Sunday, August 27, 2017

Port Republic and Cross Keys Battlefields

 This last summer brought me to Maryland on a business trip. I was able to make a few stops along the way. Port Republic, Cross Keys and Harrisonburg, Virginia.

On Weyers Cave Rd heading east from Interstate 81. You can see the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

Map from Civil War Trust website

This area was sparsely wooded at the time of the battle. Most of the trees on this hill were harvested for the making of charcoal. The Union Artillery would have been on this hill facing towards us. General Richard Taylor's Louisiana Brigade would eventually break and drive off the Union defenders on this hill by attacking them from the woods to my right. The position has a private residence now.

Having a snack. decided to eat a slice of lemon at the Port Republic Battlefield for "O'l Blue Light."

The Blue Ridge Mountains represented the eastern border of the Shenandoah River Valley. 

In the Area of the Cross Keys Battlefield. The land is mostly privately owned farm land. I was unable to find and historical markers.

Map from the Civil War Trust Website.
At the end of Turner Ashby Lane off  Neff Ave. in Harrisonburg, Va.

General Turner Ashby's Memorial Marker.

The view from the Confederate right flank looking forward and left towards the Union advance.
Progress waits for no man. I came away from the sights in a somber mood. The visit at Port Republic was very good. The area was well maintained and well worth a stop. The area of the Cross Keys Battlefield was beautiful. There was a small shower that passed through as we drove along the Port Republic Road. This may have hindered my ability to notice any Historical Markers. The small memorial park and monument for Brigadier General Turner Ashby was the visit that really put the experience into prospective. Here was an actual marker that was erected on a spot where a young man gave his life in defense of his country. Its hard to believe in the midst of all the progress and growth of the surrounding town, that a small bit of history happened on that hill 150 years ago.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Situation Report: Jackson Heads to Richmond June 16, 1862

Near Richmond, Va., June 16, 1862

Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson,
Commanding Valley District:

General: I have received your letter by the Hon. Mr. Boteler. I hope you will be able to recruit and refresh your troops sufficiently for the movement proposed in my letter of the 11th. You have only acknowledged my letter of the 8th. I am therefore ignorant whether that of the 11th has reached you. From your account of the position of the enemy I think it would be difficult for you to engage him in time to unite with this army in the battle for Richmond. Fremont and Shields are apparently retrograding, their troops shaken and disorganized, and some time will be required to set them again in the field. If this is so, the sooner you unite with this army the better. McClellan is being strengthened; Burnside is with him, and some of McDowell’s troops are also reported to have joined him. There is much sickness in his ranks, but his re-enforcements by far exceed his losses. The present, therefore, seems to be favorable for a junction of your army and this. If you agree with me, the sooner you can make arrangements to do so the better. In moving your troops you could let it be understood that it was to pursue the enemy in your front. Dispose those to hold the valley so as to deceive the enemy, keeping your cavalry well in their front, and at the proper time suddenly descending upon the Pamunkey. To be efficacious, the movement must be secret. Let me know the force you can bring, and be careful to guard from friends and foes your purpose and your intention of personally leaving the valley. The country is full of spies, and our plans are immediately carried to the enemy. Please inform me what arrangements you can make for subsisting your troops. Beef-cattle could at least be driven, and if necessary we can subsist on meat alone.
Unless McClellan can be driven out of his intrenchments he will move by positions under cover of his heavy guns within shelling distance of Richmond. I know of no surer way of thwarting him than that proposed. I should like to have the advantage of your views and be able to confer with you. Will meet you at some point on your approach to the Chickahominy. I inclose a copy of my letter of the 11th, lest the original should not have reached you.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Battle of Port Republic June 9, 1862: Part 2.

Turn 5. Confederate Initiative. Pouge's Battery opens fire on Btty E. The Federal Battery takes some heavy casualties. The Federal Batteries open fire  Winder's Brigade takes casualties along with Pogue's Battery. Jackson's continues to press his brigades forward. 

Federal Brigades open fire.

Pogue's Battery firing as Jackson pushes his brigades forward

"Forward men!"

Winder's brigade pushing forward.

Tyler and his brigade on the hill by the Coaling.

Turn 6. Federal Initiative. The Federal guns devastate Pogue's Battery as they are forced to quit the field.  The 4th VA Infantry of the Winder's Brigade  is forced to withdraw as well.

Despite the losses. Jackson's Army continues. The Brigades of Walker and Taylor continue to make slow progress in the thick wood on the right. Advancing in cover will keep their numbers up before they engage the Federals.

Turn 7. Federal Initiative. The Federal Batteries continue to fire on the advancing Confederates. The infantry continue to hold their fire until the distance is closer. The Confederates continue to push forward.

Richard Taylor's Brigade in the tree line.

Federal Batteries continue to fire.

Turn 8. Federal Initiative. The Federal Batteries continue to fire. Carpenters Battery routs before they bring their guns to action. The Confederate forces come within range. Jackson orders them to open fire. Battery H takes heavy casualties and quits the field. Winder shifts his brigade Scott, Walker, and Taylor continue forward.

The advancing line.

Fire on the hill.

Turn 9. Confederate Initiative. Jackson's men open fire. The 5th VA Infantry of Winder's Brigade fires on Btty L. the battery suffers casualties. a stray bullet slams into Brigadier General Carroll's chest killing him before he falls from his horse. His brigade takes the death of their leader hard and they are "shaken" but hold the field. The Federals in response continue to fire on the Confederates. The 2nd VA Infantry are routed. Confederate Brigadier General Taylor's brings his Louisiana Brigade into battle line. Col. Walker continues to bring his brigade up.

The Louisiana Brigade deploys into line and threatens the Federal left flank. 

Louisiana Brigade in line.

Turn 10.Confederate Initiative. The Confederate Line erupts with musketry. The Federals are hit hard.  Confederate BG Richard Taylor brings is Louisiana Brigade up to the treeline. Using the woods as cover the 6th Louisiana Infantry open fire on the 66th Ohio Infantry. The back and forth of musket fire is deadly.  During the movement phase, Taylor brings two more regiments up in line with the 6th Louisiana. Col. Walker continues to bring his brigade up. BG Winder holds his position with the "Stonewall Brigade."

Federal BG Erastus Tyler's Brigade positioned at the Coaling. The Confederate Brigade just inside the treeline.

Keeping the action hot. The Confederates concentrate their fire on the center units of the Federal defensive line

The 66th Ohio Infantry Regiment in the center has taken a severe beating from prolonged fighting. a white  "shaken" bead sits behind the command stand. They have lost cohesion points with each exchange. They can't hold out much longer.

Turn 11. Federal Initiative. The Federal Artillery batteries thunder on with canister shot. The Infantry regiments engaged continue to fire on the advancing Confederates. The "Rebel Yell" can be heard as they come closer to Federal Regiments. On the Federal Left flank, the 1WV Infantry let loose with a barrage on the 1st Louisiana Infantry Battalion. (Wheat's Tigers) They are routed in the first exchange. A testament to the ferocity of the battle.  During the Confederate firing phase we see the 84th  and the 55th Ohio Infantry Rout and leave the field. When the Louisiana Brigade opens fire along their line, we also see Btty E and the 7th Ohio also break and leave the field.

With four units broken, Federal BG Tyler scrambles to move regiments up to stabilize his line before it completely collapses.

The losses are too much for the Federals.

BG Richard Taylor and the Louisiana Brigade.

The sun begins to set on the battlefield. With the last parting shots the battle ends. We count up the casualties and find that this battle was just as close as the battle from the day before.
Confederate Losses are  5 Cannon stands
                                       3 Regiments  10 stands
Federal Losses are        6 Cannon stands
                                      3 Regiments  16 stands
Confederate Victory.

~Historical Note~
The Tabletop battle was similar to the actual battle. The Confederate forces advancing in the woods played a major part in breaking the Federal defensive line. Louisiana regiments broke through the woods and captured the Federal guns at the Coaling and turned them on the Federals. The Federals had a good defensive deployment. They anchored their right flank on the river bank and held a commanding position on the hill. Their mistake was in not securing the left flank facing the woods.  As the Federal forces routed and left the field, General Fremont's forces deployed cannons on the opposite side of the Shenandoah River and start shelling the Confederates. The bridge in Port Republic was burned as the last Confederate Units crossed trapping Fremont on the west bank of the river and out of reach of Jackson. Once again, "Ol' Blue Light" got the best of the situation. By the end of the day, Jackson withdrew his forces down the Mt Vernon Furnace Road and out of reach of the federal guns.