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Valley Campaign

The Valley Campaign was Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson's brilliant campaign through the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia in 1862, during the American Civil War.

Battle before: West Virginia Campaign
Battle after: Early's Valley Campaign
Valley Campaign
ConflictAmerican Civil War
DateMarch 11 - June 9, 1862
PlaceShenandoah Valley, Virginia
ResultDecisive Confederate victory
Confederate ArmyUnited States Army
"Stonewall" Jackson,
Turner Ashby,
Richard S. Ewell
John C. Frémont,
Irvin McDowell,
Nathaniel Banks
17,000 troops (combined)60,000 troops (combined)

While Major General George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac was attacking up the James River Peninsula, General Robert E. Lee sent Jackson into the Shenandoah Valley to confront Major General Nathaniel Banks's army, which was currently dormant, but due to move at any moment. General Jackson, along with his chief subordinate, Major General Richard S. Ewell, moved northward up the valley.

Jackson's main mission was to keep Banks's forces from reinforcing McClellan by keeping them occupied in the Valley. As Banks's forces moved south, Jackson was forced to evacuate Winchester. However, when he learned that the Federal forces were leaving the Valley, Jackson began a forced march to Kernstown, where he was defeated by the Union Army. However, this caused President Abraham Lincoln, along with the other politicians in D.C., to keep Major General Irvin McDowell's 40,000 soldier corps near Washington, along with keeping Banks's Valley troops from reinforcing McClellan.

Also, three separate commands were created (one under McDowell, one under Banks, and one under newly arrived Major General John C. Frémont). This meant that there was no coordinating military officer to order them to strategically advantageous positions. This proved fatal for the Union Armies.

Jackson moved his forces to a flanking position at Swift Run Gap, where he was able to use Ewell's large division and Major General Edward Johnson's small division, bringing his forces to 17,000. Meanwhile, Fremont decided to attack Eastern Tennessee. He ordered Brigadier General Robert H. Milroy to Staunton to prepare for that campaign.

Had Fremont and Banks combined, Jackson's forces would have been destroyed. Therefore, he decided to attack the Confederate forces piecemeal, first attacking Milroy's division. Along with General Turner Ashby\'s cavalry, Jackson moved to Staunton. Nearby, he defeated the Union forces at the Battle of McDowell (not to be confused with Union Gen. McDowell). Banks sent Major General James Shields and his division to reinforce General McDowell's forces (east of the Valley at this time), leaving him only 8,000 troops. They, however, were in a strong position at Strasburg.

Jackson sent Ashby's cavalry ahead to make Banks think that he was going to attack Strasburg. However, at the last moment, he turned to Front Royal, where he drove the 1,000 Federals to Strasburg with his entire 16,000-soldier army. Banks decided to retreat to Winchester with his entire army. Although Jackson attempted to pursue, his troops were both exhausted and looted Union supply trains, slowing them down immensely. One column was behind schedule when it reached Middletown, just after Banks's vulnerable column had passed. On May 25, Jackson's forced marching "foot cavalry" skillfully defeated the Confederates at the Battle of Winchester. Banks crossed the Potomac River the next day, however.

The Washington politicians, at this time, made a horribly fatal mistake. Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton decided to withhold McDowell's corps from McClellan, over both's protests. They had a "brilliant" plan to attempt to trap Jackson within the Valley, although both military commanders knew that Jackson's only goal was to keep McDowell in the Valley. On May 30, Jackson left the Stonewall Brigade to keep Banks in check, while he withdrew from Harpers Ferry. Although both McDowell and Fremont were closer to Strasburg than Jackson, the latter cleared the town before the Union forces could trap him.

A single cavalry brigade reached the rear guard of Jackson's column, routing it. However, General Ashby rallied up some survivors and held the guard back. He also burned some bridges across the Massanuttens River, delaying the Union pursuit. However, when contact was reestablished on June 6 (the next day), Ashby was killed in a heated battle with Fremont. General Shields and his division could hear this fight; however, they were on the wrong side of the uncrossable river (because of the destroyed bridges), and could not assist.

At Port Republic, Jackson was able to fight off Shields's advance guard (as Port Republic was the only place Shields could cross the river). Although, at this time, Jackson was between two hostile columns, he decided to attack. He sent Ewell's division to block Fremont's column at Cross Keys, along with Shields's advanced brigades. After the victories at the Battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic, the Union forces were withdrawn. Jackson joined Lee on the Peninsula for the Seven Days' Battles. He had accomplished his mission, withholding over 50,000 "needed" troops from McClellan (who felt that the Confederate Army outnumbered him, although the entire Army of Northern Virginia had about 60,000, including Jackson).


Campaign Results
Campaign Description