Nathaniel Banks

Photograph of Nathaniel Banks
Photograph of Nathaniel Banks

Library of Congress

Quick Facts

From the Peninsula to Maryland: Banks' role in the summer of 1862

Nathaniel Banks was a lifelong politician. When the war began in 1861 Banks was generally well regarded and respected as a former governor of Massachusetts. Because of his respected status he was one of the first men to be appointed by President Lincoln as Major General of the newly raised volunteer troops.

During the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, while McClellan advanced directly on the Confederate capitol at Richmond, Banks and the two divisions he commanded were given the task of preventing Confederate commander, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, from reinforcing the defenses of Richmond. Jackson met the challenge and successfully outmaneuvered and outfought not only Banks, but also the armies of Joseph Shields and John Freemont as well. On May 25th, 1862 Banks faced Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley for the last time when he lost the First Battle of Winchester in Winchester, Virginia.

This defeat was not the last time that Banks faced Jackson on the field of battle, however. Ten weeks later on August 9, Banks again met Jackson, this time at Cedar Mountain, in Culpeper County, Virginia. Though he gained an early advantage against Jackson, a Confederate counterattack by A.P. Hill pushed the advance of Bank's II Corps back. The subsequent arrival by the end of the day of additional elements of Pope's army as well as the remainder of Jackson's command resulted in a two-day stand-off and an indecisive outcome in which both sides claimed victory.

Banks played no significant role in the fighting at the Second Battle of Manassas and missed the Maryland Campaign altogether, sitting out the fighting as commander of the Military District of Washington.

In December of 1862 Banks was moved to New Orleans, Louisiana to take command of the Department of the Gulf. From New Orleans Banks traveled up the Mississippi River and launched an attack on Port Hudson, Louisiana in May 1863. Following the Fall of Vicksburg in July Port Hudson likewise surrendered. Following the Red River Campaign of 1864 Banks was removed from command and sent back to Washington, D.C. where he was placed on leave for the remainder of the war.


Manassas National Battlefield Park, Richmond National Battlefield Park

Last updated: January 15, 2022