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Don Stivers

Blind Pursuit Artist's Proof on Paper

Price:  $200
Item#:  11798

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26 x 16.5 in.
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Don StiversBlind Pursuit

The beginning of May, 1862 heralded a low point in Confederate fortunes: Yorktown had been evacuated, as had Williamsburg; Norfolk had to be abandoned, and the Confederacy's first ironclad, the Virginia was scuttled to keep her from Federal hands. One high point, however had come from their renowned 'Stonewall.' Thomas J. Jackson had won a victory in the Shenandoah Valley at McDowell.

Union General George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign was succeeding- in spite of his own cautiousness- and Northern troops were approaching Richmond from the east. Union General Nathaniel P. Banks felt the need to reinforce his army after the Battle of Kernstown. While technically a Confederate defeat, Kernstown drew more Union troops to the Shenandoah Valley, turning McClellan's well-orchestrated advance along two borders of Virginia into a dangerous, uncoordinated, two-pronged shuffle. Then came the Battle of McDowell on May 8, 1862.

In terrain too mountainous to use artillery, the two armies' infantry slugged It out, toe to toe. Though Jackson lost more men, the Federals under General Robert C. Schenck began to retreat with the brilliant Confederate cavalry commander Turner Ashby and his troopers snapping at their heels. By May 10 Jackson's infantry- with the famous 'Stonewall Brigade' in the lead- caught up to Schenck. In desperation, the Union troops set fire to the thick woods, cleverly laying down a smokescreen. A member of Jackson's staff recalled that, 'Soon the sky was overcast with volumes of smoke, which almost hid the scene, and wrapped every distant object in a veil, impenetrable to the eyes and telescopes of the officers alike. Though this sultry canopy the pursuing army felt its way cautiously, cannonaded by the enemy from every advantageous position, while it was protected from ambuscades only by detachments of skirmishers, who scoured the burning woods on either side of the highway.' Jackson, always the consummate warrior, himself admired the subterfuge: 'He declared that his smoke was the most adroit expedient, to which a retreating army could resort, to embarrass pursuit, and that it entailed upon him all the disadvantages of a night attack. By slow approaches, and with constant skirmishing, the Federals were driven back to Franklin Village, and the double darkness of the night and the smoke arrested the pursuit.'

Don Stivers' print portrays Jackson's pursuit of the Federal army stalled by a unique tactic usually not associated with the American Civil War: a smokescreen.
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