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New Troubles for "Old Jack"
Was it a major change of Federal strategy with which "Stone wall" Jackson had to deal in mid-July, 1862? Had the enemy opened a "second front"? At the time of Jackson's departure from the Richmond line, after the Seven Days' Battles, the new Federal Army of Virginia appeared to be making ready for an advance to the "Gordonsville Loop" of the Virginia Central Railroad. The commander of this Army, Maj. Gen. John Pope, was intent on assuming and holding the offensive. Another Federal force of unknown strength was at Fredericksburg. This column, uniting with Pope, might overwhelm Jackson. Either one of the Union armies might push forward, cut the railway and sever communications between Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley.
Against the possibility of such a drive, Jackson had, first of all, to protect the long stretch of rail from Hanover Junction to Charlottesville. He had, also, to watch for an opening and, if he found it, to strike at once. The Southern cause could not wait on the leisured convergence of superior force. In this spirit, Jackson's first counter-move was to place his Army at Beaver Dam, whence he marched a little westward to Frederickshall. When Jackson had satisfied himself that the greater part of the Union troops under Pope were North and West of Culpeper, the Confederate Army of the Valley advanced on the 19th of July to Gordonsville.
Upon the arrival of Jackson at the town where he had halted a month previously it was observed that both he and his troops looked the worse for their adventures in the defense of the capital. Jackson may not have been aware of this, but he was conscious that hismen needed a renewal of stiff discipline. Before he had left the scene of the battles around Richmond, he had prescribed for his troops the tonic of three drills a day and the prophylaxis of abstention from visits to the Confederate capital. Now, as Jackson awaited developments, he sought vigorously to restore whatever might have been lost in soldierly qualities. It was an exacting task. Nine days after he reached Gordonsville, the General wrote Mrs. Jackson briskly: "My darling wife, I am just overburdened with work, and I hope you will not think hard at receiving only very short letters from your loving husband. A number of officers are with me, but people keep coming to my tent -- though let me say no more. A Christian should never complain. The apostle Paul says, 'I glory in tribulations? What a bright example for others!" Among the "tribulations" he may have counted that of having no time to read a copy that Jeb Stuart had sent him of a new, Confederate edition of the strategist's bible, Napoleon's Maxims of War. Jackson put the volume carefully with his personal baggage, but neither then nor thereafter, so far as the pages indicate, did he ever read it. If he had time for Holy Writ, that was all. Newspapers he still declined to peruse lest they destroy his Christian humility. They spoke too well of him.
For a few days, the General's personal hard work meant ease for his subordinates. Maj. Franklin Paxton, who was then acting as a voluntary aide to Jackson, wrote cheerfully home: "Everything here seems so quiet. The troops are drilling, and there is every indication that [they] will rest here for sometime. Considering the severe hardships through which they have passed since the war began, it is very much needed. Everything has a happy, quiet appearance, such as I have not seen in the army since we were in camp this time last year after the battle of Manassas."
The arrival of A. P. Hill's Division did not disturb this calm or add to Jackson's troubles. Quietly and in good order, though perhaps with more transportation than regulations allowed, the Light Division reached Jackson on July 29 and the days immediately following. In dispatching Hill from Richmond Lee had written the commander of the Army of the Valley: "A. P. Hill you will, I think, find a good officer with whom you can consult, and by advising with your division commanders as to their movements much trouble can be saved you in arranging details, as they can act more intelligently. I wish to save you trouble from increasing your command." This was as pointed as it was tactful and it would be particularly apropos of the projected movement, which involved a large force for one man to handle unless he was willing to trust his subordinates and to reveal to them enough of his plans to assure swift, co-ordinated action. The event was to show that Lee's counsel was lost on Jackson. If "Stonewall" was willing, as he had told Boteler, to follow Lee blindfolded, he required no less of his subordinates. Hill said nothing and asked nothing. Doubtless he was glad enough to be away from Longstreet.
If Hill kept the peace that Paxton had praised, others did not. Col. John F. Neff of the Thirty-third Virginia was involved in some unexplained clash with General Winder and was placed under arrest. Some of Winder's privates of the Stonewall Brigade had straggled badly on the march to Gordonsville and had wandered far in search of food at private homes. Winder decided that the one way of stopping this was to punish it severely. Thirty offenders were marched into the woods and were "bucked" for a day. Their resentment was worse than their straggling. About half of them deserted that night. Others were so embittered that their officers went to Jackson and acquainted him with the incident. He thought it politic to direct that men be not bucked again. This ended that humiliating form of punishment, but it did not cool the wrath of the sufferers. John Casler reported: "[General Winder] was a good general and a brave man, and knew how to handle troops in battle; but he was very severe, and very tyrannical, so much so that he was 'spotted' by some of the Brigade; and we could hear it remarked by some one nearly every day that the next fight we got into would be the last for Winder." That in the Southern Cromwell's own Brigade of the Model Army!
Simultaneously with this unhappy affair in the Stonewall Brigade, Jackson's cavalry was in the turmoil of reorganization. Following the death of Ashby, the Secretary of War had asked Lee, not Jackson, to suggest a possible successor, who would have the rank of Brigadier General. Lee had not been able to recommend a competent, available cavalryman. He had thought of Robert Ransom, but he did not feel he could spare that officer, nor did he believe the North Carolinian would care to exchange command of a strong infantry Brigade for the direction of Jackson's horse. The name of Fitz Lee, which was urged by Stuart, was rejected by Lee on the ground that he did not know whether his nephew could win the support of Ashby's men. Col. T. T. Munford had been mentioned by Lee as a possibility, as had been George H. Steuart. Instead of Munford, who had shown much promise, and of "Maryland" Steuart, who had failed definitely in cavalry command, the President chose Col. Beverley H. Robertson and promoted him to the grade of Brigadier General.
Colonel Robertson was a Midland Virginian, 36 years of age, a graduate of West Point in the Class of 1849, a veteran of much Indian service and in person the embodiment of the fashionable French cavalry officer of the time. Somewhat bald, with unsmiling eyes, Robertson wore long, flowing mustaches and whiskers in the mode of Louis Napoleon. The month before the outbreak of war, while he was on duty in Utah, Robertson was promoted Captain of the Second Dragoons. After the attack on Sumter, he sent word to his friends that he would be in Virginia and ready to serve in her behalf as soon as he could get home; but he was not able to reach Richmond until Aug. 18, 1861. Ten days before his arrival there, he had been dismissed officially from the United States Army on the ground that he had "given proof of his disloyalty." By the time
Posted December 27, 2013