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The Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation is proud to host the 150th Anniversary reenactment of the 1862 Battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic. These two epic battles were part of “Stonewall” Jackson’s Valley Campaign of 1862, and demonstrated his keen ability to use terrain and timing to his advantage in defeating a superior force.
Registration for this event is now open!
History of the battles: June 9-10, 1862
One hundred fifty years ago, General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson conducted what is considered one of the finest military campaigns in history, crushing Union forces that vastly outnumbered him in a string of battles that culminated in the clashes at Cross Keys and Port Republic. Jackson’s victories are still held as the model by which a smaller force can defeat a larger one through superior mobility and stealth. His spectacular victories would fundamentally alter the progress of the war effort and take pressure off of the besieged Confederate capitol of Richmond.
By June of 1862, Jackson had achieved great success in his mission to clear the Shenandoah Valley of Union forces and threaten Washington, D.C. After small but important victories at McDowell and Front Royal, Jackson smashed another Yankee force at the First Battle of Winchester. President Lincoln then ordered two additional Union armies under generals John Fremont and James Shields into the Valley to trap Jackson. Advancing south on either side of Massanutten Mountain, Fremont and Shield hoped to catch Jackson between their two forces and destroy him. Jackson retreated southward through hard marching by his men, eluded Fremont and Shields. Jackson then divided his forces, posting one division at the small river town Port Republic and placing General Richard Ewell’s division a few miles north at the village of Cross Keys. By the evening of June 8th, elements of Fremont’s and Shields’ armies appeared on opposite sides of Jackson’s position.
On the morning of June 9, Fremont inspected Ewell’s commanding position on high ground supported by artillery. Fremont launched an attack on Ewell’s right flank, which was commanded by General Isaac Trimble. Trimble’s men not only repulsed the Federal attack on his position, but chased the Northern soldiers back to their original positions. General Fremont, alarmed by the aggressiveness of Trimble’s counter-attack, called off attacks against the Confederate center and left flank and pulled back to a defensive position. Trimble begged for permission to continue his attack, but Jackson showed prudence and withdrew Ewell’s troops to Port Republic, leaving Trimble to cover any renewed attack by Fremont.
The next morning, June 10th, Jackson sent forward the veteran Stonewall Brigade against Shields’ formations on the eastern side of the Shenandoah River. Union cannon soon repulsed these attackers and their artillery support. Jackson hurried across the river with reinforcements, burning the bridge behind him to prevent Fremont from joining forces with Shields. Fierce, brutal combat swirled around Union artillery positions as Ewell came to the support of the rest of Jackson’s forces. The Federal batteries, fighting for their lives, were finally overwhelmed by the charging Rebels. Shields fell back in confusion, leaving Jackson victorious on the field of battle.
Jackson’s amazing Valley Campaign in the spring of 1862 prevented tens of thousands of reinforcements from joining General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac in its attempt to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond. By marching his troops at a relentless pace, Jackson repeatedly evaded enemy forces that outnumbered his own, only to reappear to attack and win where least expected. The remarkable achievements of Stonewall Jackson and his men created a legend that rings in the Valley to this day.