After Port Republic: Shields' men march to Alexandria

I have been spending a lot of time recently studying accounts of Jackson's Valley campaign of 1862 as I am wrapping up work on Army Life According to Arbaw. The experience of Shields' Division during this campaign has been of particular interest due to the fact that not only was the 66th Ohio a part of that division, but so was the 67th Ohio, a favorite local regiment of mine.

While doing research for Arbaw, I stumbled across the following account from Corporal John J. Evers of Co. C of the 7th Ohio Infantry. Evers' letter discusses the march of Shields' division to Alexandria following the Battle of Port Republic; he alludes to the fact that he expected to join McClellan's army outside Richmond but his letter marks the breaking up of Shields' division- the First and Second Brigades were sent south while the battered Third and Fourth Brigades (mauled at Port Republic) remained in Alexandria for another month then marched back into central Virginia as part of John Pope's Army of Virginia. 

This proved to be Evers' last published letter- he was killed in action August 9, 1862 at the Battle of Cedar Mountain. "He received a ball through the thigh," company historian Theodore Wilder wrote in 1866. "At 9 P.M., the pain occasioned led him to beg the favor of being put to death, but the loss of blood soon ended his sufferings and he died on the field in the hands of the enemy about midnight." 

Unknown Wood County Soldier- Wood County Historical Museum 

Originally published in the Wood County Independent July 9, 1862

Alexandria, Virginia July 1, 1862

Saturday June 21st, notwithstanding our many promises of rest, we were ordered to prepare immediately for a march. All conjectures as to our destination were soon dispersed as the trains of wagons and artillery were all ordered to Manassas Junction. McDowell’s men having all gone by rail, we expected to do the same. Railroad riding with us had “played out” and the boys had it currently reported that “Old Paddy Shields” said he wasn’t going to have his men jolted along in freight cars, they’d march first. 

Banks’ vanguard, the 10th Maine Regiment, arrived in town, and our advance led off towards the Blue Ridge. In two hours our division had all cleared Front Royal, we hope forever. 55 miles was the distance to be made in 3 days. We came to time but had a rather tough one, as the weather was very warm and the roads so dusty that our line of marching might be traced for miles by the rising clouds of powdered earth. Quite a number were sun struck the surgeons said. A part of the route lay through a most romantic and beautiful country, the noted Manassas Gap is so gradual and ascent and descent that you hardly know you are at the summit of the Blue Ridge, except for the broad extensive plains appeared to a far better advantage than usual. 

Our first encampment was at Markham, the home of the late Col. Ashby. The first day was passed through Thoroughfare Gap, the place Gen. Geary was going to make famous as the American Thermopylae during Jackson’s raid. The way he lit out of that though wasn’t as slow as the remaining baggage clearly showed. Monday everything arrived at Bristol Station, 3 miles from the Junction. Tuesday was occupied principally in a thundering rain storm. Gen. Shields hearing of his treatment at Headquarters left immediately and has not been with us since. The men are a unit for him. 
General James Shields

Thursday a review was hatched up, and in accordance with the wishes of our certain “lone stars” the division was called out to be looked at by Gen. Ferry and Brig. Gen. Van Ranselaer, chief of McDowell’s staff. Friday evening, our brigade (3rd) took the cars and came to this place, Alexandria, and Saturday was, with all its baggage, put aboard two transports North America and Georgia for Fortress Monroe or someplace else. We dropped out into the river and cast anchor for the night, and Sunday morning the 29th landed and marched to this hill nearly 2 miles from the city, and 6 miles from Washington

The 3rd and 4th brigades are promised a short rest, owing to our being so used up at Port Republic. The 1st and 2nd embarked Sunday and Monday and are far on their way ere this. The 67th (Ohio) is in the 2nd (brigade) Gen. Ferry and has gone. We will go soon. Yesterday all the troops in this vicinity who could be spared were sent down- about 12,000-15,000. Exciting news this morning from Richmond. The Capitol and White House are in full view. The men are now in good condition generally. The hospitals at this place and Washington are like a good home more than anything I have ever seen. More in due time.


*Corporal Evers was killed in action August 9, 1862 at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Virginia


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