Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Camp of Stonewall Jackson's

A Camp of Stonewall Jackson's, Madison County, VA Marker JE-15Madison County, VA
Marker No. JE-15

Marker Text: Just to the north, on the night of November 25, 1862, Stonewall Jackson, with his corps, camped. He was on his way to join Lee at Fredericksburg.

Location:  On Route 670 (Old Blue Ridge Turnpike) just south of County Route 649 (Quaker Run Road), one mile north of Criglersville, VA. Erected by the Conservation & Development Commission in 1930.

“Near the top, as we were marching, there was a rock, and looking back and down the road, we could see six lines of our army; in one place infantry, in another artillery, in another ambulances and wagons. Some seemed to be coming towards us, some going to the right, some to the left, and some going away from us. They were all, however, climbing the winding mountain road, and following us.” - quote by Private John H. Worsham of the 21st Virginia Infantry who later wrote of the armies crossing through Fisher's Gap.

A Camp of Stonewall Jackson's, on Route 670, Madison Co. VA Marker JE-15

Photo taken looking north on Route 670. Mountain that Jackson’s army traveled over is in the background to the right.  Click any photo to enlarge.

  Throughout Virginia, a person will discover almost countless numbers of historical markers related in some way to Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Many of the markers relate to U.S. Civil War engagements and battles which he and his troops participated. Some markers, like today, simply mention that his army camped at a particular location exactly 150 years ago, while others may simply indicate that his army crossed the road.

  Stonewall Jackson's army had crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains, several times during the Civil War from the Shenandoah Valley to the Piedmont region of Virginia. Crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains, even using the variety of gaps that existed was not easy for an individual, but to do it with a whole army of 25,000 troops and equipment must have been an amazing accomplishment.

View of Blue Ridge Mountain and location of Stonewall Jackson's Camp on Route 670, Marker JE-15

Photo is the field across the road from the marker in the area Jackson’s men would have camped on their way to Fredericksburg.

  In November, 1862, following the Battle at Antietam, Stonewall Jackson moved his 25,000 troops south of Winchester, VA. Jackson anticipated that his army would probably be needed to defend Richmond, but he wanted the Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley to believe his army was staying to defend the Valley rather than leaving for Richmond. During this time Jackson was given command of the newly organized Second Corps with more than 32,000 troops. Jackson had his army move south along the Shenandoah Valley until they got to New Market and then the army turned east and came through the deep notch in the first mountain range called Massanutten Mountain through the New Market Gap. They followed the course of the Gordonsville-New Market Turnpike, (or the old Blue Ridge Turnpike) which crossed the Shenandoah Valley through Page County, VA, until it came to the present town of Stanley where they would need to cross the second range of Blue Ridge Mountains.

Stonewall Jackson's Marches, Skyline Drive at Fisher's Gap Overlook

Sign about Jackson at the Fisher’s Gap Overlook on the Skyline Drive near the road where Jackson’s army crossed the present day Skyline Drive.  A higher resolution photo of the sign can be found at the Historical Markers Database.

  On November 24, 1862, Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson moved through Page County toward Fisher’s Gap to rejoin the main body of the Army of Northern Virginia, on their way to Fredericksburg to encounter Union Gen. Burnside. Crossing the South Fork of the Shenandoah River at Columbia Bridge, the long columns of gray uniforms of the Confederate Second Corp took nearly four days to move along the old New Market-Gordonsville Turnpike) before exiting the Page County Valley. Some sources state the troops drank Apple Jack brandy and sang corn husking songs while they marched. It was customary in Jackson's Corps for the men to halt for a ten minute rest after marching for two miles.

Jackson's Last Mountain Crossing on Skyline Drive at Fisher's Gap Overlook

A second sign about Jackson at the Fisher’s Gap Overlook (elevation 3140 feet) on the Skyline Drive. A higher resolution photo and view into the valley from the overlook can be found at the Historical Markers Database.

  Jackson and his men crossed the Blue Ridge mountains at a point north of Big Meadows on the present day Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park. On the Fisher's Gap Overlook there are two signs indicating where Jackson's men crossed the mountain.  My wife and I have hiked the Rose River Trail Fire Road (The remnants of the old Gordonsville-New Market Turnpike survive today as the Rose River (eastside) and Redgate (westside) fire roads within the park.) that would have been used by Jackson's army. The roads are quite rustic even today and I can't begin to imagine how an army of several thousand troops with cannons and other equipment could have managed this crossing, from Stanley, VA to Syria, VA which is near the location of this marker where Jackson's camp was located.  For a photo of the Rose River Fire Road which was part of the Gordonsville-New Market Turnpike.

A Camp of Stonewall Jackson's, on Route 670, Madison Co. VA Marker JE-15  Some sources state that once Stonewall Jackson reached the top of the Blue Ridge Mountain at Fisher's Gap, he looked back upon his troops and his beloved Valley that he had defended without knowing it would be the last time. Less than six months later, Jackson would be accidently mortally wounded during the Battle of Chancellorsville and die several days later from complications.

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