Stonewall's Surprise

Stonewall's Surprise (HM63Y)

Location: Strasburg, VA 22657 Shenandoah County
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 59.418', W 78° 21.675'

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Banks's Fort

In the spring of 1862, U.S. Army Capt. Edward Hunt, an engineer, constructed a fortification on the hill where the Strasburg water tower now stands. Hunt selected the hill "because it had an effective command over the roads, the railroad, and the town." From there, the Federal army could guard the junction of the Manassas Gap Railroad and the Valley Turnpike here at Strasburg. Union soldiers leveled the hilltop and erected earthworks and artillery emplacements surrounded by trenches. By May 15, 1862, the fort was manned. It was named Banks's Fort for Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, commander of the Union army here.

Early in 1862, Confederate Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's army of about 4,600 had wintered at Winchester. By March 1862, Banks's army began operating in the Shenandoah Valley to prevent a Confederate attack on Washington. Jackson sought to defeat Banks and lure Union forces away from Richmond. After several engagements in March and April, however, Jackson's outnumbered army marched east as though it was en route to Richmond to deceive Banks. Then it turned around and slipped back into the Valley.

Banks soon learned the truth but continued to occupy the fort, which Confederate scouts on Signal Knob had observed under construction. Jackson soon surprised the Federals by stealing a march north through the Luray Valley to Front Royal, which he attacked and occupied on May 23. When he turned toward Strasburg and the fort, Banks retreated to Winchester, where Jackson defeated him on May 25. Banks then withdrew across the Potomac River. Throughout the rest of the war, Federals and Confederates each briefly occupied Banks's Fort.

(Sidebar): Keister Family
Here Adam Keister, Sr. (1782-1847) settled and made stoneware, beginning the Strasburg pottery industry. One of his descendants, Cyrus Keister, served as a bugler in Co. G., 4th Regiment Virginia Cavalry, during the Civil War. E.E. Keister (1890-1972), purchased the Strasburg News in 1912 and merged it with other newspapers to create the Northern Virginia Daily in 1932.
HM NumberHM63Y
Series This marker is part of the Virginia Civil War Trails series
Placed ByVirginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, September 29th, 2014 at 11:14pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 728542 N 4319012
Decimal Degrees38.99030000, -78.36125000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 59.418', W 78° 21.675'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 59' 25.08" N, 78° 21' 40.50" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)540
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 110 E Washington St, Strasburg VA 22657, US
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