War of the Rebellion: Serial 015 Page 0024 Chapter XXIV. OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., AND MD.

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HEADQUARTERS SHIELDS' DIVISION,

Luray, June 12, 1862.

Major General JOHN C. FREMONT:

My advance guard was driven back on the 9th after a sanguinary engagement of four hours. I re-enforced it, and determined, in connection with you, to renew the attack next morning. After handing the dispatch to your messenger a peremptory order reached me from Washington directing me to get my command together and return at once to this point, preparatory to marching to Fredericksburg. I never obeyed an order with such reluctance, but no option was left me. The mismanagement of one of my generals left the route open to Jackson. He failed to burn the bridge at Port Republic, according to orders, and the result has been the defeat of his small command and the escape of Jackson. Here I found orders to remain till Banks is in position at Front Royal. The moment he is there I am to march to Catlet's Station to report to Fredericksburg, thence to Richmond. The cavalry attached to you, designate as Bayard's cavalry, are to report to me. They must come to Front Royal. If I march before they reach me they must join me at Catlett's, by way of Chester Gap and Warrenton.

I have the honor to be, your friend and obedient servant,

JAS. SHIELDS,

Major-General, Commanding Division.

With the receipt of the intelligence brought by Major Haskell I regarded the movement against Jackson as closed. Whatever of the original objects of my mission I had been enabled to accomplish was now fairly fulfilled. That the retreat of the rebel leader had been conducted with skill and ability is what no just enemy can deny him; but had he been less favored by circumstances of weather and by the absence of combinations beyond my control, though easy enough to have been made during Jackson's earlier pursuit, it is for consideration whether he would have been able even to reach the Shenandoah, and still less to cross that rive, with or without a bridge to invite his transit. To what degree he had thus far been affected by contact with my column is manifest by his destruction of the valuable bridge he unmolestedly passed, as well as by his rapid disappearance after the rout of the operation force went by General McDowell.

The withdrawal of Shields had left my command an isolate body far in advance of all other troops, and all expectation of aid or concert of action with others was now cut off. My troops had been long without proper food or shelter; their march had been exhausting, and I had expended their last effort in reaching Port Republic. I determined, therefore, to fall back at once upon my supplies, and accordingly during a day of stormy rain I marched my command back to Harrisonburg.

Here in the evening of the 10th I received the following telegram from the President, two days after the battle of Cross Keys:

WASHINGTON, June 9, 1862.

Major-General FREMONT:

Halt at Harrisonburg, pursuing Jackson no farther. Get your force well in hand and stand on the defensive, guarding against a movement of the enemy back toward Strasburg or Franklin, and wait further orders, which soon be sent you.

A. LINCOLN.

Harrisonburg, however strong in a strategical point of view for an army of larger proportions, was to my small command dangerous in the extreme. Distant 22 miles from the enemy's main railroad line at Staunton, and approached by nine different roads, it left constantly exposed my lines of supply and communication. For these reasons my troops were upon the 11th and 12th withdrawn to Mount Jackson, a position strongly defensible, lying behind the Shenandoah,and being a key to the surrounding country.