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Shenandoah County Courthouse - Woodstock, Virginia - March 1862
"I have only to say that if this valley is lost Virginia is lost". These were the words of General Stonewall Jackson who was given the task of defending the Shenandoah Valley against two Federal armies, both of which greatly outnumbered his own force of 5000 men. Realizing that the northern part of the valley would be difficult if not impossible to defend, General Jackson reluctantly withdrew from Winchester and moved his army to the more strategic towns further up the valley. Federal General Nathaniel Banks then marched into the lower valley with his army of 38,000 men.
General Joseph E. Johnston had given Jackson orders to keep the Federal armies busy and to prevent reinforcement of General McClellan's peninsula campaign to capture Richmond. Jackson was also given council not to expose his forces to the danger of a defeat. But General Jackson had bolder plans. He would aggressively go on the offensive, attack and defeat the Federal invaders.
As General Jackson and his cavalry chief Turner Ashby rode past the historic Shenandoah Court house through the town of Woodstock, no one knew what the future would bring. But one thing Jackson did know, it was he who would decide the fate of the valley, not General Banks.
In this painting I wanted to feature Turner Ashby who had just recently been promoted to Colonel of the 7th Virginia Cavalry on March 12th. I also wanted to depict him on his favorite white horse "Tom Telegraph". The following is the description of Colonel Ashby from the book "Life of Turner Ashby" by Thomas A. Ashby.
“To make a life picture of the man; he usually dressed in a plain suit of gray, unadorned by any badge of rank; his jacket was loose fitting and a little longer than is usually worn; his plain gray pantaloons were covered well up the thigh by a serviceable pair of boots; his hat was of soft black felt, with moderate brim, occasionally changed for a cap of Confederate gray cloth; add a pair of long buckskin gauntlets, and you have his outfit,---except the trusty sabre, pistol, and bowie-knife, all fastened to the same belt, and a pair of well-polished steel spurs of Berlin make.”