of Winchester VA, May 25th 1862 – Jackson’s Valley Campaign
written by Alan
This was part of Ian R’s ongoing re-creation of Stonewall
Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign of Spring 1862, played using 28mm figures
and the Regimental Fire & Fury rule-set. Alan and Kieron took the Confederate side, while Bill
and Jim fielded the Federals, and Ian umpired.
History records that the battle began at dawn with
dense fog shrouding the field, so very little could be seen of the enemy. The
Federals held the high ground south of Winchester itself, on Bower’s Hill to
the SW with Gordon's
brigade and Camp’s Hill to the SE with Donnelly’s
Brigade, with Hatch’s cavalry brigade in the centre. Although it looked like a
strong position, it was potentially vulnerable to being flanked to the E.
Union defences on Camp’s Hill
However, Jackson had chosen to divert much of his right
flank force to support an assault on his left, against the Federals on Bower’s
Hill, leaving just Trimble’s Brigade of Ewell's division on the Confederate right.
In our version of the battle, Winder’s and Taylor’s Louisiana brigades, with
the famous Louisiana Tigers in the lead, hurled themselves directly at Bower’s Hill, clearly intending to drive
straight through the Federals and storm into the town.
Over on the Confederate right a planned holding
action would tie down as many Federals as possible, while probing for an opportunity
to attack Camp’s Hill, SE of the town.
2 – Winder’s
brigade assaults the Federal right
Initially, it looked as if things might work out
for the Confederates. The fog prevented the Union artillery from engaging the
Confederate attack on Bower’s Hill until the last minute, and the Confederate
infantry reached the base of the hill relatively unscathed. Try as they might however, they could not get
the better of the hand-to-hand fighting which ensued, and eventually as the fog
began to lift, the Rebels were thrown back with heavy losses.
3 – The Confederates
are driven back from Bower’s Hill
At this point in our re-creation, the Federal
cavalry in the centre displayed far more initiative than they were known for
historically at this point in the war, and attacked straight down the Valley
4 – The Federal
cavalry advance down the valley Pike and threaten the centre
The Confederate infantry who had retreated from
Bower’s Hill successfully formed a defensive line on a hill further S, and it
looked as if they might stave off disaster.
5 – The Confederate
defensive line S of Bower’s Hill
It wasn’t to be however. The Federal cavalry,
with infantry in support, broke through the weak Confederate centre and eventually
succeeded in surrounding part of the Confederate left flank. Winder’s brigade was
forced to make a desperate last stand action on a hill W of the Valley Pike.
6 – Winder’s
brigade is surrounded and forced to surrender
Meanwhile, on the Confederate right, things also initially
looked good. The 21st NC advanced down the Front Royal road coming
under Union infantry fire at close range, but avoiding their historic heavy
casualties. Deploying into the woods E of the road, they engaged the veteran
Union infantry, but again could not prevail in the hand-to-hand fighting which
ensued in the woods.
As the fog began to lift, they also came under Union
artillery fire, which proved too much for them and they fell back as the Union
infantry went to work on the Confederate artillery batteries, causing heavy
casualties. The remainder of Trimble’s
brigade had deployed right and left of the Front Royal road, with the 21st
Georgia taking up a position behind stone walls at the base of Camp’s Hill. They
didn’t stay long however, and the Confederates had to witness the ignominy of a
veteran regiment skedaddling the field like raw recruits.
7 – The
remainder of Trimble’s brigade holds at the foot of Camp’s Hill
That really spelt the end to any Confederate hope of success
on their right flank. Although the 1st Maryland (CSA) did manage to
work its way round the Union left flank, they were halted by the arrival of
reserve green Union troops from the town, and the flank settled down into a firefight
in the woods and stone walls either side of the Front Royal road, at the base
of Camp’s Hill. However, with their left flank up in the air as a result of the
complete collapse on the Confederate left, they were left with little choice
but an inglorious retreat back towards Front Royal.
Overall then, the result was a resounding Federal victory, and
a foretaste perhaps of Jackson’s lack-lustre performance in the Peninsula
Campaign the following month?
Had it really happened this way, then history would undoubtedly
have rendered a very different verdict on Stonewall Jackson as a commander.