First Battle of Kernstown, 23 March 1862

The first battle of Stonewall Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862 (American Civil War). The Shenandoah Valley was seen as something of a backwater at the start of 1862, with most attention in Virginia focused on McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign. Jackson was massively outnumbered by the Union forces under General Nathaniel P. Banks, but when he learnt that Bank’s was about to transfer two of his three divisions to McClellan he decided to risk an attack on what he thought was Bank’s rearguard south of Winchester, at the northern end of the valley.

Battle of Kernstown 1862Kernstown, first battle of, 23 March 1862
Instead of attacking a small rearguard, Jackson’s 4,200 men found themselves up against a complete division, 9,000 strong. The attack was a failure, and Jackson was forced to retreat in defeat. However, in the long term, the battle played a key part in the Confederate successes of the summer. Convinced that Jackson would not have attacked unless he had a much larger army, the transfer of Bank’s men to McClellan was cancelled. Worse, McDowell’s corps, which was about to move south to threaten Richmond from the north, was instead retained close to Washington, from where it was unable to play a significant role in either the Shenandoah or the Peninsula. Finally, Jackson was reinforced up to 17,000 men, allowing him to continue to distract Union forces for the next three months.

Shenandoah Valley 1862, Clayton and James Donnell. Looks at the campaign that established 'Stonewall' Jackson's reputation as a battlefield commander, and saw him defeat a series of larger Union armies in a series of battles where he was rarely outnumbered on the battlefield. A good account of the campaign, supported by a series of useful campaign and battle maps that help demonstrate Jackson's dizzying pace of movement. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (8 August 2006), First Battle of Kernstown, 23 March 1862 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_kernstown1.html

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