Stonewall Jackson’s Winter Plan; Kentucky Secedes (Sort Of)

November 20, 1861 (Wednesday)

Just south of Winchester, Virginia, Stonewall Jackson, now reunited with the brigade that bore his name, was planning a winter campaign.

Union reports of the time asserted that Jackson had as many as 26,000 men. Jackson, on the other hand, supposed Union forces poised to invade the valley were around 40,000. In truth, a division of around 15,000 under Union General Nathaniel Banks was near Williamsport, Maryland, while there were roughly 10,000 between Romney and Martinsburg.1

While Jackson had only 4,000, he had two things working in his favor. First, the Union believed his number to be much, much greater than it was. Second, Union troops near Williamsport were in the Army of the Potomac, while those at Romney and Winchester were actually part of Department of West Virginia, under General Rosecrans.

Jackson’s plan, which he detailed to Secretary of War Judah Benjamin on this date, first required more troops. The campaigning in the mountains of Western Virginia was mostly at an end, and Jackson requested the 5,000 men of General Loring’s command (called the Army of the Northwest) to join him at Winchester.

With 10,000, he would then attack Romney. The several thousand Union troops stationed there were mostly guarding the B&O tracks, but, if left unattended, could be a threat to Winchester. Jackson conceded that the attack on Romney might coax General McClellan’s Union Army of the Potomac to attack the Confederates near Manassas, but if it did, Jackson’s force would quickly swoop down upon them and continue to the next part of his plan.

Jackson believed that northern Western Virginia [now northern West Virginia] should be occupied by Confederate troops for the winter. He believed that the Union wasn’t expecting any action on the front until spring. If they pounced upon them now, they would be ill-prepared and outnumbered.

Of General Floyd’s whipped Army of the Kanawha, now retreating in southern Western Virginia, Jackson wished for them to keep retreating so as to not be cut off. Once the northern part of Western Virginia was secure, the southern part would have to be evacuated by the Union.

The campaign, Jackson allowed, would be “an arduous undertaking,” requiring the soldiers to sacrifice “much personal comfort.”

“Admitting that the season is too far advanced, or that from other causes all cannot be accomplished that has been named,” concluded Jackson in a bid to secure Loring’s men, “yet through the blessing of God, who has thus far so wonderfully prospered our cause, much more may be expected from General Loring’s troops, according to this programme, than can be expected from them where they are.”2

Jackson’s request would have to first go through General Joe Johnston before reaching Secretary Benjamin.


Mason and Slidell Request to Not Go to Boston, Promise Not to Escape

Captain Charles Wilkes of the USS San Jacinto arrived at Newport, Rhode Island with his two prisoners, James Mason and John Slidell, Confederate envoys to Europe, captured aboard the British steamer Trent. They were ordered to be imprisoned at Fort Warren, off Boston, but the San Jacinto was low on coal and had to put in at Newport for refueling.

This layover allowed Wilkes to send and receive a few messages. Along the way, Mason and Slidell had been allowed newspapers and had been privy to the San Jacinto‘s short supply of coal. The papers told them that the United States intended to keep them as prisoners at Fort Warren. They were not, however, incredibly thrilled with their near-future accommodations in the freezing Boston Harbor.

“The voyage from Newport to Boston by sea at this season of the year will probably be tempestuous and disagreeable,” wrote Mason, Slidell and their two secretaries to Captain Wilkes, “still we should with the exception of one of the signers of this letter who is much indisposed prefer that mode of conveyance to Fort Warren to that by land.”

Probably knowing that they were pushing their luck, they asked for more, telling Wilkes that they “would much prefer to be placed in custody at Newport on account of comparative mildness of climate and the delicate health of the undersigned, and we are willing to pledge ourselves not to make any attempt to escape nor to communicate with any person while there unless permitted so to do.”

Wilkes telegraphed their request to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, who would not reply until the following day. The prisoners’ request was denied. To Boston they would go!3


Kentucky (Sort of) Secedes from the Union!

For the past two days, pro-Secessionist delegates met at Russellville in southern Kentucky in order to pass an Ordinance of Secession and to establish a pro-Confederate government. On this date, the Ordinance was passed.

Be it ordained, That we do hereby forever sever our connection with the Government of the United States, and in the name of the people we do hereby declare Kentucky to be a free and independent State, clothed with all power to fix her own destiny and to secure her own rights and liberties.

Unlike most Southern states before her, Kentucky’s population and legislature were irreconcilably divided on the issue of secession. Because of such a division, the state had attempted to remain neutral. With the majority of the legislature being pro-Union, and the governor being pro-secession (not to mention that both Confederate and Union forces had plans for the state), Kentucky’s neutrality was a pipe dream.

They also passed a provisional constitution, which read like most other provisional constitutions until Section 15, anticipated their acceptance into the Confederate States of America. George Johnson, an anti-abolitionist and recent pro-Unionist, was appointed Governor.4


Unionist Creeks Escape with their Families

The fight between two factions of natives within the Five Civilized Tribes of Indian Territory [modern Oklahoma] continued. Confederate Indians and Texans under Col. Douglas Cooper and armed Unionist Creeks, Seminoles and freed blacks, under Opothleyahola, had kept up a sporadic fire throughout the night as the Unionists slipped away to join their families fleeing north towards Kansas.

The camp of Opothleyahola and his followers had been quickly abandoned. The Confederates found wagons and provisions, but no trace of the Unionists, who had slipped from the Creek Nation into the Cherokee Nation, after fording the Arkansas River in the dark.5

  1. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 5, p650-651. []
  2. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 5, p965-966. Also, tons of help from Stonewall Jackson; The Man, The Soldier, The Legend by James I. Robertson, Jr. []
  3. Official Records, Series 2, Vol. 2, p1095-1096. []
  4. Kentucky’s Ordinance of Secession and Provisional Constitution are reprinted in “The Alleged Secession of Kentucky” by A.C. Quisenberry, appearing in Register of Kentucky State Historical Society, Volume 15, 1915. []
  5. The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War by Clarissa W. Confer. []
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Stonewall Jackson’s Winter Plan; Kentucky Secedes (Sort Of) by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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2 thoughts on “Stonewall Jackson’s Winter Plan; Kentucky Secedes (Sort Of)

    1. Thanks!

      In the future, when I’m writing (about four months ahead of now), I’ve started to put captions under the photos. So in March, you’ll see them start to show up. Until then, if you hover your mouse over the image, a tag will show up revealing who/what is in the photo.

      I wanted to use captions from the start, but the coding for it was wonky and it didn’t work out, so I quit and only recently decided to dig into the coding and work it out. It’ll be a while, but it’ll show up. Sorry about that.


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