The Location: Manor's Hill
Agriculture was the economic driving force of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia during the Civil War. By May of 1864, the Confederacy and its economy were inching closer to total collapse. Despite this, farms throughout the valley pressed on, as they had bellies to fill and bills to be paid. The Manor family farm of New Market, Virginia, was no exception.
The New Market Battlefield Military Museum is situated on Manor's Hill, adjacent to Historic River Road. Found northwest of New Market, the farm rises in elevation as it stretches west to the Shenandoah River and beyond. Constructed in 1812, River Road was a major thoroughfare in the 19th century running through the farmland's heart and on into town. Due to its elevation and the presence of River Road, Manor's Hill played a pivotal role during the second and third days of the Battle of New Market.
The 1st Infantry Brigade, under the command of Colonel August Moor, formed a line of battle along River Road running from Manor's Hill to St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in New Market. To Moor's right was the 2nd Cavalry Brigade of Colonel John E. Wynkoop. In support was Battery G 1st West Virginia Artillery, Captain C.T. Ewing, commanding.
Confederate Major General John C. Breckinridge, along with his subordinate commanders, Brigadier General Gabriel C. Wharton and Brigadier General John D. Imboden, were in formation south of Manor's Hill on Shirley's Hill.
On Sunday, May 15th, General Breckinridge left his position on Shirley's Hill and advanced north under fire. Confederate units forced the Union line-of-battle from Manor's Hill through fierce fighting and superior tactics, securing the hill, River Road, and New Market in the process.
Throughout the remainder of Sunday and on into the evening, Breckinridge would continue to drive Sigel's forces north, where the Union Army would eventually be forced to retreat across the Shenandoah River, resulting in an overwhelmingly Confederate victory.
John M. Bracken acquired Manor's Hill in 1987 to preserve the property for historical purposes and thus prevent further commercial development of the battlefield. The New Market Battlefield Military Museum would open one year later at its current location in 1988.
The Collector: The Historian and His Motivation
Mr. Bracken was born in February of 1942 in Mount Airy, North Carolina. Regaled by stories from his uncle who stormed the beaches of Normandy and further spurred by his father's antique business, he developed a passion for collecting and preserving history from an early age.
By age nine, John and his family were living in Centerville, Virginia. While in Centerville, he began to dig for bullets and various other Civil War-era relics, which were commonplace to the area due to its proximity to Manassas.
Having a father in the antique business meant a fair amount of time spent on the road acquiring stock. John and his father would pass the time by discussing American history, which inevitably led to conversations about the Civil War.
In his youth, John's passion was further fueled by Shelby Foote, author of Shiloh. As his passion for history and the Civil War grew, he decided to become a reenactor in 1959. As a reenactor, John found himself surrounded by like-minded individuals who shared a similar passion for military history. He began to develop a network of contacts, gather information, and further researched the Civil War. As John's knowledge was expanded, he became acutely aware of the finer points of relic hunting, enabling him to recognize fact from fiction and authentic from reproduction.
It was at this point that the collection began to take shape. John began to acquire the pieces of our past, with no item being too big or small. If the relic had a story to tell or was of historical value, it had to be preserved for posterity.
As the years and then decades were checked off the calendar, the collection grew ever larger. A number of one-of-a-kind artifacts were acquired, such as swords, muskets, uniforms, and accouterment. These items of history bore witness to a unique struggle from our nation's past, and it was time to share them with the world.
The Collection: Piecing Together History in One Place
Housed within the New Market Battlefield Military Museum is a priceless collection of irreplaceable relics of not only American military history but history belonging to the entire world. Each piece has been painstakingly researched to ensure authenticity and accuracy. Our galleries and the artifacts displayed within are carefully arranged and organized with accompanying information placards when available. Your journey through time and thus history will showcase the following eras:
• French and Indian War (1754-1763)
• American Revolutionary War (1775-1783)
• Mexican-American War (1846-1848)
• United States Civil War (1861-1865)
• Westward Expansion & Native American Culture (1870s-1880s)
• World War I (1914-1918)
• World War II (1939-1945)
• Vietnam War (1955-1975)
Notable vestiges of American military conflict on display within our galleries include:
• Regimental Colors (Battle Flag) of the 10th Virginia Volunteer Infantry
• Regimental Colors (Battle Flag) of the 51st Virginia Volunteer Infantry (Present at The Battle of New Market)
• Brigadier General William Barksdale's Sword (Mortally Wounded at Gettysburg)
• Major General Joseph Hooker's Sword (Army of the Potomac)
• Accouterment of Brigadier General Gabriel C. Wharton (CSA | Battle of New Market)
• Accouterment of Brigadier General John D. Imboden (CSA | Battle of New Market)
• Accouterment of John Wilkes Booth
• Confederate President Jefferson Davis' Pistols
The Building: A Journey Through American Military History
The overall design of the New Market Battlefield Military Museum was inspired by Arlington House, formally the Custis-Lee Mansion in Arlington, Virginia. Mansions of this type were commonplace throughout the 19th century south and thus help to set the proper tone for showcasing history.
Upon opening in 1988, the museum was 4,800sq ft in size. In the early nineties, Mr. Bracken had the museum expanded to 6,000sq ft enlarging the overall space available to house and display additional artifacts. Currently, the museum and its galleries house roughly 3,000 relics inside 125 display cases.
As you complete your journey through our galleries, please feel free to browse through our vast collection of rare books, many of which are now out of print. The New Market Battlefield Military Museum is privately owned and accepts no taxpayer funds. All proceeds from ticket sales and bookshop purchases go directly towards preserving American military history.