On May 15, 1864, the historically significant Battle of New Market took place in which 257 teenage cadets of Virginia Military Institute (VMI) were pressed into service by Confederate General John Breckinridge in a successful effort to delay the North’s march on Richmond, Virginia. They were part of a makeshift Confederate army of 4,100 men who forced Union General Franz Sigel and his army out of the Shenandoah Valley. This was the last major Confederate victory of the Civil War. As a result of this defeat, Sigel was relieved of his command and replaced by Maj. Gen. David Hunter, who later burned VMI in retaliation for New Market (can’t take a joke).
On June 22, 1791, Henry Bushong acquired farmland consisting of 260 acres in Shenandoah County that would be home for several generations of his descendants. In 1825, Henry’s son, Jacob, built this home.
The Bushongs raised wheat, oats, cattle, hogs, and horses. To service them, the farm contained a blacksmith shop, wheelwright shop, meat house, summer kitchen and wash house.
The Battle of New Market raged across their farm lands. We walked the battlefield (The corpses had been previously cleared).
When Interstate 81 was built, it cut directly through the battlefield. A tunnel was built under the roadway so we could traverse from the west to east side of the farm.
On this side of the battle field along this line of cedar trees, the 54th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment engage the confederacy. The regiment lost 174 men in the battle.
Tidbit of Information: On October 25, 1905, surviving members of the 54th Pennsylvania Infantry gathered here to dedicate this monument to their regiment’s valor. It is one of the few statutes in Virginia memorializing Pennsylvania’s Civil War soldiers. After the ceremony, the men returned home with cedar saplings from Jacob Bushong’s field. Those trees still survive in the Johnstown, Pa. cemetery where many of these veterans are buried.
On the day of the battle, this was a recently planted wheat field, but with 3 days of hard rain preceding the battle, and thousands of tramping soldiers it was reduced to a muddy bog. In the heat of the battle running soldiers had their shoes sucked off their feet. With bullets flying, the shoes could not be retrieved, and the soldiers continued barefoot for the remainder of the battle. This spot became known as the “Field of Lost Shoes.”
Unfortunately, another segment of our journey has come to an end. With winter approaching and the china virus closing everything down, we are forced to return to Maryland.