Marker Text: Near here Stonewall Jackson was met by the spy, Belle Boyd, and informed of the position of the Union troops at Front Royal, May 23, 1862. Jackson was advancing northward, attempting to get between Banks' army and Winchester.
Location: On U.S. Route 340, south of Front Royal and the entrance to the Skyline Drive, 0.1 miles south of VA Route 619 in front of the entrance of Skyline Caverns. Erected by the Conservation & Development Commission in 1929.
Photo taken looking north on U.S. Route 340 toward Front Royal in Front of entrance to Skyline Caverns. Click any photo to enlarge.
Today's marker like the previous two are related to the Battle of Front Royal which occurred 150 years ago on May 23, 1862. As the marker states the events described happened near here, which is not uncommon for many state historical markers when this marker was erected in 1929. The location of the meeting between Belle Boyd and Stonewall Jackson occurred on Browntown Road, 0.7 miles northeast of this marker. A Civil War Trail marker is located on the site of the meeting, further north on 340 and at the next right turn on Browntown Road, northeast. This marker is one of several comprising a driving tour of the Front Royal Battlefield, photo and text of this marker is below.
Captain Belle Boyd "I thank you, for myself and for the army, for the immense service that you have rendered your country today."
These words were written by Confederate General Stonewall Jackson to 18 year old Belle Boyd in appreciation of information she brought him, braving enemy fire south of Front Royal. General Stonewall Jackson made Belle Boyd an honorary member of his staff with the rank of captain for the intelligence she provided in the capture of Front Royal, Virginia.
The year before, Boyd had shot and killed a drunken Union soldier who was trying to raise the Stars and Stripes over her house in what was then Martinsburg, western Virginia. She was arrested and tried for murder, but was acquitted on a defense of justifiable homicide. Dubbed "La Belle Rebelle" by a French war correspondent, Boyd continued to spy for the Confederacy and also served as a courier and scout for Col. John S. Mosby's guerrillas.
After Belle Boyd's incident in Martinsburg, WV she moved to Front Royal staying with her relatives, the Stewarts, who ran the old hotel. During the war, Union officers used the hotel as headquarters whenever they occupied the town of Front Royal. When Union officers were quartered here in 1862, the family moved to the little five-room cottage. Belle Boyd passed military information to the Confederate Army many times during the Civil War and probably did her most best known service on May 23, 1862 in connection with the battle of Front Royal. Partially based on her information, "Stonewall" Jackson is reported to have advanced toward Front Royal, but at his first engagements with Union pickets he hesitated.
Civil War Trail marker in on Browntown Road about 0.7 miles from the state historical marker. The hill Boyd ran down as mentioned to marker would be in the background.
Belle Boyd heard the gunfire and knew Jackson needed to know the Union army was leaving the town. If Jackson could act quickly, he might secure the bridges over the North and South Forks of Shenandoah River in Front Royal before the Union burned them in retreat. When she could find no man in the town willing to run the picket lines, she was determined to go herself. The fire came so close it put bullet holes in her skirt.
The home in which Belle Boyd lived still remains and has been preserved in Front Royal. The house is commonly known as the "Belle Boyd Cottage" because of its association with the famous Confederate spy. The cottage is one of the oldest buildings in Front Royal. Once situated in a tree-shaded courtyard behind the Fishback Hotel, it was reserved for the proprietor's family and for the most exclusive guests. Many political, social and military leaders have stayed in the cottage, including President Franklin Pierce, who delivered a campaign speech to a large crowd assembled in the town square. General Fitzhugh Lee, who visited Front Royal as a successful candidate for Governor, was served a midnight meal at the old hotel and spent the night at the cottage.
The cottage where she once lived was donated in 1981 to the Warren Heritage Society and moved to its present location in 1982.
Jackson Prepares for Battle
Battle of Front Royal May 23, 1862
Text Marker: Early in the warm afternoon, Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and Gen. Richard S. Ewell and their staffs stopped here at the head of Jackson’s army. As the two commanders studied the ground leading to Front Royal, Capt. Henry Kyd Douglas, one of Jackson’s aides caught the attention of Capt. G. Campbell Brown of Ewell’s staff. Brown later wrote that he focused his gaze on “a woman running like mad down from the hill on our right…gesticulating wildly to us.” Douglas, at Ewell’s behest, rode to the hill to meet this “romantic maiden” with a “tall, supple, graceful figure” who, to his amazement, called him by name. He quickly recognized her as the “well-known Belle Boyd whom [he] had known from her earliest girlhood.”
Winded and gasping, Boyd told her friend to advise Jackson that the Federal forces in Front Royal were minimal: “Tell him to charge right down and he will catch them all.”
Jackson already had begun deploying his command. With a company of the 6th Virginia Cavalry – the Wise Troop – in the lead, Col. Bradley T. Johnson’s 1st Maryland Infantry (CSA) moved into line of battle. The Louisiana Brigade, including Maj. Chatham Roberdeau Wheat’s colorful New Orleans battalion, Wheat’s Tigers, filed in behind the Marylanders. Part of the brigade was in immediate support while the remainder assembled in the open fields to the west of Gooney Manor Road (now Browntown Road). Soon, Jackson ordered his force to advance.
(Sidebar): Belle Boyd, 18-years-old at the time of the battle, moved to Front Royal in 1861 after being acquitted of murder charges in her home town of Martinsburg (now West Virginia). She was accused there of killing a Union soldier attempting to hoist a national flag above her house.
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.