The Final Resting Places of Winchester
On Sunday my friend Ken, and I started with Winchester's Civil War cemeteries. We first drove to the Mt. Hebron Cemetery on E. Boscawen Street. Mt. Hebron was established in 1844 on land adjacent to 18th century Reformed and Lutheran graveyards. The Stonewall Confederate Cemetery is located within Mt. Hebron on ground that saw action during the Third Battle of Winchester (Sept. 19, 1864). The cemetery, which was dedicated in 1866, contains the graves of over 2,500 Confederate dead. Eleven former Confederate states, plus Kentucky and Maryland, have dedicated sections in the cemetery, and several states have erected monuments to their fallen soldiers. As I walked past the endless rows of headstones, I felt overcome by a sense of sadness and loss. Cemeteries such as this one force us to confront the tragic human cost of the Civil War in a way that just reading about battles cannot do.
|A view of Stonewall Confederate Cemetery looking towards the Unknown Soldiers Monument (1879). Over 800 unknown Confederate soldiers lay buried beneath the monument.|
|The grave of the Patton Brothers at Stonewall Cemetery. Col. George S. Patton, grandfather of the famous World War II general of the same name, was mortally wounded at the Third Battle of Winchester on September 19, 1864. His brother, Col. Waller Tazewell Patton, was mortally wounded at Gettysburg during Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863. Other notable burials at the Stonewall Cemetery include Confederate cavalry commander Turner Ashby and Gen. Robert Daniel Johnston of North Carolina.|
|Looking over Winchester National Cemetery towards the 114th New York Monument. When I visited, each headstone was decorated with a flag in preparation for Memorial Day.|
|Bronze soldier atop the Massachusetts Monument at the National Cemetery. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts erected the monument in 1907.|
Following our visit to the cemeteries, my friend and I turned our attention to the scene of the fighting. The Winchester area witnessed several key battles between 1862-64. The focus of my Sesquicentennial-themed trip was the 150th anniversary of Jackson's Valley Campaign, so we stuck to the battlefields from 1862. At the Visitor Center we picked up a driving tour of the 1862 Winchester battlefields published by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. (Incidentally, I could not find a copy of the brochure on the web prior to my trip.)
We first visited a few sites associated with the First Battle of Winchester, one of Jackson's key victories in the Valley Campaign. After defeating the small Federal garrison at Front Royal on May 23,1862, Jackson moved down the Valley (north) in pursuit of the main Union force under Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks. On May 25, Jackson pounced on Banks' men, who were positioned on the ground south of Winchester. Following a devastating attack against Banks' right flank on Bowers Hill, the Union line collapsed, and the retreating soldiers fled through the streets of Winchester. Jackson's tired men tried to catch up with Banks, but the Union army managed to cross the Potomac and escape into Maryland. Jackson soon moved back up the Valley to avoid being caught in a trap by two separate Union commands converging on him from the east and west. He soundly defeated these armies at the start of June and left the Valley to join Robert E. Lee before Richmond.
Sadly, little remains of the First Winchester battlefield. Much of the land is blanketed with commercial and residential development. In fact, the general area where the battle began is now marked by a Sheetz station! The driving tour is useful for getting a sense of the scope of the engagement and the terrain on which the men fought, but don't expect to see much aside from a historical marker commemorating the battle.
First Battle of Kernstown, fought on March 23, 1862, was the opening shot of Jackson's Valley Campaign and marked Jackson's only defeat as an independent commander. Erroneously believing that he outnumbered his opponent, Jackson launched an attack on the Union line around Kernstown. After a failed attempt to flank the Federal artillery on Pritchard's Hill, the action shifted westward to Sandy Ridge. Jackson's men were no match for the large Union force under Col. Nathan Kimball. The Confederates began to run out of ammunition, and before long, Kimball forced Jackson from the field. Although a tactical loss, Jackson's attack at Kernstown spooked the Federal authorities in Washington, who redirected troops to the Valley and retained Gen. Irvin McDowell's corps around the capital. This shift of resources deprived Gen. George McClellan of men for his move on Richmond by way of the Peninsula.
Our first stop was the Rose Hill farm, which is run by the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. The property was the scene of the fight along Sandy Ridge. Unfortunately, the site was closed, and we were unable to do the walking tour. Instead, we took a look at the the farm from the road and read the Civil War Trails marker at the entrance. I will need to get back to Rose Hill someday to do the site justice. (Perhaps as a detour during my battlefields of 1864 tour?)
true preservation success story. Through efforts led by the Kernstown Battlefield Association (KBA), the property was spared from developers' bulldozers in the early 2000s. Aside from the First Battle of Kernstown, the site was also the scene of fighting during the Second Battle of Winchester (June 13-15, 1863) and the Second Battle of Kernstown (July 24, 1864).
Ken and I stopped at the Visitor Center. Although a bit outdated in style, the small collection of exhibits does a thorough job of helping visitors make sense of the various engagements that took place on the Pritchard farmland. We also had the good fortune of dropping by on a day when the KBA was offering docent-led tours of the Pritchard House. The outside of the Pritchard House is largely restored, but the inside is still a work in progress. Our guide, Sue Golden, took us through the rooms of the home and provided valuable insights into the sad history of the Pritchard family during and after the war.
|Looking up to the top of Pritchard's Hill from the walking path. Federal guns occupied this high ground during the First and Second Battles of Kernstown and the Second Battle of Winchester.|
|Stone fence along Pritchard's Lane. Union Col. James Mulligan's troops made a last-ditch stand against Jubal Early's Confederates at this spot during the Second Battle of Kernstown. Mulligan was mortally wounded and later died in the Pritchard House.|
Information and Sources
Aside from the links provided above, the following sites are useful for planning a trip to Winchester's 1862 battlefields:
1) Shenandoah at War by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.
2) The Kernstown Battlefield site by the KBA.
The Visitor Center at Kernstown Battlefield also sells First and Second Battles of Kernstown: Pritchard-Grim Farm. This booklet provides a good overview of the two engagements and features pieces by well-known historians Gary Ecelbarger and Scott Patchen.