Johnson 1 Tater “Big Shrug” Johnson Ms.

Caruso ENGL 1103 22 February 2012 The Extraordinary Details of the Battle of New Market In the United States, the 1800s brought about many occasions that would force the North and the South to confront their differences. The Compromise of 1850, which designated slave states and free states, and the raid at Harper’s Ferry were two major events that fueled the mounting conflict between the North and South.1 These landmark happenings foreshadowed the conflict that would ensue between the States. As a result of the rising tension, it was the South’s opinion that the rest of the Union did not understand or respect the southern way of life; therefore, the people of the South had to take action. The Civil War is one of the most significant occurrences of United States’ history. Many battles fought during the Civil War set the premises on how the United States would be governed in the future. The battles not only determined the continued existence of the United States of America or the creation of a new Confederate States of America, they also influenced how long and bloody the war would be. One such extraordinary battle is the Battle of New Market. Even though the Battle of New Market resulted in a Confederate win, the most astonishing aspect is the people that fought in it. The people involved, the geographical location, and the military strategies are all important components that make the Battle of New Market remarkable.2 This battle exemplifies the courage and pride that young people of the South embodied throughout the war in order to preserve their rights. The Confederate forces that were involved in the Battle of New Market consisted of mainly cadets from the Virginia Military Institute (V.M.I.) in Lexington, Virginia. The Virginia Military Institute was recognized as a premier school,

Johnson 2 offering unmatched education, whether it be military-based or civilian-based, throughout the South. The V.M.I. cadets were of the finest character and courage.3 V.M.I. cadets were reared in Southern culture which was steeped in the belief of states’ sovereignty; therefore, their attitudes towards the Union’s supremacy over the states’ rights contradicted the views of people from the North. In some cases, the conflict between the North and the South were more personal; a cadet whose father owned a cotton plantation wanted to fight because they were being taxed more to ship their products to England or potentially the loss of a loved one in the war. Also, the Union was working their way to freeing all slaves from their owners (Stillwell 28). The loss of slaves would ultimately mark the downfall of the South’s economy.4 John C. Calhoun, a political figure in South Carolina and one of the biggest confederate supporters of states’ rights, said: “This is to be found in the fact that the equilibrium between the two sections, in the Government as it stood when the constitution was ratified and the government put in action, has been destroyed,” Calhoun was referring to the Union government deviating from the document that the United States was founded (Rozwenc 2).5 As a result of these views, many people in the South showed a great deal of pride and motivation for the war. According to author James Rhodes: "Devotion to the Southern cause beat high in the hearts of their womankind, compelling well-born and fastidious ladies to the care of men wounded in every distressful and revolting manner and tormented by physical suffering” (Rhodes 389). The VMI cadets were no exception. Consequently, there were approximately 257 cadets that fought in the Battle of New Market. These cadets were between the ages of fifteen to twenty-four years old with the most common range being seventeen to twenty-one years old (VMI: Popular Questions par 2). All of these cadets were willing to fight for what they believed to be a noble cause. They were determined to not allow the North to take away their states’ rights and turn the nation into one of despotism (Rhodes 394).

Johnson 3 The Battle of New Market’s geographical location is significant due to two major factors: its close proximity to V.M.I., and the Union’s objective to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad which transported supplies to the South. The institute established a state arsenal for the militias throughout the state of Virginia. Cadets that guarded it were provided with a college education that was accompanied by military training (VMI: Henry Reid Letters par 14). General Andrew Jackson was the main instructor at the institute and taught discipline by constructing the V.M.I. Honor System which clearly lays out the importance of integrity and honor. The cadets, or “keydets” as the southern dialect calls them, were taught the science of warfare as well as basic courses such as Math and English. The institute’s focus on acquiring knowledge, being disciplined, and developing military skills provided the qualities necessary to win the Battle of New Market. The Confederate troops that were in the valley at the time were weathered by their experience in the war but their small numbers would call for military strategy that would bring about victory. General J.D. Imboden commanded the only Confederate unit in the Shenandoah Valley when he discovered that Union troops were headed his way. Union General Franz Sigel’s troops were seen marching from Winchester to New Market by following the Shenandoah Valley.6 The reconnaissance mission is what informed Imboden that the Union troops were going to attempt to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad, in order to cut off Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s primary source of supplies. If successful, they planned on marching even farther south and destroying the Confederate States of America (VMI: Battle of New Market Summary par 1). General Imbodem contacted the superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute to ensure that the cadets would be ready to reinforce his small army of 1500 soldiers. On the night of May 10, 1864, the young cadets were given a warning order that they would be marching to New Market, Virginia at 07:00 hours the next morning due to the General’s reconnaissance report on

Johnson 4 the Union troops’ movement. General John C. Breckenridge took control of the cadets and marched them to Staunton, Virginia in the morning for thirty-six miles in the pouring rain on a very weathered road. They stopped half way to sleep, but the rain did not cease making it nearly impossible to sleep. Once in Staunton, they marched another twenty-seven miles down the valley to witness a small skirmish between a reconnaissance group of Sigel’s army and Imboden’s army (VMI: The March to New Market par 2). Later in the evening, the cadets were quietly awoken and made their way to the battlefield after a prayer by Captain Frank Peterson. They marched in a column formation as quietly as possible for most of the travel through the heavy rainstorm.7 Once they were within their target distance from the battlefield, the cadets were ordered to perform a flanking movement to the left, but the artillery was unable to follow them due to the poor condition of the road. After ten miles of marching, some formed into a line of battle behind a fence south of the battlefield, while the others moved in columns to guard the river to the right and the line of trees to the left. As they marched up Shirley’s Hill, they were in range of Union artillery which fired the first shots of the battle. Soon after receiving fire from Union artillery, the Confederate army suffered several casualties; this was called the “baptism of blood” (VMI: The March to New Market par 4). The cadets had never experienced real war, so the sight of men being killed shocked many; however, they were in awe when they witnessed the veteran soldiers of Imboden’s army compose the second echelon. Throughout the battle, the soldiers would gallantly fill intervals of the ranks if another soldier was shot down. They were ordered to press forward which resulted in the Union falling back to the other side of the river of which they had traveled. Lieutenant Colonel Scott Shipp, another leader in the Battle of New Market, observed in a letter to the headquarters of V.M.I.: “A brisk fusillade ensued, a shout, a rush, and the day was won. The enemy fled in confusion, leaving killed, wounded, artillery and prisoners in our hands” (VMI: Report of Lt.

Johnson 5 Col. Scott Shipp par 8). The majority of the battle was controlled by the Confederate troops which minimized casualties. A total of ten cadets were killed in the battle and forty-five were wounded.8 The cadets were relieved of their military duties and were told to report back to V.M.I. to resume their studies. They marched back to Staunton, where they boarded a train to Richmond and camped with General Lee’s army for one night before finally making their way back to school. Soon after their arrival at V.M.I. campus, the cadets were evacuated because of a threat by the Union troops. They fell back two miles and waited for the enemy, but none appeared. After returning again, they discovered it to be burned down by General Hunting and his Union army. Classes were held in an alternate location for almost a year after the Battle of New Market. Eventually, the Confederacy surrendered to the Union around April of 1864. The Virginia Military Institute reopened in October of 1865 in Lexington, Virginia (VMI: Timeline). Both sides of the war had endured a long and hard-fought battle for their respective reasons. The South’s interpretation of states’ rights was not allowed in the Union, which called for conflict. To compound the struggle, the North did not understand how the economy of the South worked and restrained its business, affecting its economy. Because the South believed that the Union was straying away from the Founding Fathers’ ideas that built the United States, the Confederate and Union armies were called to preserve the views of each respective side. The Battle of New Market proved to be one of the most extraordinary battles in the Civil War because of the people involved, the location, and the military strategies. The Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute were teenagers during the war, but men afterwards. They showed genuine dedication to duty and honor throughout the battle, as well as their gallantry to win. The Battle of New Market was a phenomenal Confederate win by the young men of V.M.I.. Those cadets who lost their lives in the battle were buried on the campus, and their graves can still be visited today.9

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1

Maybe begin the trailer by briefly going through the things the created or amplified tension between the states. 2 Possibly include this text in the trailer directly before identifying VMI.
3

Use clips from VMI site to portray the discipline of cadets.

4

Give a clear depiction of what the southern economy was based on. Show cotton fields and/or plantations
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Put the quote into trailer. Find a way to portray troops marching through the valley. Try to find a video clip that could fit for this part. 7 Continue to find clips similar to the situation 8 Find a Civil War battle scene online to incorporate into the video 9 Create a movie trailer that goes through what VMI is about and how old the cadets were and how they were involved at New Market.

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Works Cited Rhodes, James. History of the Civil War 1861-1865. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1961. Print. Rozwenc, Edwin. The Causes of the American Civil War. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1961. Print. Stillwell, Leander. "The Story of a Common Soldier of Army life in the Civil War, 1861-1865 ." The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries. Franklin Hudson Publishing Company, 2002. Web. 7 Feb 2012. <http://solomon.cwld.alexanderstreet.com.librarylink.uncc.edu/cgibin/asp/philo/cwld/documentidx.pl?sourceid=S1649>. Online print source. Varhola, Michael. Everyday Life During the Civil War. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books. 1999.Print. VMI Archives. n.d. 8 February 2010. <http://www.vmi.edu/archives/home/>.