"This place is most beautifully situated in a narrow valley, where the spurs of the Blue Ridge terminate in bold, precipitous bluffs on one side, and a regular unbroken ridge bounds the other."

Strasburg, Virginia
April 1995

      Spring was aburst in the Shenandoah as we entered Strasburg. It is a charming small town dramatically set off by the foot of Massanutten Mountain. Travel through Stasburg is almost inevitable for the Shenandoah valley visitor because of the lay of the land and river.

      In 1862, it was even more so, for it was here that the Manassass Railroad, the valley pike, an end Massanutten Mountain and the Shenadoah north fork all meet. Banks command occupied and fortified this strategic position by late March. On the main hill of the town underwhich passes the railroad and the valley pike Fort Banks was created. (The picture above was taken from the knob hill where the fort had been.) Today obvious remains of the fort and its duty now is hold high the town's watertower. It still offers a great view of the surrounding region and it is a pity that there is not a observation platform there as trees and structures obstruct the view.

      Like Williams, who was in pursuit of the retreating rebels, we did not stay in Strasburg and drove on til we came to rest at a motel which laid claim to being the oldest motel in the valley. How old, I joked, had Stonewall Jackson stayed there? Well no, not quite that old.

      Our room was basic and the setting was rural quietly forgotten. Parallelling the valley pike today is Interstate 81, its high speed lanes long ago having sucked away the importance of the valley pike motels and businesses, which lay along its shoulders falling into a calm decay. But if you wish to save money and are not addicted to the cookie cutter motels that cling to Interstate 81 exits, clean, inexpensive lodging, run by hard working folks can be found.

      Williams fell in love with the beauty of the region. (as did we) His appreciation for it had drawn me there. The rich history was a bonus.

Strasburg in the 1860's Looking South
(up the valley) toward Fisher's Hill, site of an 1864 Battle.
Image derived from a period image, artist unknown.

     " I mounted my horse and with a small escort of cavalry set out in hot haste for Winchester. My 1st Brigade was already on the march for the same place. On reaching Winchester I found that Gen. Banks had returned and assumed command and was then following up the retreating enemy. I stayed long enough to order my brigade to follow, and to feed myself and horse, and started for the front.

      "I overtook Gen. Banks seven or eight miles out. The enemy was in sight, with a strong rear guard of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, but retiring from one strong position to another. We followed them all day till near sundown. At their last stand a battery from my brigade was brought up and they were driven helter-skelter from their position, leaving behind several killed and wounded, with tents, etc. The troops of Gen. Shields' division had been engaged in battle the day before and had marched fifteen to twenty miles after a night-watch on the battlefield. My brigade (the old third that I commanded for so many months, now commanded by Col. Donnelly, senior colonel) had marched thirty-six miles since the preceding evening and with but two hours' rest.

      We could follow no farther, so the whole command bivouacked on the field, many a poor fellow supperless. My wagons were thirty miles away with no order to follow, for I did not expect to follow so far, but I found comfortable lodgement in a farmhouse and sufficient to eat. I do not give you any description of the battle or the battlefield, where at least four to five hundred lay dead, nor of the wounded which filled the houses of Winchester and all the little villages on our march this side. You will see pictures enough, often greatly exaggerated, in the newspapers. We came and occupied this place and five miles in advance on Tuesday last and are waiting certain events for future operations. Two of my brigades are now here. The third is over the Shenandoah. Which way we go next is not decided..."

      He would continue up the valley heading deeper into the south. A seemingly truimphal march began as his division and Banks' army followed the valley pike toward a planned junction with the army of General Fremont who was pressing through the Allegany passes from the west toward Staunton.

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