Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 25, 1862 (Sunday): Jackson Routs Banks at Winchester

First Battle of Winchester (

WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, D. C., May 25,1862. 

Governor CURTIN,
Send all the troops forward that you can immediately. Banks is completely routed. The enemy are in large force advancing upon Harper's Ferry.


(Same to Governor Andrew, Boston, and to Governor Sprague, Providence.)

WASHINGTON, May 25, 1862-2 p.m. 

The enemy is moving north in sufficient force to drive General Banks before him-precisely in what force we cannot tell. He is also threatening Leesburg, and Geary, in the Manassas Gap Railroad, from both north and south - in precisely what force we cannot tell. I think the movement is a general and concerted one, such as would not be if he was acting upon the purpose of a very desperate defense of Richmond. I think the time is near when you must either attack Richmond or give up the job and come to the defense of Washington. Let me hear from you instantly.


Major-General McCLELLAN.

COLD HARBOR, May 25, 1862. 

Telegram received. Independently of it, the time is very near when I shall attack Richmond. The object of the movement is probably to prevent re-enforcements being sent to me. All the information obtained from balloons, deserters, prisoners, and contrabands agrees in the statement that the mass of the rebel troops are still in the immediate vicinity of Richmond, ready to defend it. I have no knowledge of Banks' position and force now what there is at Manassas; therefore cannot form a definite opinion as to the force against him.
I have two corps across Chickahominy, within 6 miles of Richmond; the others on this side at other crossing within same distance, and ready to cross when bridges are completed.

Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series III., Vol. 2, Part 1, Page 70.

Pursuing Banks north after Front Royal, Jackson and Ewell pushed his forces all the way to Winchester.  There, the Confederates enveloped Bank's right flank and fragments of his army fled through town and North, the mass headed for a safe crossing of the Potomac at Williamsport.  Although they had inflicted 5:1 losses (2,000 Union casualties against 400 Confederates), Jackson's men were too played out to pursue.  But they had, as witnessed by these letters, created such an alarm among the administration that the President gave serious consideration to calling McClellan's forces back from Richmond. 


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