BESIDE STILL WATERSRude’s Hill in the Shenandoah
March 28, 1862
"He leadeth me beside the still waters." If ever a leader needed divine guidance and help in the task that lay before him, it was General Thomas J. Jackson in March of 1862. Jackson and his army had suffered their first defeat in the battle of Kernstown and had retreated to Rude’s Hill three miles south of Mt. Jackson. Even the weather seemed to punctuate the disheartening events by dropping an inch or so of sleet on the army as it trudged into camp.
General Jackson had been given the assignment to keep the Federals from securing the Shenandoah Valley, and forestalling any of the three Federal Armies operating in the area from being sent to reinforce General McClellan’s Peninsula campaign against Richmond.
Jackson had the incredibly difficult job of molding young recruits, militiamen, and trained VMI volunteers into a cohesive fighting unit. Many of his soldiers were ill equipped, without even a rifle. At Kernstown Jackson and his small army of 3,600 men attacked the flank of Federal General James Shields’ division of 9,500 soldiers. Although not successful, Jackson’s bold move changed the Federal leaders’ view of what they were up against.
As the morning light of a new day shone through the woods at Rude’s Hill, General Jackson searched for guidance during a time of trial and uncertainty. He knew he had tremendously motivated men who were all Virginians fighting for their homeland. With the Almighty’s help Jackson believed that he and his men would be a match for any Federal army.
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