CHARLESTOWN STATIONWinchester and Potomac Railroad
May 30, 1862
If the great Stonewall Jackson was bothered by rain drops falling into his coffee while he waited for the Winchester and Potomac Railroad engine to get fired up at Charlestown Station, he didn't show it. He also showed little concern about the huge Federal Armies that were closing in on him from numerous directions.
Adventures had unfolded hourly during Jackson's audacious advance on the Federal Army. Fresh on the heels of his success in routing the Federals at Front Royal, he turned his attention to defeating General Banks' army of 6500 men retreating north. Jackson hard-marched his men all night to catch Banks. With little rest and no food he and his army defeated Banks' in the first battle of Winchester. Banks had been beaten but not completely destroyed as many of his soldiers were able to escape north towards Harpers Ferry. To General Jackson's chagrin, lack of cavalry and the fatigue of his soldiers prevented pursuit. His soldiers had covered over 100 miles in 7 days and had been engaged in successful combat operations for 30 hours.
Jackson didn't take long to reorganize and rearm his fighting force, and he was again in pursuit on May 28th. At the key crossroads town of Charlestown, 1500 of Banks' men had turned to make a stand but were quickly defeated. However, Jackson's cavalry chief Turner Ashby brought alarming news. Fremont's Federal Army was heading towards them from the west. With Banks possibly reconstituting his command to the north, Jackson sensed a shift in the Federal priorities, and he was right. Washington was panicked at what Jackson was doing in the valley and drew two more divisions under General Shields to attack from the east. A courier on May 30th alerted Jackson to the new threat of Shields. Three Federal Armies were about to surround him. Jackson ordered his army back to Winchester to counter the threat.
The electric gray-blue sky and heavy rain seemed to accent the uncertainty and fate of General Jackson and his army. And yet as staff officers Sandie Pendleton and Jedediah Hotchkiss looked at his countenance, they could almost see his calm thoughts, and his eyes spoke silent words that trailed out over the steam from the railroad engine, all is well.
In this painting I was able to depict General Jackson wearing the famous rain coat that he wore in poor weather conditions. Jackson was wearing this jacket when he was wounded in the arm at Chancellorsville. Also depicted in the painting are three important members of Jackson's staff. Colonel Alexander Boteler is in civilian clothes under the "Charlestown sign". He has been given the assignment by Jackson to go to Richmond and try to obtain reinforcements. Jackson's adjutant Sandie Pendleton is looking at his watch. Jackson's "map maker" Jedediah Hotchkiss would not be riding on the train with the General, but would ride back to Winchester with the horses.
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