New Market: Where the Battlefields Whisper

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New Market Battlefield

Simply reaching New Market is a gratifying part of the visit to this wonderful Shenandoah Valley town.

About a two-hour drive from Washington, DC, New Market is immediately accessible from I-81, offering splendid mountain views for many miles. And for those who like to stop and explore small towns, Route 11 goes right through several before reaching New Market, or you can also enter from Route 211 if you want the chance to visit Luray.

New Market is a favorite among lovers of Virginia history. German settlers began staking out farms as early as 1727, and Scots and Irish followed. The town was founded by General John Sevier, a noted Indian fighter and patriot, and in 1796 it was formally established by the Virginia General Assembly. New Market was designated a Historic District in 1972.

New Market is well-known to students of the Civil War. Stonewall Jackson’s troops marched through the town no less than four times, and the Battle of New Market took place here on May 15, 1864. In this conflict, 257 young VMI cadets (one just 15) were pressed into service by Confederate General John Breckinridge. After an 85-mile march north, the troops dug in but took cannon and rifle fire from Union soldiers atop Bushong Hill. Ultimately, the cadets and Breckenridge’s forces held, pushing back the Union army and securing the site – but not before many cadets lost their boots in the rain-soaked, plowed dirt of the battleground. That part of the battlefield became known as the “Field of Lost Shoes.”

The battle is re-enacted each year in mid-May on the grounds of the Virginia Museum of the Civil War & New Market Battlefield State Historical Park.   The museum concentrates on the Civil War in Virginia and displays artifacts from the battle itself and the Bushong family home, plus photos, period firearms, and even a film, “The Field of Lost Shoes.” Take a self-guided tour of the 300- battlefield site and you will almost hear the gunfire.

Here are few suggestions on what else to see and do when you visit the New Market area:

LodgingRiver Bluff Farm BnB— A beautiful long and timber home on 20 secluded acres. Slip a canoe or kayak into the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, or just take in the view from the dining room. Each guest room has a private bath and views of Massanutten Mountain and the river. There is free Wi Fi if you need to stay connected, and breakfast is included with the room. Easy access to hiking and many Shenandoah Valley attractions.

Exploration–Shenandoah Caverns/Endless Caverns. New Market lies almost centrally between these two geologic wonders. Shenandoah Caverns, about five miles north of town, is the closest major Virginia cave to I-81, and it’s got an elevator to reach its awe-inspiring depths. (One especially great day to visit is November 11th, the Cavern’s 8th annual Shenandoah Uncorked wine festival.) Your children will also be thrilled to visit the accompanying attraction called American Celebration on Parade, a display of massive parade floats and props from national events like the Rose Parade and presidential inaugurations.

Endless Caverns, (540-896-2283) about five miles south of town at the foot of Massanutten Mountain, indeed still has some sections that are unexplored. But a guided, 75-minute tour of this multi-room geologic wonder will give you all the underground scenery you can handle.

Family FunRoute 11 Potato Chips— Discriminating chip snackers have known and loved Route 11 Potato Chips for years. In Mt. Jackson, just a bit north of New Market, you can watch much of the production process through large windows in their retail store. Families and small groups are welcome anytime.

Learn more about New Market here.

Photo by Kevin M. Byrne (commons.wikipedia)

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