As the warm May afternoon sun sank slowly towards the western mountains, all seemed tranquil in the small Virginia settlement of Front Royal. The earlier scare of the Confederate approach had died down. The road south, up the South Fork valley, remained, so far as Colonel Knipe (USA) was concerned, untrod by rebel feet.
|Daybreak - or shortly after - 21 May 1862. Michigan cavalry|
and a flying battery cover the Union retreat.
|Union wagons lead Gordon's Brigade, which is in turn|
followed by Donnelly's.
What to do? At this time, the good Colonel knew that General Shields's command would be marching through the Blue Ridge Mountains via Chester Gap, but would not be arriving until early the following forenoon. Dare he leave Front Royal ungarrisoned, and march for the guns? Should he wait for some clarification before deciding. After all his orders were to hold this village. Maybe he ought to wait until morning - even for General Shields.
Colonel Knipe's command comprised:
- 46th Pennsylvania Infantry (27 figures)
- 3d Wisconsin Infantry (27 figures)
- 1st Maine Cavalry (15 figures)
- Bty M/ 1st New York Artillery (4 figures and a smoothbore Napoleon cannon)
This decision I subjected to a die roll, and, as it transpired, Col Knipe didn't shally-shally about. His superior officer was probably in trouble, he would help if he could, even though he would barely have crossed the South Fork river bridge by dark. He would resume the march at once the following day. Meanwhile he would send a courier to Shields stating the case.
|Donnelly's brigade on the march - but for how much longer?|
|Confederates in hot pursuit, the cavalry and elements of|
Trimble's Brigade leading. The Michigan cavalry
hurl verbal defiance...
General Nathaniel P. Banks was not altogether displeased with his troops' fight against the redoubtable 'Stonewall' Jackson, but his situation was not a comfortable one. The day's encounter had been quite unexpected when it happened, and it was clear that the Confederates heavily outnumbered his own. Could he expect help from his subordinate, Col Knipes? His message to him carried no instructions to meet him half way, but rather to wait, and try to hold Front Royal if attacked. General Shields could not be far short of that place by this time, but reliance upon his intervention might be more problematic. He could not be up before noon, that was plain. It was one thing to sustain a two-hour fight at two to one odds. Accepting the task for six hours was a whole other matter. Delaying action, then? To gain time for... what? For whom?
|Cavalry action! The outcome you will have to wait for until|
To be continued...