Photo Credit: Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson surveys the carnage in the aftermath of the charge of his Louisiana troops against Union guns posted at a patch of clear hillside known as the Coaling in a modern painting by Bradley Schmehl. Even when fighting a defensive battle, Stonewall fought aggressively.
By Joshua Shepherd The regiment of Yankees, which was largely composed of German immigrants, advanced through a field of clover in the Shenandoah Valley in search of the Rebel line to its front on June 8, 1862. Its advance was watched closely by three regiments of Confederate soldiers lying prone behind a rail fence on a ridge crowned with timber to their south. As they crossed the narrow ravine directly beneath the ridge, the 500 men of the 8th New York disappeared momentarily from view. Not only were the enlisted men of the Yankee regiment as green as early summer corn, but so were their field officers. The officers had failed to throw forward a line of skirmishers and mistook the handful of Rebel skirmishers that fell back in front of them as a few isolated, retreating foe. When the Yankees crested the ridge in perfect alignment, approximately 1,300 Rebels, nearly an entire brigade, were concealed 50 yards away. The Rebels rose quickly to their feet to fire and unleashed a devastating volley. The tremendous crash of musketry felled scores of Federals in seconds. Even the Rebels were shocked by the lopsided bloodshed. “The dead and wounded Yankees were lying on the field as thick as black birds,” wrote Sidney Richardson of the 21st Georgia. In moments the shattered remnants of the 8th New York streamed in confusion back across the ravine, having lost half their number. The Rebels gave chase, but there was no reason since the unfortunate regiment was in full retreat.
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