The Civil War, Day by Day

The High Water Mark (detail)

Battle of McDowell, Virginia

Jackson considered three alternate plans of attack: to reinforce Johnson and conduct a sudden lunge on the Northern troops, to enlist General Richard Ewell’s help in a frontal assault on General Nathaniel Banks’ Union troops, or to strike Banks’ rear from the north end of Massanutten Mountain. After much deliberation, Jackson opted for the first alternative. The result was a major battle in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign.

The Confederates numbered approximately 10,000 while the Union troops were only 6,000 strong. When Northern General Robert Schenck began an attack on the Confederates, Jackson sprang into action. In a manner befitting his nickname, Stonewall drove the Union Army back toward Franklin, West Virginia and later returned to the Shenandoah Valley.

In a wire to Robert E. Lee dated May 9, 1862, Jackson stated, “God blessed our arms with victory at McDowell yesterday.” Whether the source was providence or fate, the Southern Army would soon experience a devastating reversal in its fortune.

Mort Künstler painted this dramatic scene, a detail from The High Water Mark, which typifies the fighting which took place at the Battle of McDowell.

May's Archived Features:

Monday May 1, 2023
Tuesday May 2, 2023
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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.