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Don’t say it’s impossible! Turn your command over to the next officer. If he can’t do it, I’ll find someone who can, even if I have to take him from the ranks! General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

Relying on faulty intelligence that reported the Union garrison at Winchester numbered only about 3,000, “Stonewall”  Jackson marched aggressively north with his 3,400-man division.  The 8,500 Federals, commanded by Col. Nathan Kimball, stopped Jackson at Kernstown and then counterattacked turning Jackson’s left flank and forcing him to retreat. Despite this Union victory, President Lincoln was disturbed by Jackson’s threat to Washington and redirected substantial reinforcements to the Valley, depriving McClellan’s army of these troops. McClellan claimed that the additional troops would have enabled him to take Richmond during his Peninsula campaign.

First Battle of Kernstown Sunday, 23 March 1862 From the battlefield map by Jedediah Hotchkiss, Topographical Engineer for Gen. Stonewall Jackson

We are in for it! : the first Battle of Kernstown, March 23, 1862    Shippensburg, PA, USA : White Mane Pub. Co., c 1997 Gary L. Ecelbarger Kernstown, 1st Battle of, Winchester, Va., 1862 Hardcover. xx, 370 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. A Edwin Forbes’s drawing of Kernstown Battle, sketched from behind Union infantry on Sandy Ridge on endpapers. Includes bibliographical references (p. 340-362) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG  

This rendering of the First Battle of Kernstown was published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in 1862. Leslie’s sketch artist Edwin Forbes had been in Winchester during the battle and produced this imagined rendition of Union Col. Erastus B. Tyler (on horseback) leading a charge.

Years after the guns of the Civil War were silenced, a former private in the Stonewall Brigade remembered Kernstown as one of the hardest little battles of the war. Most of the boys were in more or less of the great battles fought subsequently, wrote a former Indiana soldier in 1889, but I’ll warrant that none of them was ever under a hotter fire than when in front of the stone wall at Kernstown.

Fought on rolling terrain near a Valley turnpike hamlet three miles south of Winchester, the Battle of Kernstown is the first in a series of clashes that comprised Major General Thomas J. Stonewall Jackson’s legendary Shenandoah Valley Campaign. The Battle of Kernstown has been the least understood encounter of that famous spring in 1862.

Gary Ecelbarger’s book brings to light the strategy, tactics, and personalities associated with March 23, 1862, by using hundreds of rare first-hand accounts from Kernstown soldiers. We Are In For It! demonstrates why one Civil War veteran considered the infantry fire at Kernstown to be as heavy as it was at Antietam, Gettysburg, or the Wilderness.

When the Virginia secession convention voted to secede on April 17, 1861, Governor John Letcher called for militia companies in the Shenandoah Valley to form and make all haste to Harper’s Ferry to secure the town and armaments in the town. The 2,611 men that gathered at Harper’s Ferry in April were organized into five regiments of infantry and a battery of artillery and designated as the First Brigade, Virginia Volunteers. The regiments were made up of forty-nine companies, each with a letter designation and nickname. The men ranged in age from school age to grandfathers. Nationalities included Germans, Scotch-Irish, and Irish. Occupations included just about every 19th century occupations that existed with farmer making up about a third of the original number of recruits. The Valley men were placed under the command of then Colonel Thomas J. Jackson. Jackson had been picked to lead the First Virginia Brigade by Robert E. Lee, then an advisor to Jefferson Davis. Jackson had left his teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute to join the Virginia forces when war broke out. This was the beginning of the Stonewall Brigade.


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