Distracted

Today, we are pleased to welcome guest author Mike Block

From Crittenden Lane looking towards Cedar Mountain.

From Crittenden Lane looking towards Cedar Mountain.

Distracted. I don’t believe the words “Stonewall Jackson” and “distracted” have been used in the same sentence. So, it might come as a surprise when I state that Stonewall Jackson was distracted as he moved towards Cedar Mountain.

Let’s consider the prior four days. On August 5, Jackson and his staff are at Frascoti, Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s Headquarters. Jackson is attempting to court-martial Brigadier General Richard Garnett. It is not going well. He had levied seven specific charges against Garnett, “ranging from inaccurate to niggling.” Garnett’s regimental commanders were solidly behind their brigadier. One of Jackson’s staff officers, Captain Sandie Pendleton, is convinced that Jackson was losing the case.[i]

Thank you, Maj. Gen. John Pope. Pope chose this time to advance portions of his Army of Virginia below Culpeper with the objective of disrupting the critical rail junction at Gordonsville and threatening Richmond from the West. The court goes into recess, never to reconvene.

Jackson’s Army of the Shenandoah, as it is still named, is camped around Orange Court-house. Ewell’s Division is to the west of town, Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill’s Division is south of town at Mayhurst (which still stands) and Brig. Gen. Charles Winder Division was south of Liberty Mills.

Orders, written on August 7, had Hill following Ewell north with Winder last. After the order was sent, Jackson realized that it would be more efficient for Ewell to march by a different road and so ordered. However, Hill and Winder were not informed of the change in the routes of march.

Imagine the look on Hill’s face when he realized that it was Winder’s men, not Ewell’s marching past him. Hill decided to let the Winder’s Division pass before stepping off. Up rides Jackson, who is beside himself at Hill’s men not moving. This is the man Robert E. Lee suggested to him last month that:

“A.P. Hill you will find I think a good officer with whom you can consult and by advising with your division commanders as to your movements much trouble will be saved you in arranging details as the can act more intelligently.”[ii]

Jackson wasn’t impressed with Hill, and vice versa. I can hear him now, ‘consult with Hill, yeah, right.’

Then there was Winder. He was sick, so sick he was enfeebled. Winder stopped for the day under a tree and slept. Jackson must have concluded that two of his three division commanders bore close watching.

The march north was hot. The temperature exceed 90 plus the humidity. Men were falling out with heat stroke, some dying along the road.

Jackson’s cavalry chief, Brig. Gen. Beverly Robertson was not sure where the Federals were located (“I really don’t know”)[iii]. The Yankee cavalry sure knew where he was, striking Jackson’s flank and slowing giving ground as the Rebels advanced.

Crossing Crooked Run, Jackson received a lesson in handling mules by his Quartermaster, Major John Harmon. Jackson tried coaxing the mules across the ford, Harmon rent the air full of blue oaths. The mules moved for Harmon, Jackson walked away crestfallen, ‘Well, Major, I suppose you will have to have your way.’[iv]

It would take Jackson’s ‘Foot Cavalry’ some 36 hours to march 15 miles.

By mid-day on August 9, the armies had finally gathered near Cedar Mountain, the federal cavalry had been cleared from their front and Confederate artillery was being placed on Cedar Mountain and along Crittenden Lane. Brig. Gen. Jubal Early’s men in were in front. Solid soldiers.

But where was Jackson? With barely half the army deployed, Stonewall was at his temporary headquarters, the Petty House, playing with children in the yard and then stretching out on the front porch.[v]

Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Jackson arrived on the field around 4:30 P.M. as the infantry fighting was beginning. He observed the action from the right of his line, with his “right leg thrown across the saddle… his field glass watching the artillery duel with apparent ignorance of the Federal shells dropping closer and closer.”[vi]

It was near this time Winder was mortally wounded, handling a piece of artillery, not with his division.

Around 6:30 P.M., Stonewall cocked his ear, “There is some hard work being done over there.”[vii] Hard indeed, Garnett’s line was being rolled up and shoved back 200 yards through the woods to where Crittenden lane enters the Culpeper road.

Jackson raced to scene, arriving at the crucial moment. Hill’s Division had come up, just where it was needed. Stonewall, having lost his cap on the ride from the right, grabbed a battle flag and attempted to unsheathe his sword, but it was rusted in the scabbard, so he raised the entire apparatus. The scene was electric, “Rally, brave men, and press forward. Your General will lead you. Jackson will lead you. Follow me! There was even a captured Federal officer who cheered, waving his broken sword. [viii]

Stonewall Jackson was no longer distracted.

Michael Block is a retired Air Force intelligence analyst, currently working for Booz Allen Hamilton. A life-long student of the Civil War, Mike became deeply interested with the activities and impact of the Civil War in Southern Fauquier and Culpeper Counties when he moved to Bealeton, Virginia in 2004. Mike has been on the Board of Directors of the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield for three and a half years, and is currently serving as its Vice-President. He has also served on the Board of the Brandy Station Foundation and both the Culpeper and Fauquier Sesquicentennial Committees.

[i] Robertson, James A. “Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend,” pp521-522

[ii] Clifford Dowdey & Louis H. Manarin, ed. The Wartime Papers of Robert E. Lee, p239

[iii] Robert K. Krick, “Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain,” p9

[iv] William Blackford, “Letters from Lee’s Army, pp 101-103

[v] Robertson, p527

[vi] Robertson, p528

[vii] Robertson, p539

[viii] Krick, p208

This entry was posted in Armies, Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, Campaigns, Cavalry, Civil War Events, Common Soldier, Leadership--Confederate, Leadership--Federal, Memory, Personalities and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Distracted

  1. Clark B. Hall says:

    Well done, Michael!
    You effectively made the point that “distraction” with Stonewall was but a temporary condition.

    You also point out a pattern of “generalship” exhibited by General Beverly Robertson at Cedar Run when he acknowledged ignorance as to where the enemy might be found (a cavalryman’s first responsibility).

    As you know, this exact phenomenon played out at Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, when an entire Federal cavalry division (Duffie’s 2nd) slipped around Jeb’s rear (via Kelly’s Ford) at Stevensburg, and Bev Robertson–with right flank responsibility– had no idea of the arrival of that threatening Yankee presence.
    TJJ could have done the Confederate cause a big favor if he would have shot Robertson the night after the Battle of Cedar Mountain. Goodness know no one more deserved battlefield “remediation” in the Gettysburg Campaign than the blindly ineffective Beverly Robertson.

  2. Charlie Downs says:

    I went back and re-read this after doing the anniversary tour with Mike and he is spot on. Beverly Robertson should have been cashiered after Cedar Mountain; I wonder if anyone can shed some light on why he wasn’t? It seems that Jackson being as intolerant as he was of poor performance (or in the case of Garnett an incorrect perception) would have done something.

    • Michael Block says:

      Charlie, it is a great, but unanswered question. After the Second Manassas Campaign, Robertson was sent to North Carolina to recruit and train, eventually raising two cavalry regiments. He was successful in this project and brought them to Virginia prior to the start of the Gettysburg Campaign. At the Battle of Brandy Station, he and his two regiments sat and watched Federal cavalry pass unimpeded to Fleetwood Hill. This resulted in a near disaster for JEB Stuart and his division on June 9. Robertson was a trainer and administrator, never a combat leader.

  3. Okay, not the best thing for a military commander to be distracted by children…but I think that’s really cute. (I can’t imagine the frustration of the staff officers and field commander, though.)

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