Battle of McDowell
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Location: McDowell, VA
Dates: May 8, 1862
Union Commander:  Robert C. Schenck, Brigadier General
Confederate Commander: 
Thomas J. Jackson, Major General

Battle Summary:
In late April, CS Major General
Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson effectively held US Major General Nathanial Banks in the upper Shenandoah Valley.  After the bloody battle of Kernstown and a fighting retreat up the valley, Stonewall Jackson determined to keep Banks occupied in the valley, preventing him from joining US Major General George B. McClellan, currently battling CS General Joseph Johnston on the James River peninsula. Complicating matters was US Major General John Fremont's Mountain Army which could combine forces with Nathanial Banks Valley Army.

As April turned to May, Stonewall Jackson, ever the aggressor was determined to put his army into motion.  After camping on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, at Swift Run Gap, for a couple of weeks, Jackson devised his battle plan.  Ordering CS Major General Richard S. Ewell's division to Swift Run Gap, Jackson pushed his troops south towards Port Republic.  Crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains at Brown's Gap, he headed for Meechum's Station where he loaded his foot sore soldiers on a train for Staunton, where he planned to march west to join forces with CS Brigadier General Edward "Allegheny" Johnson's Army of the Northwest.  Consulting with Johnson, Jackson determined to push west, to the small hamlet of McDowell, where a Federal brigade, commanded by US Brigadier General Robert Milroy was camped.  After defeating Milroy, he would turn on Fremont's army and go back and join forces with Richard Ewell's division, and defeat Banks.

As Stonewall Jackson pushed his combined forces, towards McDowell, Milroy quickly learned of their movements.  Knowing he was undermanned, he called on US Brigadier General Robert Schenck to bring his brigade, from Franklin, VA, to his rescue at McDowell.  Arriving in time, to find the Confederate army pressing on McDowell, from Bull Run Mountain, Milroy, and Schenck discussed their options.  While Schenck ranked Milroy, by promotion date, Milroy knew the ground and Schenck deferred to Milroy's desire to strike first, hopefully taking Jackson by surprise, giving them time to retreat towards Franklin - joining forces with Fremont.

Jackson pushed his troops forward, to an eminence known as Sitlington's Hill.  This hill towered five hundred feet over the village of McDowell, and the Bull Pasture River.  Jackson could clearly see the advantages Sitlington's Hill offered, as he viewed it from Bull Pasture Mountain.  The ground, on Sitlington's Hill was fairly open, on the flat top, and had steep approaches from McDowell, and the approaches near the Bull Pasture River.  These approaches would be made very difficult for the Federal troops to climb, as they were densely wooded.  While there were several batteries of Union artillery, in McDowell, their fire was unable to reach the Confederate troops rapidly moving on Sitlington's Hill.  The approaches, from Bull Pasture Mountain also caused Jackson to withhold his artillery, as it would be difficult to remove it, in the event of a Federal breakthrough.  As the Confederate forces continued to take their places on Sitlington's Hill, it became quickly apparent that this would be an infantry fight.

As Milroy's troops aggressively pushed up the hill, the Rebel troops quickly realized that they were at somewhat of a disadvantage.  The U.S. troops were largely hidden in the shadows, by the late afternoon position, of the sun.  This caused the Confederate troops to be in the uncomfortable position of being silhouetted with a clear sky at their back.  Additionally, shooting downhill the Confederates commonly overshot their targets. 

Largely from Ohio, Milroy's, and Schenck's soldiers closed on the Confederates awaiting them on the top of the hill.  The Union soldiers faced several regiments of Virginia troops and the 12th Georgia, all from Edward Johnson's Army of the Northwest.  Additionally, Jackson had to protect his rear, and his flanks, as the 3rd West Virginia attempted to flank him, using the Staunton Parkersburg Turnpike.  As the fighting intensified, on Sitlington's Hill, Jackson was forced to send in another brigade, commanded by CS Brigadier General William B. Taliaferro.

With darkness descending, on the battlefield, and ammunition running low, the Federal brigades were forced to withdraw from the hillside - none having reached the Confederate lines.  Near midnight, Milroy, and Schenck, broke camp and started west towards Franklin.  Jackson would pursue him the next day, towards Monterey.  Having accomplished his objective, keeping John C. Fremont's Mountain army from joining forces with Nathanial Banks Army of the Valley, Jackson ceased the pursuit, returning east towards Staunton.

Campaign: Jackson's 1862 Valley Campaign

Outcome: Confederate victory

Troop Strengths
Union: 6,000
Confederate: 9,000

Casualties (estimated):
Union: 256 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Confederate: 500 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)

Battle Aftermath:
After the Battle of McDowell, Jackson pushed back to the eastern reaches of the Shenandoah Valley.  From there, he would push Nathanial Banks, and John Fremont's armies down the valley, and would decisively beat Fremont at Cross Keys, and Banks at Port Republic, before joining Robert E. Lee, on the peninsula, to push US Major General George B. McClellan's troops back to Alexandria, VA.  
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