“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Luray in Page County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Cavalry Engagement

Cavalry Engagement Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, September 29, 2006
1. Cavalry Engagement Marker
Inscription. In mid-June 1862, after Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley campaign, Brig. Gen. Beverly H. Robertson’s cavalry screened from Union observation Jackson’s movement east to join the Army of Northern Virginia near Richmond. Robertson posted two companies of cavalry here, half a mile north of Luray. On 29 June, a Federal reconnaissance force of Maine, Michigan, and Vermont cavalry rode south from Front Royal to locate Jackson. About 9:00 A.M. on 30 June, the Union cavalry charged the outnumbered Confederates and dispersed them. Not finding Jackson, who unknown to them, had left the Valley, the Federals returned to Front Royal.
Erected 1998 by Department of Historic Resources. (Marker Number C-3.)
Location. 38° 40.24′ N, 78° 27.434′ W. Marker is in Luray, Virginia, in Page County. Marker is on North Broad Street (Business U.S. 340) south of Lee Highway (U.S. 211), on the left when traveling north. Click for map. Marker is at the entrance to the Luray Hawksbill Greenway park. Marker is in this post office area: Luray VA 22835, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 5 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Fisher’s Hill and Yager’s Mill (within shouting distance
Cavalry Engagement Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, September 29, 2006
2. Cavalry Engagement Marker
of this marker); The Chapman-Ruffner House (approx. 0.2 miles away); White House Ferry (approx. half a mile away); Massanutten School (approx. half a mile away); A Slave Auction Block (approx. half a mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Luray.
More about this marker. This marker replaces a previous marker numbered C-3 from the 1930s with the same title that had been missing for many years. That marker read Robertson, shielding Stonewall Jackson’s rear, fought an engagement here with Union cavalry, June 30, 1862.
Regarding Cavalry Engagement. This marker is one of several detailing Civil War activities in Page County, Virginia. Please see the Page County Civil War Markers link below.
Also see . . .
1. Photo-Portrait of General Beverly H. Robertson. (Submitted on October 7, 2006.)
2. Page County Civil War Markers. (Submitted on February 25, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
3. Avenue of Armies: Civil War Sites and Stories of Luray and Page County, Virginia. (Submitted on March 20, 2009, by Robert H. Moore, II of Winchester, Virginia.)
Additional comments.
1. Notes about the Engagement
In this action, Col. Charles H. Thompkins commanded the Union forces,and Maj. Harry Gilmor commanded the Confederate forces.

A general summary of the action, based on the Union reports from the Official Records of the Rebellion, can be found on pp. 72-74 of "Avenue of Armies: Civil War Sites and Stories of Luray and Page County, Virginia," (2002) by Robert H. Moore, II:

Weeks following the battle of Port Republic and within days of the departure of Shields' Federal troops for Front Royal, Federal cavalry patrols were deployed to the Page Valley to find the dispostion of Jackson's troops, whom the Feerals believed might still be in the area.

On June 22nd, a detachment of the 1st Michigan Cavalry approached Luray and took reports from "the negroes that general Ewell was in Luray in force and that Jackson had been sent to Richmond for reinforcements." Federal Maj. Charles H. Town noted, "Union people reported the enemy in force in and about Luray. At Milford it was believed that Jackson, lightly equipped, was moving toward the railroad to intercept Shields. A majority of people would say nothing of the enemy's position." Two days later, the 1st Michigan, under Maj. Town, clashed with Confederate cavalry at Milford in a "sharp skirmish."

On June 29, Col. Charles H. Thompkins, leading a cavalry contingent consisting of companies from the 1st Vermont, 1st Maine, and 1st Michigan, set out from Front Royal toward Luray. The mission of the hodge-podge brigade was, again, to feel for the Confederate disposition near Luray and report it to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 2nd Corps, Union Army of Virginia.

Late in the day, the contingent had probed as far as present-day Compton before returning to Milford. Saddling the horses by 4 a.m. the following morning, the Federals continued their advance upon Luray, leaving a detachment of twenty-five men of the 1st Vermont to guard the Milford Bridge. Earlier the night before, a detachment of twenty men from Company G, 1st Michigan Cavalry, had already established a watch on the bridge. Meanwhile, two companies of the 1st Vermont and seventy-five men under Capt. George J. Summat, went ahead as the advance guard to Luray.

The first action opened between 8 and 9 a.m., within five miles of Luray, near Big Spring, as Corp. Barney Decker of Company D, 1st Vermont Cavalry, captured a Confederate cavalry vidette. As the small force moved on, two companies of Confederate cavalry, consisting of about two hundred men, were encountered here, near Yager's Mill, on "the hill about half a mile out of Luray... in a line just outside of the town upon the New Market or Gordonsville road." As the Federals moved in for the challenge, one company from the 1st Maine and another of the 1st Vermont moved in to support another company of the 1st Vermont. As the columns of horsemen assembled, a charge was made, successfully dispersing the Confederates who lost two men captured. From the ranks of the Federals fell one man from Co. D, kille, and one from the 1st Maine wounded.

Maj. Angleo Paldi of the 1st Michigan Cavalry continued the advance through Luray, and was ordered by Col. Thompkins to overtake the Federal cavalry that was still in pursuit of the Confederates. Moving out along the New Market to Sperryville Turnpike, at least four miles, Paldi halted and "perceived that our cavalry must have diverged from the road, as nothing but scattered rebels could be seen, and they far ahead."

While the expedition to Luray had gone forward from Milford, a band of approximately twenty-five guerillas advanced upon the twenty-five-man Vermont detachment assigned to watch the bridge there. Approaching the Milford Bridge from the opposite side of the Shenandoah, the guerillas turned back after observing the Maine cavalrymen moving up to ascertain the purpose behind the guerillas' movement. By 9 p.m. the Federal force that had reconnoitered to Luray was back in camp near Front Royal.

The following description of events, more from the perspective of the Confederate forces and civilians in Luray (mostly based on the recollections of Harry Gilmor) was written in a May 2008 article for the Page News & Courier by Robert H. Moore, II:

The morning hours of June 30 were relatively quiet around Luray. Residents were going about their daily routines, likely in appreciation of the heavy rainfall that they had received the night before. Yet, apart from the memory of the artillery-like rumblings of thunder overnight, the only obvious traces of war that morning were the tents of Harry Gilmor’s small body of cavalry in the meadow on the northern edge of town. Gilmor had rested peacefully the night before. The pickets deployed the previous evening in the direction of Rileyville were local men, cavalrymen of Capt. S.B. Coyner’s Co. D, 7th Virginia Cavalry.

However, just as the rumbling of thunder had interrupted an otherwise peaceful evening on the night before, a mad dash of pickets from the direction of Rileyville raised concern in both the soldiers and citizens alike. As word came that Federal troops – cavalry, infantry and artillery – were bearing down on the unsuspecting town, Gilmor was quick to order the wagons loaded and moved toward White House Ford. No sooner had the orders been issued than the first Union troopers appeared on the rise to the north of Luray.

Union cavalryman Horace Ide recalled that as his regiment advanced on the hill in pursuit of the pickets, the Green Mountain men noticed that the Confederates were “trying to save their wagons and finally … came to the right about and tried to charge us, but only a few men obeyed the order.” Though preparing to make a stand in the streets of Luray, some citizens, according to Gilmor, “begged” him to take the fight out of the town. Gilmor quickly agreed, moving most of his command in the direction of the Leaksville Road and leaving only a small rearguard in the town to screen the move. Despite its size, the rearguard laid-down a sharp fire, killing one trooper of the First Vermont Cavalry, before Union artillery rolled-up and forced Confederate rearguard to put to flight.

Catching site of the Confederate wagons again, the Union force seemed reinvigorated in the manner in which it readied to strike again. Determining that “there was no alternative but a hard fight or loss of the wagons, besides having my men cut to pieces in the Shenandoah River,” Gilmor prepared to fight once again. Immediately, he “wheeled the column and gave the command to charge.” As the Confederate horsemen lurched forward, the Union troopers soon gained momentum on their own mounts. “Both columns were at a charge,” wrote Gilmor, “and as we closed upon each other, I, being some distance ahead of the rest, happened to kill one of the first set of fours at a second shot.”

For a moment, Gilmor believed that the Union line began to pull back. However, he quickly discovered that another line of Union cavalry prepared to flank his line. “I was not to be caught in this trap, so I at once gave the order, “Flank out to the left and right.” The counter-move proved of little result. Gilmor recalled being caught-up in a brief exchange of fire, but soon deemed it necessary to retire. Instead of following the wagons to White House Ford, his command turned off in the direction of Columbia Ford “and scattered into the woods, checking them a good deal.”

Despite Gilmor’s boast of “checking them,” the Union command retired under orders not to move beyond Luray. Horace Ide recalled, “we had already exceeded our orders, which were only to go to Luray, after coming into line and exchanging a few shots with them we returned.”

Though minor in comparison to the larger actions in the Valley, the Union push on Luray was an effort to determine the location of “Stonewall” Jackson’s command. Already engaged in the Seven Days Battles around Richmond, Jackson had left enough of a “ghost” of himself in the Valley to keep the Federals guessing about where his next tactical feat would be performed in the Shenandoah.

As for Luray, this encounter would be the first of a series of fights the town would bear witness to over a course of a few days. Shortly thereafter, Luray would be placed under Federal occupation. The town remained in the hands of the Federal army for over a month, until news arrived of the battle at Cedar Mountain, on August 9.
    — Submitted February 6, 2009, by Robert H. Moore, II of Winchester, Virginia.

Categories. War, US Civil
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. This page has been viewed 2,074 times since then and 133 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on , by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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