I have now reached a point at which a few questions need to be answered.
(a) What is the make up of Major General Fremont's force currently encamped just north west of Langchester?
(b) What decision will he come to on receiving rumours that Jackson's Division is at Langchester?
(c) Once the above two questions are answered, we need to know which of the two columns is the real Confederate Corps.
(d) Where is Colonel Ashby's marauding cavalry regiment?
For each question I will give a couple of options, and a roll of the die will decide.
So for (a)
an even roll will mean the whole of his 2nd Brigade plus one cavalry and one artillery battery are detached and currently located at Westwich, some 18 road miles distant.
an odd roll, just the 54th and 58th New York plus one cavalry and one battery under the command of Brigadier General Bohlen, are at Westwich.
I rolled even, so the former is the case.
Now we know this information, I can give some logical options for Fremont.
An even roll, he holds his ground with his single brigade and investigates Langchester.
An odd roll, he breaks camp the following morning and heads back north toward Millwick. Deciding his brigade will not be able to hold out against Jackson's Division until help arrives.
The result will stand, even if the enemy force reported at Langchester turns out to be the ghost army.
I rolled an odd, so Fremont and his brigade will be on the road by 0600 Tuesday morning, heading north.
(c) This one is easy, if I roll an odd number the column at Langchester is the ghost, even then it is the real Corps of Jackson.
I rolled odd. Jackson is at Oxmere, and the ghost army at Langchester is removed from the map.
Finally we can now assume that Colonel Ashby was privy to Jackson's intended route and so he will be operating in the vicinity of Kegford, Hindbrook and Loxleigh 'K11',' 'N10' and 'Q9' respectively.
The narrative can now continue.
1830 hours, Monday 7th April 1862.
Ashby's Cavalry Regiment. Loxleigh.
It had been a very productive day for Colonel Ashby and his regiment. He had watched the whole of Bank's Division load up, form up and then set off south toward Presthall. That information had been sent via a pair of his troopers to General Jackson, who, if the schedule had been maintained, would now be camped in and around Oxmere.
He and his men had spent the rest of the day chopping down telegraph lines, great swathes of posts now lay on the ground useless. He had managed to isolate Kegford, Hindbrook and Loxleigh, and in doing so, every town south of them, not only from each other but also from all points north.
The day was made complete when he intercepted a Union supply wagon train heading south on the Harfield to Loxleigh road. The Union Lieutenant commanding it had the sense to offer no resistance, so both he and his men were allowed to go free, Ashby had no intention of being burdened with prisoners. He had even allowed the Union soldiers to keep their weapons, without them they could, and probably would be attacked by the locals. He and his men helped themselves to flour, meat, beans and decent coffee. The rest they passed onto the local Virginians, it would be distributed among the farms and towns nearby.
1903 hours, Monday 7th April 1862.
2 miles south of Hazelford on the road to Oxmere.
In the gathering gloom of dusk, both patrols had almost collided as they raced in opposite directions along the road. Captain Joshua Reid was leading a patrol of men from the 1st West Virginia Cavalry, they had been observing the camp of Jackson's men at Oxmere. The captain had quickly realised he was looking at not a single division, but two divisions of the enemy. Information that needed to be quickly passed to Brigadier General Shields, just six miles away at Hazelford.
Ironically, Captain Isiah Goldburgh and his patrol of troopers from Munford's Cavalry Regiment, had discovered, and had been observing the Union division belonging to Shields as they made camp in and around Hazelford. He too was now hurrying back to report his findings to Major General Jackson.
'We saw the blue bellies at about the same time as they laid eyes on us. There was some confusion as at first, they coming up the road from Oxmere, we was a thinking they were another patrol of our regiment. Old Jamie, our sergeant was the first to draw his pistol, them boys is carrying the stars and stripes, he yelled. We all went for our pistols and carbines, and those Yankees did the same.
It was all smoke, noise and chaos, as we charged into each other, though charge might be too fine a description, we was so close together, the horses had barely the space or time to raise more than a trot. I emptied my six gun at some blurred shapes ahead and some passing down my flank, not rightly sure if I hit anything though. In less than a few seconds it was all over, them Yankees disappeared up the road and we carried on down it.
It was later, I discovered a bullet lodged in the pommel of my saddle!'
Trooper Fred Gunder, Munford's Cavalry Regiment.
Apart from the damage to Trooper Gunder's saddle, and one Union trooper who was wounded in the ankle, the encounter had been bloodless.
2100 hours, Monday 7th April 1862.
HQ of Jackson's Corps, Oxmere.
Generals Jackson and Ewell stood at the folding table in the command tent, on it lay a map, and various sheets of paper. The troopers from Colonel Ashby had arrived and delivered the message about Bank's Division being on the move, not only that, it contained details of the units which composed it. Further, just under an hour ago, a patrol sent out north had found Shield's Division only six miles away at Hazelford.
'Richard we have the perfect opportunity to destroy two of the three enemy divisions in our area of operations.' Jackson was smiling, a rare thing for him, he glanced down at the map again before continuing. 'With that melee between patrols on the Hazelford Road, we can assume that General Shields now knows we are here, but if Colonel Ashby has done his work, he will be unable to tell anyone about it.
General Ewell nodded in response, 'We know the make up of Banks' Division, but not where it is at this present moment, How far south from Kegford has he advanced?'
It was Jackson's turn to nod. 'We should have that information within a few hours.'
On receipt of the message from Colonel Ashby, Jackson had ordered a patrol to make all speed up the road that Banks. Division would be travelling, and report on its current location.
'Dependent on that information, I believe we will have the opportunity to engage and defeat Shields, before facing Banks.' He slapped his fist into his left palm. 'We will never have a better opportunity, We have the advantage in numbers, a corps against two separate divisions that cannot quickly come to the aid of the other.' He pointed to the mountain range that ran between the two roads on which the Union divisions were now located. 'There is no way across those mountains for men on foot, let alone wagons and artillery, No, both would have to pass through Oxmere if they wished to assist their comrades.'
Richard Ewell agreed with his boss, this was indeed a perfect opportunity to strike a blow against the enemy. 'Will you take Shields first Thomas?
Jackson nodded, 'That is my thinking Richard, I will take most of the corps and head for Shields at Hazelford, I want you to remain here with a mixed brigade to hold off Banks should he appear, though I imagine Banks to be a good deal further away.' He pulled out a pocket watch, glanced at it before continuing, 'The longer that search patrol takes to return, then the further away Banks must be. If Shields stands and fights, he will be defeated in plenty enough time for us to return here, resupply ourselves and then head off to defeat Banks.'
The search patrol returned just after 0400 hours on Tuesday morning with the information that Banks and his division were camped at Presthall, Fourteen miles away!
Join me in he next part to see if Shields stands and faces Jackson.