Peter Cozzens. Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign. Civil War America Series. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008. 640 pp. Maps. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8078-3200-4.
Gary L. Ecelbarger. Three Days in the Shenandoah: Stonewall Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester. Campaigns and Commanders Series. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008. Maps. 273 pp. $29.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8061-3886-2.
Reviewed by Richard B. Kleese (Independent Scholar)
Published on H-CivWar (February, 2010)
Commissioned by Hugh F. Dubrulle
More on the Shenandoah Valley in 1862
The operations that took place in Virginia's great Shenandoah Valley in 1862 have always been called "Stonewall" Jackson's Valley Campaign." Perhaps they have been referred to in this fashion because Jackson was the most famous of its participants or because the people living in the area have been immersed in the Southern side of the story. Whatever the reason, it is probably more proper to name the military events that transpired there in the spring of 1862 simply as the "Shenandoah Campaign of 1862," because we now have material readily available to suggest that this campaign was not as one-sided as we have previously been led to believe.
Peter Cozzens is careful to advise the reader in the introduction to his voluminous work that he will depart from previous works that depended on Confederate source material. Because of this dependence, those prior works have tended to elevate the reputation of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson as the most brilliant strategist of war in America in 1862. Cozzens spends many pages throughout his work refuting that claim with able research presented in a careful, accurate, and critical manner. In both works under review, the authors have been careful not to attack Jackson, but rather provide a more complete and well-rounded study of important military events during the spring of 1862 (that attracted much more attention among Federal leaders in Washington than scholars had previously thought). In contrast to Cozzens, Gary L. Ecelbarger does not seem as critical of Jackson as he is of earlier writings that idolized the general. In his book, he refutes several glamorous myths about events during the attacks on Front Royal and Winchester that have survived in earlier works. Ecelbarger's research is particularly helpful to students of the campaign as the best and most complete study of the battles of Front Royal on May 23, 1862; the evacuation of Federal General Nathaniel Banks's forces from Strasburg, a neighboring community, on the following day; and the resultant battle at Winchester on May 25, 1862.
In both volumes, these scholars point out that the Federal commander, Banks, did not aimlessly blunder about the valley in 1862. He and his division were faced with an assignment that he knew from the outset could result in a military disaster. As this disaster unfolded, Banks performed about as well as could have been expected despite the constant lack of accurate information furnished him during the three days covered by Ecelbarger. Cozzens's work, in contrast, covers a much longer time period that allows him ample room to point out the failures of other Federal commands during the movements involved in the campaign. Both authors make a very commendable presentation of the decisions and discussions among the Federal high command. They successfully argue that Abraham Lincoln, his cabinet, and his officers in the field were not as inept as historians have generally described them.
In summary, both works are major additions to the Shenandoah Valley's rich Civil War history. These two volumes will become a "must-have" pair for any serious student interested in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862. Ecelbarger has presented a flowing and well-written story about the complicated three days that encompassed affairs at Front Royal, Strasburg, and Winchester. Cozzens's work will probably come to serve as the de facto "official counterpart" to Robert G. Tanner's Stonewall in the Valley, first printed in 1976, and revised, expanded, and reprinted in 1996. Serious student-researchers should acquire, read, and keep both Tanner's and Cozzens's volumes on hand along with the many well-researched accounts of specific actions associated with the campaign. In both Cozzens's and Ecelbarger's volumes, the extensive chapter notes will provide future researchers with a bountiful list of new source material. In each volume, the maps are nicely prepared, and, much to my satisfaction, the labeling on the maps actually pertains to the text--a welcome and necessary departure from some recently published works. This fact alone makes them worthy of inclusion in the text. There are a few minor errors in names and distances, such as the fact that the war-time name of Stephens City, Virginia, was Newtown rather than Newton, and the fact that it is farther than four miles from Strasburg to Maurertown along the valley pike--neither of which should cause reluctance to accept these works as highly accurate and recommended readings.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-civwar.
Richard B. Kleese. Review of Cozzens, Peter, Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign and
Ecelbarger, Gary L., Three Days in the Shenandoah: Stonewall Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester.
H-CivWar, H-Net Reviews.
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