Battle of Cross Keys

Location: Unincorporated Rockingham
         County, VA (near Harrisonburg)
Dates: June 8, 1862
Union Commander: 
John.Fremont,
                               Major General
Confederate Commander:  Richard S. Ewell, Major General
                                       

Battle Summary:
Cross Keys would be a pivotal battle, for
Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's 1862 Shenandoah Campaign.  After defeating the Union army, under US Major General Nathanial Banks, at Front Royal, and First Winchester, Jackson's small Army of the Valley, nearly pushed Banks into the Potomac River.  The Union army was significantly larger, than Jackson's 17,000 man army, but Jackson would use his knowledge of the Shenandoah Valley, to his advantage.

Retreating back up the Valley, Jackson would use the terrain, to separate US Major General John Fremont's army, from that of US Brigadier General James Shields' army, operating in the Luray Valley.  Jackson's infantry would march over forty miles, in 36 hours, to escape potential destruction, between these two armies.

Having escaped from Shields' army, near Strasburg, Jackson's Valley Army pushed south, followed closely by John Fremont's Union army.  Placing CS Major General Richard Ewell's division about one mile south, of Cross Keys Tavern, Ewell situated his division, in line of battle, on a high ridge, south of a shallow stream.  Jackson would maintain his position, protecting his army, from Shields, near Port Republic.

The Battle of Cross Keys would open, early on June 8, as John Fremont pushed his army south on the Port Republic Road.  Commanding his brigades were: US Brigadier Generals Julius Stahel, Henry Bohlen, Robert Milroy, Robert Schenck and US Colonels John Koltes and Gustave Cluseret.  What Fremont initially saw had to bother him.  Arrayed south of the shallow stream, were three well commanded, and experienced Confederate brigades, commanded by: CS Brigadier Generals Arnold Elzey, George H. Steuart and Isaac R. Trimble.  Additionally, Ewell had placed four batteries of artillery along the commanding heights.

After reconnoitering the field, Fremont quickly determined that Ewell's right flank was the most vulnerable.  By attacking this position, Fremont could block Ewell's escape route, to Port Republic, and join forces with James Shields to finish of Thomas Jackson's Army of the Valley.  Based on this tactical plan, Fremont sent Julius Stahel's brigade, supported by Henry Bohlen's brigade, to attempt a turning move on Ewell's right flank, commanded by CS Brigadier General Isaac Trimble.

With Stahel's brigade quickly approaching, Trimble unleashed a violent volley into the Federals, from less than 50 yards.  This infantry volley sent Stahel's brigade, in confusion, towards the rear.  Trimble quickly dressed ranks and followed in pursuit, leaving two regiments in view, to keep the Yankee soldiers' attention.  Personally leading the 15th Alabama through a nearby ravine, Trimble placed them opposite Stahel's left flank.  At Trimble's command, the Alabamians fell into Stahel's flank, pushing them into Bohlen's arriving brigade.  Having been reinforced by two of Arnold Elzey's regiments, Trimble continued to push Stahel, and Bohlen all the way back to the Keezletown Road.

While the Confederates were attacking John Fremont's left flank, the Federals started an attack of their own.  The brigades of Cluseret, and Milroy made feeble attempts to attack Ewell's center, while Robert Schenck's brigade swung to the far right, in an effort t turn the Confederate left flank.  Having prepared, for this contingency, Thomas Jackson had sent Ewell additional troops, commanded by CS Brigadier General Richard Taylor and CS Colonel John Patton.  Ewell dispatched these, to his left flank, to support George Steuart's brigade.  These troops would not be needed, as John Fremont, reeling from the drubbing on his left, called off the attack against the Confederate left flank.  Fremont would pull back to a defensive line, along Keezletown Road.

Campaign: Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign

Outcome: Confederate Victory

Troop Strengths
Union: 10,500
Confederate: 5,000

Casualties (estimated):
Union: 684 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Confederate: 288 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)

Battle Aftermath:
After declining Isaac Trimble's request, to attack the new Federal position, Richard Ewell would remove his division, under cover of darkness, to reunite with the rest of Thomas Jackson's Army of the Valley.  On June 9, Jackson would defeat a portion of James Shields' army, at Port Republic, clearing any danger from a combined Union force, from the Shenandoah Valley.  Stonewall Jackson would then move quickly to support CS General Joseph Johnston's Army, then facing George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac, on the Peninsula. 
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