Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/155

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Stonewall Jackson. 149

son of the West " that when asked the secret of his success, he promptly replied in characteristic, if not classic, phrase: "I gits thar fust with the most men." Jackson acted on this maxim. His men used to say: "Old Jack always starts at early dawn, except when he starts the night before," and while he rarely had "the most men," he nearly always "got there fust," and struck before the enemy was aware of his presence.


The secrecy with which Jackson formed and executed his plans was a most important element of his success.

After the defeat of Fremont at Cross Keys, and Shields at Port Republic, he was largely reinforced by General Lee, who took pains to have the fact known to the enemy, and Jackson was not slow to confirm the impression that with these reinforcements he would sweep down the Valley again.

He took into his confidence Colonel T. T. Munford, who com- manded the advance of his cavalry, and he detailed for special duty Mr. William Gilmer, of Albemarle, who was widely known in Vir- ginia as a political speaker, and in the army as a gallant soldier.

A number of Federal surgeons, who had come under a flag ol truce to look after Banks' wounded, were quartered in a room adjoin- ing Colonel Munford's, when Mr. Gilmer (" Billy Gilmer " was his popular subriquet) stalked in with rattling saber and jingling spurs, and in loud tones announced, " Dispatches for General Jackson." " What is the news?" he was asked loud enough to be heard by surgeons in the next room, who pressed their ears to the key-holes and cracks eager to catch every word. " Great news," was the loud response. "Great news. The whole road from here to Staunton is full of gray people coming to reinforce us. There is General Whiting and General Lawton and General Hill, and I don't know who else, at the head of about thirty thousand men. They will all be up by to-morrow afternoon, and then won't we clean out this Valley, and make the Yankees skedaddle again across the Potomac ? Hurrah ! for old Stonewall and his foot cavalry, as well as his crittur companies, say I !"

It is needless to add that when the surgeons were sent back to their own lines early the next morning, they hastened to carry "the news" to headquarters. A hasty retreat of the Federal army fol- lowed, and Jackson so skilfully maneuvered his forces, used his cavalry as a curtain across the Valley, and so secretly conducted his