May 25

This Day in History

Civil War

May 25, 1862:

Confederates score a victory at First Battle of Winchester

Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson notches a victory at the First Battle of Winchester, Virginia, as part of his brilliant campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. Jackson, with 17,000 troops under his command, was sent to the Shenandoah to relieve pressure on the Confederate troops near Richmond, Virginia, who were facing the growing force of George McClellan on the James Peninsula.

In early May, Jackson struck John C. Fremont's force at McDowell, in western Virginia. After driving Fremont out of the area, Jackson turned his attention to an army under the command of Nathaniel Banks, situated at the north end of the Shenandoah Valley. With only 10,000 troops, Banks had the unenviable task of holding off the fast-moving Jackson.

On May 25, Jackson found Banks outside of Winchester. He attacked the Union force but was initially repulsed. The Confederates then struck each Union flank, and this time the Yankee line broke. A confused retreat ensued through the town of Winchester, and even some residents fired on the departing Yankees. Banks fled the Shenandoah into Maryland, and Jackson continued his rampage. The Union casualties included 62 killed, 243 wounded and over 1,700 captured or missing, while 68 of Jackson’s men died and another 329 were wounded.

The numbers from Jackson's 1862 valley campaign are stunning. His men marched 350 miles in a month; occupied 60,000 Yankee troops, preventing them from applying pressure on Richmond; won four battles against three armies; and inflicted twice as many casualties as they suffered. Jackson's record cemented his reputation as one of the greatest generals of all time.

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