« PreviousContinue »
MC DOWELL ABOUT TO JOIN MC CLELLAN-SHIELDS' DIVISION DETACIJED FROM
BANKS-JACKSON RESOLVES TO ATTACK THE LATTER-GALLANT DEFENSE
AT FRONT ROYAL-BANKS
RESOLVES TO FALL BACK TO THE
POTOMAC-THE REAR GUARD CUT OFF-BATTLE AT WINCHESTER-TIIE ARMY
REACHES THE POTOMAC IN SAFETY AND CROSSES INTO MARYLAND-BANKS
AS A GENERAL-FRIGHT OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR-THE MILITIA CALLED OUT-SUCCESS OF JACKSON'S PLAN-MCDOWELL AND FREMONT ORDERED TO INTERCEPT JACKSON'S RETREAT.
EFORE the battle of Fair Oaks occurred, McDowell, at
Fredericksburg, was preparing at last to move down to he assistance of McClellan. The news that his army had crossed the Rappahannock, and turned its face towards Richmond, was received with intense satisfaction, and the bitter complaints and angry discussions gave way to general congratulations that the government had finally moved in the right direction; for it was confidently believed, that the junction of his troops with those of McClellan, would be the signal of an immediate advance on the rebel Capital
. To give him greater strength, Shields, with fifteen thousand men, had been detached from Banks' division to join him.
After the victory at Winchester, over Stonewall Jackson, as he was called, Banks had for a while steadily pursued hira without being able to bring on a battle.
on a battle. At length there seemed to be a suspension of his movements, and like McDowell he was thought to be awaiting the progress of affairs at Yorktown. The surrender of that place, however, and the movement of the army on to Richmond caused no change of attitude in either of these Generals.
ATTACK ON COLONEL KENLY
Banks, at this time, was at Strasburg, with the remnant of the army
left to him, numbering about five thousand men, with fifteen hundred cavalry. Of course he was not expected to hold his position with that force, against Jackson, should he
him. In that event, retreat would be inevitable; but why he did not fall back simultaneously with the departure of Shields, or at least so dispose his trains as to be unincumbered by them, if called upon to retreat hastily, was a little surprising. At all events, he remained quietly at Strasburg with his little army, having taken the precaution to station a Maryland regiment, under Colonel Kenly, Front Royal, twelve miles in advance. Jackson, through his spies, had been informed of the departure of Shields, and of the weakness of Banks, and resolved to make a sudden dash on the latter and capture his entire force, threaten the Potomac, and thus alarm the government at Washington, and make it withhold the troops from McClellan.
On the twenty-third, Jackson, in pursuance of his plan, suddenly appeared on the banks of the Shenandoah, in front of Kenly's regiment. The long roll at once sounded, and Colonel Kenly drew up his regiment so as to command the approach, and awaited the attack. In a short time the enemy appeared in overwhelming numbers, and opened with artil; lery and musketry, on the Marylanders. They returned the fire with such precision and coolness, that the advancing columns were checked, though not driven back. A desperate fight followed, in which this single regiment, contending against five times its number, won for itself a reputation equal to that of the old Maryland Continentals of Revolution
In the mean time, swift riders had started for Strasburg, for help. Banks received the report of the large body of troops opposed to Kenly with incredulity; still be sent off a regiment of infantry, and a body of cảvalry to his assistance.
A GALLANT REGIMENT.
Kenly, mean while, bore up against the fearful odds pressing on him with desperate resolution, and hour after hour held his ground without yielding an inch. At three o'clock, the clatter of horses' hoofs on the Shenandoah bridge announced the arrival of help, and a hundred of the Ira Harris cavalry dashed up. They were immediately ordered to charge, but th?
of the enemy kept increasing, and Kenly seeing that it was impossible to maintain his position longer, gave the order to fall back over the river. This was done in good order, and the bridge heaped with rails and fired. The ignition, however, was slow, and before any damage could be done, the enemy dashed
upon it and extinguished the flames, and then poured in one wild torrent across. It then became a hand to hand fight. Kenly, seeing the rebels swarming like locusts on both his flanks, threatening to cut off his retreat, summoned his men to a desperate charge, and leading them on, fell with such fury upon the enemy that they gave way, and he fell back along the space he had cleared by his valor. But it was plain that the doom of the regiment was sealed. With four or five thousand men hanging on his rear and flanks, and a force of cavalry greater than his entire regiment, charging at every step, it was clear that he could never get to Strasburg. Still he would not yield, and when a short time after, though completely inclosed, he was ordered to surrender, he shot the man who summoned him. It was pitiful to see that single regiment stand so helpless, and yet so fearless, amid the crowding, overwhelming foe. At length, their gallant leader, who had hitherto seemed to bear a charmed life, fell, severely wounded, when the regiment broke and scattered. Not a fifth of them, however, succeeded in making their escape, and almost the entire Dumber fell into the hands of the enemy.
Late in the evening, the sad tidings reached Banks, and
RETREAT DETERMINED UPON,
instantly dispatching officers to recall the reinforcements he had started for Kenly, he at midnight hurried off scouts in every direction to ascertain the truth of the startling reports of Jackson's strength. To their surprise, go which would, they came upon the rebel pickets, which were swarming over the whole country. Galloping back to head-quarters, they made their report, which convinced Banks beyond all doubt, that the enemy was on him in tremendous force, and that his entire command was in deadly peril of complete destruction. Prompt, instant action was necessary, for it was clear that this overwhelming demonstration in front, would not be without a corresponding movement in flank. Three courses were open to him—to await the attack of the enemy, and risk every thing on a battle-to retreat across the mountains—or to attempt to fall back rapidly on Winchester, and thra-astore his communications with the base of his operations -the Potomac. His slender force would not justify him in hazarding the first—the second involved the abandonment of his trains and he therefore resolved on the last. No sooner was the decision taken, than the retreat commenced. At three o'clock in the morning, seven hundred disabled men were put on the march, and with the wagon train escorted by a strong body of cavalry and infantry, started for Winchester. It was dark and gloomy, for the moon had been down an hour and a half, when this column of sick and wounded limped out of Strasburg. The other columns fol. lowed after, General Hatch being left with nearly the whole body of cavalry, and six pieces of artillery, to protect the rear, and destroy such army stores as he had not the means of bringing off. He was also to hold Strasburg as long as he could.
The had proceeded but three miles, when word was brought from the trains in front, that the enemy held the road ahead On the heels of the tidings came the frightened
PANIC IN THE TRAIN.
fugitives, and teamsters, some on horse back, having cut their teams ioose from their wagons in their panic-others with their wagons, lashing their animals to the top of their speed. Tumbling forward in utter confusion, and charged with the most exaggerated accounts of the enemy's force, they threatened for a moment to create a stampede among the troops, But Banks immediately ordered the column forward, and it soon shook itself clear of the immense train, which shifted its place to the rear. It was now broad daylight, and the army moved on with more confidence. Nothing occurred to arrest their march until they approached Middletown, thirteen miles from Winchester. Here the enemy were drawn up to dispute their
passage. Colonel Donnelly halted his brigade, and the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania was ordered to drive the enemy's skirmishers from a piece of woods on the right. A force of rebel cavalry was drawn up in an open field in rear of this piece of woods, ready at the first opportunity to charge. The artillery was brought to bear upon them, the fire of which they coolly faced for a while, but finding it too hot, at length wheeled, and trotted off the field, pursued by our skirmishers. The Twenty-eighth New York was then ordered
up, and poured in a destructive fire on the enemy, causing him to retire back. Our infantry and artillery followed, plunging through the fields, and drove them back two miles from the turnpike. The road was now clear to Winchester, and the columns moved on. With the first stampede of the trains, Banks, not knowing what force was before him, had dispatched a courier to Strasburg, with orders for Hatch to join him. The latter immediately put his brigade in motion but had not proceeded far, before he came upon the enemy which closed behind Banks. Unable to force a passage through them, he took a parallel road to the left and pushed on. Not long after, twelve companies of his cavalry came dashing along the turnpike, but finding it to their surprise