JACKSON, Thomas J. (1824-1863), General, C.S.A. Autograph letter signed ("T. J. Jackson") to Gen. Richard S. Ewell, Leabanon, White Sulphur Springs, 16 May 1862. 1 page, 4to., worn at folds.
JACKSON MANEUVERS IN THE VALLEY: "A KIND PROVIDENCE WILL ENABLE US TO...STRIKE A SUCCESSFUL BLOW"
An important letter from Jackson in the midst of his famous Shenandoah Valley campaign. "A dispatch recd from Ashby states that neither Banks nor Shields has left the valley, but that Banks has sent some Arty. and Infty. towards Marshfield. This being the case, I have directed Ashby not to leave the Valley, but to cut off communication between Banks & myself. You will, it appears to me be able to break up the Manassas Gap R. R. easily (without Ashby's command) to such an extent as to prevent its being used for some time. Please let me know what the prospect is for this. The high water I fear will delay me some, but I design moving via Harrisonburg down the Valley and it may be that a Kind Providence will enable us to unite and strike a successful blow."
Launching his attack on 8 May at McDowell, Virginia, Jackson moved north up the Valley towards Banks at Strasburg, continually improvising his movements in light of changing intelligence reports like the one he refers to here. The Union forces were badly spread across a long arc, with Fremont in West Virginia, Banks at Strasburg, and Shields and McDowell at Fredericksburg. Jackson, along with Robert E. Lee in Richmond, sensed the great opportunity this opened for Confederate forces. The same day as this letter, Lee tells Jackson to strike a "successful blow" against Banks, but not to "lose sight of the fact that it may become necessary for you to come to the support of General Johnston" at Richmond. The shifting nature of Jackson's plans made it hard on subordinates like Ewell, who complained that "I have been keeping one eye on Banks, one on Jackson...until I am sick and worn down. Jackson wants me to watch Banks. At Richmond they want me everywhere and call me off, when, at the same time, I am compelled to remain until that enthusiastic fanatic comes to some conclusion" (Tanner, Stonewall in the Valley, 189).
A frustrated Ewell went to Jackson's camp on Sunday, 18 May, to clarify their next moves, which proved to be brilliant strokes. Lulling Banks into expecting an attack at Strasburg, Jackson wheeled his 8,000 man force over Massanutten Mountain to link up with Ewell's 9,000 at Luray. Now 17,000 strong, this combined force easily routed the garrison at Fort Royal on 23 May, causing Banks to flee towards Winchester, with Jackson in pursuit. At Winchester on 25 May 15,000 rebel troops sent Banks's 6,000 bluecoats retreating across the Potomac. Jackson's attacks led Lincoln to halt McDowell's move toward Richmond, and ordered Fremont to break off his operations in West Virginia to reinforce the armies in the Valley. Fighting his way south, Jackson by 9 June had accomplished a tremendous military feat, one still studied in war colleges. A force of only 17,000 Jackson diverted some 60,000 Union troops and obstructed two major Northern actions--McClellan's Richmond assault and Fremont's Tennessee campaign. McClellan's overwhelming superiority in numbers outside Richmond had effectively been neutralized.