New Market Valley


From St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, drive .3 mile to the traffic light at CR 260 (Old Cross Roads). En route, one block south of the church on the east at the corner of US 11 and Seminary Road is a building which was occupied by the Federal provost marshal during Reconstruction. At the crossroads, notice the large building on the southeast corner. This was the Lee-Jackson Hotel, the home of Dr. Joseph B. Strayer at the time of the battle. Stonewall Jackson reviewed his men from this corner in May 1862 as they turned east, bound for the New Market Gap. In the fall of 1864, the building was used as a headquarters by Maj. Gen. Jubal Early. Turn west onto CR 270 and proceed .4 mile under the Interstate and turn left (south) into the parking lot of the Shenandoah Valley Tourist Association. (You are back by Interchange 67.) This is the New Market Valley referred to earlier. South of the parking lot is Shirley's Hill over which Wharton's Brigade came, while to the north is Manor Hill on which the 18th Connecticut skirmishers deployed. Northwestward is some low ground bounded by Manor Hill and another hill with some houses on it. This is Indian Hollow down which Lt. Col. George M. Edgar's 26th Virginia Battalion advanced.

The 30th and 51st Virginia dashed over the brow of Shirley's Hill and down into this area. As they pressed forward, Edgar's Battalion and the VMI cadets then marched over Shirley's Hill in formation, offering a target for the Federal artillery. The first five VMI casualties were sustained on the northern slope of the hill. When they got to the bottom into the little valley, they grounded their packs along the road and watched the first wave press the Federals north, then followed in reserve.

Lieutenant Colonel Scott Shipp, Commandant of Cadets, described the situation.

As Wharton's line ascended a knoll it came in full view of the enemy's batteries, which opened a heavy fire, but not having gotten the range, did but little damage. By the time the second line reached the same ground the Yankee gunners had gotten the exact range, and their fire began to tell on our line with fearful accuracy. It was here that Captain Hill and others fell. Great gaps were made through the ranks, but the cadet, true to his discipline, would close in to the center to fill the interval and push steadily forward. The alignment of the battalion under this terrible fire which strewed the ground with killed and wounded for more than a mile on open ground, would have been creditable even on a field day. The cadets held briefly along CR 260 and prepared to advance. Captain Frank Preston observed, Marching down the first hill we were exposed to the enemy's batteries, but were too far to reply with arms. In this advance one man was killed in the first line, and several wounded in our Battalion. . . . After getting to the bottom of the hill we were entirely covered, and here we waited half an hour, while some change was made in the lines. A half hour of intense suspense-the artillery on either side firing-the shot and shell flying and bursting high over our heads-knowing that in a short time we must charge the infantry, whose dark lines we saw drawn up in the woods. . . . After some time the first line began to move forward up the hill. . . . Then the second line began to move, and our nerves were strung and our lips firmly closed, our breath coming short and quick, waiting for the crash of musketry which we expected would receive the first line. The cadets eventually headed north in support of the battle, as described by Cadet John C. Howard. We now marched on down the hill in front, which was a right steep one. There was a road at the bottom, and just beyond the road a fence. Crossing this fence we were halted and ordered to take off blankets and everything else except gun and equipment. This looked like business, stripping for the fight, and we began to think our work was really cut out for us. "Attention, Battalion! Forward!" This was the beginning of that long-ascending field, the main theater of the fight. The ascent at first was steeper than it afterwards became, but in a very little while we were within range of the Federal infantry as well as artillery as they directed their fire against the line. I heard the hiss of the bullets and saw where they had struck the ground in different directions, right, left, and in front, but I was a green hand, and didn't know that this meant we were among the Minie balls. A few minutes after being under fire we were halted, and the corps commenced marking time; but as we lay down almost instantly for a few seconds, a cadet near me remarked:

"What damn fool gave the order to mark time under this fire." We were up again almost instantly, and then forward. We could clearly hear the firing of the Southern artillery over our heads, and hoped it would silence some of the hostile guns in frontwhich, in a measure, it did.

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