At the Battle of Cross Keys, Virginia, Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s notches another victory during the campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. Sent to the valley to relieve pressure on the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia, which had been pinned on the James Peninsula by Union General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, Jackson’s force staged one of the most stunning and brilliant campaigns of the war.
On May 25, Jackson routed a Union force commanded by Nathaniel Banks at Winchester in the northern Shenandoah Valley. The defeat sent panic through Washington, D.C., because Jackson was now poised to invade the capital from the north. President Lincoln ordered Banks to regroup and head south into the valley, while an army under Irwin McDowell headed in from the east, and one under John C. Fremont moved in from the west to pinch Jackson’s troops and destroy his army.
Jackson led the Yankees on a chase south through the valley, beating the Union forces to Port Republic, the site of a crucial bridge where the Federals could have united to defeat Jackson. He kept the bulk of his force at Port Republic and sent General Richard C. Ewell and 5,000 troops to nearby Cross Keys. On June 8, Freemont’s troops advanced on Ewell’s and launched a halfhearted attack that failed to disrupt the Confederate lines. Fremont engaged only 5 of his 24 regiments, followed by a mild artillery bombardment. Casualties were relatively light, with Ewell losing 288 men to Fremont’s 684.
Cross Keys was only a prelude to the larger Battle of Port Republic on June 9, but it was another Union failure in Jackson’s amazing 1862 Shenandoah campaign.