Battle of Winchester
Part of The Second Mexican War
Date 1881
Location Virginia
Result Confederate States victory
34StarsUnited States CSAConfederate States
Commanders and leaders
USArmySeal??? CSA battle flagThomas Jackson

CSA battle flagJames Harris

The Battle of Winchester, Virginia was the first true battle of the Second Mexican War. Fought just south of the US border, at the mouth of the Shenandoah Valley, its result ended the Army of the Potomac's advance into Virginia.


When the war began, the US capital of Washington was bombarded by the forts that overlooked the city in Virginia. In spite of the troops stationed in and around the city, they were unable to take the forts. In order to remove this threat, the Army of the Potomac crossed into Virginia from West Virginia and Maryland, with the intention of flanking the forts. They crossed unopposed, capturing the town of Winchester, but halted and dug in, waiting for the Confederates. Coming to meet them was the Army of Northern Virginia under the joint command of Confederate Colonel James Harris and General Thomas Jackson.

Jackson made camp just north of Front Royal, and quickly discovered that the US commander had not seized the high ground on either side of the town. He also discovered that the US were in no hurry to move, giving Jackson the time he needed to plan his attack. His waiting paid off as his outnumbered forces soon received an extra brigade of volunteer infantry, doubling his troop strength. The brigade was made up of War of Secession veterans who knew how to fight. He sent them on a roundabout way north so that they would attack Winchester from the East by way of both Ashby's Gap and Snicker's Gap by the day after.

The Battle of WinchesterEdit

As the next day began, Jackson launched his attack. Moving north before the crack of dawn towards the Yankee lines just a few miles south of Winchester. By the middle of the day, Jackson received word that the volunteer brigade had engaged the enemy, meeting considerable and increasing resistance. Jackson realized that the US commander had surely pulled men from in front of Winchester to meet this threat. Knowing now that his plan had worked, Jackson moved to the attack.

The Army of the Potomac's southern defense consisting of a regiment and a half, were dug in along a line of firing pits about half a mile south of Kernstown, a few miles below Winchester. For Jackson the attack had now become personal, for the Yankees had thrown him back from Kernstown during the War of Secession. Now he would get his revenge. The Yankees opened fire on his troops first at the range of a mile and a half, Jackson's own artillery quickly returned fire as his troops lined up and advanced on the defenders. The first hours worth of fighting proved hectic, until the Yankee line was breached to the south. That let the Confederate's pour down into their field works off to Jackson's left, which in turn allowed them to pour fire along the entire length of the US line. The US defensive position began to unravel and disintegrated. US Soldiers began fleeing back to the town which proved a mistake as small arms and artillery fire took a heavy toll on them. After this, what few soldiers remained threw up their hands and surrendered.

Although jubilant, Jackson was not satisfied and he ordered the attack pressed home. US troops retreated straight through Kernstown and tried to make a stand at Winchester itself. Just before sunset as Jackson arrived, he discovered that the Volunteers to the east were still fighting hard. The Yankees, realizing they would have to fight a battle from two sides, withdrew from the town.

Having liberated two towns, Jackson was still not satisfied. He pressed his tried men onwards, pursuing the Yankees until they had crossed the Potomac River back into Maryland. As Jackson made ready to attack the Yankees at Harpers Ferry, he received word from CS President James Longstreet to halt his advance and for him to return to Richmond at once.


The reasons for Jackson being halted at the Potomac River were that Longstreet wanted to present the Confederacy as fighting a war for their own defense in the eyes of the world. Jackson was furious, but obeyed his commander-in-chief. His temper was damped somewhat when he was transferred to Kentucky to prepare the army there for the coming onslaught. His forces would remain encamped along the Virginian side of the Potomac river until the end of the war.

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