Located at exit 264 from Interstate 81, the New Market Battlefield Military Museum is 1/4 mile from that exit, on the small road (Rte 305), George R. Collins Parkway that parallels the interstate highway.
The museum building is flanked by granite and marble markers that forever mark the position of troops who fought during the Battle of New Market.
Consulting original maps from that time allowed these markers to be accurately placed and to be inscribed with relevant information.
Where the Museum rests on the battlefield is right between the Union line and the Confederate line. If it were May the1 4th or 15th, 1864 bullets might be whizzing over our heads.
The Union general was Franz Siegel, Confederate generals were John C. Breckenridge (former Vice-president of the United States) and Gabriel C. Wharton.
Gen. Franz Siegel, shortly after the defeat of this battle, was removed from the field to desk duty for the rest of the war. He resigned from the Union Army in May 1865.
Gen. Gabriel Wharton became a legislator in the Virginia General Assembly after the war and returned to his pre-war career as a civil & mining engineer. Wharton was assistant Secretary of State under President Rutherford B. Hayes. He was also instrumental in building the railroad in Southwest Virginia in New River Valley. Wharton died in the spring of 1906 at Radford, Virginia,
Gen. John Cabell Breckenridge was transferred to the Trans-Allegheny Department (Southwest Virginia), where he won his most significant victory at the Battle of New Market. After participating in Jubal Early’s 1864 campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley, he was charged with defending Confederate supplies in Tennessee and Virginia. In February 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed Breckenridge Secretary of War. Concluding that the war was hopeless, he urged Davis to arrange a national surrender.
After the fall of the Confederate capital at Richmond, Breckenridge ensured the preservation of Confederate military and governmental records. He then fled to Cuba, Great Britain, and finally, to Canada. In exile, he toured Europe from August 1866 to June 1868. When President Andrew Johnson extended amnesty to all former Confederates in late 1868, Breckenridge returned to Kentucky, but resisted all encouragement to resume his political career. Issues from war injuries sapped his health, and after two operations, he died on May 17, 1875.
The New Market Battlefield Museum is situated on high ground within the Core Area of the New Market Battlefield Cluster Group as designated by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (SVBF). The site is gently-sloped, is improved by a stunning Greek Revival style building with 90 parking spaces. The property is positioned a few hundred yards from the access ramps of I-81’s Exit 264. From the portico of the structure, there is a magnificent view of the Massanutten Gap. Looking South is the hill down which Confederate forces advanced on May 15th, 1864, while the view to the North includes the summit where the Federal Batteries were massed during the final assault.
The structure was built to resemble the Custis-Lee Mansion (Arlington House located in the Arlington National Cemetery). Robert E. Lee’s wife Mary Custis Lee inherited the home from the Custis family.
New Market is rich in history, having celebrated its Bi-Centennial in 1996. The Town straddles the heavily traveled Route 11 or the ‘Valley Pike’, one of the few ‘MacAdamed’ roads in existence during the Civil War. The Valley Pike figured prominently in Jackson’s Valley Campaign and troop movements of both sides during the conflict.
The most outstanding single attraction is the magnificent Shenandoah Valley itself, widely known nationally and is the destination of many international travelers. This property is situated right in the Heart of the lush ‘Bread Basket of the Confederacy’. Other nearby area attractions include, but are not limited to Luray Caverns, Shenandoah Caverns, and Endless Caverns. Nearby Massanutten, Bryce, and Wintergreen Resorts are all four (4) season destinations.
There are more than 250 hotel and other lodging rooms immediately available in and around New Market, and a number of local restaurants offer many choices to visitors. The Shenvalee Lodge, boasting a 27 hole Golf Course, and the Skyline Drive (Shenandoah National Park), are both accessed from this exit of Interstate 81.
The Orkney Springs Hotel has a summer long program of Music Festival programs and concerts, and in addition there are many local festivals that draw large and curious crowds. New Market has a local airport, Bryce Resort has a private airport, and the Shenandoah Valley Airport at Weyers Cave is within 35 miles.
Located at the intersection of exit 264 of I-81 and St. Rt. 211, is St. Route 305 (aka George R. Collins Parkway). The property is ½ mile north on this frontage road.
There are antique shops, farmers markets, bed and breakfasts, and mountain hiking trails in the immediate area, while the Shenandoah River provides canoeing, fishing, and whitewater rafting to visitors every year.
The Interstate 81 corridor has more than 20 major Colleges and Universities, includingVrginia Tech, Radford University, Hollins College, Roanoke College, and others along its 300+ mile length in Virginia. Some of the nearby ones are:
James Madison University, located in nearby Harrisonburg, has an attendance of 15,000 undergraduates and graduate students, and among other programs, has hosted The Civil War Roundtable on radio for many years.
Eastern Mennonite University, located in Harrisonburg, is a Liberal Arts University and has a student population of about 1,600.
Bridgewater College is a Liberal Arts College located in nearby Bridgewater and has a population of about 1,500.
Shenandoah University is a private college of about 3,000 students located in Winchester.
Mary Baldwin is a private college of about 1,000 students located in Staunton.