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Strasburg in Shenandoah County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Stonewall's Surprise

Banks's Fort

 
 
Stonewall’s Surprise Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones, October 23, 2020
1. Stonewall’s Surprise Marker
Inscription.  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
Stonewall’s Surprise Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones, October 23, 2020
2. Stonewall’s Surprise Marker
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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.

 
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical month for this entry is March 1862.
 
Location. 38° 59.418′ N, 78° 21.675′ W. Marker is in Strasburg, Virginia, in Shenandoah County
Site of Banks' Fort image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, September 29, 2007
3. Site of Banks' Fort
Looking up hill from the marker, Banks' Fort was located where the water tower stands today.
. Marker is at the intersection of East Washington Street and North Holiday Street, on the right when traveling east on East Washington Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 110 E Washington St, Strasburg VA 22657, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Historic Strasburg (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); American Legion (about 300 feet away); Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named Historic Strasburg (about 500 feet away); a different marker also named Historic Strasburg (about 500 feet away); This Fertile Land (about 600 feet away); a different marker also named Historic Strasburg (about 600 feet away); Open House (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Strasburg.
 
More about this marker. On the left side of the marker is a photograph showing the "View from atop the remains of the earthworks known as Banks's Fort, shows east Strasburg and Signal Knob around 1868." In the sidebar is a portrait of Cyrus Keister.
 
Present Day View from Banks' Fort image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, September 29, 2007
4. Present Day View from Banks' Fort
Massanutten Mountain looms in the background, atop which the Confederate signal station kept tabs on the construction of the fort.
Keister Family Monument image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Allen C. Browne, May 14, 2014
5. Keister Family Monument
In Saint Paul's Lutheran Church Cemetery
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 24, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 10, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,978 times since then and 50 times this year. Last updated on July 26, 2008, by Linda Walcroft of Woodstock, Virginia. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on October 24, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.   3, 4. submitted on November 10, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   5. submitted on May 30, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.

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Jul. 1, 2022