A bridge too far for Stonewall - and me?

Reader Will Keene - who knows more about Stonewall and the Valley than I do - sent in some excellent objections to my position, "No such campaign as Romney." He says,

You say that "Readers have erroneously written to tell me Romney was [the target]." To support this claim that the rest of us are erroneous and that you have mastered the truth, you claim that Jackson "disclosed his intentions to none once his winter offensive began" and "'Romney' never crossed Jackson's lips and he wrote no more about it after November."

He attached some compelling OR quotes, which appear below. Before commenting on those clippings, let me shamefully backpedal to say that I should have written that author Tanner makes a point of the fact that at no point in the winter march did Jackson's subordinates learn what their objectives were. But that he "wrote no more about it" is disproven below. Material in brackets is Will's:

Quote: "In accordance with your views, indorsed by this Department, [Loring] has commenced a movement for co-operafion with you, which will place at your disposal quite an effective force for your proposed campaign". -- J.P. Benjamin, December 6 [The camapign Jackson had proposed at that point was Romney]

Comment: Jackson proposed attacking Romney, the SecWar refers to the coming action as a "campaign." So far so good for the "Romney Campaign."

Quote: "It appears to me very important that his [Loring's] force should come as a unit to this point for not only are General Kelley’s forces in Hampshire County at this moment near 7,000 strong, and more expected from the West, but additional troops may at any time cross the Potomac at a lower point, and enter this district. In addition to these reasons for bringing his entire command here may be added the great importance, if successful, in recovering this district and capturing many of the enemy, and disorganizing the mass of such forces as are threatening this region of wintering on the waters of the Ohio, as expressed in my letter of the 20th ultimo." -- Jackson, December 9 [The letter of November 20th described his plan to attack Romney.]

Comment: Three days after Romney is linked to "campaign" in Benjamin's letter, Jackson is broadening the scope of the enterprise. "Hampshire County" replaces Romney and then the "county" gives way to the even broader "district." The focus, perhaps, is the enemy rather than Romney. To me it seems "district clearing" is now the aim. To complicate matters, Jackson then alludes to forces beyond the district; those that might cross the Potomac at a "lower point" could be Lander's or Banks' commands or both. More baffling is the reference to "disorganizing the mass of such forces as are threatening this region of wintering on the waters of the Ohio." Those would be Rosecrans' command. What is Jackson up to? I think, myself, he is writing himself a blank check for the use of Loring's command as he sees fit. The priority is still the county or district, but other to-dos are now sprouting.

Quote: "If it is the design of the Government to commence offensive operations against Romney soon, the troops asked for should move to my aid at once. ... There are noble spirits in and about Romney who have given up their earthly all, and are now for our cause and institutions exiles from their homes. I have endeavored to cheer them, and to deter those who remained behind from taking the oath of allegiance to the enemy by holding out to them the prospect of a speedy deliverance..." -- Jackson, December 23

Comment: Here "in and about" Romney is mentioned; the town and by implication county are held out as political objectives, the population needing protection. The context reinforces the Romney objective of Jackson's letter from earlier in the month but now we have to infer Romney-clearing is the point of the campaign rather than an incidental benefit.

Quote: "I have good reason to believe that the enemy in Hampshire are nearly 10,000 strong ... it appears to me that my best plan is to attack him at the earliest practicable moment, and accordingly, as soon as the inspection of General Loring’s forces shall be finished and the necessary munitions of war procured, I expect to march on the enemy" -- Jackson, December 24 [Hampshire County = Romney]

Comment: Here, Jackson is making the enemy his objective and he places them in the county, not just in Romney. If more enemy are across the river from Hampshire than are in Hampshire, would they become the prime objective?

Quote: "If there is a probability of a junction of the troops of Kelley and Banks, General Jackson’s plan of attacking the former soon is undoubtedly most judicious." -- J.E. Johnston, December 25

Comment: If this quote refers to Jackson's original letter it does not help the case of a "Romney Campaign." If it reflects Jackson's thinking as of Christmas, it makes the troops of Kelley the objective wherever they were. On a side note, there appears to be an intelligence failure here: it is Lander who may connect with Kelley.

Quote: "I had an interview this morning with General T. J. Jackson ... Here at Romney the enemy is concentrating all his forces from Western Virginia, leaving, as I am informed, very few troops on Cheat Mountain. Let us without delay meet them with our western forces." -- T.S. Haymond, December 26

Comment: This does not disclose Jackson's thinking, the way I read it. It does suggest that if Union forces are the object, the object is at Romney.

Quote: "To-morrow I hope to recover Bath, and before leaving Morgan I desire to drive the enemy out of this county and destroy the railroad bridge which has been recently constructed across the Big Cacapon." -- Jackson, January 2 [Leaving Morgan = entering Hampshire]

Comment: Again we see Jackson piling contingencies onto his wish list. This quote works against the "Romney Campaign" by subordinating entry into Hampshire to clearing Morgan. Bath, in Morgan, is not a feint it is a clearing operation, a major objective. When the Union's Bath garrison joins Lander at Hancock, Hancock becomes an objective. Giving up on Hancock, Jackson leaves Morgan County with Lander in pursuit and chewing up his trains. That is to say, "before leaving Morgan" - a higher priority than Hampshire and Romney - he fails to drive out the re-entering enemy.

He recovers Morgan, he loses Morgan; he recovers Bath, he loses Bath. He assails Hancock, he abandons assailing. He occupies Romney, he loses Romney.

I regret the tone conveying a mastery of truth and I appreciate the correction Will has offered. I now think that "Romney Campaign" is a reasonable term of convenience to cover Jackson's ever-shifting intentions. It is conversational.

Should historians use it? No, it's inaccurate. Call me simplistic but however it was sold to Benjamin and Johnston, this was not a campaign for Romney and therefore not a "Romney campaign."