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8. NEW MARKET (15 May 1864)

County: Shenandoah, VA

General Location: Vicinity of town of New Market, near intersection of I-81 and rte. 211. Battle lines extended from Shenandoah on west to Smith Creek on east. Action extended from Shirley's Hill in the south to Rude's Hill in the north

Size of Study/Core Areas: 5,611/2,261 acres

GIS Integrity of Study/Core Areas: 74/67 percent; Fair/Fair

Field Assessment of Study Area Integrity: Poor

USGS Quadrants: New Market

Select to view a summary of 1991 LAND USE / LAND COVER

Campaign: Lynchburg Campaign (Sigel)

Principal Commanders: [c] Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge; [u] Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel

Forces Engaged: [c] Two infantry brigades (Echols and Wharton), VMI cadet battalion, Imboden's cavalry brigade, and several batteries, totaling about 5,335, 4,087 of which were engaged; [u] One infantry division under Sullivan (two brigades: Moor and Thoburn), cavalry division under Stahel (two brigades: Tibbits and Wynkoop), and five batteries of artillery, totaling 8,940 of which 6,275 were engaged

Casualties: [c] 540 (50k/480w/10m); [u] 841 (96k/520w/225m)

Significance: As part of his 1864 spring offensive, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel to advance south along the Valley Pike to destroy the railroad at Staunton and then to move on the rail complex at Lynchburg. Although outnumbered, Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, former senator and vice president of the US, was able to concentrate scattered CS forces to meet Sigel's army near New Market. Sigel was decisively defeated on 15 May 1864, and the Valley remained in Confederate hands until Maj. Gen. David Hunter renewed the US offensive on 26 May. The battle of New Market is noted for the participation of a battalion of VMI cadets, who distinguished themselves in combat beside veteran troops.

Description of the Battle

Phase One. Cavalry Actions: On 14 May 1864, Union cavalry under Quinn (mainly 1st NY Cav Lincoln) advanced south on the Valley Pike from Mt. Jackson, driving CS cavalry (18VA) under Imboden across Meem's Bottom and beyond Rude's Hill, where defense stiffened. Reinforced by a brigade of infantry under Moor, and Wynkoop's cavalry brigade, US forces again advanced with Imboden withdrawing to New Market. CS cavalry, fighting dismounted supported Imboden and established a line south of New Market behind Shirley's Hill. The CS line stretched thinly from Shirley's Hill to Smith Creek. Federals continued to advance, launching two attacks about 2000 and 2200 hours, both of which were repulsed. After dark, Imboden withdrew farther to the south, after successfully retarding Sigel's advance.

Phase Two. CS Advance: After midnight, Breckinridge brought most of his command north along the Valley Pike from near Lacey Spring. By 0600 hours, 15 May, Breckinridge reached the Shenandoah County line. He halted near here to reconnoiter and about 0800 hours sent his cavalry and artillery forward to harass the US force under Moor at New Market. CS artillery unlimbered and fired from Shirley's Hill. Moor established his line along the old River Road with artillery on Manor's Hill and in St. Matthews (currently the Lutheran) cemetery. The rest of Sigel's infantry was spread out along the pike as far north as Edinburg. Brig. Gen. Julius Stahel arrived about 0830 and ordered Moor to withdraw some of his troops to Bushong's Hill. While Breckinridge waited on the rest of his infantry to reach the field, US guns at the cemetery and CS guns on Shirley's Hill exchanged fire.

Phase Three. US Deployment/ Initial CS Attacks: About 1100 hours, Sigel arrived on the battlefield and established temporary headquarters at the Rice House. After reviewing Moor's dispositions he ordered his line withdrawn to a stronger position on Bushong's Hill, stretching between a bend in the North Fork and Smith's Creek. Sigel brought up 14 guns to support his position, leaving DuPont's battery at Rude's Hill awaiting orders. He placed cavalry on his left flank between the Valley Pike and Smith's Creek. Breckinridge deployed on both sides of the Pike and advanced his infantry in force, driving back US skirmishers. Imboden crossed Smith's Creek with his cavalry and attempted to outflank Sigel by moving north along the east bank. By 1230, Sigel had withdrawn entirely from the town of New Market. The 18CT and 123OH resisted the CS advance on Manor's Hill before joining the main battle line at Bushong's.

Phase Four. Bushong's Hill: About 1400 hours, Breckinridge launched an all-out assault against the US position on Bushong's Hill, using the 26VA, 30VA, 51VA, and 62VA. The 62nd Virginia suffered more than 50 percent casualties. When the CS attack stalled under heavy small arms and artillery fire, the VMI battalion was ordered to fill the gap in the line near the Bushong House. About 1445 hours, the US cavalry under Stahel attacked up the Valley Pike, riding into massed artillery which Breckinridge had shifted east from Shirley's Hill. Stahel was repulsed with heavy casualties. About 1500 hours, Sigel directed a confused counterattack, which was soon repulsed. CS sharpshooters began picking off Union gunners on Bushong's Hill north of the farm, and Sigel ordered the batteries withdrawn. When the artillery fire slackened, Breckinridge ordered a general advance and swept the Union line off Bushong's Hill. In this assault, the VMI cadets captured a gun and many men of the 34MA. To the east near the Valley Pike, elements of the 34MA and 54PA continued to resist, covering the Union retreat. These regiments were eventually driven back, and the Union forces began a general retreat.

Phase Five. Rear Guard Actions: On his own initiative, Capt. Henry DuPont (US) brought up his battery to cover the retreat. He unlimbered first near the Harshburger House, then withdrew his pieces rearward en echelon as the Confederates advanced. Sigel fell back to his supports at the Cedar Grove Dunker Church and cemetery and organized a holding action, while his confused troops reorganized. DuPont's artillery continued to slow the pursuit. About 1630 hours, Breckinridge ordered a halt to regroup confronting the US line at Cedar Grove Church. Imboden's cavalry returned from their fruitless effort to get in rear of Sigel's army to burn the Meem's Bottom Bridge across the North Fork (the creeks were swollen with rainfall). An artillery duel continued until about 1700 hours. Breckinridge was unable to organize another attack and, by 1900 hours, the Union army escaped across the North Fork and burned the bridge. Sigel retreated down the Valley Pike rapidly, leaving his badly wounded at Mt. Jackson. He arrived at Strasburg on the following day.

Current Condition of the Battlefield

The Virginia Military Institute owns battlefield land and operates a museum and visitor center. New Market is one of two Valley battlefields that currently has facilities for visitors, the other being Cedar Creek.

The New Market Battlefield Historical Park was established by VMI in 1967. The Hall of Valor was constructed on the battlefield and opened in 1970. The park contains about 280 acres: 24 acres of Shirley's Hill (recently acquired), about 40 acres east of I- 81 around the Pennsylvania monument, and about 215 acres at the Hall of Valor parcel adjacent to the steep bluffs overlooking the North Fork Shenandoah River. The park protects and preserves about ten percent of the core area of the New Market battlefield, but this includes several areas of the most severe infantry fighting. The cavalry field, east of US 11 to Smith's Creek, remains farmland. The village of New Market is listed in the National Register as a historic district.

In spite a degree of the protection afforded by the battlefield park, the field survey integrity of the battlefield was rated low, due to the fragmented nature of the park and the prominent positioning of I-81, which is the most obtrusive feature. I-81 bisects the battlefield and battlefield park, and interchange 67 of I-81 empties at the base of Manor's and Shirley's Hill. The park is limited in its ability to interpret its separate parcels at Shirley's Hill, Bushong's Hill, and at the Pennsylvania monument.

Two monuments were erected by veterans on the New Market battlefield and these are contained within the VMI battlefield park. The Missouri (Woodson) monument near the Bushong House commemorates the role of Co. A, 1st Missouri cavalry that fought in the battle. The second monument commemorates the role of the 54th Regiment Pennsylvania infantry, located directly east of Bushong's Hill but separated from the main park by I-81.

North on US 11 between New Market and the Pennsylvania Monument parcel there is light commercial and residential development, although this strip development is less dense than that south of town. New construction has occurred on Manor's Hill on ground associated with the opening phases of the battle along the access road to the battlefield park (rte. 619) north of rte. 211. This includes a large Day's Inn Motel and the New Market Battlefield Military Museum. The exhibits of the Military Museum cover all American wars with special emphasis on the Civil War. Monuments on the grounds were erected by the museum.

The vicinity of Rude's Hill, Meem's Bottom, Mt. Airy, and the Cedar Grove Church is prime agricultural land that preserves the rural-historic integrity of this area. Meem's Bottom and Rude's Hill were the scene of many armed encounters during the war because these features formed a ``choke point'' on the Valley Turnpike. Confederate cavalry defended the North Fork Shenandoah River crossing and used Rude's Hill as an observation post. The well preserved estate, Mt. Airy, served as a way station for Confederate staff officers and partisans, including Henry Kyd Douglas and Harry Gilmor. Although not included directly in the battlefield study area, Meem's Bottom and Mt. Airy should be considered supporting resources.

Perception of Threats to Battlefield

The battlefield park is divided into at least four separate parcels. The I-81 interchange has spawned a commercial strip that physically and visually separates the northern and southern portions of the main field of action. The interstate itself divides the battlefield east and west. The view from Shirley's Hill to the Lutheran (St. Matthews) Cemetery looks directly over a commercial strip and the large signs that are typical along interstates. A large motel complex has been constructed between St. Matthews Cemetery and the interstate highway. Two parcels of land at the base of Shirley's Hill along rte. 211 (about 5 acres) are zoned commercial. New construction at these sites would further degrade the important view from Shirley's Hill. New residential construction north of town along US 11 in the vicinity of the Pennsylvania momument has continued the process of fragmentation.

Identified Sites and Features Associated with the Battlefield



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Last Update 7/17/95 by VLC