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The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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Ashby Killed

 

Genl Jackson resumed his retreat from Strasbourg on the evg of 1 June ‘62. On the 3rd of June the Confederate army placed crossed the north fork of the Shenandoah, & Genl Ashby was directed to burn the bridge behind it. one mile south of Harrisonburg Jackson left the valley & turned Eastward towards Port Republic, on the south fork of the Shenandoah, near the western base of the Blue ridge. On the evg of the 6th the Federal advance overtook his rear guard, which was with[in] 2 miles of Harrisonburg on the crest of a wooded ridge, commd by Genl Ashby. On the approach of the N. J. Cavy, Genl Ashby taking a few compy of his cavy, met them in the open field & at the first charge routed them capturing their Col: with a few of his men. The remainder fled. Ashby then had hardly disposed the 1st Md regt: Col Bradley Johnson & the 58th Va under Col Letcher ordered to him by Genl Ewell, in position, when the enemys infy advanced & the combat began on reaching a fence which afforded them partial cover opened a destructive fire on the 58th Va: which was in their front. Ashby seeing their disadvantage galloped to their head & ordered a charge. At Thise next moment his horse fell under him, & he had only time to reiterate the Command, when he was struck in the heart by a bullet & fell dead. The 58 rushed upon the enemy, in front, while the Marylanders took them in flank, & The Federals gave way & the Confederates seizing the fence poured volly after volly into their fleeing ranks as long as they were in range. The Confederate loss was slight 17 killed & 50 wounded but fell mainly on the 58 Va:

On the 7 June Jackson assembled the main body of his army at Port Republic.

The bridges at WhiteHouse & Columbia being burned, Fremont & Shields could not unite at New Market & it was Jackson’s intention policy1 to Keep them separate apart. Shields being still East of the Shenandoah, there were but two other bridges by which he could join Fremont. The one at Port Republic, was held by Jackson, the other at the mouth of Elk river valley, 15 miles below, he directed to be burned. Before the Confederates reached the bridge, the advanced guard of Shields army arrived, but hearing that there was a small guard body of Confederates was a few miles above, guarding some stores, they attempted their capture. The guard escaped, but the stores were captured, but when the head of his main column reached the bridge, the confederates had arrived & the bridge was in flames. The Shenandoah still swollen by the was nowhere fordable & Jacksons object was accomplished Shields was prevented from uniting with Fremont. Jacksons object was now to seize the opportunity afforded of crushing one of his assailants while separated from the other, which no one knew better how to accomplish than he, though each was within less than a days march of his position. The ground however was favourable. Genl Shields disappd in joining Fremont by the Elk run bridge Continued his march up the S. E. bank of the river. On the evg of the 7 June his advance reached Lewiston, three miles below the village. Genl Jackson still holding the bridge, & there controlling the high ground on the n. side of the river, he posted Genl Ewell five miles in front on the road to Harrisonburg, & the other division of his army with several batteries on the n. w bank of the river, where his guns could command

 

3                                  Jackson

 

the bridge, the village, the road to Burns gap & the approach of Shields. His trains were brought across the bridge, whence they could move to Staunton or across the Blue ridge, & a detachment of men in Pt Repc guarded the road to Lewiston, two companies of which were advanced to watch the approach of shields. Soon after Sunrise on the 8th (Sunday) the pickets answered on the Lewiston road were driven in, followed rapidly by the Fedral Cavy & a sec. of Arty, which crossing the south river ford occupied the streets of the village. The Commr of the Fedl advance seeing the wagon trains of hurrying off, ordered a strong body of Cavy in pursuit. As this party which on reached the head of the street, it recd a volly of musketry, which drove them back, & on returning to the charge, was met by the fire of two pieces of arty, which cleared the Streets with grape & Cannister. Jackson ordering Poagues, Wooding & Carpenters batteries to take post in the hills commg the river, Conducted himself the 37th Va. Col: Falkerson towards the bridge, which was now in the hands of the enemy.2 Ordering Capt Poague to engage the Fedal gun at the S. end of the bridge, he advanced with the 37th to within effective range, when he ordered it to deliver their fire at the gun preparing to sweep the bridge & then charge with the bayonet. The bridge gun was captured & the bridge regained with the slight loss of 2 men wounded & the village cleared. The enemy retreating across the S. river so rapidly that they left their other gun behind. The infy of shields army Coming up to their support, was met by the fire of the arty on the north bank, & driven back & pursued by the batteries, it until down that side of the stream, while it retreated down the south side, until marked

 

4

 

by the forest woods near Lewiston, where shields during the remainder of the days struggle he remained inactive. Jackson placing Taliafero’s [sic] brigade in Pt. Repubc to watch the fords of S. river, while guarding the course of the Shenandoah on above to Genl Ewells left, sent Winders brigade down the river on the north side to watch shields. The rest of the division was prepared to support Ewell.

 

Cross Keys

Before These dispositions were completed, the firing announced that Fremont Ewell was alla engaged. Fremont moved out against him from Harrisonburg, with the divisions of Blinker [sic], Milroy & Schenck,3 making 7 brigades of Infy, one of Cavy & a large train of arty, its whole strength estimated at 18000 men. Ewells force had belatedly increased by the six regts of Genl Edwd Johnson from the north west amounted to 6,000. He was posted on a ridge south of the intersection of the Keezletown & Port Republic roads. In his front was a small rivulet, while with a small rivulet in his front his flanks were covered by woods, easily penetrable but yet affording Cover for his sharpshooters. The 5th Alaba Col: Canty [sic]4 advanced on the road towards Harrisonburg contested the advance of the Federals. In his centre was the batteries of Courtney Lusk, Brockenbrough & Rains, suppd by Elzys brigade.5 On his right was Genl Trimble & on his left Genl George Stuart.6 The battle Commenced with a spirited Cannonade about 10 AM & continued several hours. Fremont advanced Blinker on his left, who driving in the confederate videttes watching his movements, was recd by Tremble, who poured into his ranks a heavy fire at point blank range, which caused him to recoil

 

5.                                                         Jackson

 

when Trimble seized the opportunity, charged with the bayonet, & drove him across the meadow in his front, to the shelter of the opposite wood. Being reinforced by the 13th & 25 Va: regts of Elzys brigades, he advanced against a battery that had been posted in front of his extreme right to arrest his progress, to which he forced his way & caused its withdrawal. The Fedels now made a demonstration upon Ewells left, which to conform to the ground had been thrown forward, but which was easily repulsed by the regts of Elzy, sent to reinforce it, when Ewell advanced his whole line, drove in the enemy’s skirmishers & took the position held by the Fedls & occupied it during the night. The loss of the Confederates was surprizingly [sic] Small, being only 42 killed & 231 wounded. The chief loss of the Fedals was in front of Trimble.

Genl Jackson in pursuance of his plan to crush Shields while separated from Fremont, & yet still to retain the power of uniting his whole force on Fremont, should be able to accomplish it, he directed Genl Ewell after replenishing the ammunition & rations of his men, to return his trains to the South Side of the river, & after leaving a strong rear guard to detain Fremont in his position if practicable, or to retard him should he advance, to march with the rest of his force to Port Repc at day break, when the morn rose. At midnight he commenced throwing a temporary bridge, laid on the running gear

 

6

 

of his wagon train, across South river by which to move his infy to Lewistown. The stonewall brigade was ordered to commence the movement at the dawn of day, & by 5 am had crossed South river. It was followed by the La brigade, Genl Taylor, when Genl Jackson directing the wagon train to draw out towards Browns gap, & the rest of the troops to be hurried hastened to his support, advanced to the attack of Shields. This latter Genl was advantageously posted at Lewistown. His right rested on the river, & his left on an impenetrable wood, while his centre was protected by the houses & enclosures of Lewiston. Six field pieces posted on the rising hill ground at the edge of the wood, commanded the road from Pt Repc & the adjacent fields.

Genl Jackson placed formed The Stonewall brigade, and Genl Winder in his front, with Poagues battery in its front, its right supported by one of Genl Taylors regts, & its left by the 31st & 52nd Va: formed Jacksons front line. Carpenter with his battery was ordered to penetrate the wood on the right, seize a suitable position & silence the Fedal guns above Lewiston, while the brigade of Genl Taylor, made a detour through the woods to capture them & turn shields position. The nature of the woods was such as to make their progress slow. The Stonewall brigade advanced across the fields under the fire of the Fedal Arty & after a stubborn contest against overwhelming numbers, under cover of the orchards & fences around Lewiston, was Compelled to                          

            

7

        retire, leaving one gun in the hands of the enemy. The Louisiana Federal troops charging advancing from their woods cover, pierced the centre of Jacksons line & attempted to force it back against the river on their left, but the Louisa brigade emerging from the woods, nothing daunted by the aspect of affairs, charged the Fedal battery, & seized the guns. Genl Ewell, who had been delayed at the South river by the ill constructed bridge, was hastening to the front; & had placed the 44th & 58th Va: regts: in reserve to the right of the road, when he perceived that Winder was forced falling back, & two Fedal brigades boldly advancing pushing through his centre. He immediately urged forward his two regts against their flank & poured a heavy (destructive) fire.7 The Feds turned upon them & after a short contest forced them back with loss. But this diversion, & the attack of Genl Taylor, on enabled the brave Winder to rally his infy, & to take new positions with the guns of Poague, & carpenters battery, which had returned from its ineffectual attempt to penetrate the wood on the enemys left, & with the aid of the available guns of Chew[,]8 Brockenbrough, Courtnay & Rains, as were available to restore his battle. The Fedls were thus steadily borne back towards his original position Lewiston, & his position Cannonade.

            Genl Taylor after getting possession of the six gun battery on the Fedal left, was in his turn driven back by a brigade, which advancing through the thicket fell upon his right flank. But Genl Ewell having rallied the 44th & 58th Va: regts after their severe Contest in the centre, advanced them under Col Scott.

8

With a steadiness rarely equalled, & with their aid, & that of the 2nd Va: stonewall brigade, Genl Taylor renewed the attack. Twice again was the battery lost & won. The Confederates driven off by the enfilading fire from the woods, & the discharge of Cannister in their front, still recovered returned to the charge, & after the third capture, retained it in possession. The Fedals sullenly retired. The dead of both armies lay strewn around the guns, while the horses belonging to them were slaughtered in their rear. In the meantime Genl Trimble with his brigade & the two regts of Col: Pattons, were slowly retiring before Fremont, from Cross Keys to the Shenandoah river. At 10 AM, Genl Jackson percieving [sic] from the protracted contest with shields that it was now too late in the day to hope to turn upon Fremont, sent orders to those officers to hasten to his assistance & to burn the bridge after crossing it. Genl Taliaferros brigade, which had been left to hold Pt Repic was ordered to the front, & arriving with great celerity took part in the pursuit. Ashbys Cavy completed their rout, & pursued them for eight miles, gathering prisoners, small arms, &c.

The Fedls are reported to have had 8,000 men engage[d] in the battle of Port Republic, & the Confates three small brigades of Infy, three regts of cavy but superior force of arty. The Feds fought with steadiness & courage & inflicted a loss on Jackson of 91 officers & men killed & 686 wounded. Their escape was facilitated by the narrow road they pursued, through impenetrable

9                      Jackson

 

 thickets, which enabled a small rear guard to cover their retreat & prevented the maneuvers of cavy at the approach of evg Genl Jackson, recalled his men & retired from Lewiston towards the mouth of Browns gap in the Blue ridge mts.

While he was refreshing his men near Browns gap, Fremont was apparently preparing to bridge the Shenandoah, but on the 10th he withdrew, & was followed by the Confederate Cavy under Col Mumford [sic], which on the 12th entered Harrisonburg, Fremont having retired down the valley. Four hundred & fifty prisoners were taken on the field of battle, which with the sick & wounded in the hospitals, amounted to 900, 1,000 small arms & 9 field pieces fell into our hands. The entire loss of killed & wounded is estimated at 2000. The detention at the south river, caused the failure of the 1st attack which was made with two few numbers. The troops should have forded the stream. Genl Taylors brigade, in consequence of the wilderness he had to penetrate, came out on the left front of the enemy instead of the rear of his left. Fifteen days previously Jackson was confronted opposed in front & flank with two armies of about 40,000 men, while his own force consisted of 15,000, & he 100 miles from his base. This battle retained him from the presence of both, & only occasioned him a loss of about 1500 men. Within 40 days he had marched 400 miles, fought four pitched battles, defeated four separate armies, in addition to several combats, captured 3,500 prisoners, killed & wounded a larger number & neutralized forces three times as numerous & detained inactive McDowell at Fredricsbg on the 12th June. Jackson marched out from Browns gap to Mt Meridian, on the middle fork of the shenandoah, above Pt Repub. The troops were encamped in the woodlands between the two rivers, enjoying their repose, while the horses fed in the abundant pastures.

 

 

 

Source: Checked against original document, Mary Custis Lee Papers, Mss1 L5144 a, Section 20, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2019 April 5

 

                          

1. Lee wrote “policy” above “intention” as an apparent substitution, but he also crossed out “policy.”

2. William T. Poague (1835-1914), an artillery officer in the Confederate army. After the war, he worked as a treasurer at the Virginia Military Institute. He was author of Gunner with Stonewall. Captain George W. Wooding (1838-1863) was commander of the Danville Artillery. He was a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College. He was mortally wounded at the battle of Fredericksburg and died on 1863 February 1. Joseph Carpenter (1834-1863) was commander of the Alleghany Artillery also known as the Alleghany Rough Artillery. His younger brother John C. Carpenter (1839-1912) took command of the unit following the death of his brother after his death from wounds received at Cedar Mountain (though he did not die until February 1863). His brother Samuel also fought in the same artillery unit.

3. Louis Blenker (1812-1863), a native of Germany. He was discharged from the army in March of 1863 and died after a fall from his horse—which disrupted a previous wound—in October of that year. Robert H. Milroy (1816-1890) a native of Indiana, who had fought in the Mexican War. He served in various theatres for the Union, including Western Virginia, where he garnered a reputation for extreme tactics against guerrillas. After the war, he worked as an agent for Native American affairs. Robert C. Schenck (1809-1880), a native of Ohio. He rose to command the VIII Corps in the eastern theatre of war.  He was wounded seriously in the arm at the Second Battle of Bull Run. He rejoined the army, though he resigned in the fall of 1863 to take his position in Congress.

4. James Cantey (1818-1874) was a native of South Carolina, where he went to college. After serving in the Mexican War, he moved to Alabama, where he was a planter. From the spring of 1864 to the end of the war, he served in the western theatre. His men surrendered with Johnston’s men at Bentonville, but it is uncertain whether or not Cantey personally surrendered them or whether or not he was captured. After the war, he returned to his plantation near Fort Mitchell, Alabama, where he is buried. 

5. Captain Alfred Ranson Courtney (1833-1914), a native of King and Queen County, he was court martialed for bad conduct during the Maryland campaign but later served in the Army of Tennessee. He served in the Virginia legislature after the war and died in Richmond. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery. Captain John A. M. Lusk, Captain John Bowyer Brockenbrough (1836-1901), who was wounded at First Bull Run and at Fredericksburg. He retired from the service in 1864 and served on a Slaves Claim Board in Richmond. Captain Charles James Raine (1834-1863) was a native of Lynchburg, Virginia. He was killed during the Mine Run campaign of the fall of 1863. Arnold Elzey (1816-1871) was a native of Maryland who joined the Confederate army. He was a veteran of the Mexican War and the Seminole wars.

6. Brigadier General Isaac Trimble (1802-1888), a native of Culpeper County, who was wounded and left on the field after Pickett's Charge. He spent the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp. George Steuart (1828-1903), a native of Maryland who fought in the major battles with the Army of Northern Virginia. He surrendered with Lee at Appomattox.

7. “Destructive” written above “heavy,” but neither words were crossed out.

8. Captain Roger Preston Chew (1843-1921), a native of Loughton County who commanded a horse artillery unit called “Chew’s Battery.” He eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, serving in the major campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia. After the war, he was a businessman and politician in West Virginia and died in Charles Town.

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