EVENING ORDERS IN STRASBURG, classic canvas giclée.
by John Paul Strain
Stonewall Jackson & Captain Abram Spengler
Spengler Hall - Strasburg, Virginia - March 22, 1862
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"I have only to say, that if the valley is lost Virginia is lost", were the words of General Stonewall Jackson in the winter of 1862. Explaining his strategy and intent to his officers Jackson declared, "War means fighting! The business of a soldier is to fight. Armies are not called out to dig trenches, to throw up breastworks, live in camps, but to find the enemy, and strike him; to invade his country, and do him all possible damage in the shortest possible time." But Jackson's first task was to deal with the Federal armies that had invaded his country.
US General Nathaniel P. Banks and his army of 40,000 men were threatening Winchester from three directions. With only 3600 soldiers ready to oppose the huge force, Jackson moved his men and supplies to Strasburg. General Jackson would choose the ground on which to attack his enemy, but his troops were insufficiently drilled and unprepared for such a daunting task. Consolidating his forces in the Woodstock-Mt. Jackson region, General Jackson readied his army.
Believing the Confederates had been pushed out of the valley and were no longer a threat, US General George B. McClellan ordered Banks to leave a few regiments in Winchester and post the bulk of his army to the Manassas Gap Railroad Bridge. Jackson soon received reports of the Federal army heading north and knew Bank's army had been recalled to aid in McClellan's invasion of the Virginia peninsula to attack Richmond. This would not stand. Ready or not Jackson ordered his army north to engage the enemy. At dawn on March 22 with sheets of rain blowing down the pike, General Stonewall Jackson and his army headed north at the route step. Despite the raw windy day and deep mud, the men made 27 miles and camped around Strasburg.
In the evening of the first day's march at Spengler Hall, General Jackson issued orders to one of his officers of the Stonewall Brigade, Captain Abram Spengler, to be ready to accelerate their march at dawn, and arrive in Winchester the next evening ready to fight. Stonewall's operations during the next three months would make his name a household word. The Valley Campaign had begun.