“Battle of New Market”
During the Civil War Virginia was the South’s most populous state. Keeping Virginia in the Confederacy was vital to “the cause.” Early in the Civil War Stonewall Jackson famously declared, “If the valley is lost, Virginia is lost.” The Confederacy could not afford to lose Virginia. After Vicksburg’s fall in July 1863, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley became, arguably, the Confederacy’s most important strategic asset for it was valley beef and grain that sustained the South’s largest and most important army, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, in the field.
In the spring of 1864 Union Lt. Gen. Grant conceived a grand plan of concurrent attacks on rebel forces on fronts all across the South. As part of this grand Union plan Grant had Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel’s small army advance southward up the Shenandoah Valley. On May 15, 1864, Sigel’s army met rebel forces commanded by Maj. Gen. John Breckinridge outside the small town of New Market, Virginia.
Though the Battle of New Market is known today chiefly because Virginia Military Institute cadets fought there, thousands of other soldiers, blue and gray, engaged there as well. Some of this battle’s leaders bore now famous American names including Union Capt. Henry du Pont and Confederate Colonel George S. Patton. Decisions by one key Union leader kept this battle’s outcome from turning into a complete Union disaster. Though the battle resulted in a rebel victory, Union forces soon recovered and within weeks resumed the offensive in the Shenandoah Valley. This presentation will focus on several key leaders’ decisions and how these leaders’ battlefield decisions determined the Battle of New Market’s outcome.
Our presenter, Dave Sutherland, is a past president of the Indianapolis Civil War Round Table. He is a VMI graduate, has frequently visited the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park and has presented to Civil War Round Tables across the Hoosier state. Dave is a US Army veteran and practices law in Brownsburg, Indiana.