Thursday, June 7, 2012

Battle of Cross Keys

Battle of Cross Keys marker D-6 east of Harrisonburg, VAMarker No. D-6
Rockingham County, VA

Marker Text: Three miles south, on Mill Creek, Jackson's rearguard, under Ewell, was attacked by Fremont, June 8, 1862. Trimble, of Ewell's command, counterattacked, driving the Unionists back. Jackson, with the rest of his army, was near Port Republic awaiting the advance of Shields up the east bank of the Shenandoah River.

Location: On U.S. Route 33 (Spotswood Trail), east of VA Route 276 (Cross Keys Road), east of Harrisonburg. Erected by the Virginia Conservation Commission in 1941.

"I had rather be a private in such an Army than a Field Officer in any other Army," wrote a Confederate soldier about Gen. Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Valley campaign, in which Jackson's 16,000 man "foot cavalry" marched about 400 miles in 38 days, outmaneuvering federal forces totaling about 40,000 men.

Battle of Cross Keys marker D-6 on U.S. Route 33 east of Harrisonburg, VA

Photo taken looking west on U.S. Route 33 toward Harrisonburg.  Click any photo to enlarge.

  Today, I continue with a state historical marker related to Jackson's Valley Campaign. One hundred and fifty years ago on June 8, 1862 following fighting near Harrisonburg, VA the fighting between Jackson's Confederate army and the Union army commanded by Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont continued as Jackson moved east and south of Harrisonburg. Brigadier-General Turner Ashby had been killed outside of Harrisonburg two days earlier and his body taken to Port Republic where Jackson was waiting for Shield's Union troops. Confederate Brig. Gen. Richard Ewell was protecting Jackson's western flank when he was engaged in fighting called, “The Battle of Cross Keys.”

Battle of Cross Keys - Civil War Trails Marker at site of battle

Some graves in the cemetery across the road from this marker.  They are Marylanders killed in action at Harrisonburg, which occurred two days prior to the battle of Cross Keys.  Text for marker below.

  I have historical text from three markers related to this battle at different locations. The State Historical marker is located at a position where many state markers are located on a main highway, U.S. Route 33 north of where the battle occurred. Two other historical marker, though not state markers are located in the area of the fight on June 8, 1862.

  The battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic which would occur the next day were decisive victories for Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson's 1862 Valley Campaign. At Cross Keys, one of Jackson's divisions beat back the army of Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont approaching from Harrisonburg, while elements of a second division held back the vanguard of Brig. Gen. James Shields' division advancing toward Port Republic on the Luray Road.

Battle of Cross Keys marker D-6 on U.S. Route 33  With the retreat of both U.S. Armies at Cross Keys and Port Republic, Jackson was free to join the C.S.A army commanded by General Robert E. Lee in the Seven Days' Battles against McClellan's army before Richmond.

  These two battle played a significant role in Jackson's overall strategy of defeating two separated Union armies. Cross Keys provided interesting lessons at the tactical level. Though the use of clever maneuvering and use of the terrain, Confederate Brig. Gen. Isaac Trimble shattered a larger Union force and stalled Fremont's attack. Today much of the ground where the Battle of Cross Keys occurred is still pristine and gives the visitor to the site an understanding of the armies tactical actions during this phase of the conflict.

Battle of Cross Keys - Civil War Trails Marker close up on the textThe Battle
of Cross Keys

“It was not in men to stand such fire as that.”
1862 Valley Campaign

Marker Text: Following Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s victory at Winchester, Union troops pursued the Confederates south, “up” the Shenandoah Valley. While Gen. John C. Fremont advanced on the Valley Turnpike, another Union force, led by Gen. James Shields, pursued Jackson through the Page (Luray) Valley father east.

  Jackson took position at Port Republic, four miles east of you, to engage Shields, leaving Gen. Richard Ewell here at Cross Keys to hold back Fremont. Ewell posted his 5,000 men on a ridge overlooking Mill Creek, one mile to your right. The 15th Alabama Infantry regiment remained here at union Church to give timely warning of Fremont’s approach.

Cross Keys Battlefield marker

This marker overlooks some of the terrain where the battle was fought.  Text below.

  Early on June 8, 1862, Fremont brushed aside the Alabamians. He posted 40 cannon in the fields to your front and began furiously shelling the Confederate position. Two hours later Fremont attacked, blindly throwing Gen, Julius Stahel’s brigade forward toward Ewell’s right. The 8th New York was slaughtered by Gen. Isaac R, Trimble’s Confederate brigade, which was sheltered behind a rail fence. Attacks against Ewell’s center and left achieved no better success.

  Fremont withdrew here to the Keezeletown Road. Ewell slipped away, joining Jackson on the banks of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River at Port Republic. The last battle of the 1862 Valley Campaign was fought there June 9, 1862.  Erected 2002 by Virginia Civil War Trails.

Cross Keys Battlefield

Cross Keys Battlefield marker close up of the textMarker Text:

Here, June 8, 1862, Gen. J. C. Fremont -pursuing Gen. T. J. “Stonewall” Jackson- was checked by Gen. R. S. Ewell
with part of Jackson’s army, which lay towards
Port Republic. Federals engaged: 12,750
killed and wounded: 684.
Confederates engaged: 8,000
killed and wounded: 288.

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