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Date modified30-Jan-16 09:07
3c22438 - GEN Nathaniel Banks

3c22438 - GEN Nathaniel Banks

"By God, sir," Banks said, angrily arising from his chair, "I will not retreat." Then he added: "We have more to fear from the opinions of our friends than the bayonets of our enemies." COL George Gordon recalling Banks reaction to the suggestion of retreating to Winchester after his troops lost the Battle of Front Royal, VA

If all it took to be a successful General was the ability to look the part - Banks would have been legendary. A Confederate prisoner described him as a, "faultless looking soldier." He had bright yellow gloves, gleaming boots, glittering spurs and horses picked for their looks more than their stamina. Banks true value was his ability to enlist men and raise money for the Union.

Lincoln had appointed Nathaniel Banks, the fourth highest ranking general, based upon his career as the Speaker of the House and Massachusetts Governor. Despite lacking any military knowledge, Banks accepted the position as a stepping stone to the White House.

However, Lincoln did expect him to fight. As part of the never ending game of capturing the other side's capital city, Banks was placed in charge of the Department of the Shenandoah. He was ordered to protect Washington D.C. by neutralizing the Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley. When Washington was safe, GEN McClellan could start his attack on Richmond.

During the summer of 1861, it was a matchup of CS GEN Stonewall Jackson vs GEN "Bobbin Boy" Banks. Jackson's use of lightning strikes against a superior force drove Banks out of the valley. Banks tried to stop the retreat after the assault on Winchester.

"Stop, men! he cried to some Wisconsin troops. "Don't you love your country?"
Replied one of the men: "Yes, by God, and I 'm trying to get back to it just as fast as I can."

"There were never more grateful hearts," said Banks when his troops made it back across the Potomac to Union soil.

The Southerners were also grateful. They bestowed on him the nickname "Commissary Banks" in recognition of all the supplies the federals abandoned in Winchester.