Men from Shepherdstown proudly served
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series about the Civil War in Shepherdstown.
Most of the soldiers provided locally of Shepherdstown men and boys belonged to the 2nd Virginia Volunteer Infantry, Company B. They had enlisted in Harpers Ferry in April 1861. They were trained at Bolivar Heights by then Col. Thomas J. Jackson of Virginia Military Institute.
Early in the war, they marched and drilled, and then marched and drilled some more. They were involved in the burning of the covered bridge at Shepherdstown, destroying the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the capture of the railroad stock at Martinsburg.
On July 2, they marched north from Martinsburg to confront the Union army as they invaded Virginia. In the skirmish that followed, known collectively as the battle of Falling Waters, Hoke’s Run or Hainesville, the 2nd Virginia watched and was not involved as the 1st Virginia and 5th Virginia defended the ridge near where today a new Sheetz store is located. It didn’t take long for Jackson to see that he was outnumbered. He pulled his men back, watching behind to see if the Union army would pursue his men.
Jackson’s men camped south of Martinsburg at Darkesville. On July 11 they received orders to move further south to Winchester. Each day he formed up the troops to await the enemy. They never came. Instead the Union army camped at Martinsburg for about a week and then moved to nearby Charlestown.
While at Darkesville, the Shepherdstown soldiers heard of an incident involving the death of a Union soldier in Martinsburg. He had been shot by Belle Boyd as he tried to remove the rebel flag from the family’s home. Belle’s father was with the 2nd Virginia, serving in Company D with the boys from Martinsburg.
Within days, Col. Jackson had received notification that he was now Brigadier Gen. Thomas Jackson.
On July 18, Jackson learned of Union troops amassing at Manassas Junction, Va. His men were needed there. They marched across the Blue Ridge Mountains at Ashby’s Gap. They waded the Shenandoah River at Berry’s Ferry. They were packed into train cars at Piedmont on the morning of July 19, traveling all day to disembark at Mitchell’s Ford. They marched toward Manassas Junction.
Jackson and his men arrived after the battle (known now as First Bull Run/Manassas) had begun on July 21. The Union was having its way early on. But when Jackson’s men arrived, the tide turned. The 2nd Virginians in spite of taking a large number of casualties, held their ground. When the toll of the day was taken, the 2nd Virginia had suffered 15 dead and 53 wounded.
Company B suffered no casualties. A Shepherdstown soldier, Fitzhugh Lee, a member of the 33rd Virginia regiment was mortally wounded in in the battle and died several days later.
At the battle, it is said that Gen. Bee watching the 2nd Virginia’s stand at Bull Run said of Jackson “he was standing like a stone wall.” Jackson since has been referred to as “Stonewall” Jackson. The general was embarrassed by the name and said “the name Stonewall should be given to my men, not to me.” And that is how the proud Shepherdstown soldiers became part of the famous Stonewall Brigade throughout the rest of the war. The brigade included the 2nd Virginia, the 4th Virginia, the 5th Virginia, the 27th Virginia, the 33rd Virginia and the Rockbridge Artillery Battery. Their duties include protecting the Shenandoah Valley because as Jackson once said, “If you lose the Valley, you lose Virginia.”
Company B participated in many actions later in the war including the Battle of Kernstown (March 1862), the Seven Days Battle, the Battle of Gaines Mill, the Battle of Cedar Creek, the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Antietam, the Battle of Chancellorsville and others.
The brigade continued through the war, losing their famous commander as he was shot by friendly fire when his men thought he was the enemy on May 2, 1863. He died from those mortal wounds.
The men from Shepherdstown proudly served.
Many are interred today in the Confederate section of the Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown. In 1935 the Sons of the Confederate Veterans and the State of West Virginia erected a regimental monument in honor of the Jefferson County men who served in the Confederate Army. That marker lists 535 of their names. There are about 125 Confederate soldiers interred at the cemetery. A brochure listing ten prominent soldiers including Henry Kyd Douglas is available. A Civil War Trails marker also has been placed at the cemetery.