The First Battle of Kernstown
Today marks the sesquicentennial of the First Battle of Kernstown (March 23, 1862)—near Winchester, VA. Relying on faulty intelligence, General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and his force of 3,000 Confederate troops advanced towards Barton’s Woods. Colonel Nathan Kimball and his 8,500 Union troops stopped the southerners at Pritchard Farm in Kernstown. The federal troops greeted the Confederates with the thunder of 16 artillery pieces of which Jackson later recalled, "I do not recollect of ever having heard such a roar of musketry." The southerners sustained heavy losses from the relentless federal cannonade while they tried to advance north across the marshy open fields of Pritchard Farm to the safety of the nearby woods. From their protected vantage point, the Rebels launched a devastating counter-fire attack on the approaching Yankees. However, late in the afternoon, the overwhelming number of Union troops and the shortage of Confederate ammunition resulted in the ultimate southern retreat.
The day ended with over a thousand casualties and a loss for the Confederacy. However, despite this sole tactical defeat for Jackson, the battle helped to launch his famous Valley Campaign. Additionally, President Abraham Lincoln was greatly disturbed by the battle’s proximity to Washington, DC and the potential threat that Jackson posed on the nation’s capital. Therefore, he pulled troops from General George B. McClellan's command to help reinforce the capital and the Shenandoah Valley.
Cozzens, Peter. Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.
Ecelbarger, Gary L. "We Are In For It!" The First Battle of Kernstown, March 23, 1862. Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: White Mane, 1997.
Reidenbaugh, Lowell. The Battle of Kernstown: Jackson's Valley Campaign. Lynchburg, Virginia: H. E. Howard, 1996.
Image Credit: Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, April 26, 1862.