Battle History



                                                                                                 

                                        KERNSTOWN, VA.
                                        MARCH 23, 1862

                   Kernstown, Va., March 23, 1862.  Shields' Division, 5th
                Army Corps.  Early in 1862 "Stonewall" Jackson retreated from
                Winchester up the Shenandoah Valley, closely followed by Maj.-
                Gen. N. B. Banks with the 5th army corps.  The movement contin-
                ued until Jackson reached New Market and was within easy march-
                ing distance of a junction with Johnston's army.  It was essen-
                tial to prevent this union and to get Jackson to fight away
                from any supporting force.  Accordingly on March 20 Banks fell
                back to Winchester, a distance of 30 miles, giving the movement
                all the appearance of a retreat.  The ruse worked and Jackson
                followed.  On the morning of the 22nd Banks sent all his force
                with the exception of Shields' division and a small cavalry de-
                tachment across the Blue Ridge.  Jackson learned of this move-
                ment and about 5 p. m. Of the same day Ashby's cavalry was di-
                rected to attack and drive in the Federal pickets around Win-
                chester.  The movement was made, but Shields used only two
                regiments of infantry and a battery in repulsing the attack, so
                that Jackson was deceived as to the strength of the Union
                force.  in the skirmish, however Shields was struck by the
                fragment of a shell, and his arm , fractured above the elbow,
                which incapacitated him for active command on the field the
                following day.  In the night Col. Nathan Kimball received
                orders to push forward at daylight on the Strasburg road to
                within a short distance of Kernstown.  The Strasburg or Valley
                pike is the middle or center of three roads leading into Win-
                chester from the south, the other two being the Cedar Creek
                road on the west and the Front Royal road on the east.  Kimball
                established his headquarters on a ridge which extended across
                the Valley pike, a little west of that thoroughfare and half a
                mile north of Kernstown.  The Confederate line of battle was 2
                miles long, extending in a semi-circle from a ravine near the
                Front Royal road on the east to near the Cedar Creek road on
                the west.  The position was so skilfully concealed, however,
                that when Kimball placed his brigade on an eminence to the east
                of the road no enemy was to be seen except Ashby's cavalry
                which had been repulsed the night before.  The Confederates
                commenced the attack, advancing from Kernstown and occupying a
                position on the heights to the east of the Strasburg pike with
                the batteries, while the cavalry and infantry took position on
                the plain on the other side.  The 8th Ohio was thrown out as
                skirmishers, and joined by two companies of the 67th Ohio,
                drove back a Confederate battery which had opened a heavy fire,
                and routed five companies of infantry posted behind a stone
                wall.  The position thus taken was held for several hours, or
                as long as the Confederates were active in front, and several
                attempts of Ashby's cavalry to turn the Federal left were frus-
                trated by this advance line.  When Sullivan's brigade came up
                it was placed at the left of Kimball's, forming the extreme
                left of the line.  After several unsuccessful attempts to turn
                the Union left, Jackson moved the bulk of his force to his left
                and took a strong position behind a stone fence running north-
                west and southeast.  Tyler was ordered to advance his brigade
                against the position.  With a rush he drove the Confederate
                skirmishers back on their reserves behind the fence, but the
                position was too strong to be carried.  It was at that point
                that the most desperate fighting of the day occurred, and had
                not Kimball hurried up portions of Sullivan's and his own bri-
                gades to reinforce Tyler the result would have been disastrous.
                For 2 hours the battle raged with great fury and then, just as
                darkness fell, Jackson retired.  The Federal participants, too
                exhausted to follow, slept on the field.  The Union loss in
                this engagement was 118 killed, 450 wounded and 22 captured or
                missing.  The Confederates lost 80 killed, 375 wounded and 263
                captured or missing.  This affair is also known as the battle
                of Winchester.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 6 ------------------------------------------------------------------

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