March 4, 2008

Madison Hall, Port Republic

This house is perched on a hill just outside "downtown" Port Republic. It was built around 1916 on the site of historic Madison Hall. Right now the house is "under contract" with settlement expected in a month.

On the edge of Main Street in front of the house is a sign summarizing the history of the site.

Madison Hall
Homesite scene of colonial settlement, Civil War clash

The crest of the hill was the site of Madison Hall, built in the mid-1700s for John Madison, the first Court Clerk of Augusta County, which originally included this area of Rockingham County within its frontier boundaries. In response to the presence of unfriendly Indians in the area during the French and Indian War, he built a fortified structure on the corner of the property. Madison's son, James, would become president of William and Mary College in 1777 and the first Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Virginia in 1785. John Madison's cousin was the father of another James Madison who would become President of the United States.

In June 1862, Madison Hall had become the home of Dr. George W. Kemper, Sr. and was serving as Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's headquarters. On the morning of June 8, as Jackson prepared for a quiet Sabbath, he was confronted with an emergency. Advance Union raiders had surprised the ill-disciplined Confederate pickets and entered Port. Jackson galloped through the village, pausing at the church on Main Street to admonish one of his staff for cursing. He slipped across the covered bridge on North River with moments to spare, rallied his forces on the far shore, and pushed them into the village to rout the invaders.

As Col. Samuel Sprigg Carroll's Union cavalry charged up Main Street, a skirmish developed. Here on the grounds of Madison Hall, two dozen infantrymen and some raw artillery recruits, under the heroic direction of Confederate Capt. Samuel J.C. Moore, made a brief, brave stand that protected the army's valuable wagon trains and herds of cattle spread behind the house. There is no reliable casualty list from the skirmish, but area diaries recall the excitement, pandemonium, and heroics as civilians sought safety and the Yankees were driven from the village.

In June 1864, Madison Hall was occupied by Union general David Hunter and his staff while their squads were detailed to destroy industries in Port Republic. It served as the residence of four generations of the Kemper family until it was sold in 1908.

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