In Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign, Jonathan A. Noyalas traces Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign during the American Civil War. Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley was known as the “Breadbasket of the Confederacy” due to its ample harvests and transportation centers. The region became a magnet for both Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War, and nearly half of the thirteen major battles fought in the Valley occurred during this campaign.
Through diaries, letters, and battlefield accounts, Noyalas shows how those victories brought hope to an infant Confederate nation, transformed the lives of the Shenandoah Valley’s civilians, and emerged as Stonewall Jackson’s defining moment.
In March 1862, a 35,000-strong Union army led by Major General Nathanial P. Banks invaded the Shenandoah Valley from the north. General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson initially opposed him with just 3,500 men. By June 10, Jackson had driven the Yankees back into Maryland. The story of how he accomplished this is incredible. Professor Noyalas does an adequate job telling this story, but while he paints an interesting picture of the campaign’s impact on civilians, his military history falls short.
How the war affected civilians is a perspective you rarely read, especially when it comes to Union loyalists vs. Confederates in the Valley. Not every Virginian seethed at Major General Banks’ blue ranks marching through the streets. Some even cheered. Their neighbors, however, were happy to later point them out to Jackson’s men. I was surprised to read just how virulent the hatred was for Yankees. In an effort to scare the invaders, one resident of Winchester told a Union officer that after the Battle of Bull Run they collected Northern skulls and sold them for ten dollars!
Unfortunately, Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign lacks the strategic and tactical depth of other books on the subject. Noyalas’ descriptions of the battles are often cursory and don’t give a clear picture of what was happening and where. For instance, he stops his narrative of the Battle of Front Royal to discuss how civilians reacted to Jackson’s men advancing through town. The tactical details of the fight are glossed over in the ensuing paragraphs, reducing the entire engagement to a short summary.
This book is not a traditional military history. Noyalas focuses on small, personal moments that highlight the human side of war.
Jonathan A. Noyalas is a history professor and Director of the McCormick Civil War Institute at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. He holds a B.A. in History from Shenandoah University and M.A. in History from Virginia Tech, and received the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Award in 2016. Before that, he was an Assistant Professor of History at Lord Fairfax Community College for seven years. His other books include The Battle of Fisher’s Hill (2013) and Civil War Legacy in the Shenandoah (2015).
Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign by Jonathan A. Noyalas was published by The History Press (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina) as part of their War Comes to the Homefront Sesquicentennial Series in 2010. The paperback edition is 160 pages and retails for $19.99. The Kindle edition sells for $7.99.