Skip to main content.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Instead of continuing their easterly march toward Warrenton, the Fifth Corps now did an about face and swung west in response to reports that Lee’s army was trying to break out of the Shenandoah Valley through the wind gaps in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A course was set for Manassas Gap where the the Corps was to rendezvous with the Third, Second, and Twelfth Corps. This generalized movement was, at the least, expected to block Lee, or, at best, would allow the Army of the Potomac to push through into the Valley themselves.

As each mile brought the 18th Mass. closer to the Gap the roads became rougher, but any physical difficulty was visually offset by scenery that became increasingly more spectacular. The towns the Regiment passed through melded into the other and the names, like Delaplane and Markham, faded from memory quickly. No one took note of a tiny hamlet called Linden.

Linden and Front Royal, Virginia sat like sisters at opposite ends of the table with the Manassas Gap between them. Though the Third Corps had begun their movement at three a.m. and were already inside the Gap, the Fifth overtook and passed them around noon. An exchange in position occurred again when those marching under the Maltese Cross were halted to allow the Third Corps to resume the lead.

The Fifth Corps, now marching “by brigades in full regimental fronts,” was hindered by a ribbon thin road and as a result began to resemble a sideways V; those in the front stuck to the road, while those behind spread out on the slopes where they contended with “underbrush, tough sassafras shrubs, or in some places, by over jetting rocks.”

After covering two miles over some of the “vilest of roads,” the Fifth Corps came to a halt around four p.m., not to pitch camp, but to prepare itself for a fight. According to Assistant Surgeon Joshua Wilber, who kept eyes fixed on the proceedings, the men blundered around, climbing “over stone walls, up and down steep hills, scarcely a square foot of which but had a stone as big as your head.” The 18th would stop for the night on a hillside, occupying space where others had been fighting an hour before. Wilber saw signs of blood splattered on rocks and discarded equipment in the midst of where the the 18th now rested. He lauded efforts by the troops, writing, “It was a hard place for our men and required great bravery to charge up such a hill.”

Responsibility for the main Union thrust had fallen primarily to the Second Division of Daniel French’s Third Corps, which launched their attack close to 4:30 p.m., and initially succeeded in driving the defensive minded Confederates under James Walker for one to two miles. When Robert E. Rodes’s infantry and artillery arrived to bolster Walker, the Union attack fizzled and darkness put a stamp of finality on further fighting. Casualties on both sides in dead, wounded, and missing, were estimated at 450 men.

Union troops slept on arms where they were positioned, while those in grey, unbeknownst to their enemy, were to utilize cover of darkness to retrace their steps back into the Valley. That the morrow would present another opportunity to seize the initiative loomed in the minds of Union commanders. But as silence enveloped the surrounding elevations, the reality didn't escape anyone that in the Battle of Manassas Gap, or Wapping Heights, both sides had failed to grab the upper hand.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Delaplane, VA dates from 1859. During the Civil War the church was used by both Confederates and Union troops as a shelter and hospital. Ancestors of Kilroy inscribed their names on wood for posterity, the markings of which in some cases are still legible.

The Markham, VA Post Office has been sorting and delivering mail out of this building since 1818


Manassas Gap


Thank you for the cool review. I look forward to continuing. Very interesting

Posted by SmetsCumSnush at Thursday, July 23, 2009 17:24:32

I appreciate your comment. I'm still waiting for someone to ask "Are we there yet?" A few more days and we will be.

Posted by Donald at Friday, July 24, 2009 09:34:45

Add Comment