Wednesday, May 23, 2012

150th Anniversary of the Battle of Front Royal

We've reached another milestone in Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Vally Campaign -- today, 23 May 1862, Jackson's force routed the smaller Union garrison at Front Royal, Virginia.

The sitaution was this:  Jackson, having chased Fremont's Union Mountain Department force back into the hills of modern West Virginia, turned north, and by 21 May, was just south of New Market, Virginia.  Off to the east, and not yet relevant, was the Union Rappahannock Department force of US Gen. Irvin McDowell.  The main Union force actually in the Shenandoah Valley at that point was that of US Gen. Nathaniel Banks, who sat at Strasburg, VA with his army.  Banks had detached a small garrison under US Colonel John Kenly to Front Royal to protect the northern end of the Page Valley.  Banks expected that if Jackson made a move, it would be down (north) the Shenandoah Valley to his prepared position at Strasburg.

File:Jackson's Valley Campaign May 21 - June 9, 1862.png
Map of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign from Front Royal to Port Republic.  Map by Hal Jespersen.

Running down center of the Shenandoah Valley, from Harrisonburg, Virginia in the south to Strasburg-Front Royal in the north, is the Massanutten Mountain.  Stonewall Jackson used this ridge to great advantage.  Crossing the Massanutten at New Market Gap, Jackson proceeded up the narrow Page Valley, which is wedged between the Blue Ridge and Massanutten Mountain, and struck not the main Union army in the Valley at Strasburg, but the much smaller garrison at Front Royal.

On 23 May 1862, Jackson attacked Front Royal, routing the inferior Union force under Colonel Kenly, and forcing Banks to abandon his position at Strasburg to protect the much more important position at Winchester.  This battle was notable for two regiments designated the 1st Maryland, one Union and one Confederate, fought in battle.  Two days later, Jackson and Banks would fight at Winchester...

For the National Park Service account of the Battle of Front Royal, check here:

Finally, here is the Civil War Daily Gazette's account of the day's actions:

Off to Winchester...

Live well!

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