SHENANDOAH MOUNTAIN PASSAGEGeneral Stonewall Jackson & Lt. Sandie Pendleton
Near McDowell, Virginia - May 8, 1862
General Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign began at 3AM on April 30th under stormy conditions. Weather at the end of April had gone from cold rain, sleet, and snow to rain again. Streams were flowing out of their banks and water was pouring down from the mountains. The roads were turned into quagmires and fields looked more like ponds. Undaunted, General Jackson led his army of 6,000 men up the Blue Ridge towards the seldom used pass known as Brown's Gap. Jackson's topographer and map maker Jedediah Hotchkiss knew the country like the back of his hand and was directing the army's trek through the back roads and mountain trails to screen the movements of the great force.
Similarly to the travails of the Romney Expedition, the trail was tough going for both man and horse. Horses floundered, wagons broke down and roads had to be reinforced with stones, fence rails, and trees to keep the cannons moving. Often General Jackson himself would dismount and help collect wood and stones. One of the soldiers cursing General Jackson for the back breaking work, was surprised to hear a voice from behind him say, "It is for your own good sir." Turning, he saw Jackson working just as hard.
General Jackson's first target on the spring campaign was the Federal force located at McDowell. He had received a dispatch from General Robert E. Lee on May 1st saying "If you can strike an effective blow against the enemy west of Staunton, it would be very advantageous." On May 3rd the tired army arrived at Mechum's River Station on the Virginia Central Railroad. Fortunately for the weary soldiers the force was able to board the train and ride for Staunton. Disembarking west of Staunton, Jackson prepared his men for the 20 mile mountain march which would cross four ridges of Shenandoah Mountain and down into the hamlet of McDowell. Sandie Pendleton observed "This is the meanest country I ever saw, but it is still old Virginia and we must have it."
At daybreak on May 8th Jackson's army once again began their climb. At the end of the day's journey through Shenandoah Mountains they would completely surprise and crush the Federal troops at McDowell, their first victory of the Valley Campaign.
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