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Port Republic

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June 9, 1862

The Battle of Port Republic

"Stonewall" Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley campaign achieved improbable success in the early summer of 1862. In early June, he led his small army to the town of Port Republic, only a few days ahead of two pursuing Union armies. From Port Republic, he could escape the valley and return to Richmond a hero. Jackson, however, could not pass on a chance to defeat the Union columns in detail as they approached, one on either side of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. On June 8, Jackson’s men dealt a severe blow to Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont's Yankees at Cross Keys, on the west side of the fork.

That same day, Union cavalry crossed over from the east side of the fork and raided Jackson’s headquarters at Port Republic. In a brief skirmish the Yankees nearly captured Jackson and, for a time, controlled the vital North Bridge over the South Fork. The arrival of the 37th Virginia drove the Yankees from the village, leaving Jackson in possession of Port Republic and its river crossing.

The Federals—the lead element of Brig. Gen. James Shields' division, temporarily commanded by Brig. Gen. Erastus B. Tyler—established a strong defensive position along the Lewiston Lane. Their right rested on the river and extended along the Lewiston Lane toward the River Road, where their left was anchored on a high knoll called the Coaling. Tyler judiciously placed his artillery here, giving the Yankee gunners command of nearly their entire front which consisted primarily of an open field between the River Road and the South Fork. With Fremont cowed, Jackson made plans to attack and destroy this second column.

Just after 5:00am on June 9, Brig. Gen. Charles Winder led the famed "Stonewall" Brigade in an attack against Tyler’s position. Artillery rounds from the Coaling tore into Winder's men advancing across the open plain, driving them back, with Yankee infantry in hot pursuit. Though Jackson outnumbered Tyler on paper, Confederate reinforcements were slowed considerably by a bottleneck at the North Bridge.

The situation east of the River Road was entirely different. Thick woods shielded the Southerners' approach, allowing the 2nd and 4th Virginia to advance directly upon the Union gunners at the Coaling. The Virginians seized control of Tyler’s artillery platform only to be confronted by an onslaught of Federal infantry. After a vicious hand-to-hand struggle, the Confederates were forced to relinquish control of the guns while they waited for their own reinforcements. When help finally arrived in the form of Brig. Gen. Richard Taylor's Louisiana brigade, the Southerners again charged the Coaling, this time taking it in flank. This was too much for Tyler's men, who hastily fled down the reverse slope. With the Yankee artillery position firmly in Confederate hands, the whole of Tyler's line collapsed and withdrew in confusion.

With the two Federal wings now cut off from one another, the Yankees withdrew north through the Valley. After three weeks of marching and fighting, Jackson had neutralized the Union threat in the Shenandoah for the foreseeable future.