Disaster at New Market
BY 2nd Lieutenant
William A. McIlhenny
Submitted by: Mark Dudrow
last few days have been disastrous for
the Union Army in Virginia! Early
yesterday morning we were ordered to
march from Cedar Springs to New
Market. Our cavalry battalion was in
the advance with the infantry away
behind us. Even before we got to New
Market we heard the sounds of battle.
When we got in sight of the town
our battalion was immediately thrown
out on the skirmish line on the north
side of the town. The rebel line of
battle under General Breckenridge was
drawn up just south of the town. They
were ready for us.
Our battalion marched directly into
their artillery fire. Shells were
dropping all around us and musket
balls were whistling. The rebels were
so close that we could see their long
grey line of infantrymen advancing.
Where were our regiments of
infantry? The rebel infantry was
nearing gunshot range. Just as they
started firing a regiment of our men
arrived. We fell back for them to form
But it was too late! The rebels
were upon us, firing at close range.
They mowed our men down like grass.
Our cavalry tried to keep together,
but were impeded by the retreating
infantry men escaping from the hot
fire of Breckenridge' s pursuing men.
Many of them didn't escape. All the
way to the Shenandoah River they were
hot on our heels.
Our cavalry had keen the first to
cross the river in the morning, and
now we formed a rear guard under
General Taylor and were the last to
re-cross it. Then, with musket balls
still whistling around us we had the
job of setting fire to the bridge
which our engineers had built just six
We rode all night and passed
through the gap in the mountains at
Mt. Jackson. From there on we
retreated to Cedar Springs In good
order. The rebels didn't follow us. We
were dead tired and the taste of
defeat is bitter in our mouths.
Historical note: The concentration
of the Federal forces in North
Virginia in May 1864 for the campaign
which ultimately took Grant and Lee
south of the James Involved a fresh
series of operations in the Valley. At
first a Union containing force was
placed there under General Sigel; this
General unwisely took the offensive
and was defeated at New Market.