23
Mar
09

On This Day, March 23: Jackson Begins Shenandoah Campaign

March 23, 1862

Battle of Kernstown, Virginia

Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson suffers a rare defeat when his attack on Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley fails.

Jackson was trying to prevent Union General Nathaniel Banks from sending troops from the Shenandoah to General George McClellan’s army near Washington. McClellan was preparing to send his massive army by water to the James Peninsula southeast of Richmond for a summer campaign against the Confederate capital. When Turner Ashby, Jackson’s cavalry commander, detected that Yankee troops were moving out of the valley, Jackson decided to attack and keep the Union troops divided.

Ashby attacked at Kernstown on March 22. He reported to Jackson that only four Union regiments were present–perhaps 3,000 men. In fact, Union commander James Shields actually had 9,000 men at Kernstown but kept most of them hidden during the skirmishing on March 22. The rest of Jackson’s force arrived the next day, giving the Confederates about 4,000 men. The 23rd was a Sunday, and the religious Jackson tried not to fight on the Sabbath. The Yankees could see his deployment, though, so Jackson chose to attack that afternoon. He struck the Union left flank, but the Federals moved troops into place to stop the Rebel advance. At a critical juncture, Richard Garnett withdrew his Confederate brigade due to a shortage of ammunition, and this exposed another brigade to a Union attack. The northern troops poured in, sending Jackson’s entire force in retreat.

Jackson lost 80 killed, 375 wounded, and 263 missing or captured, while the Union lost 118 dead, 450 wounded, and 22 missing. Despite the defeat, the battle had positive results for the Confederates. Unnerved by the attack, President Lincoln ordered McClellan to leave an entire corps to defend Washington, thus drawing troops from McClellan’s Peninsular campaign. The battle was the opening of Jackson’s famous Shenandoah Valley campaign. Over the following three months, Jackson’s men marched hundreds of miles, won several major battles, and kept three separate Union forces occupied in the Shenandoah.

“Battle of Kernstown, Virginia.” 2009. The History Channel website. 23 Mar 2009, 05:03 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2144.

On This Day

1513 – Don Juan Ponce de Leon, a former governor of Puerto Rico, discovered Florida. He claimed the land for Spain.

1775 – American revolutionary Patrick Henry declared, “give me liberty, or give me death!”

1839 – The first recorded use of “OK” [oll korrect] was used in Boston’s Morning Post.

1840 – The first successful photo of the Moon was taken.

1889 – U.S. President Harrison opened Oklahoma for white colonization.

1901 – It was learned that Boers were starving in British concentration camps in South Africa.

1909 – Theodore Roosevelt began an African safari sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic Society.

1919 – Benito Mussolini founded his Fascist political movement in Milan, Italy.

1925 – The state of Tennessee enacted a law that made it a crime for a teacher in any state-supported public school to teach any theory that was in contradiction to the Bible’s account of man’s creation.

1932 – In the U.S., the Norris-LaGuardia Act established workers’ right to strike.

1933 – The German Reichstag adopted the Enabling Act. The act effectively granted Adolf Hitler dictatorial legislative powers.

1942 – During World War II, the U.S. government began evacuating Japanese-Americans from West Coast homes to detention centers.

1965 – America’s first two-person space flight took off from Cape Kennedy with astronauts Virgil I. Grissom and John W. Young aboard. The craft was the Gemini 3.

1967 – Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. called the Vietnam War the biggest obstacle to the civil rights movement.

1981 – U.S. Supreme Court upheld a law making statutory rape a crime for men but not women.

1996 – Taiwan held its first democratic presidential elections.

1998 – Germany’s largest bank pledged $3.1 million to Jewish foundations as restitution for Nazi looting.

March 23, 1806

Lewis and Clark depart Fort Clatsop

After passing a wet and tedious winter near the Pacific Coast, Lewis and Clark happily leave behind Fort Clatsop and head east for home.

The Corps of Discovery arrived at the Pacific the previous November, having made a difficult crossing over the rugged Rocky Mountains. Their winter stay on the south side of the Columbia River-dubbed Fort Clatsop in honor of the local Indians-had been plagued by rainy weather, thieving Indians, and a scarcity of fresh meat. No one in the Corps of Discovery regretted leaving Fort Clatsop behind.

In the days before their departure, Captains Lewis and Clark prepared for the final stage of their journey. Lewis recognized the possibility that some disaster might still prevent them from making it back east and he prudently left a list of the names of all the expedition’s men with Chief Coboway of the Clatsops. Lewis asked the chief to give the list to the crew of the next trading vessel that arrived so the world would learn that the expedition did reach the Pacific.

The previous few days had been stormy, but on March 22, the rain began to ease. The captains agreed to depart the next day, and they made a parting gift of Fort Clatsop and its furniture to Chief Coboway.

At 1 p.m. on this day in 1806, the Corps of Expedition set off up the Columbia River in canoes. After nearly a year in the wilderness, they had severely depleted the sizeable cache of supplies with which the expedition had begun–they set off on their return trip with only canisters of gunpowder, some tools, a small cache of dried fish and roots, and their rifles. The expedition had expended almost all of its supplies.

Ahead loomed the high, rugged slopes of the Rocky Mountains that had proved so difficult to cross in the other direction the previous year. This time, however, Lewis and Clark had the advantage of knowing the route they would take. Still, they knew the passage would be difficult, and they were anxious to find the Nez Perce Indians, whose help they would need to cross the mountains.

The months to come would witness some of the most dangerous moments of the journey, including Lewis’ violent confrontation with Blackfeet Indians near the Marias River of Montana in July. Nonetheless, seven months later to the day, on September 23, 1806, the Corps of Discovery arrived at the docks of St. Louis, where their long journey had begun nearly two and a half years before.

“Lewis and Clark depart Fort Clatsop.” 2009. The History Channel website. 23 Mar 2009, 05:06 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4467.

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