As part of his 1864 campaign, Union General Ulysses S. Grant ordered Federal forces under General Franz Sigel to march through the Shenandoah Valley and destroy the railroad and Confederate Army’s base of supplies.
This 9,000 man force began to move toward Staunton in early May of that year. Confederate General John C. Breckenridge assembled approximately 5,000 men and met the main Federal force, number around 6,300 men at New Market Virginia on May 15th.
The Confederate forces attacked the Federals just west of town early that morning. Heavy fighting occurred around the Bushong Farm which is located in the core of the battlefield. Later in the afternoon, after his attack had stalled, Breckenridge ordered the Virginia Military Academy’s Corps of Cadets to attack the Union line. This force, which had originally been held in reserve, consisted of 247 college and high school aged boys. Their advance, and that of regular Confederate troops, broke the Union line and forced them to retreat north.
Casualties at the battle numbered over 1300 men, including 139 killed. Among these were ten cadets who are still revered by the academy. The Confederate victory delayed the Union advance down the Valley and allowed the southern forces to harvest and use the valley’s crops, thereby preventing a major food shortage.
In 1944 a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) acquired 160 acres of land in New Market Virginia that had been the site of the Battle of New Market. Twenty years later he willed the land and a 3 million dollar endowment fund to VMI to open a battlefield park on the site. Today the site hosts the Virginia Museum of the Civil War and the Bushong Farm House which interprets the history of area farmers and the role the house played in the battle. An annual reenactment has been held here since the 1960s.