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Official Records of the Rebellion


[p.49]

BREAK 17: FIRST NEWS OF JACKSON

All the information I could obtain previous to the 24th of June regarding the movements of General Jackson led to the belief that he was at Gordonsville, where he was receiving re-enforcements from Richmond via Lynchburg and Staunton; but what his purposes were did not appear until the date specified, when a young man, very intelligent, but of suspicious appearance, was brought in by our scouts from the direction of Hanover Court-House. He at first stated that he was an escaped prisoner from Colonel Kenly’s Maryland regiment, captured at Front Royal, but finally confessed himself to be a deserter from Jackson’s command, which he left near Gordonsville on the 21st. Jackson’s troops were then, as he said, moving to Frederick’s Hall, along the Virginia Central Railroad, for the purpose of attacking my rear on the 28th. I immediately dispatched two trusty negroes to proceed along the railroad and ascertain the truth of the statement. They were unable, however, to get beyond Hanover Court-House, where they encountered the enemy’s pickets, and were forced to turn back without obtaining the desired information. On that day I sent the following dispatch:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
June 24, 1862—12 p. m.

A very peculiar case of desertion has just occurred from the enemy. The party states that he left Jackson, Whiting, and Ewell (fifteen brigades) at Gordonsville on the 21st; that they were moving to Frederick’s Hall, and that it was intended to attack my rear on the 28th. I would be glad to learn, at your earliest convenience, the most exact information you have as to the position and movements of Jackson, as well as the sources from which your information is derived, that I may the better compare it with what I have.

GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
Major. General.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

The following is his reply:

WASHINGTON, June 25, 1862.

We have no definite information as to the numbers or position of Jackson’s force. General King yesterday reported a deserter’s statement that Jackson’s force was, nine days ago, 40,000 men. Some reports place 10,000 rebels under Jackson at Gordonsville; others, that his force is at Port Republic, Harrisonburg and Luray. Frémont yesterday reported rumors that Western Virginia was threatened, and General Kelley that Ewell was advancing to New Creek, where Frémont has his depots. The last telegram from Frémont contradicts this rumor. The last telegram from Banks says the enemy’s pickets are strong in advance at Luray. The people decline to give any information of his whereabouts. Within the last two days the evidence is strong that for some purpose the enemy is circulating rumors of Jackson’s advance in various directions, with a view to conceal the real point of attack. Neither McDowell, who is at Manassas, nor Banks and Frémont, who are at Middletown, appear to have any accurate knowledge of the subject. A letter transmitted to the Department yesterday, purporting to be dated Gordonsville, on the 14th instant, stated that the actual attack was designed for Washington and Baltimore as soon as you attacked Richmond, but that the report was to be circulated that Jackson had gone to Richmond, in order to mislead. This letter looked very much like a blind, and induces me to suspect that Jackson’s real movement now is toward Richmond. It came from Alexandria, and is certainly designed, like the numerous rumors put afloat, to mislead. I think, therefore, that while the warning of the deserter to you may also be a blind, it could not safely be disregarded. I will transmit to you any further information on this subject that may be received here.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

Major-General MCCLELLAN.

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, p.49

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