The Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862 was a cornerstone of the Stonewall Jackson legend. From March to June he led a small force in a series of engagements that defeated four Union armies.
uch of the food needed in Virginia came from the Shenandoah Valley, the Valley of Virginia. While the Valley ran from north to south (going “up” the Valley was going south, while going “down” the Valley was going north), it also ran from the southwest towards the northeast, terminating at Harper's Ferry, almost a pistol pointed at Washington, D.C. The Valley Turnpike, started in 1830 and made of crushed limestone over a cement bed, ran up the middle of the Valley. A much more dependable road than the old dirt sideroads, this would be the object on which all movement up or down the Valley would have to center. Whenever Confederate troops occupied the Valley, they would be a threat to Washington, and Lincoln was very concerned about threats to the city.
In the winter of 1861, the Confederate commander there was no aging Robert Patterson-whose troops had been withdrawn back to Washington to help rebuild the Union forces after Manassas and help defend the city-but was one of the bright lights of that battle, Thomas J., now “Stonewall, ” Jackson. He wasn't one to sit still, even in the cold of winter when reasonable 19th-century soldiers went into winter quarters. He had his eye on Romney, in western Virginia, a town that sat poised like an arrow aimed at the Confederate garrison at Winchester and in which was a Union force commanded by a native Virginian, Brigadier-General Benjamin Kelley. While the official policy of the Confederacy under Davis was to be strictly defensive and only fight back attempts to invade the country, Jackson was not fit for that role. He believed in a strong and constant attack wherever and whenever possible on any enemy that threatened him before the enemy could act on that threat. But he did not have enough troops to move directly, so he persuaded the secretary of war to assign him a brigade under Brigadier-General William W. Loring. As it took time to arrive, he began to look for targets he could hit in the meantime. On December 17 he sent his men out to skirmish along the