Review: The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862

Books On Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign

The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862
edited by Gary Gallagher

I’m going to try something different for this book. Since it is a collection of essays, I plan on reviewing each essay on its own merits. I will do this for all future Gallagher books, and I hope to go back and reread past books to do the same. I feel that readers will get a little more out of the reviews for these books if I can give an overall feel for what the essays are about. Overall, this was not one of my favorite books in the series. Not one article focused on a tactical unit at a given battle, and there were no tactical maps in the entire book. Of the two maps available, both were just overviews of the Valley and of Western Virginia as a whole. Fortunately, every book in this series, including this volume, is of high quality. So even though it was not my favorite book in the series, I still thoroughly enjoyed some of the essays, especially William J. Miller’s essay on the Federal Generals who opposed Jackson and Robert E.L. Krick’s mini-biography of Charles Winder. This is a solid book and I definitely recommend it.

255 pp., 2 maps

“You Must Either Attack Richmond or Give Up the Job and Come to the Defence of Washington”

by Gary Gallagher

In his article, Gary Gallagher argues that Abraham Lincoln was not scared that Jackson would attack Washington, and contrary to popular history, he knew exactly what “game” Jackson was playing. His often quoted letter to George McClellan asking him to attack Richmond or come to the defense of Washington was, according to Gallagher, a ploy to get the notoriously slow McClellan to attack. In the meantime, he tried to coordinate Fremont, Banks, and McDowell so that they could trap Jackson near Winchester. When McDowell and Fremont moved slowly and failed to close the way south, Lincoln’s plan looked worse than it really was. This was an interesting article and showed the Valley Campaign (which is normally seen from Stonewall Jackson’s eye) in a very different light.

“The Metamorphosis In Stonewall Jackson’s Public Image”

by Robert K. Krick

This second essay attempts to explain that Jackson was looked on as fondly and with as much enthusiasm after the Valley Campaign and in later years. Jackson detractors have claimed that Lost Cause Mythologists created Jackson’s legend after his death and especially after the War when many recollections had faded in clarity due to old age. Krick, whose mastery of the National Archives and other research institutions is well known, does a good job showing many soldiers’ quotes praising Jackson in the midst of the Campaign. Also, he is fair in presenting the belief of some of Stonewall’s Officers that Jackson was a lunatic. But I have one problem with the article. Krick is a well-known Longstreet hater, and his personal bias against Longstreet makes a brief appearance in this essay. He includes a paragraph mentioning that Jackson’s detractors among the other Generals of the Confederacy were jealous. He states, “Longstreet, of course, spent many decades after both Jackson and Lee were dead awkwardly attempting to assail their reputations in service of his own. The embittered general accomplished infinitely more for his enemies than for himself in the process.” The paragraph as a whole and especially those two sentences have nothing to do with the topic. They were just a cheap shot at Longstreet and were uncalled for in my opinion.

“Such Men as Shields, Banks, and Fremont: Federal Command in Western Virginia, March-June 1862”

by William J. Miller

Miller has written a lengthy article on the men who opposed the great Stonewall in the Valley Campaign, a viewpoint also lacking attention. Miller postulates that to blindly group these men together as incompetent fools is inadvertently a cheap shot at Jackson’s ability as a soldier. He goes on to show that the Federal performance in the Valley was beset by numerous issues out of these three’s hands; supplies, other objectives, conflicting orders, first from McClellan and later from Washington, and general lack of concern over Jackson and his men. He goes on to state that once the Union effort in the Valley was all pulling in the same direction, Richmond had called Jackson back to the Capital for the Seven Days and it was already too late, like “slamming the barn door after the horse has left”. Miller concludes that while these men did not perform well in the Campaign, they performed decently given all of the circumstances working against them. He also asks the question, “While these three did not perform well against Jackson in the Valley, what man then in command in 1862 could have?” It is an excellent question to ponder.

“In The Very Midst of the War Track: The Valley’s Civilians and the Shenandoah Campaign”

by Jonathan M. Berkey

Let me first mention that this is generally the type of essay in Gallagher’s books that I find the least interesting. Social History oftentimes bores me to tears. With that said, I enjoyed Berkey’s article and was never tempted to skip ahead to the next essay. Berkey describes how the Valley’s civilians coped with the destruction and changing social order brought about by the Campaign. He mentions that slaves left and were sometimes recaptured in large numbers. He also mentions that many Unionist families lived in the Valley and that both Armies arrested civilians they suspected were disloyal to their cause. Lastly, Berkey mentions that the women of the Valley, due to gender conventions of the era, were allowed to speak their minds freely against Union troops with little fear of physical reprisal, although that did happen in some cases. All in all, Berkey does a good job of showing how the Campaign affected civilians, although noting that Sheridan’s 1864 Campaign wrought even grater destruction.

“Placed on the Pages of History in Letters of Blood: Reporting on and Remembering the 12th Georgia Infantry in the 1862 Valley Campaign”

by Keith S. Bohanon

Bohanon chronicles the story of the 12th Georgia during the Valley Campaign, and how the newspapers at home reported on their activities. He mentions that newspaper editors, while not officially censored by the Confederate Government, fell into self-censoring because they realized bad news would have a negative effect on public morale. The 12th Georgia, says Bohanon, is a perfect case in point. The 12th was in the center of the fight at McDowell, and by all accounts fought bravely. Accounts of this battle were numerous in Macon, Georgia (where the Regiment was raised). However, a less inspiring performance at Front Royal, where the 12th lost at least 128 men as prisoners in a hasty retreat and had the Colonel and Major of the Regiment court martialed, was barely mentioned. A member of the Regiment who later wrote a history of the Doles-Cook Brigade never even mentions the Front Royal debacle, and Bohanon points out that this is the way veterans almost always handled postwar vignettes, trumpeting their victories and downplaying (or disregarding altogether!) their failures. This was an interesting essay but it ended far too soon. I would have liked to read even more as it was an interesting topic.

“Turner Ashby’s Appeal”

by Peter S. Carmichael

This is another of those articles I have trouble getting interested in. Peter Carmichael writes about the Turner Ashby in myth versus the true Turner Ashby. He argues that Lost Cause writers created a Turner Ashby who was deeply religious, an aristocrat, and who was the perfect ideal of a Southern Cavalier. He argues that in reality, Ashby lived and worked among the common white men of his day, never publicly proclaimed his religious beliefs, and who was in actuality a man who wasn’t all that great of a commander either. I’m sure it is a controversial essay because he mentions that the two Ashby experts who gave him information on Ashby do not agree with his thesis. Exactly how or why they disagree is not mentioned. To me (and I want to make you aware again that I prefer Battles and Campaign Studies to Social History or the “new” history), this is the least interesting article up to this point in the book.

“Maryland’s Ablest Confederate: General Charles S. Winder of the Stonewall Brigade”

by Robert E.L. Krick

This is basically a mini-biography of Charles Winder, the able commander and strict disciplinarian who commanded the Stonewall Brigade after Richard Garnett was placed under arrest after the Battle of Kernstown. Krick relates that Winder had a good ancestry, with his mother’s family being very wealthy and his father’s family having a long line of soldiers. Winder went to West Point, and served in many dangerous posts in the West. He also was involved in a maritime disaster when the ship carrying most of his artillery regiment almost sank. Winder went on to fight in a few campaigns against the Indians of the northwest, and Krick explained that these made him one of the most qualified individuals to lead troops in the coming Civil War. Winder was at Fort Sumter and First Manassas, but saw no real action. His break came when Garnett was arrested after Kernstown, and he was placed in charge of the Stonewall Brigade and led it until his death at Cedar Mountain in August 1862. Krick comments that Winder was highly respected and was a very able General, although his strict discipline led his men to respect rather than love him. This was a very interesting essay and provides a glimpse into the life of this very able Marylander.

“Prejudices and Partialities: The Garnett Controversy Revisited”

by A. Cash Koeniger

After reading the title, I figured this essay would go into great detail about the trial of Richard Garnett and the actions leading to it. However, a great part of the essay focuses on Stonewall Jackson and his propensity to arrest officers for little or no good reason. The list of officers Jackson arrested is a long one, and some very able Generals, including Garnett, Richard S. Ewell, and A.P. Hill, ran afoul of Jackson. Koeniger’s essay is an interesting one, and he eventually gets around to the trial itself, although that section is disappointingly brief. He mentions that all seven of the charges brought against Garnett by Jackson were “niggling” at best, absurd at worst. Garnett’s trial was interrupted by a call to action and was never resumed. Garnett was reassigned to command of a brigade in Pickett’s I Corps Division, and showed a remarkable willingness to forgive, even serving as a pallbearer at Jackson’s funeral! His life came to an end leading his Brigade at Gettysburg during Pickett’s Charge, and his body was never recovered.

© Copyright Brett Schulte 2005. All rights reserved.

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One response to “Review: The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862

  1. Kevin Avatar

    Gallagher’s edited collection on the 1864 Valley Campaign is scheduled for release in April. I already have a copy of the galley proofs and it looks to be an excellent addition to the series.

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