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New Market, Virginia
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In early May, Sigel’s Union force of about 8,000 advanced south through the Shenandoah Valley toward Staunton. It was hoped that the capture of this town would put further pressure on Lee’s supplies for the Army of Northern Virginia. To defend the valley, Gen. John C. Breckinridge had an improvised command of some 5,000 troops. This force included 247 boys from the Virginia Military Institute, aged between 14 and 18 years old.
The two armies met near New Market. Sigel occupied a low ridge north of the town known as Bushong’s Hill. He organized his force into two defensive lines, one behind the other. As Sigel was unwilling to attack, Breckenridge took the offensive. Imboden’s cavalry advanced across Smith’s Creek and succeeded in driving back the Union cavalry. In the center, Breckinridge’s infantry managed to push back the first line of Union troops. However, the Confederate advance slowed as they engaged the second line. It was at this point that Sigel should have counterattacked. However, he hesitated and Breckinridge was able to shore up his battle line. He instructed his ordnance officer, “Put the boys in and may God forgive me for the order.” The young cadets of the Virginia Military Institute moved into the battle line as Sigel finally launched his counterattack. The attack was made up of only three regiments and was beaten back by the Confederates who then resumed their own attack. The Union troops, tired and disheartened, fell back.
The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.
May 15, 1864
New Market, Virginia
Battle of New Market
The Battle of New Market was fought on May 15, 1864, in Virginia during the Valley Campaigns of 1864 in the American Civil War. A makeshift Confederate army of 4,100 men, which included cadets from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), defeated Union Major General Franz Sigel and his Army of the Shenandoah. The cadets were integral to the Confederate victory at New Market and this event marks the only time in U.S. history wherein the student body of a functioning and operating college fought as an organized unit in pitched combat in battle. This event and battle was the 14th time VMI cadets were called into action during 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.
Introduction to Wikipedia Article
Wikipedia: Battle of New Market