The Battle of New Market in 1864 was fought on May 15, 1864 and was significant in the progress of the Civil War for several reasons. First of all, the Confederates were able to claim a victory over a portion of Gen. U.S. Grant’s multi-pronged offensive up the Shenandoah Valley. Secondly, it was one of very few instances when military cadets participated in battle. 247 cadets from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) fought along side 5000 other Confederate troops under the command of John Breckenridge to defeat the Union troops of Franz Sigel. The courage of the VMI cadets became legendary. The school now manages the visitor center at New Market and the Virginia Museum of the Civil War. In honor of the cadets who died during the battle, VMI now holds graduation every year on May 16. And every year on May 15th, there is a New Market ceremony and parade held on the VMI parade grounds to commemorate the VMI cadet soldiers who fought at the New Market battlefield. Another VMI tradition is a requirement for the first year VMI cadets (they are actually referred to as 4th year cadets) to march the 75 miles from the VMI post in Lexington to New Market. The cadets pass right through the village of Steeles Tavern on US 11 (known as Lee Highway) and right past our Inn on the way to the New Market battlefield.
The museum is on land known as the Bushong Farm. A log cabin first housed the young family of Jacob and Sarah Bushong. As their family grew, the Bushongs constructed a larger farmhouse that can now be toured as part of the museum admission. On May 15, 1864, as the battle raged on their fertile farm fields, now known as “The Field of Lost Shoes”, the Bushong family took cover in the basement of the farmhouse. You can tour the farmhouse and some of the out-buildings on the farm. This 300-acre battlefield and museum site includes a number of farmstead buildings, walking trails, and two scenic overlooks of the Shenandoah Valley.
The Virginia Museum of the Civil War building’s exterior design resembles a drum with stylized rifles leaning against it. The rotunda and buildings house artifacts from the family farmstead of the Bushong Family, a gallery of Civil War Firearms and the Robert Raeburn Civil War Art Collection. There is a theatre that shows a Virginia Public Television production film titled “Field of Lost Shoes” telling the story of the last major Confederate victory in the Shenandoah Valley. Self-guided and guided tours are available. The admission price for a self-guided tour is $7 for adults and $4 for youth. For additional fees, you can purchase “The Captain’s Tour” that lasts about 2 hours and includes the movie and a guided tour of the battlefield and Bushong Farm. “The Major’s Tour” includes all of the features of the Captain’s Tour plus a guided tour of the farmhouse and guided tour of the battlefield and the farmyard. The guided tours offer you a better perspective of the battle and the opportunity to ask specific questions. The museum is open daily 9am to 5pm (closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve & Day.)
Come to the Shenandoah Valley and experience the drama of the Battle of New Market during Reenactment Weekend. This is the longest continual reenactment in the country – and it’s still held on the exact property where the original conflict took place. On Saturday & Sunday, May 19 & 20, 2018, there will be artillery demonstrations, an informative lecture, “living history” exhibitions, a cavalry battle, a church service and the battle reenactment of the troop movements and actions of both days of the Battle of New Market. Mark your calendar for the reenactment weekend and make your reservation to stay at Steeles Tavern Manor B&B and Alpine Hideaway Cottages.