Closeup view of the An Unheralded Commander's Unique Victory wayside marker

Closeup view of the An Unheralded Commander's Unique Victory wayside marker

The First Battle of Kernstown

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An Unheralded Commander’s Unique Victory

At 9:00 A.M. on March 23, 1862, Confederate artillery unlimbered near the Valley Turnpike and fired on this height, called Pritchard’s Hill, to begin the First Battle of Kernstown. Union artillery rolled onto these knolls and responded by discharging 700 rounds of shot and shell over the next five hours. More than 300 Union soldiers crowded the height to protect the artillery while Colonel Nathan Kimball, the Union battlefield commander, set up headquarters on this same hill.

 

Kimball successfully repulsed Confederate infantry in its attempt to dislodge the artillery from this ground early in the afternoon, only to watch helplessly as General Jackson swiftly shifted his Confederate artillery from the Valley Turnpike to the crest of Sandy Ridge (the ridge line one mile to your right). By 3:30 P.M. Jackson’s cannon suppressed the Union artillery position. Perched on this hill, Kimball countered aggressively by launching two infantry attacks in quick succession in a effort to force “Stonewall” Jackson from his commanding position.

By sunset, Kimball’s assaults dislodged Jackson’s troops from Sandy Ridge, capturing two cannon and 250 healthy soldiers. The Confederates also suffered 450 killed within their ranks from the day-log battle. Colonel Kimball’s men killed and wounded numbered nearly 600 for the day. His victory earned him a promotion to the rank of brigadier general. Kimball, an Indiana physician before the war, became the only field commander in the Civil War to defeat both Robert E. Lee (Cheat Mountain in West Virginia) and “Stonewall” Jackson (Kernstown) in separate engagements.

From the Left Sidebar:

Colonel Nathan Kimball’s solid leadership at Kernstown was repeated in later Civil War campaigns. Breveted Major General in 1865, Kimball retired from the army after participating in 22 victories against three losses.

 

From the right Sidebar:

Colonel William Murray spent most of the Kernstown battle on this knoll with his 84th Pennsylvania Infantry until ordered to charge the Confederate cannon on Sandy Ridge late in the afternoon. Murray was killed 40 yards from the Southern artillery, the highest ranking officer to die on March 23, 1862.