November 4, 1861 (Monday)
General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson rose in his stirrups, raised his arms and addressed the men of the First Brigade, the Stonewall Brigade. Having saved the day at Manassas, their General, rising in popularity, rank and responsibility, was leaving them. Jackson had been given command of the Shenandoah Valley. The promotion, however, was bittersweet. While Stonewall was moving to the Valley, the Stonewall Brigade was not. Had the move been a request, rather than an order, Jackson would have stayed with his men.
But it was an order and on this date, he was before them, extolling their many virtues in a heartfelt farewell.
You were the First Brigade in the Army of the Shenandoah, the First Brigade in the Army of the Potomac, the first Brigade in the Second Corps, and are the First Brigade in the hearts of your generals. I hope that you will be the First Brigade in this, our second struggle for independence, and in the future, on the fields on which the Stonewall Brigade are engaged, I expect to hear of crowning deeds of valor and of victories gloriously achieved! May God bless you all! Farewell!
With that and with tears in his eyes, he departed to the sobbing cheers of his beloved soldiers. Jackson, along with aid “Sandie” Pendleton and Chief of Staff John T. L. Preston, boarded a train at the Manassas depot for Strasburg, which they reached after dark.
From Strasburg, it was an eighteen mile ride north on the Valley Turnpike in Winchester, Virginia. The three men checked into the Taylor Hotel, Room 23.
Though Jackson was in command of the 6,000 square mile Shenandoah Valley, he hardly had any troops at his disposal. Three brigades of Virginia militia (each barely the size of a regiment) were all the infantry he was afforded. There were, however, 500 horsemen under Colonel Turner Ashby. This, along with a few pieces of artillery (but no artillerymen to fire them) added up to roughly 1,700 troops. Most of Jackson’s new command had ancient flint-lock muskets. Some had nothing. None were well trained.
On the Union side of things, there were 4,000 at Romney, forty miles west, and 6,000 in and around Martinsburg, twenty-five miles north. While this seemed alarming (and was), the Union forces were divided. The troops at Romney fell under the Union Department of Western Virginia, while the ones in the lower (northern) Valley were part of the Army of the Potomac. It was unlikely that they could work together.
It was clear to Jackson, he would need the Stonewall Brigade.1
The Union Fleet Arrives!
The joint Union Army-Navy expedition to seize Port Royal, South Carolina had been delayed by a hurricane-force gale, which scattered the fleet. Slowly, over the next two days, they found each other and proceeded south along the Atlantic Coast. Flag Officer Samuel Francis Du Pont, aboard the flagship Wabash, had arrived off Port Royal the day before. Throughout the evening and night, twenty-five more ships anchored off the bar.
Port Royal Sound was protected by Fort Beauregard to the north, and Fort Walker, on Hilton Head Island, to the south. Though both forts were still under construction, they were formidably armed. Each fort had thirteen guns on their channel sides, with several on the land side to repel infantry attacks. Both Wagner and Beauregard were each garrisoned with over 600 men and there were 1,000 more on their way as reinforcements.
The afternoon was spent surveying the coast and making sure the vessels wouldn’t bottom out. With the channels found, the Wabash anchored inside the bar and Du Pont called for the rest of the fleet.
Meanwhile, Confederate Flag Officer Josiah Tattnall, a respected and daring naval officer from the old Navy, watched the gathering Union ships from Skull Creek. Tattnall’s Rebel fleet was tiny, made up of his flagship Savannah, along with three converted tugboats.
At 5pm, Tattnall decided to attack, though it was clear he was grossly outnumbered. From a mile and a half away, the Rebels gunboats fired upon three Union vessels, the Seneca, Ottawa, and Pembina. After about forty minutes, the heavier guns of the Union ships drove Tattnall’s fleet back into the harbor. Not wishing to go up against the forts, the Union ships did not pursue.2
Following Grant, Johnston and Polk
As the preparations for Grant’s “demonstration” towards Columbus got underway, he dispatched an Iowa regiment from Cape Girardeau to Bloomfield, forty-five miles southwest. The Iowans, along with the troops under Col. R.J. Oglesby, dispatched the previous day, were chasing down Missouri State Guard General Jeff Thompson, who was licking his wounds after his raid towards St. Louis fizzled out. The Iowans were to distract Thompson from Oglesby’s larger force.3
Before being sacked, General Fremont ordered Grant to make a “demonstration” along both the Tennessee and Missouri sides of the Mississippi River towards Columbus. The Confederate Department Commander, General Albert Sidney Johnston, however, was more worried about central Tennessee and Kentucky. So much so, that he ordered 5,000 men, General Gideon Pillow’s Division, from Columbus to Clarksville. This would leave Columbus, which mattered less to Johnston, ill-prepared for an attack.
Neither Pillow, nor his immediate commander, General Leonidas Polk, wanted Pillow to leave. On this date, Pillow arrived at the department headquarters in Bowling Green, Kentucky to convince General Johnston to let him stay in Columbus. After much deliberation and talk, Johnston decided that Pillow’s Division was more needed at Clarksville, near Forts Donelson and Henry. Pillow would return the following day with the bad news.4
- Stonewall Jackson; The Man, The Soldier, The Legend by James I. Robertson, Jr. [↩]
- Success is All that was Expected: the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron by Robert M. Browning. [↩]
- Official Records, Series 1, Vol 3, p259. [↩]
- The Life and Wars of Gideon J. Pillow by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes. [↩]