The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862

The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862

The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862

The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862

Synopsis

In eight new essays, contributors to this volume explore the Shenandoah Valley campaign, best known for its role in establishing Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's reputation as a Confederate hero.

In early 1862, Union troops under George B. McClellan had arrived within range of Richmond and threatened to take the Confederate capital. Robert E. Lee ordered Jackson to march north through the Shenandoah Valley, hoping to tie down Federal forces that might otherwise reinforce McClellan's troops. The strategy worked, and for two months the Confederates evaded and harassed their Union pursuers. Jackson's speed and audacity boosted plummeting Southern morale, and he emerged from the Valley as the Confederacy's greatest military idol.

Contributors address questions of military leadership, strategy and tactics, the campaign's political and social impact, and the ways in which participants' memories of events differed from what is revealed in the historical sources. In the process, they offer valuable insights into one of the Confederacy's most famous generals, those who fought with him and against him, the campaign's larger importance in the context of the war, and the complex relationship between history and memory.

Contributors include Jonathan M. Berkey, Keith S. Bohannon, Peter S. Carmichael, Gary W. Gallagher, A. Cash Koeniger, R. E. L. Krick, Robert K. Krick, and William J. Miller.

Excerpt

The French artist Charles Hoffbauer painted a series of imposing murals depicting the seasons of the Confederacy. Completed in the years following World War I, the four works fill a large gallery at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond. For Spring, Hoffbauer chose as his subject Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. The painting pulses with energy, conveying a sense of optimism and potential in the incipient southern republic. Under the eye of Jackson, who sits sternly astride “Little Sorrel” on rising ground beside what is probably the Valley Turnpike, the leading figures in a long line of infantry march past the viewer. The soldiers strain under a pace that tells on their faces. One of them raises an arm in a gesture of respect for his commander, as does a mounted officer, whose horse, with flared nostrils and open mouth, also suggests extreme effort. Most of the infantrymen focus resolutely ahead, their long strides carrying them through the beautiful Valley countryside, past wounded comrades, and into Civil War history as Jackson's fabled “Foot Cavalry.” Hoffbauer's sweeping image ascribes a heroic spirit to Jackson and his Army of the Valley—a spirit that captivated Confederates in 1862 and has fascinated students of the Civil War ever since.

Events in the Valley between March and early June 1862 took on fabulous proportions over the years. It is important to keep in mind, however, that they functioned at the time as a secondary dimension of military affairs in an Eastern Theater dominated by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's offensive against Richmond. The scale of combat in the Seven Days battles, which marked the bloody climax of McClellan's effort to capture the Confederate capital, dwarfed that in the half-dozen engagements fought in the Valley between Jackson and his various Federal opponents. Nearly twice as many men fell on June 27 at Gaines's Mill, costliest of the Seven Days, as in all of Jackson's battles in the Shenandoah combined. The strategic stakes were also much higher at Richmond. Gen. Robert E. Lee's victory over McClellan . . .

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