The grind of war continues this week 150 years ago in the Civil War as a contingent of some 3,000 Confederate fighters overrun a 1,000-man Union force at Front Royal in northern Virginia in a battle fought May 23, 1862.
The Union fighters are pushed back by the surprise attack through the town of Front Royal, retreating under fire. They temporarily hold their ground on one hill and then another but are outnumbered and retreat. In the end, the Union forces are routed and hundreds of federal forces throw down their arms and surrender.
All told, there are only about 50 casualties on the Confederate side while estimates indicate the Union suffered hundreds of dead or wounded. Confederate Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was waging his bold hit-and-run campaign through the Shenandoah Valley this springtime and the battle again demonstrated the prowess of his and allied forces who were striking close enough to Washington to alarm the Lincoln government nearby.
Only days earlier in May 1862, Jackson's forces had attacked Union fighters in McDowell, Va., pushing them back across the Potomac River. That attack set off alarms among Lincoln and Cabinet leaders in the federal capital and prompted calls to keep more defensive forces arrayed around Washington. The victories by Jackson and his allies also spread alarm in the North and prompt renewed calls for more young men to fight for the Union.
One proclamation this week 150 years ago called on Massachusetts men to join the fight. The call went out in local papers and declared: "The wiley and barbarous horde of traitors to the people, to the Government, to our country, and to our liberty, menace again the national capitol ... The President calls on Massachusetts to rise once more for its rescue and defense."
The Associated Press