"...thenceforward and forever free..."
Scene from the Midwest's largest
From Cedar Mountain to Antietam
The "Great Skedaddle" had earned Banks' Army the sobriquet of "Jackson's Commissary". The loss of men, in terms of what the future held, was minor, but the strategic defeat was immense. Having destroyed the Federal forces in the Shenandoah Valley in detail, Jackson's force was able to vanish from behind the disorganized and fleeing Federals only to reappear before Richmond in late June and take part in the defeat of McClellan's Federals in the Seven Days Battles.
On June 4, Williams was ordered to occupy Front Royal, scene of the destruction of the 1st Maryland Regiment prior to the defeat at Winchester. It would be period of disorganization and reorganization culminating in the appointment of the pompous John Pope as commander of a newly created Army of Virginia on June 27.
The need for coordination of the scattered forces of the Federals had been made clear and Pope began a concentration of the forces under his command east of the Blue Ridge with the intention of coordinating it with the forces of McClellan then bottled up to the east of Richmond.
Lee unleashed the forces of Jackson against this concentration in the first move of what become known as the 2nd Bull Run Campaign that would destroy Pope's Army of Virginia and open the way for Lee's invasion of the North.
In those dark days the fate of the Republic would hang on a single piece of paper that would pass through the hands of General Williams -- Robert E. Lee's Special Orders 191 detailing the position and objectives of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Possessing this knowledge, the Union Army of the Potomac, with Williams in their midst, would maul Lee's Army at Sharpsburg, Maryland in a pyrrhic victory that would drive Lee back into Virginia deciding the war and fate of the Union with it.
Standing upon the battlefield of Antietam Abraham Lincoln would declare slaves to be "...thenceforward and forever free..." in his Emancipation Proclamation foreboding the end of the institution of slavery and establishing the foundation of the modern American Republic.
The road to this great moment would be filled with blood and anguish and Williams would find himself and his division in the thick of it...