The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – May 21-27, 1862

Here are some of the events of the Civil War that were happening 150 years ago today. Sources are numbered according to the list at the bottom of this post.

Edit on May 22: The “Lincoln Log” site is up and I’ve added a few things from that below (as noted, as well as anything with a “5” after it).

The Union Army entering Front Royal

The Union Army entering Front Royal (Library of Congress)

May 21

Battles: Shenandoah Valley campaign: US General Banks, denied permission to abandon Strasburg, sends 900 men to occupy Front Royal to protect his left flank and rear from the forces of CS Generals Jackson and Ewell.

When Jackson learns of this, he changes his plans; while keeping Colonel Turner Ashby and his cavalry headed up the pike toward Strasburg as a feint, General Jackson turns and enters the Luray Valley (now called the Page Valley). (2, 3)

Military events: Corinth, Mississippi: US General Halleck’s batteries are within three miles of town. He has over 85,000 men at his command, while CS General Beauregard in Corinth has less than 45,000 effective troops available. (9)

In a telegram to General McClellan, US President Lincoln confirms that McClellan will retain command when joined by General McDowell, except no order will put McDowell out of position to guard Washington. (5)

Other: Peninsula Campaign: From a nurse on board the Spaulding:

The railroad is open to-day to within ten miles of Richmond: so says Colonel Ingalls. The cars and locomotives came up the river yesterday. This enables them to send forward supplies with great ease. Hitherto, everything has depended on wagon-trains, half of which stick in the mud and clay of Virginia roads. The one question asked by everybody is: “Where’s McDowell?”

May 22

Battles: Shenandoah Valley Campaign: CS General Jackson and his army camp near Milford (present-day Overall), Virginia.

Other: Elections are held in Tucker County, West Virginia.

May 23

Other: President Lincoln and US Secretary of War Stanton visit Fredericksburg, Virginia. No one cheers them and local officials do not call on them. Lincoln does meet with General McDowell, though, as well as review the troops. (5)

Battles: Lewisburg, West Virginia. A Union victory.

Shenandoah Valley Campaign: The Battle of Front Royal. Also known as Guard Hill/Cedarville. CS General Ewell captures most of the troops at Front Royal, and moves directly Winchester, while Jackson turns across to the road from Strasburg, and hits the main column of Banks forces in flank, driving it back to Strasburg. Confederate troops chase Union forces to Winchester, who then head for the Potomac and Maryland. According to Jefferson Davis, General Banks said in his report, ” There never were more grateful hearts in the same number of men, than when, at mid-day on the 26th, we stood on the opposite shore.” (2, 9)

Belle Boyd

Belle Boyd (Library of Congress)

Belle Boyd is there, too: “I recall well May 23, 1862 when General Jackson was preparing an advance on the yankee army at Front Royal. When I discovered it was Bank’s intent to withdraw and burn their bridges behind them, I knew this information was vital to General Jackson. ‘I shall never run again as I ran on that day.’ Dodging bullets and shells, I crawled across the battlefield until I reached the front line. Waving my white bonnet in the air frantically, I was relieved to see one of Jackson’s staff galloping towards me on horseback. Ironically, our boys saw me too and rushed forward to save the bridges. It was with great pride that I read a personal note of thanks from General Jackson, carrying it with me for some time after that.”

May 24

Battles: Shenandoah Valley Campaign: With General Jackson now on his left flank and capable of cutting his supply route, General Banks retreats to Winchester, and in the evening, deploys 3500 men south of the town to delay Jackson’s oncoming 16,000-man army long enough for 550 Union supply wagons to get a head start toward the Potomac, 35 miles away. (2)

Military Events: Peninsula Campaign: President Lincoln, in a telegram to General McClellan:

…The enemy’s forces under General Anderson now opposing General McDowell’s advance have as their line of supply and retreat the road to Richmond. If, in conjunction with McDowell’s movement against Anderson, you could send a force from your right to cut off the enemy’s supplies from Richmond, preserve the railroad bridges across the two forks of the Pamunkey, and intercept the enemy’s retreat, you will prevent the army now opposed to you from receiving an accession of numbers of nearly 15,000 men; and if you succeed in saving the bridges you will secure a line of railroad for supplies in addition to the one you now have. Can you not do this almost as well as not while you are building the Chickahominy bridges? McDowell and Shields both say they can, and positively will, move Monday morning.

Indeed, per the “Lincoln Log,” the president “spends much of day in telegraph office directing troop movements under Gens. Fremont and McDowell in consequence of Gen. Banks’ critical position resulting from Confederate break-through at Front Royal, Va.”

May 25

Battles: Shenandoah Valley Campaign: The First Battle of Winchester, a/k/a/ Bowers Hill. General Jackson attacks Banks at dawn, driving the Union troops out of Winchester after a two-hour pitched battle. Command miscommunications, the absence of Ashby’s cavalry, and the Confederate infantry’s exhaustion (the men of the Stonewall Brigade have marched some 160 miles and fought two major battles in two weeks) keep Jackson from pursuing the retreating Federal forces immediately. Not all of Bank’s supply wagons escape, however. The Confederates name him “Commissary Banks” because of the much-needed food and medical supplies they seize near Winchester. As soon as possible, Jackson will set out for Harper’s Ferry.(2, 3, 9)

Edward Stanton and Abraham Lincoln

Edward Stanton and Abraham Lincoln (Vanderbilt University at )

The reaction in Washington is one of panic. According to The Continental Monthly, July 1862, Edward Stanton, the US Secretary of War, sends the following telegrams to the governor of Massachusetts:

‘Washington, May 25th, 1862.

‘To Governor Andrew: Send all the troops forward that you can immediately. Banks is completely routed. The enemy are in large force advancing upon Harper’s Ferry.

Edwin M. Stanton,
‘Secretary of War.’


Washington, May 25th, 1862.

‘To the Governor of Massachusetts: Intelligence from various quarters leaves no doubt that the enemy in great force are advancing on Washington. You will please organise and forward immediately all the volunteer and militia force in your State.

Edwin M. Stanton,
‘Secretary of War.’

This produces, in the words of Jefferson Davis, “a most indescribable panic in the cities of the Northern States on Sunday the 25th, and two or three days afterward.” (9)

The “Lincoln Log” is currently unreachable, so I will have to add details from that later, but according to Jefferson Davis, President Lincoln reacts by ordering General McDowell “…laying aside for the present the movement on Richmond, to put twenty thousand men in motion at once for the Shenandoah.”

Lincoln also takes military possession of all the railroads in the United States on the 25th, according to Davis. Per the “Lincoln Log,” this is reported by the National Intelligencer on the 26th.

Here are the day’s telegrams, per the “Lincoln Log.”

The US president is planning to trap General Jackson with three armies. While General Fremont is to move to Harrisonburg, taking Jackson’s supply line, General McDowell sends General James Shields, followed by a division commanded by General Edward Ord, into the Shenandoah Valley. Banks is to cross back over the Potomac to Virginia and chase the Confederate forces if they move up the valley. (Wikipedia)

May 26

Battles: Union and Confederate forces skirmish at Calico Rock, Arkansas.

Shenandoah Valley: CS General Charles Winder is sent to Charles Town, where he engages Union forces, driving them back toward the Potomac. The main column moves toward Harper’s Ferry, where Jackson learns of the movements of Generals Fremont and Shields. (9)

Military events: Corinth, Mississippi: CS General Beauregard begins to evacuate thousands of sick and wounded soldiers. (9)

Lincoln sends some telegrams to General McClellan. (5)

May 27

Battles: Peninsula Campaign: Hanover Courthouse/Slash Church. It’s a Union victory, but rendered moot by General McDowell’s withdrawal back to the Shenandoah.

Shenandoah Valley: President Lincoln notices General Fremont has gone to Moorefield, not Harrisonburg as ordered. (5)

Military events: Corinth, Mississippi: Arrangements for falling back begin. (9)

Corinth Miss

May the 26th 1862

Mrs S.J. Hudson

Dear wife I agin seate my self to in form you that I am injoying tolerable good health hoping theis lines will will find you ail well

We air fixing up to leave this place
I cannot tell where we will go
I thought as Elzy was going home I would send you a fiew lines as I cannot tell when I will have the chanse to write to you soon

I exspect to have to face the Enemy
I trust that I may escape
I want you to pray for me that I may be spaird from this War
I would give any thing to see you all one time more
I want to see you all as bad as I ever did tho I am hear will have to stay for some time
I am very ancious to hear from you
I want you to send me them things that [you?] wer talking about before I left

My Dear I want you to git a long the best you can in this wourld and live faithfull
May the Lord be with you all
if it should be my Makers will that I should never return home agin pray that we may meat where parting will be no more
I try to Discharge my duty to god altho I cannot say that I live as faithfull as I should tho it is my determination by the assisting grace of god to make my way from this low ground of sorrow to a land of Eaternal rest
if we cannot see each other hear in this world it chers me up to think that their is a land of rest where Christins Will Meat and their live to geather forever

Sarah I do not want you to greive after me
if it is gods will he will spair my life
we should be thankful to him that we have bin spaird so fur

I must bring my letter to a close as I am in a hury
Send me some ink back by Elzy

So no more at presant only remaines your affectionate Husband till Death

J.E. Hudson

Ciss the childern for me and tell them to be smart



(2)  Encyclopedia Virginia: “The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862

(3)  “Battle Cry of Freedom” by James McPherson

(4) University of North Carolina “Civil War Day by Day”

(5) The Lincoln Log timeline.

(6) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(7) Civil War Daily Gazette timeline.

(8) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(9)”The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” (Vol. II), Jefferson Davis.

(10) Civil War Home’s “The Peninsula Campaign.”

(11)  The Rebellion Record. Frank Moore, Edward Everett (1867)

(12)  Conquest of the Lower Mississippi.

(13) Waddell’s Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, from 1726 to 1871.

(14) Daily Observations From the Civil War

Categories: American Civil War

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