Jackson Wants to Attack Bath, Loring Refuses; More Disagreeing in Missouri

January 3, 1862 (Friday)

After a brief few days of warm, even balmy, winter weather, it was gone, replaced by bitterly chilling wind, snow and a thermometer that plunged into the single digits as Stonewall Jackson’s 11,000 men shivered their way from Winchester to Romney.

They stepped off at 6am on the first day of the new year, nobody but General Jackson, and perhaps General Loring, his second in command, knowing the plan. By afternoon, when they turned towards the west, most speculated that they were headed for Romney, roughly forty miles from Winchester. This was, more or less, true, but Jackson had one stop to make before falling upon Union General Kelley’s force gathered in and around the town.

On the second day of the march, after a night spent dealing with brush fires created by wind-carried sparks, Jackson’s troops trudged through the snow over frozen roads [basically modern US 522], nearing Unger’s Store [modern Unger, WV] by nightfall. Unger’s Store was well north of Romney, and sixteen miles south of Bath [modern Berkeley Springs, WV] and the Potomac River.

Throughout the evening, Jackson formulated a plan to take Bath. Doing so would cut communication between the Union strong-points of Romney and Martinsburg. He knew little of the area and relied upon his soldiers, some of whom grew up in the area, to give him the lay of the land.

Jackson’s plan called for the militia to advance on the western side of the mountain just south of Bath, while Loring’s men were to attack up the main road. The Stonewall Brigade would bring up the rear and the cavalry would provide the screen to keep the enemy guessing. This fairly simple plan was kept to himself. Not even Loring was told of it.

On the morning of this date, Jackson gave the marching orders. The militia were off first and were given time to cross the mountain before Loring’s men started. Having no idea why his men were delayed, Loring was outraged. General Richard “Dick” Garnett, commanding the Stonewall Brigade, incurred Jackson’s wrath when he let the men, who had eaten little in the past couple of days, cook their rations. Jackson ordered his old brigade to stop cooking and start marching.

Despite Jackson’s angry prodding, none of his men marched more than ten miles. Every half hour or so, many would stop to build fires in the hopes of keeping warm. Jackson was certain that the Union troops at Bath could only be taken by surprise. This was incorrect on two counts.

First, Union Major O.L. Mann, commanding at Bath, was told of Jackson’s clumsy advance in the morning. A runaway slave had ran ten miles to tell him to leave town as Jackson’s army was closing in. Second, Jackson’s 11,000 would have little fighting to do against a Union force comprised of three companies of Illinois soldiers and two pieces of artillery.

Mann wasn’t sure what to make of the runaway’s story, so, around 3pm, he led Company K south to see for himself. Two hours later, he stumbled upon the vanguard of Loring’s column, taking them by surprise with a volley. The firing was harmless, but sent the Rebels scrambling back toward the main body, the fire regiment of which was just rounding a bend. Mann’s Federals took up a defensive position behind a fence near the woods.

One company of Rebels formed for battle and advanced upon Mann, who was greatly outnumbered. In the snowy dusk, however, the Confederates were overly cautious, believing the company of Union troops to be many times larger than they were. The crackling of musket fire peppered the coming darkness as two Rebels fell. As night came on fully, Mann retired back to Bath.

With the skirmish won and night fallen, the Rebels prepared to camp for the night. Jackson, however, wished to press the advance. He had the Yankees on the run and wanted to finish them. General Loring countermanded the order. Jackson again ordered Loring’s troops to march. Loring again refused. Finally, after a fierce battle of words, Jackson gave in, allowing his men to rest until dawn.1

__________________

Buell and Mac Gang Up On Halleck

While Jackson was trying as he might to get his officers to cooperate with his mysterious plan, Washington was trying to get Generals Buell and Halleck, in Kentucky and Missouri, to cooperate with a plan that everyone, even the Rebels, knew about.

Over the past few weeks, the reason that Buell could not advance into Eastern Tennessee began to fall upon General Halleck. It was Halleck who was to keep the Rebels in Western Tennesse from moving east. Halleck claimed that he could help but little, since his forces in Missouri were busy with problems of their own.

With General McClellan seriously ill, President Lincoln stepped in to solve the problem. Both Buell and Halleck, however, only humored him and wished to wait until McClellan recovered. The previous day, Lincoln had informed both that McClellan was getting better, and on this day, the General was well enough to set General Halleck straight.

McClellan reiterated that keeping the Rebels in Western Tennessee from reinforcing the Rebels in the eastern part of the state was of the “greatest importance.” He ordered that a force of gunboats and one or two divisions of infantry should be sent up the Cumberland River. He also thought it would be wise to make demonstrations against Columbus and the Tennessee River to keep the Rebels spread out.2

At the same time, General Buell wrote to General Halleck, basically filling in the details of McClellan’s plan. “I do not underrate the difficulties in Missouri,” wrote Buell, “but I think it not extravagant to say that the great power of the rebellion in the West is arrayed on a front, the flanks of which are Columbus and Bowling Green and the center about where the railroad between those points crosses the Tennessee and Cumberland Eivers, including Nashville and the fortified points below.”3

Buell was insisting that, though Halleck had troubles of his own, the Rebels in Tennessee were more important. And though Halleck wasn’t wrong in believing that he needed all the men he could get to battle the guerrillas and the Missouri State Guard, neither were Buell, McClellan and Lincoln wrong in their assessment of things in Kentucky and Tennessee.

This would not be the end of debate. Halleck had borne the brunt of the storm on this date, but Buell would be next.



  1. Shenandoah 1862 by Peter Cozzens, as well as a bit from Stonewall Jackson by James I. Robertson, Jr, though the former has more about the battle than the latter. []
  2. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 7, p527-528. []
  3. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 7, p528-529. []
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9 thoughts on “Jackson Wants to Attack Bath, Loring Refuses; More Disagreeing in Missouri

  1. Do you agree that Hallek’s pattern of stall tactics is based primarily on his ego competition with Grant who was so successful in Missouri that Hallek replaced Grant with himself? Then, when he had to match Grant’s successes he stalled to try to obtain conditions to guarantee a win, thereby thwarting and missing opportunities?

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      Thanks for the comment. As for the question, I’m not quite that far in my studies, just yet. I have slooooooooowly reached Corinth with Halleck (and that Grant fellow, wherever he may be in mid-May 1862), but haven’t studied it enough to really pull punches. Yet.

      -Eric

  2. According to James I Robertson, Jr.’ s exhaustive biography, “Stonewall Jackson”, his men had been ordered to step off at 6 am, but did not actually start moving until three hours later. I mention this admittedly minor point because it was a foreshadowing of things to come: the first few days of Jackson’s Romney campaign were a classic example of why experienced officers leave the study of tactics and study logistics instead.

    1. Thank you again for the catch. I can only fit so much into each post, but I should have had that. I even used Robertson’s book (though not as much as Cozzens) for the post. Since writing this (over four months ago), I’ve really taken a liking to Robertson’s work.

      Thanks!

      -Eric

  3. In defense of Halleck, being in charge of Missouri was like wrapping your arms around a pile of thickets which happened to be on fire at the time. At this point Missouri is an open question and, more than that, the forces on both sides were strung out over a wide area with numerous points to try and defend. Because the civilian population was divided, populations loyal to either side constantly were demanding protection. Lincoln wanted a move on Eastern Tennessee for the same reason-the population there which was loyal to the Union demanded protection.

    What frustrates me in reading about this is how nobody looks at Lincoln and sees what, at this point in the war, his not having fully developed an understanding of the complexity of war. Did he have an understanding of grand strategy and a logical mind? Yes, he did. But he had no concept of the logistics of moving an army, no understanding that some elements of the Western armies at this point were only a step or so above armed mobs, and little awareness of how the strength of an army is weakened on long marches by the need to protect its line of advance. Lincoln was, like many of his party, prone to underestimate the difficulties involved in executing grand strategy. And, he also appears not to have possessed a calendar, this being January (not traditionally a time of movement for obvious reasons).

    Buell was in favor of moving east until required to do so, then not so much. McClellan was wrong militarily in delaying through November and December in the east which deprived him of the political capital he would have gained by flanking the Confederates out of Manassas and freeing up the Potomac from the rebel batteries. But he was morally wrong in not standing up to Lincoln and explaining why it was not possible to make an immediate move on East Tennessee. A splendid example of buck passing it was, and it would not have been necessary if he himself had shown any activity in Virginia in the fall.

    1. Hi Dudley,

      You’re right about there being very little critical scholarship about Lincoln (or much else) in late 61/early 62. You’re plundering the OR much more than I am (which is saying something), and there is quite a lot between the lines. Nobody had an idea how to handle Missouri. Eastern Tennessee was something that you could wrap your head around. But Missouri was a mess and had been for a decade.

      Why do you think that Mac cared so much about Eastern Tennessee? It fit nicely into his cumbersome (but actually quite smart) grand plan – if only Sherman Buell would have listened. Was it to appease Lincoln? There are oodles of requests, urges and orders for Buell to do something in Eastern Tennessee. And while he did next to nothing, Mac kept at him until both Mac and Lincoln were distracted with the Urbana Peninsula plan.

      If you’re looking for great scholarship on this period, check out Beatie’s Army of the Potomac. It’s three hefty volumes of wonderfulness taking you from the start of the war to the middle of the Peninsula Campaign. It’s mostly all analysis. And while it doesn’t specifically cover the West, it gives great insight into what Lincoln and Mad had to deal with over the 61-62 winter.

  4. Thanks, Eric I’ll check out Beatie’s book. I need to go back and look at the timing again, and look outside the O.R. more than I have. My suspicion is McClellan got some heat put on him just prior to December 29, because on that date he writes Buell and tells him Johnson (Andrew) and Maynard (congressman from east Tennessee) have become frantic and have the President’s sympathies excited. This ties back into the bridge burnings in East Tennessee and the subsequent hanging of some of the Union sympathizers involved. And you have the Committee on the Conduct of the War putting heat on Lincoln for not putting heat on McClellan. So, I think the politics was probably a greater influence.

  5. Wanted also to say how impressed I am with your pulling this blog off. From my own experience with the O.R. project, I know how difficult it is to get something out on a daily basis. In my case, I’m just referring back to a single source, so if that is difficult then I can only imagine pulling so many different sources together and putting it into a visually appealing format.

    A friend of mine told me I was doing OK through 1861, but he wanted to see how I would hold up by 1864. Actually, 1862 is a question mark for me. We’ve had a relatively quiet 1861 but the sheer volume of what is available to go through in 1862 is going to be a challenge. There are 120+volumes in the O.R. and most of what I’ve used so far is in the first 8 volumes and about the same number of supplemental volumes. The volumes on military prisoners also have been a bigger part of this than I had any feel for.

    But, to your original point, the scholarship on 1861 and early 1862 is not there to the extent it warrants. I had no clue Missouri would be such a complicated topic. If you look at how much is written about the Shenandoah Valley and how little on Missouri it is striking. The Missouri theater really shows you the animosity behind the war, the importance of immigrants (mainly German) to the Union cause, the thrown together nature of the armies, and the political component in ways you don’t see in the east. But, you don’t have big battles outside of Wilson’s Creek and you don’t have a Stonewall Jackson to capture people’s imagination. So, we don’t think as much about it.

    Have you see the American Civil War Gazette app for the Android devices? You get about 10 items a day from civil war era newspapers of 150 years ago. I downloaded it free for my e-reader. Just what I needed, more reading material!

    1. Seeing what the OR is like by the middle of 1862 really made me question what I was going to do. But really, it’s fairly simple and I like the format of keeping correspondence and reports separate. I am, however, growing to hate the Official Naval Records. They’re scattershot and random, but more fun to read.

      I’ve not seen the app, but it sounds great. Unfortunately, I’m so Civil War’d out by the end of the day that reading something else is really, really difficult for me. But I’ll check out the app anyway. šŸ™‚ Thanks!

      -Eric

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