Stonewall at the Strayer House
—1862 Valley Campaign —
Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackon's unsuccessful attack on Union forces at Kernstown on March 23, 1862, alarmed Federal officials, who assigned additional troops to the Shenandoah Valley to guard against a Confederate assault on Washington, D.C. In May and June, Jackson's "foot cavalry" marched 350 miles; defeated three Union armies in engagements at McDowell (May 8), Front Royal (May 23), Winchester (May 25), Cross Keys (June 8), and Port Republic (June 9); inflicted twice the number of casualties it suffered; and tied down 60,000 Federal troops. The campaign made Jackson the Confederacy's foremost hero.
The Strayer House, built about 1808, was the home of John and Dorcas Strayer (a cousin of Abraham Lincoln) and the sire of Strayer's mercantile business. Located where the Valley Turnpike crossed the road from New Market Gap, the building was familiar sight to Confederate and Union soldiers alike.
On May 21, 1862, Confederate Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson watched from the building's stoop as his "foot cavalry" turned east toward New Market Gap to surprise the Federals at Front Royal on May 23. Two weeks later, Jackson made his headquarters here as he withdrew south. He had first bivouacked outdoors, but a torrential downpour on June 3 washed our his tent and compelled
him to seek shelter in the Strayer House the next day.
While here, Jackson planned the final stages of the campaign and met the mapmaker Jedediah Hotchkiss to inquire about the terrain near Port Republic. Jackson also met with George Clark, and English reporter for the New York Herald
who had been captured at Front Royal. Jackson agreed to free Clark but balked at returning Clark's horse, which he considered contraband of war. "He was told that he might take him if he could find him," Jackson aide Henry Kyde Douglas recalled. "But having his doubts about the prudence of roaming through [Turner] Ashby's camp in search of a horse [Clark] took his departure."
By the next day, Jackson was gone, racing south with the Federals close on his heels, headed for Port Republic.