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The following day, the famous sixteenth, we regain touch with Lee, who, as mentioned already, then wrote to Jackson about attacking Banks in order to threaten Washington. This dire day at Richmond, the day McClellan reached White House, was also the one appointed by the Southern Government as a day of intercession for God's blessing on the Southern arms. None kept it more fervently, even in beleaguered Richmond, than pious Jackson in the Valley. Then, like a giant refreshed, he rose for swift and silent marches and also sudden hammer-strokes at Banks.
Confident that all would now go well, Washington thought nothing of the little skirmish at McDowell, because it apparently disturbed nothing beyond the Shenandoah Valley. The news from everywhere else was good; and Federals were jubilant. So were the civilian strategists, particularly Stanton, who, though tied to his desk as Secretary of War, was busy wire-pulling Banks's men about the Valley. Stanton ordered Banks to take post at Strasburg and to hold the bridges at Front Royal with two detached battalions. This masterpiece of bungling put the Federals at Front Royal in the air, endangered their communications north to Winchester, and therefore menaced the Valley line
toward Washington. But Banks said nothing; and Stanton would have snubbed him if he had.
On the twenty-third of May a thousand Federals under Colonel Kenly were sweltering in the first hot weather of the year at Stanton's indefensible position of Front Royal when suddenly a long gray line of skirmishers emerged from the woods, the Confederate bugles rang out, and Jackson's battle line appeared. Then came a crashing volley, which drove in the Federal pickets for their lives. Colonel Kenly did his best. But he was outflanked and forced back in confusion. A squadron of New York cavalry came to the rescue; but were themselves outflanked and helpless on the road against the Virginian horsemen, who could ride across country. Kenly had just made a second stand, when down came the Virginians, led by Colonel Flournoy at racing speed over fence and ditch, scattering the Federal cavalry like chaff before the wind and smashing into the Federal infantry. Two hundred and fifty really efficient cavalry took two guns (complete with limbers, men, and horses), killed and wounded a hundred and fifty-four of their opponents, and captured six hundred prisoners as well -- and all with a loss to themselves of only eleven killed and fifteen wounded.
Ashby's cavalry, several hundreds strong, pushed on and out to the flanks, cutting the wires, destroying bridges, and blocking the roads against reinforcements from beyond the Valley. Three hours after the attack a dispatch-rider dashed up to Banks's headquarters at Strasburg. But Banks refused to move, saying, when pressed by his staff to make a strategic retreat on Winchester, "By God, sir, I will not retreat! We have more to fear from the opinions of our friends than from the bayonets of our enemies!" The Cabinet backed him up next day by actually proposing to reinforce him at Strasburg with troops from Washington and Baltimore. Nevertheless he was forced to fly for his life to Winchester. His stores at Strasburg had to be abandoned. His long train of wagons was checked on the way, with considerable loss. And some of his cavalry, caught on the road by horsemen who could ride across country, were smashed to pieces.
Jackson pressed on relentlessly to Winchester with every one who could march like "foot cavalry," as his Valley men came to be called. On the twenty-fifth, the third day of unremitting action, he carried the Winchester heights and drove Banks through the town. Only the Second
Massachusetts, which had already distinguished itself during the retreat, preserved its formation. Ten thousand Confederate bayonets glittered in the morning sun. The long gray lines swept forward. The piercing rebel yell rose high. And the people, wild with joy, rushed out of doors to urge the victors on.
By the twenty-sixth, the first day on which Stanton's reinforcements from Baltimore and Washington could possibly have fought at Strasburg, the Confederates had reached Martinsburg, fifty miles beyond it. Banks had already crossed the Potomac, farther on still. The newsboys of the North were crying, Defeat of General Banks! Washington in danger! Thirteen Governors were calling for special State militia, for which a million men were volunteering, spare troops were hurrying to Harper's Ferry, a reserve corps was being formed at Washington, the Federal Government was assuming control of all the railroad lines, and McClellan was being warned that he must either take Richmond at once or come back to save the capital. Nor did the strategic disturbance stop even there; for the Washington authorities ordered McDowell's force at Fredericksburg to the Valley just as it was coming into touch with McClellan.
On the twenty-eighth Jackson might have taken Harper's Ferry. But the storm was gathering round him. A great strategist directing the Federal forces could have concentrated fifty thousand men, by sunset on the first of June, against Jackson's Army of the Valley, which could not possibly have mustered one-third of such a number. McDowell arrived that night at Front Royal. He had vainly protested against the false strategy imposed by the Government from Washington, and he was not a free agent now. Yet, even so, his force was at least a menace to Jackson, who had only two chances of getting away to aid in the defeat of McClellan and the saving of Richmond. One was to outmarch the converging Federals, gain interior lines along the Valley, and defeat them there in detail. The other was to march into friendly Maryland, trusting to her Southern sentiments for help and reinforcements. He decided on the Valley route and marched straight in between his enemies.
His fortnight's work, from the nineteenth of May to the first of June, inclusive, is worth summing up. In these fourteen days he had marched 170 miles, routed 12,500 men, threatened an invasion of the North, drawn McDowell off from Fredericksburg, taken or destroyed all Federal stores at Front