Part I - Stonewall Jackson's Narrow Escape The importance of the small Shenandoah Valley town of Port Republic lay in its position in the forks of the North and South Rivers which flow generally northeast and meet to form the South Fork of the Shenandoah River which thence continues northeastward through the Luray Valley to its junction with the North Fork at Front Royal. The Confederate Army of the Valley led by Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in June, 1862, nearing the end of his famous Valley Campaign headed here where it would presumably be safe from either the army of Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont, following Jackson from Harrisonburg, or the division of Maj. Gen. James Shields advancing up the Luray Valley from Front Royal. Previously, Jackson had ordered the several bridges across both of the branches of the Shenandoah, swollen by recent torrential rains, burned to impede the Federal advances. Only a single span remained, a covered wooden bridge at the site above over the North River leading into Port Republic; it became the lifeline for the Valley army for the days of the battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic, fought June 8 and 9, 1862. Jedediah Hotchkiss' map shows the town of Port Republc and its position at the Point where the rivers meet; as well as the open fields to the east over which the battle of June 9, 1862, took place. Jackson left the 3,500-man division of Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell at Cross Keys on June 6, to hold off Fremont's 10,500 while he led the rest, preceeded by a vast wagon train of supplies captured from the defeated army of Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks. Jackson passed the camps of his own division which was strung out and lying exhausted in the muddy fields along the road into town, and established his headquarters on a hill at Madison Hall, the home of Dr. George Kemper, which stood on the site of the more recent house above. Only a small picket accompanied Jackson into town and was positioned near the house; the rest of his division remained on high ground across the river. However, most of the wagons were parked in the fields around the house, a tempting target for Federal raiders. In town at the intersection of the main road and Water St. stands the Frank Kemper House, above, now the very interesting Port Republic Museum. It was here that the body of the commander of Jackson's cavalry, the redoubtable Brig. Gen. Turner Ashby had been brought for preparation for burial following Ashby's death in the small battle at Harrisonburg on June 6. A display in the museum below depicts Ashby's body, dressed in his finest uniform, lying in its coffin where it was photographed and placed beneath an open side window where mourners, including Jackson, could pass and give their respects. Port Republic got its name from having once been an important center of trade and minor manufacturing, dependent on the river and its tributaries for its livelihood and commerce. Today several period houses remain along its two streets, including the very odd structure below which consists of a brick wing to the left, joined to a wooden wing to the right by an elaborate and highly incongruous pillared portico between them! By the time of the battle, however, "The Port's" importance had declined considerably, river traffic being overtaken by railroad service to Front Royal and Strasburg in the north and Staunton to the south. Above and below are two views of another period structure being readied for restoration; the lower part had largely rotted away and is being prepared for replacement, but as can be seen, the upper frame remains sound, even after 150-plus years. It was into the sleepy town that 150 Union cavalry of Col. Samuel S. Carroll dashed on the morning of Sunday, June 8, nearly capturing Jackson and his staff at Madison Hall. Fortunately, his horse Little Sorrel was saddled and ready to take the general to Church services and he quickly escaped, though several members of his staff were captured. Dr. Hunter McGuire was preparing the local church which stood near this house for use as a field hospital for the battle everyone knew was coming, and he barely managed to escape out an open window in the sanctuary. Jackson managed to race across the bridge to get help from his nearest unit, the 27th Virginia of the Stonewall Brigade, which soon drove Carroll's unsupported troopers out of town and back to the north. Next time, the Battle of Port Republic.