Jackson by his students. Now he was the famous "Stonewall" Jackson, hero of First Manassas and defender of the Shenandoah Valley. On this winter expedition, designed to destroy a concentration of Federal forces near Romney, Virginia, he would battle the enemy, the weather and problems within his own command.
Heavy snow and ice posed a severe challenge on this expedition, but Jackson and his Stonewall Brigade persevered. What lay ahead after difficulties and defeats was the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. It would be a campaign ranked by historians to come as among "the most brilliant in history," and it would give Stonewall Jackson almost legendary stature. "
He lives by the New Testament and fights by the Old," historian Douglas Southall Freeman would later note. "
A man he is of contrasts so complete that he appears one day a Presbyterian deacon who delights in theological discussion and, the next, a [modern day] Joshua." Striking were the contrasts of his life at war. A humble, gentle, and compassionate husband and father, when summoned to fight he was a ferocious, relentless and remarkably successful warrior. Always, he was devout, disciplined and devoted to duty.
"Through life," he once advised, "let your principle object be the discharge of duty." Before another winter would cloak Virginia's highlands, Stonewall Jackson would rank among the great military leaders of history.
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