At Ease: The Stonewall Brigade - Battling into History
"You Are The First Brigade"
The First Virginia Brigade — 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th, and 33rd Virginia Regiments —got the nickname "Stonewall" at the first major battle of the Civil War when they stood steady on Henry House Hill near Manassas. Although the name "Stonewall" is often synonymous with General Thomas J. Jackson, he insisted that the name belonged to the brigade, not himself. One of Jackson's favorite brigades (never forget your first command?), they fought with him and later in the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. From Manassas through the Valley Campaign, Seven Days Battles, Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania, the Stonewall men rarely missed a battle or were far from the center of action. A final round of heavy losses at Spotsylvania Court House in May 1864, reduced the brigade to the size of a small regiment and the brigade was disbanded. However, brigade survivors fought until the end of the war and a handful surrendered at Appomattox. In this week's email, you'll find some primary sources focused on the Central Virginia battles and a new video about the Chancellorsville Flank Attack. Don't forget to vote and add your opinion for next week's discussion about the Union's Irish Brigade!
"Jackson's Flank Attack" courtesy of Don Troiani
We appreciated your answers to the question: "What's your favorite battlefield account or other historical moment for the Stonewall Brigade?" First Manassas took first place, followed by Second Manassas. Four other battles tied in the results: Antietam, Valley Campaign of 1862, Cedar Mountain, and Spotsylvania.
One fan included this tribute:
When their guns, moistened overnight and wouldn't fire in the Mule Shoe struggle [at Spotsylvania]. A cinematic moment.
Now that might be an interesting idea for a movie. We want something new on Netflix these days, right?
Cheering "Old Jack" at Fredericksburg
Next morning, the 13th of December, both armies seem ready for the conflict. Jackson’s corps is rapidly formed in lines of battle, the Stonewall Brigade being in the second line. Just before the battle opens in earnest, General Jackson rides along our lines. He has on a handsome new suit of grey cloth, presented to him by General Stuart. He makes such a fine appearance that at first we do not recognize him, but in a few minutes we hear the exclamation, “Why, that is old Jack!” The exclamations pass all along the lines. He is in company with Generals Lee, Stuart, and Longstreet, all of whom are reviewing, through their field glasses, the approach of the Federal army. [After the battle commences] The fighting becomes general with the advantage of position entirely on our side, though at one point the enemy breaks our first line, commanded by General Gregg. As he pushed forward to reinstate his line, he was mortally wounded. Here was a great confusion. General Jackson orders up the second line. We push forward at a double-quick with the rebel yell and we soon drive the invaders from the woods. We pursue them with heavy loss across the railroad and into the fields beyond. This is an easy task compared to some things we have been through, notwithstanding the vast odds against which we have to contend. Their reserves are continually pouring in and the powerful artillery from Stafford Heights keeps up its terrible roar, sending out a fearful storm of shot and shell. This mostly goes over us.... Edgar, Captain Alfred Mallory Edgar, 27th Virginia Infantry. (My Reminiscences of the Civil War)
Lee's Lieutenants by Mort Kunstler (cropped)
New Video: The Brigade at Chancellorsville
After the war, John O. Casler wrote about his experiences serving in the Stonewall Brigade, including the Flank March & Attack at Chancellorsville.
[May 8-9, 1864] "Soon after the division was in line, night came on, and skirmishers were thrown out and quiet reigned, but it was the hush which precedes the tornado. Tired and worn out as the soldiers were there was no rest for them that night. The greater part of the line of the division was along the outer edge (the edge next to the enemy) of a body of fine oak timber. As soon as night put an end to the combat, axes, picks and shovels were sent for, and along the whole line through the night the men worked like beavers, and the crash of falling trees, the ring of axes, and the sound of the spade and shovel were heard. Trees were felled and piled upon each other and a ditch dug behind them with the earth out of it thrown against the logs. The limbs and tops of the trees as cut off from the trunks were used to form abattis, by placing them in front of the breastworks with the sharpened points towards the enemy. By daylight next morning a very formidable line of fortifications frowned upon the foe, and our troops rested quietly and confident of victory, should the enemy attack them. Between the morning of the 9th and the morning of the 12th, this line of breastworks was much strengthened, and became one of the very best lines of temporary field works I ever saw. It was apparently impregnable. Just behind the intrenched line of infantry, artillery was placed at the most eligible points, to sweep the approaching enemy with shot and shell and cannister." General James A. Walker, Stonewall Brigade commander
Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's mission is to preserve, protect, and educate about Civil War hallowed ground at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.