Primary Source Material
on the Soldiers and the Battles
Home The Armies The Soldiers The Battles Civilians Articles Sources About Us
If this website has been useful to you, please consider making a Donation.

Your support will help keep this website free for everyone, and will allow us to do more research. Thank you for your support!

Battle of Kernstown or Winchester, VA
in the American Civil War

Online Books:
Battle of Winchester, by David D. Bard, 1880

The Battle of Kernstown, by George Kinney Johnson, 1890

Union Battle Summary

Kernstown, Va., March 23, 1862. Shields' Division, 5th Army Corps. Early in 1862 "Stonewall" Jackson retreated from Winchester up the Shenandoah Valley, closely followed by Maj.-Gen. N.B. Banks with the 5th army corps. The movement continued until Jackson reached New Market and was within easy marching distance of a junction with Johnston's army. It was essential to prevent this union and to get Jackson to fight away from any supporting force. Accordingly on March 20 Banks fell back to Winchester, a distance of 30 miles, giving the movement all the appearance of a retreat. The ruse worked and Jackson followed. On the morning of the 22nd Banks sent all his force with the exception of Shields' division and a small cavalry detachment across the Blue Ridge. Jackson learned of this movement and about 5 p.m. of the same day Ashby's cavalry was directed to attack and drive in the Federal pickets around Winchester. The movement was made, but Shields used only two regiments of infantry and a battery in repulsing the attack, so that Jackson was deceived as to the strength of the Union force. In the skirmish, however, Shields was struck by the fragment of a shell, and his arm fractured above the elbow, which incapacitated him for active command on the field the following day. In the night Col. Nathan Kimball received orders to push forward at daylight on the Strasburg road to within a short distance of Kernstown. The Strasburg or Valley pike is the middle or center of three roads leading into Winchester from the south, the other two being the Cedar Creek road on the west and the Front Royal road on the east. Kimball established his headquarters on a ridge which extended across the Valley pike, a little west of that thoroughfare and half a mile north of Kernstown. The Confederate line of battle was 2 miles long, extending in a semi-circle from a ravine near the Front Royal road on the east to near the Cedar Creek road on the west. The position was so skilfully concealed, however, that when Kimball placed his brigade on an eminence to the east of the road no enemy was to be seen except Ashby's cavalry which had been repulsed the night before. The Confederates commenced the attack, advancing from Kernstown and occupying a position on the heights to the east of the Strasburg pike with the batteries, while the cavalry and infantry took position on the plain on the other side. The 8th Ohio was thrown out as skirmishers, and joined by two companies of the 67th Ohio, drove back a Confederate battery which had opened a heavy fire, and routed five companies of infantry posted behind a stone wall. The position thus taken was held for several hours, or as long as the Confederates were active in front, and several attempts of Ashby's cavalry to turn the Federal left were frustrated by this advance line. When Sullivan's brigade came up it was placed at the left of Kimball's, forming the extreme left of the line. After several unsuccessful attempts to turn the Union left, Jackson moved the bulk of his force to his left and took a strong position behind a stone fence running northwest and southeast. Tyler was ordered to advance his brigade against the position. With a rush he drove the Confederate skirmishers back on their reserves behind the fence, but the position was too strong to be carried. It was at that point that the most desperate fighting of the day occurred, and had not Kimball hurried up portions of Sullivan's and his own brigades to reinforce Tyler the result would have been disastrous. For 2 hours the battle raged with great fury and then, just as darkness fell, Jackson retired. The Federal participants, too exhausted to follow, slept on the field. The Union loss in this engagement was 118 killed, 450 wounded and 22 captured or missing. The Confederates lost 80 killed, 375 wounded and 263 captured or missing. This affair is also known as the battle of Winchester.

Source: The Union Army, Volume 6, Cyclopedia of Battles, 1908


Copyright 2010-2011 by
A Division of