Early on the morning of January 1, Jackson’s small army begins its march from Winchester, Virginia. His forces include his own vaunted Stonewall Brigade, as well as three brigades from the Army of the Northwest, commanded by Brigadier General William W. Loring. Loring’s Fifth Brigade, led by Colonel William B. Taliaferro, consists of the Third Arkansas, Twenty-Third Virginia, Twenty-Seventh Virginia, and Ramsey’s First Georgia.
Led off by the Stonewall Brigade, Jackson’s troops start out early on an unusually warm winter morning. The air is clear, and the temperature soon rises into the 50’s. Quickly becoming overheated in the mild temperatures, many of the soldiers discard their winter coats by piling them in wagons or simply tossing them alongside the road. By early afternoon, clouds laden with snow and ice are scudding overhead, and the temperatures plunge below freezing. As frozen precipitation coats the men’s clothing and equipment, the column struggles along. The wagons are now far in the rear, leaving the soldiers unable to retrieve their coats. By that evening, the column reaches the small community of Pughtown, barely eight miles from their starting point.