Setting The Story
During the spring of 1864, the newly promoted Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant established his headquarters with Major General George Gordon Meade and the Army of the Potomac in Culpeper, Virginia. President Lincoln afforded Grant the leeway to devise suitable battle plans to end the war without interference from Washington.
General Grant elected to implement a coordinated plan of multiple offenses across five fronts in order to prevent the South from adequately shifting troops to provide cover and reinforcements.
Grant and Meade would execute a frontal assault on Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia, while Sherman—the newly appointed chief of the Western Armies, marched on Atlanta in an effort to lure the Army of Tennessee under Joseph E. Johnston into a direct engagement.
Major General Benjamin Butler would advance on Lee from the southeast, up the James River, while Major General Nathaniel Banks was tasked with securing Mobile, Alabama.
At the same time, Major General Franz Sigel, Commander of the Department of West Virginia, was charged with marching south from Harpers Ferry with his 10,000-man army into the fertile Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Along the way, the German-born Siegl was to capture granaries and rail lines, thus disrupting the resupply and reinforcement of General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.
In response to the threat looming over the Shenandoah Valley, General Lee ordered Major General John C. Breckinridge to march north up the Valley with all available forces and repulse the Union incursion.
The Armies Converge
Major General John C. Breckinridge marched north with two infantry brigades, one under the command of Brigadier John C. Echols and a second under Brigadier General Gabriel C. Wharton. Brigadier General John D. Imboden and his cavalry brigade served as the eyes of Breckinridge's 4,100-strong army. Other independent commands, including the Cadet Corps of VMI under Lieutenant Colonel Scott Shipp and First Lieutenant R. Blain's Jackson's Virginia Artillery (Kanawha Artillery), marched north as well.
The opposing forces converged on the small town of New Market, Virginia, where the fate of the Shenandoah Valley would be decided during three days in early May.
The Ground Is Written Into History
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.
Exploring Manor's Hill & River Road
Fifteen markers are present on Manor's Hill, with three to the south of River Road and eleven to the north. Visitors are encouraged to explore the markers, each containing detailed information concerning the fighting units present at that position during the Battle of New Market.
Four cannons mark the exact position of First Lieutenant R. Blain's Jackson's Virginia Artillery (Kanawha Artillery), who supported the assault on Manor's Hill and River Road.
Battlefield Rangers are available on select days of the week to provide an oration of the events which transpired during the Battle of New Market. Additionally, detailed maps are available in the museum lobby to provide visitors with further information regarding the battle.
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