Shenandoah 1862

This is a book by Peter Cozzens that covers the 1862 Valley Campaign.

While the book is generally accurate, I was disappointed to see it start off with a perplexing error: “From his tactical defeat but strategic victory at Kernstown in March 1862 until his final two victories at Cross keys and Port Republic in early June 1862, Jackson accomplished the broad goals that his immediate commander, Gen. Joseph E. (Joe) Johnston, and later Maj. Gen. Robert E. Lee, as general in chief and military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, set out for him.” [p. 1]  Robert E. Lee was confirmed as a full general on August 31, 1861, ranking ahead of Johnston.  When Lee was Jefferson Davis’ military adviser, he was technically termed “Commanding General,” not “general in chief,” and without question he was not a major general but in fact was a full general.  Cozzens repeats the error in rank on page 11.

Cozzens gives us a short profile of Brigadier General Frederick W. Lander.  “At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Lincoln administration appointed Lander a civil agent and sent him on a confidential mission to Governor Sam Houston of Texas, with authority to order Federal troops in the state to support the governor.  Later, as a volunteer aide on the staff of General McClellan, Lander distinguished himself in the engagements of Philippi and Rich Mountain.  That won him a commission as a brigadier general of volunteers and command of a brigade in Brig. Gen. Charles P. Stone’s Corps of Observation near Poolesville, Maryland, across the Potomac River from a small Confederate force at Leesburg, Virginia.  Lander shared Jackson’s yearning for action.  In early October he traveled to Washington to lobby for a new assignment.  Ambushing Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward as they left the White House one evening, Lander promised the president he could do great things if granted a special force.  With a handful of good men–loyal Virginians, whom he would raise himself–Lander would strike south and erase the ‘cowardly shame’ of Bull Run, or die trying.  Watching the rugged brigadier march off, a bemused Lincoln quipped to Seward: ‘If he really wanted a job like that, I could give it to him.  Let him take his squad and go down behind Manassas and break up the railroad.’  The commanding general of the army, Winfield Scott, took Lander more seriously.  On October 13 he offered Lander, whom he once called the ‘great natural American soldier,’ command of a newly created Department of Harpers Ferry and Cumberland, which embraced a 120-mile stretch of the strategically critical Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  Thirty miles of the line cut through hostile territory.” [p. 10]  Lander turned out to be a highly aggressive officer.  Wounded at the Ball’s Bluff fiasco he testified before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.  “Lander did not know if a winter campaign could be undertaken with the pampered soldiers of the Army of the Potomac, ‘who are housed and buttered up about Washington and taught to believe that if they make a march of three miles it will get into the papers.’  But with the Ohio and Indiana boys on duty in western Virginia, he could whip Jackson at Winchester in any season, as could Banks, if properly supported.  Lander urged that an advance of either or both commands be ordered at once.  As he hobbled back to his E Street home after testifying on December 27, Lander looked forward to passing the New Year with his wife; his doctor had instructed him to rest his wounded leg at least another five days.  Instead, he found the following special orders awaiting him: ‘Brigadier General Frederick W. Lander, United States Volunteers, will repair to Romney and assume command.’  Before setting out, Lander requested McClellan’s permission to seize Martinsburg and Stephenson’s Depot, three miles north of Winchester, as soon as practicable after his arrival at Romney.  And he scribbled a brief note to Lincoln.  ‘We need fighting men,’ he told the president.  ‘Up to the present time [I] have seen so many shaking nerves in this war that I sometimes doubt my eyesight.’ ” [pp. 52-53]  Lander spent the early part of 1862 champing at the bit to go on the offensive.  “Had he known of the freedom of action his close-mouthed opponent enjoyed, General Lander undoubtedly would have sworn a blue streak of envious rage.  McClellan kept him leashed tight, bringing him to heel each time he suggested an advance.  When Jackson quit the Potomac on January 7, Lander beseeched General Banks to join him in pursuit of the Virginian, but Banks demurred; the risks in a winter operation were too great.  Lander was incredulous.  ‘Is not war a game of risks, are not fear and doubt states of nervous sentiment which embarrass leaders and prevent results?’ he scribbled to himself.  ‘Are we less able to penetrate the enemy’s country than Jackson to penetrate ours?’  Lander laid aside these intemperate notes, but the telegram he sent McClellan begging permission to start after Jackson with or without Banks, was sufficiently immoderate to provoke McClellan’s ire.  ‘Say to General Lander that I might comment very severely on the tone of his dispatches but abstain,’ McClellan wired Banks.  ‘Give him positive orders to repair at once to Romney and carry out the instructions I have sent already to fall back on the railway.  It would be folly to cross the river at Hancock under the present circumstances.’  Banks forwarded McClellan’s instructions to Lander, along with a parenthetical remark about Lander being ‘too suggestive and critical’ that McClellan had not intended him to see.  Lander was furious, the more so when he compared McClellan’s lassitude with the pluck of General Kelley, who, in reporting the success of his Blue’s Gap diversion to Lander, had asked him if he could not ‘be reinforced from Banks’s column to any extent you may require to enable you to cross the river and act offensively?’  Again Lander vented his anger at the lost opportunity in a note intended for no one, scrawling in the margin of McClellan’s orders:  ‘The country wants folly, asks for folly. … A demoralized enemy, starving and fearful, believing we are in force, a dark night, a snowy road, I would have stampeded the whole rearguard and burned his wagons.’  Instead, it became his duty to go to Romney and withdraw Kelley’s victorious troops to the Potomac.” [pp. 90-91]  Had Lander lived, he may have been instrumental in stopping Jackson’s Valley Campaign before it took off.  Unfortunately, his leg wound never healing and getting infected, he died on March 2.  His replacement in command of his division was Brig. Gen. James Shields.

Most campaign histories talk about how the confederates generally respected private property.  Cozzens shows that the confederate army was also capable of property destruction in addition to the Union army.  “Left to their own devices, the men of the Stonewall Brigade launched an attack on the Strother family home.  Shoving aside Colonel Strother, whom Lt. Sam Moore derided as ‘a driveling old Unionist,’ they ransacked ‘Porte Crayon’s’ library, rifling through manuscripts, upsetting easels and drawing tables, and ‘confiscating his fencing masks and foils as contraband of war.’  Garnett’s Virginians also plundered the Berkeley Springs Hotel and nearby summerhouses belonging to the Strother family, while marveling at their grandeur.” [p. 77]  Jackson himself was directly responsible for civilian property damage.  “His humor hardly improved by the Federal escape, Jackson ordered his artillery to open fire on Hancock [Maryland].  There was no military justification for such action: the town was full of civilians, and Jackson had no intention of forcing a crossing.  But he was angry because the Federals had shelled Shepherdstown, Virginia, on several occasions the year before, ‘while there were no troops in the place and it was not used as a means of defense.’  In Jackson’s mind, such an outrage demanded retribution, even if it meant killing Southern sympathizers, of whom there were many in Hancock.” [pp. 78-79]

Cozzens also talks about the actions of enslaved people in the Valley.  “Slaves not only betrayed their masters in small matters; many also took advantage of the Northern presence to break the chains of bondage.  Owners invented tales of Yankee atrocities to frighten their chattel, but to no avail.  In less than a week, one of Charlestown’s leading citizens lost a third of his farmhands, including the family seamstress and her husband, who took with them a wagon, two horses, and two mules.  A prominent resident who expected greater loyalty from his slaves entreated Wilder Dwight, the urbane and immensely popular major of the 2nd Massachusetts, not to take his corn or grain.  ‘I’ve a large family of Negroes dependent on me, and I must have enough left to feed them and to take care of my horses and cows ’til spring.  My poor servants will starve.’  Dwight saw the man again a week later.  All he had left were a cow and a horse.  ‘His dependent servants have taken care of themselves, and Mr. Ransom is rubbing his eyes over the abrupt lightening of his burdens.’ ” [p. 124]

The book is very well done and is perhaps the most complete account of the Valley Campaign currently available, as Cozzens mines not only confederate sources but Union sources as well to give a balanced pictures of both sides of the Campaign.  Even so, I think Tanner’s Stonewall in the Valley is better from the standpoint of military analysis.  Both books should be read by students of the campaign.  I can highly recommend this work.

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