New Market was fought on May 15, 1864. It was the first of several important actions that year fought to control the Shenandoah Valley. William C. Davis wrote a wonderful little account of the battle, which has intrigued me ever since. Yesterday, with a little time on my hands, I determined to drive the 85 or so miles to the battlefield state park.
Traveling from Charlottesville, I can assure you the highway is great-interstate all the way-and signs clearly mark the way. The State of Virginia preserved 900 acres to showcase this relatively small battle. The grounds also house "The Virginia Museum of the Civil War" which, in the grand scheme of things is no big deal. However, the do have examples of a Williams Gun, and an Agar "coffee mill," early machine guns that pre-date the better known Gatling. The life-sized vignette of a 12 pound Napoleon and crew was a nice touch too. Along with the artifacts in the museum is a theater with a lengthy movie on the battle, emphasizing the connections with VMI, and rightly so. I didn't stay for the entire presentation because I felt pressed for time.
The battle was smallish, 6,200 Union and 4,100 Confederates, and the park preserves the complete action, which straddles I-81. It was a very hot, humid day (95 degrees) and I spent a bit more than an hour walking the field. Informational maps are available from the museum which correspond nicely with markers on the field.
The terrain east of the interstate is accessible by a tunnel and most closely represent conditions on the day of battle. The western side of the battlefield is mostly grass. On the rainy day of battle many soldiers struggled through plowed, muddy fields that became known as "The Field of Lost Shoes." in the middle of the field is the nicely preserved Bushong farm which served as a hospital for both sides.
The state of Virginia did a great job of preservation with the New Market site. The cost for touring the battlefield is $7 and another $3 to visit the museum.
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