RETURN TO THE VALLEY AND CAMPAIGN.
On the morning of Sunday, May 25th, SHIELDS'
division commenced its return march to* the. valley, much to the disgust
of the troops, who had believed that part of the southern confederacy
fairly reclaimed, and that the peninsular campaign was speedily to
overturn the balance of the confederacy.
The day was pleasant and the march quite rapid. We
encamped for the night, on the ground occupied by us on our forward march.
The next day, we arrived within four miles of Manassas Junction, and went
into camp, Gen SHIELDS believing that he was cut off
from Gen. Geary's troops, with whom he expected to form a junction in that
neighborhood. The next morning, we moved early and passed the old rebel
camp at Manassas, where were still to be .seen perfect specimens of the
frightful "quaker gun," and a drove of negroes, mostly women and children,
who had been left behind when the camp was broken up. During the day, we
passed GEARY's late camp, where were found swords,
pistols, tents, beds and officer's clothing, showing a very hasty retreat.
On the evening of the 28th. we arrived at Rectortown, on the summit of a
spur of the Blue Ridge, and from which we could see the out-posts of the
rebels towards Front Royal. Here we remained, during the next day, the
country being thoroughly reconnoitered in the mean time. Just at dark, we
commenced to move forward toward, Front Royal. The writer had command of
the advance, consisting of the Eighth Regiment, two sections of
artillery, under Col. DAUM, and a squadron of
cavalry, under Capt. AINSWORTH, of New Hampshire.
Two companies of the Eighth, were deployed as skirmishers on each side of
the road, those on the right in command of Major WINSLOW,
and on the left in command of Capt. HAYNES. The
country was hilly and covered with woods and under brush, the road
tortuous and indistinct, and the night dark; to feel their way, and keep
up a communication with the center was very difficult, and to keep
anything like a good line next to an impossibility. Still we pushed
forward rapidly, and at two o'clock in the morning, had arrived near
Markham, a little hamlet in Thoroughfare Gap, when we received orders to
halt for the night. The skirmishers were called in and pickets
established, and our tired men soon sound asleep.
At day light, we were again in line of march, deployed
as before, and with orders to make Front Royal by twelve o'clock. About
halt past eleven, we drove in the rebel pickets near that place, when
Major WINSLOW advanced up the railroad to the right
of the town, and the writer, with the balance of the command passed round
a high hill to the left, and halted just in view of. the town. Col. DAUM
with the assistance of the infantry, got one of his guns to the. summit,
and the cavalry and infantry formed1 for a charge into the town. In the
mean time Gen. KIMBALL came up with the balance of
his brigade, and sent the Fourth Ohio and Fourteenth Indiana around the
left of the town through the fields. DAUM sent a few
shots over the place, and we soon saw the rebels "lighting out," and huge
volumes of smoke bursting forth; from burning buildings. Gen. KIMBALL
ordered ns forward, and AINWORTH with his cavalry
and the six companies of the Eighth, dashed into town, capturing some
three hundred prisoners, and releasing about four hundred prisoners of
Col. KENLEY's cavalry regiment and other troops,
captured a few days before by the rebels, and held as prisoners Among our
prisoners was the celebrated Belle Boyd. The depots and stores were too
well in flames to be saved, and leaving one company to do guard duty, we
kept up the pursuit, with orders to reach and save the bridge across the
Shenandoah, if possible.
Capt. AINWORTH dashed forward
with his squadron of cavalry, in advance, saved the bridge, though in
flames when he reached it, and still keeping up the pursuit was killed
with seven of his men, in a gorge through which the road passed, some half
mile beyond. Several rebels were killed in the running fight, but the loss
in the cavalry was all that was sustained by our force.
The troops went into bivouac on two knobs or ridges
west of the river, and overlooking the valley towards Winchester. During
the night, we were thoroughly drenched and the whole country flooded by an
unusual fall of rain, the clouds seeming absolutely to burst in our midst.
It was expected that Fremont would have reached and
attacked Strasburg, at the same time, we did Front Royal. But nothing was
heard of him on that, day, and a reconnaissance on the 31st showed the
rebels in undisturbed position in that neighborhood. On the morning of the
1st of June, a heavy cannonade in that direction told that. Fremont
had crossed, the mountains and was upon JACKSON's
forces, and during the day he succeeded in driving the rebels up the.
valley. The roar of the battle was distinctly heard by us during the day,
and during the evening communication was opened between the forces.
Oh the morning of the 2d of June, SHIELDS
moved up the south branch of the Shenandoah and arrived at Luray on the
3d. On the 5th we moved up to Columbia bridge, and on the 6th returned to
near Luray, and sent our baggage back. On the7th Col. TYLER's
and CARROLL's brigades' moved forward to Port
Republic. During these few days Fremont had been driving JACKSON
rapidly up the valley, and heavy cannonading during the 7th indicated a
severe battle in the direction of Port Republic. Our brigade moved some
six miles above Columbia bridge and encamped for the night. The next
morning we started at daylight, and marched rapidly until two o'clock,
rumors being everywhere afloat that TYLER and CARROLL
had been utterly cut to pieces and driven back. This was now verified by
the decimated regiments of their, brigades and by the wagons and
ambulances of wounded that here met us. JACKSON had
escaped from Fremont and crossed at Port Republic bridge, and literally
trampled TYLER's and CARROLL's
troops into the earth, captured their artillery, and put himself in
position to defy further attack.
SHIELDS censured Col. Carroll for
not burning the bridge, and Carroll claimed that he had positive orders
from Shields not to burn it, which was verified by the production of SHIELDS'
JACKSON refused to receive a flag
of truce, or in any way to communicate with SHIELDS,
and shrouded his movements and plans in impenetrable secrecy. He was in
the meanwhile, however, rapidly consummating one of the most brilliant
movements of the war. For the last ten days the rain had fallen constantly
and in torrents.
The roads were heavy, and the streams and marshes
overflowed and swollen, yet before SHIELDS was aware
of the movement, JACKSON had marched sixty or eighty
miles in scarcely the same number, of hours, and was absolutely behind the
Chickahominy and on MCCLELLAN's
flank, and powerfully demonstrating to, that officer the necessity of a
change of base.
In consequence of his late conduct SHIELDS
fell into disgrace. He was soon relieved from command, and was not again
heard of during the war.
Our brigade moved slowly back to Luray, where we
remained several days, and where we were paid off on the 18th. On the 21st
we commenced to fall back from Luray, and on the 24th, after a severe
march, reached Bristoe Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad,
where we went into camp and remained until the 28th, when we were
transported to Alexandria by railroad, and from thence to HARRISON's
Landing, on James river, by steamboat.