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1862 June 18: Three Battles in the Shenandoah Valley

June 18, 2012

We have reports on three different battles, almost back-to-back-to-back in June of 1862 in Rockingham County in the Shenandoah Valley of northern Virginia.

The first battle, on June 6, is called Harrisonburg in these reports but is also known as Good’s Farm.  Confederate Colonel Turner Ashby1 was in command of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s rear guard.  On June 6th, at Good’s Farm near Harrisonburg, the 1st New Jersey Cavalry attacked Ashby’s position.  Although Ashby defeated the cavalry attack, a subsequent infantry engagement resulted in first his horse being shot and then Ashby himself being shot and killed.

Next came the Battle of Cross Keys on June 8, 1862.  General John C. Frémont’s Union army had more than double the soldiers as Confederate General Richard S. Ewell’s forces, yet suffered almost double the casualties in this decisive Confederate victory.

At the Battle of Port Republic on June 9th, the tables were turned and Stonewall Jackson had nearly twice as many troops as Union General James Shields.  Although the Confederates won, it was the most costly battle fought by Jackson’s army during his Valley Campaign.

The Union’s forces were forced to retreat, which then allowed Jackson to slip away and reinforce General Robert E. Lee’s army for the Seven Days Battles, coming up later in June.  Jackson’s Valley Campaign had upset the General George B. McClellan’s plans and troop schedules for his Peninsula Campaign.

These reports appeared in The Prescott Journal on June 18, 1862.

W  A  R     N  E  W  S  !

FROM GENERAL FREMONT.

The Fight at Harrisonburg.

FURTHER PARTICULARS.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY, Camp near }
Point Republic, June 8. }

To Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War:—The army left Harrisonburg at 6 o’clock A. M., and this morning my advance engaged the rebels about seven miles from that place, near Union Church.  The enemy was very advantageously situated in timber, having chosen his own position, forming a smaller circle than our own, and with his troops formed en masse.  It consisted of Jackson’s entire force.  The battle began with heavy firing at 11 o’clock, and lasted with great obstinacy [sic] and violence until 4 o’clock P. M.

Some skirmishing and artillery firing continued from that time until dark.  Our troops fought occasionaly [sic] under the murderous fire of greatly superior numbers—the hottest of the fire being on the left wing, which was held by Gen. Stahl’s2 brigade, consisting of five regiments.

Bayonet and canister shot were used freely, and with great effect by our men.

The loss on both sides is very great.  Ours is very heavy among officers.

A full report of those who distinguished themselves will be made without partiality.

I desire to say that both officers and men behaved with splendid gallantry, and that the service of the artillery was especially admirable.

We are encampted [sic] on the field of battle, which may be renewed at any moment.

J. C. FREMONT,
Maj. Gen. Commanding.

Jackson Attacks Shields’ Command!
H E AV Y   F I G H T I N G !
Rebels Compelled to Retreat !
HEAVY LOSS ON BOTH SIDES!

WASHINGTON, June 11.

Advices received at the War Department state Jackson’s army attacked Shields’ advance on Monday morning, near Port Republic.  The conflict is said to have been maintained for four hours, by about 2,000 of our men against the main body of Gen. Jackson’s army.  The enemy’s force became so overwhelming in numbers, that my advance was compelled to fall back, which it did in good order, until it met the main body of Shields’ command near Conrad’s Store.  As soon as this was effected, the enemy in turn retired.  The fighting is said to have been severe, and loss heavy on both sides.

A private letter says Gen. Shields had previously succeeded in destroying a large quantity of supplies belonging to rebels at Milford and at Conrad’s store.

The damage by recent rains, including carrying away bridges over the Branch of the Shenandoah river, materially interfered with the Commissioner’s arrangements and the movements of troops.

SURAY, June 10, via WASHINGTON, June 11.  Colonel Carroll,3 commanding the 4th Brigade, consisting of the 8th and 11th Pennsylvania, 7th Indiana and 1st Virginia, about 1,600 strong, reached Port Republic Saturday ;  reconnoitered, and found the enemy in town, and had a skirmish.  He concluded to hold the bridge, and ordered it not to be burned.  He put guns in position commanding it.  At 6 o’clock A. M. he was opened on by some twenty heavy guns, placed in position during the night.

Our forces tried to reach the bridge repeatedly, to destroy it, but were met by storms of bullets, and had to retire.  A large cavalry force crossed and attacked our troops, while their infantry followed, our men opposing them at every step, after driving them back with heavy loss, but the numbers after Gen. Tyler’s4 brigade had arrived, were much inferior to the enemy.  They being at least five to one it was impossible to hold our position, and we were compelled to fall back, our boys fighting every foot of the way.

After falling back some three or four miles a body of cavalry were sent to attack us, but they were compelled to retire, when the engagement ended, having lasted five hours.  Loss in killed, wounded and prisoners unknown, but is large, as is also that of the enemy.  Col. Carroll’s horse fell, injuring him badly.—Col. Buckley,5 of the 29th Ohio, was badly wounded.  His men charged three times to get his body, but it was carried off by the enemy.

Capt. Keogh6 charged with a body of Cavalry, then held the bridge some time during a terrible storm of grape.

This was one of the most hotly contested engagements of the whole war, as indicated by the losses, compared with the numbers engaged.  The men fought like demons.

Later.—The two regiments from the Frst [sic] Brigade arrived in time to assist in covering the retreat.  The Pioneer Corps also helped.

Col. Buckley has arrived, wounded.

The Battle of Harrisonburgh. [sic]
COL. ASHBY KILLED.
The Rebel Loss.

McCLELLANS HEADQUARTERS June 12

Richmond papers of Monday confirm accounts of the battle near Harrisonburg, in which the gallant Col. Ashby was killed.  The same paper contains the names of the killed and wounded in seven rebel regiments, making a total of 559.

The weather still continues unfavorable and the roads are in an impassable condition.

1.  Turner Ashby, Jr. (1828-1862), nicknamed the “Black Knight of the Confederacy,” was Stonewall Jackson’s cavalry commander in the Shenandoah Valley. He had been assigned to Stonewall Jackson’s command at Harper’s Ferry. In the spring of 1862 he assumed command of the 7th Virginia Cavalry. At the First Battle of Winchester, Ashby failed to cut off General Banks’ retreat because his troops were plundering captured wagons.
2.  Julius H. Stahel-Számwald (1827-1912) was an Hungarian soldier who emigrated to the United States 1859. When the Civil War started, Stahel, together with Louis Blenker, recruited the 8th NewYork Infantry. Stahel, who had dropped the “Számwald” portion of his name, became its first lieutenant colonel and in April 1862 became the colonel.  He led a brigade under Frémont at the Battle of Cross Keys.
3.  Samuel Sprigg Carroll (1832-1893), a descendant of Declaration of Independence-signer Charles Carroll, was a graduate of West Point and a career military officer.  At the beginning of the War, he became a captain in the 10th U.S. Infantry and then colonel of the 8th Ohio Infantry in December 1861. During the Valley Campaign, Carroll commanded the 4th Brigade in Shields’ division, and was in command of the vanguard of the Union army at the Battle of Cross Keys.
4.  Erastus Bernard Tyler (1822-1892) was a businessman and merchant before the Civil War. When the War started, he helped raise the 7th Ohio Infantry and was its first colonel. In early 1862 he was given command of a brigade, which was eventually assigned to Shields’ division. Tyler had just been promoted to brigadier general on May 14, 1862. He was in command of the Union forces at the Battle of Port Republic.
5.  Lewis P. Buckley (1804-1868) was first commissioned as captain of Company G, 19th Ohio Infantry, a 3-month unit, in April of 1861 at age 54, and was promoted to major a month later. When his regiment mustered out in August 1861, he re-enlisted and became the 29th Ohio Infantry’s first colonel. The 29th Ohio had served in Maryland and Virginia since January 1862 and up to this point had participated in the Battles of Winchester and Port Republic.
6.  Myles Walter Keogh (1840-1876) immigrated from Ireland in 1862, specifically to fight in the Civil War, was given the rank of captain and assigned to Irish-born Shields’ division. He nearly captured Stonewall Jackson at the Battle of Port Republic. Keogh will be killed with another Civil War soldier, George Armstrong Custer, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876.

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