Peaks of Otter

Peaks of Otter (HM11R3)

Location: Bedford, VA 24523
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 26.728', W 79° 36.604'

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"A rougher road could not be imagined"

— Hunter's Raid —

On May 26, 1864, Union Gen. David Hunter marched south from Cedar Creek near Winchester to drive out Confederate forces, lay waste to the Shenandoah Valley, and destroy transportation facilities at Lynchburg. His raid was part of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's strategy to attack Confederates simultaneously throughout Virginia. After defeating Gen. William E. "Grumble" Jones at Piedmont on June 5, Hunter marched to Lexington, burned Virginia Military Institute, and headed to Lynchburg. There, on June 17-18, Gen. Jubal A. Early repulsed Hunter and pursued him to West Virginia. Early then turned north in July to threaten Washington.

(marker text)
By the mid-19th century, several turnpikes had been constructed through gaps in the Blue Ridge, including the Buchanan and Bedford Turnpike here (present-day Route 43). These roads brought peddlers, visitors, and - on several occasions - soldiers to places that we look upon as vacation sites today. Such was the case on June 15, 1864, When the peace and tranquility of the Peaks of Otter was broken by the steady cadence of Union Gen. David Hunter's troops crossing the mountains from Buchanan with the city of Lynchburg their objective.

Pvt. Frank Smith Reader, 5th West Virginia Cavalry, noted that the 17-mile march across the mountains was impeded by felled trees, large boulders, and diverted streams washing across the road. "A rougher road," he wrote, "could not be imagined." Scouts scaled the peak called Sharp Top, from which, they claimed, they could see the Confederate capital of Richmond with the aid of a good spyglass.

Reader, sounding every bit the modern-day Blue Ridge Parkway visitor, wrote that the views were the most magnificent he had ever beheld. "As far as the eyes can reach," he mused, "a fine undulating country is seen. The Peaks of Otter is the finest sight for mountain scenery." Hunter's artillery commander, Capt. Henry A. du Pont, later wrote that "one of the most superb views on the whole American continent lay before us."

David Hunter Strother, artist and illustrator, was born in Martinsburg, Va. (now W.Va.) on Sept. 16, 1816. He studied art in Philadelphia and New York then toured the American West and Europe. Under the pen name Porte Crayon, he gained fame in the 1850s for his illustrations for Harper's Magazine and his books, including Virginia Illustrated. He served in the U.S. Army as an officer during the Civil War and as consul-general to Mexico (1779-1885). He died in Charleston, W.Va., on Mar. 8, 1888.
HM NumberHM11R3
Series This marker is part of the Blue Ridge Parkway series, and the Virginia Civil War Trails series.
Placed ByVirginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 at 12:13pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 622948 N 4145198
Decimal Degrees37.44546667, -79.61006667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 26.728', W 79° 36.604'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 26' 43.68" N, 79° 36' 36.24" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)804, 540, 434
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 85554 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Bedford VA 24523, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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