First Battle of Kernstown

A yellowed 1800s map show terrain details with battle movements in red.
Detail of "The Battle of Kernstown, Sunday, March 23d 1862" map sketch by Jedediah Hotchkiss

Library of Congress

The US Army won the First Battle of Kernstown, just south of Winchester, on March 23, 1862, but Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s aggressiveness caused great alarm in Washington. Believing Jackson had a larger number of men, Lincoln sent thousands of Federal soldiers back to the Valley. Though this battle was a tactical loss for Jackson, he scored a strategic win by keeping the Federals from Richmond.

First Kernstown Battlefield

The Kernstown Battlefield Association (KBA), an all-volunteer non-profit organization, preserves the 388-acre Kernstown Battlefield on the Pritchard-Grim Farm in Frederick County, Virginia. Visit Kernstown Battlefield »

Rose Hill Park, operated in partnership by Frederick County Parks & Recreation Department and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV), was the scene of the battle’s conclusion at Rose Hill Farm. Visit Rose Hill Park »

Outnumbered in the Valley

Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, commander of Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, faced a dilemma in early March 1862. Jackson was ordered by his superior, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, to prevent Federal forces in the Valley from moving east to reinforce Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s offensive against Richmond. Yet, Jackson could count on barely 4,000 under his command at Winchester, hardly enough to counter the 20,000 troops under U.S. Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks. Thus, on March 11, 1862, when Banks advanced south towards Winchester, Jackson led his outnumbered command south to Mount Jackson.

Order of Battle

The order of battle shows the hierarchy of army units in the field at the First Kernstown.

A map depicts troop movements during a Civil War battle.
First Battle of Kernstown

Map by Hal Jespersen,

A battle map by Hal Jesperson,, shows Jackson's Confederates (red) taking positions on Sandy Ridge, west of Kernstown and the Valley Turnpike. Shields' Federals (blue) assaults their position from the north. Federal skirmishers push Confederate cavalry south of town east of the turnpike.

Part of a series of articles titled If This Valley is Lost, Virginia is Lost.

Cedar Creek & Belle Grove National Historical Park

Last updated: January 30, 2023