The town of Port Republic lay at the junction of two rivers, the North River (now the Maury River) and the South River, where they joined to create the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. A bridge allowed access across the North River and fords did the same for the South River.
Jackson's army arrived in Port Republic late on the evening of June 7, 1862, and on June 8 the general learned that Union forces under James Shields were positioned near the town. Shields's and Union general John C. Frémont's forces were separated, and, in order to take advantage of the situation, Jackson's troops would need to cross the South River and pursue Shields, taking Union troops by surprise. Jackson's total force numbered 6,000 compared to the two brigades of Shields's division, which numbered about 3,500 men under the tactical control of Union general Erastus B. Tyler.
Confederate troops in the Stonewall Brigade led the attack, and as they advanced, they suffered heavily from the artillery fire. Having commenced the battle before all of his forces had been arrayed, Jackson fed his troops in piecemeal, with the South River bridge limiting the speed with which reinforcements could be hurried to the field. When the frontal assault failed to break through, Jackson decided to send Richard Taylor's Louisiana brigade around the side of The Coaling. (Taylor was the son of former U.S. president Zachary Taylor.) Alert Union gunners saw the flank attack and pinned it down. In the meantime, the Stonewall Brigade had been pushed back in the wheat fields. By eight thirty in the morning, Jackson realized that he had underestimated both Shields's resolve and his numbers, much as he had misjudged Union strength and intentions at the Battle of Kernstown on March 23. The moment of crisis had arrived; if Confederate forces failed to dislodge Shields's troops, then Frémont could join with Shields, after which Union forces would vastly outnumber Jackson's men.
Although Jackson had won a victory, it had been a near thing. Rather than judiciously employing his men, he had thrown them into repeated and futile assaults. His aggressive nature had put his entire force at risk at a time when defeating Shields resulted in no strategic benefit. Still, Jackson had swept the Shenandoah Valley clean of Union troops and was now available to march his men to Richmond, where they could help Robert E. Lee in his Seven Days' Battles against George McClellan and the Army of the Potomac.
June 9, 1862, 10:30 a.m. - Union general Erastus B. Tyler orders his troops to withdraw from a ridge, ending the Battle of Port Republic. The victory means that Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson has cleaned the Shenandoah Valley of Union troops and can march to Richmond to reinforce Robert E. Lee.
- Civil War, American (1861–1865)
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Diaz, A. The Battle of Port Republic. (2012, February 22). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Port_Republic_Battle_of.
- MLA Citation:
Diaz, Angela. "The Battle of Port Republic." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 22 Feb. 2012. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: March 9, 2010 | Last modified: February 22, 2012