Heroism in Defeat

Heroism in Defeat (HM8JG)

Location: New Market, VA 22844 Shenandoah County
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 39.954', W 78° 39.985'

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Captain Henry A. DuPont and Sergeant James M. Burns

The main Union line of battle extended from here for one-half mile to the Valley Turnpike, now U.S. 11. Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, the Union force exchanged musket and cannon fire with the Confederates, who had advanced over a mile north from Shirley's Hill to a fence along Jacob Bushong's orchard.

About 3 PM, Confederate Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge sensed that the tide of battle had turned. He ordered an advance, with the cadets from VMI in the center. As the Confederate charge swept across the muddy wheat field, the cadets overwhelmed the exposed position of Capt. Alfred von Keiser's 30th Battery of New York Artillery. With many of his battery's horses dead, von Kleiser abandoned two of his guns. The exuberant cadets captured one of them.

The Confederate charge forced the Union commander, Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel, to order a retreat. At this moment, Battery B, 5th U.S. Artillery, under the command of Capt. Henry DuPont, arrived on the field at Rude's Hill, two miles northeast of the Bushong Farm. Acting on his own initiative, DuPont deployed his battery of six 3-inch ordnance rifles in three sections of two guns each. As he fired and withdrew, leapfrogging his guns, he slowed the Confederate advance long enough for Sigel to withdraw the rest of his army north to safety.

DuPont served in the Union Army for the rest of the war, and received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Cedar Creek. In June, 1864 he reluctantly carried out orders to shell and burn the Virginia Military Institute. Fifty years later, as a United States Senator from Delaware, DuPont sponsored legislation to compensate VMI for the damage. The Senate majority leader was Thomas Staples Martin of Virginia, who fought as a VMI cadet at New Market.

(Sidebar):Courage Under Fire
Sgt. James M. Burns of the 1st West Virginia Infantry was awarded the Army's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the Union retreat at New Market. His citation reads: "Under a heavy fire of musketry, rallied a few men to the support of the colors, in danger of capture, and bore them to a place of safety. On of his comrades having been severely wounded in the effort, Sgt. Burns went back a hundred yards in the face of enemy's fire and carried the wounded man from the field." The medal (on the far left in the picture below) was awarded in 1896, as Burns, now a major, neared the end of three decades of service in the U.S. Army.
HM NumberHM8JG
Placed ByVirginia Civil War Trails and Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Friday, October 17th, 2014 at 6:44am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 703028 N 4282286
Decimal Degrees38.66590000, -78.66641667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 39.954', W 78° 39.985'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 39' 57.24" N, 78° 39' 59.10" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)540
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 198 Battlefield Rd, New Market VA 22844, US
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