Valley of the Shadow


Smith ponders the nature of war and analyzes the current state of military affairs. He fears Richmond will fall, and he discusses the activities of Confederate and Union forces in Virginia, as he reviews the strategies of several Generals, including Jackson, McClellan, Fremont, and others. Smith also discusses the difficulty of communicating with his family.

Col. C. Q. Tompkins

Folly Farm (near Staunton)

Dear Col -

So far from adding anything to my despondency, your letter was a source of gratification & satisfaction - Your sentiments harmonize more nearly with mine, than those of any one else, & I read your statement of occurrences & remarks upon them, with a consciousness that I am reading truths, & not monstrous exaggerations- The utter disregard for truth, which permits both sides in every contest great or small, to claim a magnificent victory; & for justice, which aggravates every slight iregularity on either side, into a monstrous outrage & crime, illustrates forcibly the degrading tendency of the war - an approach to truth may be attained from the public prints only by a careful study of details in the accounts of both sides, & deducing conclusions - upon general statements nothing can be founded

Upon general principles I am led to believe Richmond must fall. Time is all a besieging force of appropriate numbers needs, & that time has been given in a great measure. McClellan's reconnaisances have been sufficiently complete for more than a week or ten days, to admit of definite plans & arguments, doubtless now in course of prosecution. Except the battle of Seven Pines, we have read of no engagement near Richmond, & I am satisfied the Yankees have not been idle. I am forced to conclude also that the "Seven Pines" is wholly without other than moral effect. The Yankees were doubtless somewhat worsted, but its effect bears such a proportion to the fate of Richmond, as a skirmish among [unclear: picquets ] to an impending battle between opposing contiguous armies. I am also so perfectly satisfied that the Confederate generals have already done, & are still doing everything that can be done in the premises, as to make that fact an important consideration in my conclusions. If they could have done so, they would certainly have before this joined battle in full force, & thus have adopted perhaps the only means of saving the city. Whilst I am writng this may have already been done, but we heard nothing of it.

I know you have mourned with me over the losses of our regiment at Lewisburg. My first information was that poor Thompson was killed and Col Patton's brother were killed, and that Rand was left lying in the field with a broken arm. These things shocked me greatly, & I have been greatly relieved to learn that my information was not correct. We have though to mourn some good men, Lieu t Tom Mason formely "orderly" of Barker's Co was killed- he was a very worthy man. [unclear: Capt ] Chase & Lieu t Johns (formerly 1 st Lieu t & orderly) of Lipscombe's Co were also killed, Except one of the privates Chenning) of the Riflemen these are all of the fatal casualties I have learned Thompson's other eye was badly shot, & being badly stunned by the Shock, he was left for dead upon the battle field - Rand was not wounded but taken prisoner in Mason Matthews house - I am glad of it - he will now at least be out of danger & can see his friends. - The regiment is said to have behaved handsomely, they had the post of honor (the right flank), & drove the enemy before them as far down as Mason Matthews house; the repulse & flight of the left made it necessary for them to retreat but they were so far in advance, as to make their escape with great difficulty, & not without severe loss as the Yankees had nearly closed in behind them. I get this information from Cap t Ruby who has recently written me. You havemay have heard it long since - I have a warm affection for the regiment, & whilst I rejoice over their gallantry I deeply mourn their losses

I can tell you little or nothing of news here, On Sunday cannonading was heard here. On yesterday morning (Monday) I heard with great distinctness heavy cannonading, very frequent & somewhat continued - We learn the fight on Sunday was Ewell's force with part of Jackson's old command, engaged with Fremont & Rosecrans' forces between Port Republic & Harrisonburg. On yesterday Jackson fought Shield's near Port Republic - Shields came up the Valley from Front Royal on the East side of the South Fork of Shenandoah, & the battle took place on that side - Jackson attacking. To tell the results of these two engagements is a different matter. I hear that the Confederates were victorious in both, - the following are some of the accounts. The rumour before the fight on Sunday morning was that Jackson & staff had been captured at their headquarters (this was false of course) - Sunday evening "Enemy badly whipped took 18 cannon" "Enemy [unclear: do] took three cannon"-Monday morning" Ewell whipped Fremont "Enemy [unclear: do]" took every thing Shields had" (Shields army at that time not engaged) - Monday morning "Ewell whipped & whipped & routed Fremont"- &c &c &c Monday evening "Jackson routed Shields, Shields retreating & blocking the road behind him" - Last evening late it was reported Fremont was crossing the North river at a ford between Port Republic "The Valley Turnpike, & it is certain that the bridge across the river at Port Republic was burned by --- Jackson --- the Confederates - A victory followed by the retreat falling back of the victorious army, & the destruction of the only bridge left in the Valley, is certainly not a remarkable success. The bridge you will see by reference to a recent , across Middle river just before its junction with the South fork of Shenandoah river. Ewell fought somewhere along the road from Port Republic to Harrisonburg, & must have fallen back for he would scarcely have burned the bridge behind him. An additional fact is that sick & wounded &c are being removed from Staunton by order of Jackson - it is also said that Jackson received a regiment or two reinforements on yesterday, & more are expected to-day. These are reports which have reached me distilled through many brains & lips. You can study them for yourself I can draw no conclusions

I have abandoned all hope of receiving any letters from my wife & sister. My efforts to get them aided as I have been by kind friends have been [unclear: unavailing]. My family have not heard from me either. The Federal officer at Charleston burned my last letter which reached them in February Col Patton thought the last which I wrote improper & did not feel authorized to send it - on neither side therefore have we received letters for many months. The short letter I have received from my mother who seemed too much affected to write news.

My kindest regards to all of your family & believe me very truly

Your friend

Isaac N Smith