General Thomas J. Jackson & Lt. Colonel Turner Ashby
South Branch Potomac River - Western Virginia – January 1862
Major General "Stonewall" Jackson had achieved his goals in his first operation as commander of the Valley District of the Department of Northern Virginia: the capture of Romney. The Federals were reinforcing their strategically placed garrisons and making plans to move on the Confederate Army in Northern Virginia. But General Jackson had struck first, planning to take out Federal garrisons one at a time. The weather had been balmy when Jackson's army of 8500 men had broke camp on New Year's Day, heading out on the Northwestern Turnpike from Winchester. But the weather began to change, and soon there were snow flurries in the air. In just days the region would be blanketed by a major snow storm. Undeterred by the weather Jackson pushed forward, attacking Bath (present-day Berkeley Springs) and driving out Federal forces stationed there. His troops overran the B & O stations at Alpine, Sir John's Run, and Great Cacapon, burning down the bridge located there. Word quickly spread to the Federals that General Jackson was on the move and was now at Unger's Store. General Lander in charge of the Federal garrison at Romney decided to evacuate the town rather than face Stonewall's advance.
Romney was now in Jackson's hands as he placed his four brigades in defensive positions around Romney. The Stonewall Brigade was sent to Mechanicsburg Gap and other routes along the South Branch including the strategic bridge at Romney.
Artist's Comments: One of the interesting things about doing research on the War Between the States, is the new information being discovered. The Manassas Battlefield Park kicked off their 150th anniversary of the Civil War's first major battle by unveiling an exhibit featuring a newly discovered belt buckle worn by Stonewall Jackson. The buckle had been a war trophy brought home by a young Jackson after the Mexican war. Col. John Singleton Mosby was given the buckle by Mrs. Jackson after the Civil War. Mosby wrote this inscription about the piece. "This unique Mexican officer's buckle was given to me by Mrs. T.J. Jackson in 1865. Her dead husband Thomas J. Jackson captured this in the Mexican War. He actually wore this very plate at the Battle of Bull Run and only later did he replace it with the Virginia seal buckle. This is the plate the hero was wearing when General Bee called him Stonewall." I am excited to have the opportunity to be the first artist to feature this buckle on the great Stonewall Jackson!