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6. PORT REPUBLIC (9 June 1862)

County: Rockingham, VA

General Location: N. of rte. 659, S. of rte. 708, between South Fork Shenandoah and state rte. 340. Village of Port Republic

Size of Study/Core Areas: 4,936/2,145 acres

GIS Integrity of Study/Core Areas: 94/98 percent; Good/Good

Field Assessment of Study Area Integrity: Good

USGS Quadrants: Grottoes

Select to view a summary of 1991 LAND USE / LAND COVER

Campaign: Jackson's Valley Campaign

Principal Commanders: [c] Maj. Gen. T. J. ``Stonewall'' Jackson; [u] Brig. Gen. E. B. Tyler

Forces Engaged: [c] Jackson's and Ewell's divisions, about 6,000 engaged; [u] Two brigades of Shields's division (Tyler and Carroll), about 3,500

Casualties: [c] 816 (88k/535w/34m); [u] 1,002 (67k/361w/574m&c)

Significance: The battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic were the culmination of ``Stonewall'' Jackson's Valley Campaign in which Jackson maneuvered to defeat superior Union forces by surprise, swift marching, and concentration of force. In May and June, Jackson's Army of the Valley, which never exceeded 17,000 men, inflicted more than 7,000 casualties on his opponents at a cost of only 2,500 of his own men, and tied up Union forces three times its strength. Jackson's victories infused new hope in the Confederate cause and contributed to the defeat of McClellan's campaign against Richmond. The battle of Port Republic was a fierce contest between two equally determined foes and was the most costly battle fought by the Army of the Valley during its campaign. At its conclusion, Union forces withdrew down the Valley, freeing Jackson's command to go to the aid of the CS army facing Maj. Gen. George McClellan's army in front of Richmond.


Description of the Battle

Phase One. Dispositions of the Armies: During the night of 8-9 June 1862, Winder's ``Stonewall'' Brigade was withdrawn from its forward position near Bogota and rejoined Jackson's division at Port Republic. CS pioneers built a bridge of wagons across the South River at Port Republic. Winder's brigade was assigned the task of spearheading the assault against US forces south of the river. Trimble's brigade and elements of Patton's were left to delay Frémont's forces at Cross Keys, while the rest of Ewell's division marched to Port Republic to be in position to support Winder's attack.

Phase Two. US Deployment: Brig. Gen. E. B. Tyler's brigade joined Col. Samuel Carroll's brigade north of Lewiston on the Luray Road. The rest of Shields's division was strung out along the muddy roads back to Luray. General Tyler, in command on the field, advanced at dawn of 9 June to the vicinity of Lewiston. He anchored the left of his line on a battery positioned on the Lewiston Coaling, extending his infantry west along Lewiston Lane (present day rte. 708) to the South Fork near the site of Lewis' Mill. The right and center were supported by artillery (16 guns in all).

Phase Three. CS Advance on the Left and Center: Winder's brigade crossed the river by 0500 hours and deployed to attack east across the bottomland. Winder sent two regiments (2VA and 4VA) into the woods to flank the US line and assault the Coaling. When the main CS battle line advanced, it came under heavy fire from the US artillery and was soon pinned down. CS batteries were brought forward onto the plain but were outgunned and forced to seek safer positions. Ewell's brigades were hurried forward to cross the river. Seeing the strength of the US artillery at the Coaling, Jackson sent Taylor's brigade to the right into the woods to support the flanking column that was attempting to advance through the thick underbrush.

Phase Four. US Counterattack: Winder's brigade renewed its assault on the US right and center, taking heavy casualties. General Tyler moved two regiments from the Coaling to his right and launched a counterattack, driving CS forces back nearly half a mile. While this was occurring, the first CS regiments probed the defenses of the Coaling but were repulsed.

Phase Five. Fighting at the Coaling: Finding resistance more fierce than anticipated, Jackson ordered the last of Ewell's forces still north of Port Republic to cross the rivers and burn the North Fork bridge. These reinforcements began to reach Winder, strengthening his line and stopping the US counterattack. Taylor's brigade reached a position in the woods across from the Coaling and launched a fierce attack, which carried the hill, capturing five guns. Tyler immediately responded with a counterattack, using his reserves. These regiments, in hand-to- hand fighting, retook the position. Taylor shifted a regiment to the far right to outflank the US battle line. The CS attack again surged forward to capture the Coaling. Five captured guns were turned against the rest of the Union line. With the loss of the Coaling, the Union position along Lewiston Lane became untenable, and Tyler ordered a withdrawal about 1030 hours. Jackson ordered a general advance.

Phase Six. Tyler's Retreat/Frémont's Advance: Taliaferro's fresh CS brigade arrived from Port Republic and pressed the retreating Federals for several miles north along the Luray Road, taking several hundred prisoners. The Confederate army was left in possession of the field. Shortly after noon, Frémont's army began to deploy on the north bank of the South Fork, too late to aid Tyler's defeated command. Frémont deployed artillery on the high bluffs to harass the CS forces. Jackson gradually withdrew along a narrow road through the woods and concentrated his army in the vicinity of Mt. Vernon Furnace. Jackson expected Frémont to cross the river and attack him on the following day, but during the night Frémont withdrew toward Harrisonburg.


Current Condition of the Battlefield

The setting of Port Republic battlefield, along the South Fork Shenandoah River at the base of the forested Blue Ridge, is very scenic. From some locations the base of Massanutten Mountain can be seen to the north. The core of the battlefield of Port Republic extends from the village of Port Republic east to rte. 708, which approximately traces the main US battle line. The old Luray-Port Republic Road followed rte. 955 north from the village until joining present day US 340. (US 340 south of this intersection is not historic.) The ford over South River where Jackson built his ``wagon bridge'' is located just west of the confluence of the South and North rivers and can be reached by a dirt road off rte. 955. The North River bridge was at the end of rte. 1601. Frémont's batteries were deployed along the north bank of the South Fork, south of Lawyer's Road, in the battle's last phase.

The main CS assaults of General Winder were carried out on the bottomland between rtes. 955, 708, and the river. The land remains agricultural and retains a strong similarity to its Civil War appearance, except for the railroad which was not there at the time of the battle (built 1892). The railroad artificially divides the battlefield but does not particularly intrude upon most viewsheds.

The Coaling, which was the key to the US defense, is located just northeast of the intersection of US 340 and rte. 708. The Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (APCWS) owns about 8 acres of the Coaling, acquired from the Lee-Jackson Foundation. An 1880s house sits atop the Coaling where US batteries were deployed. Access to this property is encouraged but unmarked.

The village of Port Republic is listed as a historic district in the National Register. Several historic structures remain in the area, including Lynnwood, Bogota, Frank Kemper House in Port Republic, and others. The Dr. Kemper house at the west edge of town, which served as Jackson's headquarters, is no longer extant. The ruin of Mt. Vernon Furnace in the area where Jackson's army bivouacked after the battle is situated in Shenandoah National Park along rte. 659. A driving tour of Port Republic could be laid out to view the battlefield with stops at the village, at the railroad (rte. 708), and the Coaling. Because of the terrain, Port Republic can be interpreted from public roads. The portion of the Coaling preserved by APCWS allows an expanded interpretation of the battle. The areas of major infantry fighting along the river are in private hands, but the logic of the respective positions can be understood for the most part from public roads.

Perception of Threats to the Battlefield:

The bottomland south of the South Fork in the core area of the battlefield is owned by two or three large landowners. Several years ago the county denied one of the landowners a petition to establish a gravel quarry, partly because of concerns for maintaining battlefield integrity. Continuing integrity of the landscape is dependent upon landowners continuing to farm their properties.

Identified Sites and Features Associated with the Battlefield

(unsurveyed*)


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Last Update 7/17/95 by VLC