April 20, 2008

Field Trip to Port Republic

  • Yesterday I went on a field trip with Blue Ridge Community College. Instructor Rudy Tucker was our leader and van driver. I was one of only four students.

    The subject was the Battle of Port Republic (June 1862). "Port" is one of my favorite small towns and combining it with tales of Stonewall Jackson drew me to this course.

  • a parkOur first stop was the riverfront park in Port Republic. Here our teacher gave a detailed description of the battle using magnets labeled with the names of the military units that were there. This took a while but really clarified the action.
    Rudy Tucker
    teacher

  • Our teacher, now 83 years old, has been a resident of that area for a long time and had permission to take us on farms that stand on the historic battlefield.
cattle farm
Here we stood on crossed by Confederate soldiers trying to reach the high ground of "The Coaling," which you can see on the upper right.

"The Coaling" is now preserved and marked with signs just off Route 340 near Grottoes. Below is the view from the point where Union artillery stood and was fired on the advancing Confederates.
sign and view
Next we rode to Brown's Gap. If you look closely in the photo below, you can see white rocks right in the middle. That's the remains of Mt. Vernon Furnace. At the time of the battle, the trees would have been cleared to provide charcoal for the furnace.
forest
Finally we stopped at the site of Jackson's Bivouac on June 16, where his army rested before leaving for Richmond and what turned out to be the Seven Days' Battles. This field is clear of trees except for this old giant on the left, known as Jackson's Prayer Tree. You can see it from Rockfish Road near Weyers Cave Road. It's been struck by lightning and trimmed yet it still stands, preserved because of its association with a hero of the Shenandoah Valley.
tree and field
There's another trip scheduled for next Saturday on the Battle of Piedmont but I will not be able to go because we are hosting a library program. See BRCC's special interest classes.

Previous Posts on Port Republic:
  1. By the South River
  2. Madison Hall
  3. Port Republic Trip with NVCC
~For more on the battlefield see the NPS page on Port Republic.
~This SNP hiking guide includes history of Brown's Gap.
~CWPT has a page on The Coaling.
~Our teacher recommends reading Conquering the Valley: Stonewall Jackson at Port Republic by Robert Krick.
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