Loring-Jackson Incident


The Loring-Jackson incident refers to the acrimonious quarrel between Confederate generals Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and William W. Loring during the Romney Expedition in the winter of 1861–1862 during the American Civil War (1861–1865). The winter campaign resulted in the Confederate occupation of the strategic Shenandoah Valley town of Romney on January 14, 1862. The Loring-Jackson incident unfolded when Loring, believing that Jackson had treated his men unfairly during the expedition in western Virginia, campaigned to have his men recalled from Romney. When Confederate secretary of war Judah P. Benjamin granted Loring’s withdrawal request, Jackson offered his resignation. Less than one month after capturing Romney, Loring’s men abandoned Romney, which subsequently allowed Union forces to regain their stronghold in the Potomac River Valley.


Jackson was promoted to major general on October 7, 1861, and appointed to command the newly created Valley District, headquartered in Winchester. Early in November Jackson arrived in Winchester and immediately proposed an independent and offensive operation to capture Romney, which had been occupied by Union troops since June 1861. Jackson recognized that the expedition would be an “arduous undertaking,” but he believed that control of Romney would ensure the protection of Winchester, the Upper Valley, and the south fork of the Potomac River.

Jackson’s command included his own renowned Stonewall Brigade and General Loring’s division. The latter, initially organized as the Army of the Northwest, consisted of slightly more than 5,000 men organized into three brigades. A career soldier, Loring was skeptical of the feasibility of undertaking a winter campaign, but prepared his command to join Jackson at Winchester. Jackson eagerly awaited the arrival of Loring because he believed the Confederates had to move rapidly to strike at Romney before Union forces reinforced the city. Jackson had never met Loring, but he quickly became irritated at the general’s delay in moving his troops and wrote to Secretary Benjamin requesting that he urge Loring to move more quickly, stating, “If General Loring is not here speedily my command may be a retreating instead of a victorious one.” Finally, after a leisurely advance, Loring’s division arrived at Jackson’s headquarters on December 27. His arrival increased the number of soldiers in Jackson’s command to approximately 11,000.

The Romney Expedition

Jackson’s plan was to advance northwest to capture Bath, Virginia (present day Berkeley Springs, West Virginia), and Hancock, Maryland, and then move east to capture Romney, the primary objective of the expedition. On January 1 Jackson’s army began its march. The march to Bath was exhausting and hazardous, as soldiers lacked adequate food, winter clothing, and blankets and were marching in temperatures well below freezing. On January 2, as the army approached Bath, Jackson ordered his men to halt and prepare to attack the town the following day. Later that night, Jackson received word that Loring had halted several miles back. Jackson immediately ordered Loring to bring up his command.

Loring was outraged at the conditions his men were enduring—extreme cold and lack of rest and food. Obeying his commander’s orders, however, Loring marched his troops through the night. On January 3, after engaging advance Union pickets, Jackson ordered one of Loring’s brigades to push past the Union resistance and move into town. Loring countermanded the order and directed the brigade to encamp, thereby delaying the capture of Bath until the following day. Jackson was furious and the next morning personally led the Confederates into Bath. On January 5 Jackson’s forces departed Bath and moved to capture Hancock, but after encountering significant Union resistance abandoned the plan to capture the Maryland town. Instead, Jackson’s command headed directly to Romney. While on the march Jackson received word that Union troops had abandoned Romney and that Confederate cavalry occupied the town.

The Capture of Romney and the Loring-Jackson Incident

After enduring extremely cold temperatures and suffering from inadequate rest and little food, Jackson’s army approached Romney on January 14. In less than one month, Jackson’s Confederates captured Romney, drove Union resistance out of the surrounding counties, and destroyed more than a hundred miles of railroad line. Pleased with the expedition’s results, Jackson ordered Loring to occupy Romney, while Jackson returned to Winchester with the Stonewall Brigade. Believing they were in a hostile position, Loring and his soldiers became increasingly unhappy with their situation and blamed Jackson for their perceived vulnerability. In reality, Loring’s position was quite secure, as the surrounding terrain made Romney a natural fortress.

Loring and his subordinates were not content to stay in Romney and campaigned to have their command recalled. They criticized Jackson, referring to the general as “Old Tom Fool,” and believed that Jackson favored his old Stonewall Brigade to the detriment of Loring’s division. Eager to present to the government in Richmond the fallacies of the expedition, General Jackson, and their position at Romney, Loring’s officers signed a petition requesting that they be withdrawn from Romney, while Loring sent a survey report that “concluded” that Romney was indefensible with such a small force. Both Loring and his subordinates bypassed the appropriate chain of command and took their complaints directly to Richmond.

Secretary of War Benjamin, without conferring with Jackson, ordered Jackson to recall Loring’s command. Jackson was furious. The expedition had, after all, proven successful in establishing a secure Confederate presence in Romney and the Upper Shenandoah Valley. Jackson crafted a reply to the secretary that stated, “With such interference in my command I cannot expect to be of much service in the field; and accordingly respectfully request to be ordered to report for duty to the Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute … Should this application not be granted, I respectfully request that the President will accept my resignation from the Army.”

Jackson’s friends convinced him to withdraw his resignation by arguing that his duty was to the Confederacy and to Virginia., On the following day, however, Jackson sought to punish Loring by bringing him up on two charges (with seven specifications), including “Conduct subversive of good order and military discipline.” Tiring of the quarreling generals and not wanting to get involved in a long-drawn-out court-marital, the Confederate high command ignored Jackson’s charges. Instead, Loring was promoted and transferred to southwestern Virginia, while his former division was reorganized and transferred to other commands.

In the end, the Loring-Jackson incident nullified the success of the Romney Expedition. As Jackson had predicted, once Loring was recalled from Romney, Union troops returned and reestablished their presence in the town and the surrounding Potomac River Valley. The episode also highlights Jackson’s aggressive style of leadership and prickly sense of honor, both of which often caused problems with subordinates. After the Battle of Kernstown on March 23, 1862, for instance, Jackson’s temper arguably deprived him of one of his better generals when he arrested Richard B. Garnett for withdrawing without orders.

October 7, 1861
Confederate brigadier general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson is promoted to major general.
November 4, 1861
Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson arrives in Winchester to assume command of the Valley District, organized as part of the Department of Northern Virginia.
December 27, 1861
The final elements of Confederate general William W. Loring's brigade arrive in Winchester ahead of a proposed march on the town of Romney.
December 31, 1861
Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson issues marching orders to his command that include an attack on the Shenandoah Valley town of Romney.
January 1, 1862
Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's command departs Winchester, moving northwest toward Bath (present day Berkeley Springs, West Virginia).
January 3, 1862
Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's forces approach Bath and encounter advanced Union pickets. Confederate general William W. Loring countermands Jackson's order for an advance into the city. Instead, he orders his troops into encampment.
January 4, 1862
Forces under Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson enter and capture Bath (present day Berkeley Springs, West Virginia).
January 5, 1862
Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's command moves to capture Hancock, Maryland. Confederates encounter considerable Union resistance and Jackson abandons the plan to capture Hancock and instead presses onto Romney.
January 13, 1862
Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's command approaches the outskirts of Romney, which had been abandoned by federal troops only days before.
January 14, 1862
Forces under Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson enter Romney.
January 23, 1862
Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and the Stonewall Brigade depart Romney to return to Winchester, leaving Confederate general William W. Loring's brigade to occupy the town. Unhappy with their situation, Loring's men undertake a campaign to have their unit recalled.
January 31, 1862
Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson receives word from Confederate secretary of war Judah P. Benjamin that he is to recall Confederate general William W. Loring's command. Outraged, Jackson requests to be transferred to the Virginia Military Institute or else he will resign.
February 6, 1862
Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson withdraws his resignation, submitted the week before after a dispute over the behavior of Jackson's subordinate, Confederate general William W. Loring.
February 7, 1862
Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson brings Confederate general William W. Loring up on seven charges of insubordination and dereliction of duty, but Richmond officials ignore Jackson's request. Loring is transferred to a new command and the Army of the Northwest is reorganized.
  • Martin, David G. Jackson’s Valley Campaign: November 1861–June 1862. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press, 2003.
  • Robertson, James I. Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1997.
APA Citation:
Murray, Jennifer. Loring-Jackson Incident. (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/loring-jackson-incident.
MLA Citation:
Murray, Jennifer. "Loring-Jackson Incident" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 08 Dec. 2023
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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