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A History Lesson from Wayne: Stonewall’s Brigade

Stonewall’s Brigade
The Virginia Brigade was first formed by Gen. Stonewall Jackson at Harper’s Ferry on April 27, 1861. He consolidated the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th, and 33rd Virginia Infantry regiments and the Rockbridge Artillery Battery of Rockbridge County, along with units recruited in or near the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Thirteen companies of the Brigade were recruited from western counties that would become part of West Virginia. Jackson’s Virginia Brigade became a part of the Army of the Shenandoah on May 15, and the Valley District on July 20.

Jackson’s brigade was initially referred to informally as “Virginia’s First Brigade” until July 21, 1861, when, at First Manassas, both the Brigade and its general received the nickname “Stonewall.” General Barnard E. Bee of South Carolina is said to have made his immortal remark (although the exact words were not recorded at the time) as he rallied his brigade for the final phase of the battle: “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall; c’mon boys, let’s go to his assistance and rally behind the Virginians!”

This is considered the turning point and the first major battle of the Civil War, when the Union troops were repulsed and retreated back to Washington, D.C. Jackson was promoted to higher command, but the Brigade remained in his chain of command until his death. The Brigade was fiercely loyal to Jackson and served as an inspiration to all the Confederate Regiments. His first replacement commander was Brig. Gen. Richard B. Garnett that fall.

Thus, the Stonewall Brigade was known as the most disciplined and skilled soldiers of Jackson’s Army of the Shenandoah Valley. They were Jackson’s elite and favorite combat unit and were placed in key positions of action in almost every major battle of the Army of the Shenandoah under Jackson’s command. It was the Brigade’s leadership that accomplished what is considered to be the most brilliant military campaign of the Civil War: Jackson’s Valley Campaign of 1862.

Jackson’s Valley Campaign of 1862
In early June, two separate Union armies of 20,000 moved to unite near Strasburg and crush Jackson in a trap. Jackson raced south, eluding the trap, while the two Northern armies pursued him on either side of Massanutten Mountain, which runs down the spine of the Shenandoah Valley ending in Harrisonburg.

Employing audacity, rapid, and unpredictable movements, the Stonewall Brigade of 17,000 men marched 646 miles in 48 days and won several battles as they successfully engaged three Union armies (52,000 men) throughout the Greater Shenandoah Valley. The finale of the campaign occurred just outside Harrisonburg, where Jackson masterfully engaged in the twin battles of Cross Keys on June 8 and Port Republic on June 9, soundly defeating two different Union armies of 20,000 each day.

After these “twin battles” and their defeats, Union forces withdrew from the Valley. Jackson, having accomplished his mission, moved east and joined Gen. Robert E. Lee in front of Richmond.

Throughout the war, the Union commanders were always at a loss as to where the Stonewall Brigade was or where and when it would attack; the element of surprise was central to Jackson’s strategy. Informally, the Federal troops nicknamed him “The Valley Ghost” as they could never find his units and thus could never plan an attack on his army. He lost only one battle (Kernstown) during his brilliant career and that loss was attributed to faulty information furnished him about the size of the enemy army.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson’s_Valley_Campaign
Shenandoah at War: http://www.shenandoahatwar.org/The-History/The-Campaigns/Jackson-s-1862-Valley-Campaign

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