Battle of Cross Keys

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Battle of Cross Keys
Cross Keys Civil War History

Battle of Cross Keys

Other Names: None

Location: Rockingham County

Campaign: Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign (March-June 1862)

Date(s): June 8, 1862

Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont [US]; Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell [CS]

Forces Engaged: 17,300 total (US 11,500; CS 5,800)

Estimated Casualties: 951 total (US 664; CS 287)

Result(s): Confederate victory

Battle of Cross Keys Map
Cross Keys Virginia Civil War Battlefield.gif
Cross Keys Virginia Civil War Battlefield

Description: Moving up the Shenandoah Valley in pursuit of Jackson’s army, Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont’s army encountered Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s division at Cross Keys on June 8.  Brig. Gen. Julius Stahel’s brigade, attacking on the Union left, was stunned by a surprise volley from Trimble’s command and driven back in confusion.

(Right) Virginia Civil War Battlefield Map

After reconnoitering various points of the Confederate line, Frémont withdrew to the Keezletown Road under protection of his batteries. The next day, Trimble’s and Patton’s brigades held Frémont at bay, while the rest of Ewell’s force crossed the river to assist in the defeat of Brig. Gen. E. Tyler's command at Port Republic. The Union army, having been defeated at Cross Keys and Port Republic, was forced to withdrawal, thus allowing "Stonewall" Jackson's troops to reinforce Lee during the Seven Days Battles.

Setting the Stage: The hamlet of Port Republic, Virginia, lies on a neck of land between the North and South Rivers, which conjoin to form the South Fork Shenandoah River. On June 6–7, 1862, Jackson's army, numbering about 16,000, bivouacked north of Port Republic, Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell's division along the banks of Mill Creek near Goods Mill, and Brig. Gen. Charles S. Winder's division on the north bank of North River near the bridge. The 15th Alabama Infantry regiment was left to block the roads at Union Church. Jackson's headquarters were in Madison Hall at Port Republic. The army trains were parked nearby.

Battle of Cross Keys History
Battle of Cross Keys Map.jpg
Battle of Cross Keys Historical Marker

Two Union columns converged on Jackson's position. The army of Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont, about 15,000 strong, moved south on the Valley Pike and reached the vicinity of Harrisonburg on June 6. The division of Brig. Gen. James Shields, about 10,000, advanced south from Front Royal in the Luray (Page) Valley, but was badly strung out because of the muddy Luray Road. At Port Republic, Jackson possessed the last intact bridge on the North River and the fords on the South River by which Frémont and Shields could unite. Jackson determined to check Frémont's advance at Mill Creek, while meeting Shields on the east bank of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. A Confederate signal station on Massanutten monitored Union progress.

Late in the day on June 7, Frémont's advance guard encountered Jackson's pickets near Cross Keys Tavern. A few shots were fired and the Union cavalry fell back onto their main body, which was approaching. Darkness prevented further developments.

Battle of Cross Keys History Marker
Battle of Cross Keys Map.jpg
Battle of Cross Keys Map

Battle of Cross Keys Map
Battle of Cross Keys.jpg
Cross Keys Civil War Battlefield Map

Battle: Colonel Samuel S. Carroll, at the head of a regiment of Union cavalry, supported by an artillery battery and a brigade of infantry, was sent ahead by Shields to secure the North River Bridge at Port Republic. Shortly after dawn (June 8), Carroll scattered the Confederate pickets, forded the South River, and dashed into Port Republic. Jackson and his staff raced down the main street from headquarters and across the bridge, narrowly eluding capture (three members of his staff were captured: Col. Stapleton Crutchfield, Lt. Edward Willis, and Dr. Hunter McGuire). Carroll deployed one gun aimed at the bridge and brought up another. Jackson directed the defense, ordering Captain William T. Poague's battery to unlimber on the north bank. Captain James McD. Carrington brought up a gun from the vicinity of Madison Hall to rake the Main Street. Col. Samuel V. Fulkerson led his 37th Virginia Infantry in a charge across the bridge, where the gun at the opposite end was firing on them with grape shot, to drive the Union cavalry out of the town. Carroll retreated in confusion, losing his two guns, before his infantry could come within range. Three Confederate batteries unlimbered on the bluffs east of Port Republic on the north bank of the South Fork and fired on the retreating Federals. Carroll retired several miles north on the Luray Road. Jackson stationed Brig. Gen. William B. Taliaferro's brigade in Port Republic and positioned the Stonewall Brigade near Bogota with the artillery to prevent any further surprises.
 
Meanwhile, Frémont, with Col. Gustave P. Cluseret's brigade in the lead, renewed his advance from the vicinity of Harrisonburg. After driving away the Confederate skirmishers, Cluseret reached and deployed his right flank along the Keezletown Road near Union Church. One by one, the Union brigades came into line: Brig. Gen. Robert C. Schenck on Cluseret's right, Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy on his left, and Brig. Gen. Julius H. Stahel on the far left, his left flank near Congers Creek. Brig. Gen. William H. C. Bohlen's and Col. John A. Koltes's brigades were held in reserve near the center of the line. A regiment of Union cavalry moved south on the road to secure the right flank. Batteries were brought to the front.

Virginia Civil War Battle of Cross Keys Map
Virginia Civil War Battle of Cross Keys Map.jpg
Battle of Cross Keys Map

Ewell deployed his infantry division behind Mill Creek, Brig. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble's brigade on the right across the Port Republic Road, Brig. Gen. Arnold Elzey's in the center along the high bluffs. Ewell concentrated his artillery (4 batteries) at the center of the line. As Union troops deployed along Keezletown Road, Trimble advanced his brigade a quarter of a mile to Victory Hill and deployed Courtenay's (Latimer's) battery on a hill to his left supported by the 21st North Carolina Infantry. The 15th Alabama, which had been skirmishing near Union Church, rejoined the brigade. Trimble held his regiments out of sight behind the crest of the hill.
 
Frémont determined to advance his battle line with the evident intention of enveloping the Confederate position, assumed to be behind Mill Creek. This maneuver required an elaborate right wheel. Stahel's brigade on the far left had the farthest distance to cover and advanced first. Milroy moved forward on Stahel's right and rear. Union batteries were advanced with infantry lines south of Keezletown Road and engaged Confederate batteries. Stahel appeared oblivious to Trimble's advanced position. His battle line passed down into the valley, crossed the run, and began climbing Victory Hill. At a distance of "sixty paces", Trimble's infantry stood up and delivered a devastating volley. Stahel's brigade recoiled in confusion with heavy casualties. The Union brigade regrouped on the height opposite Victory Hill but made no effort to renew their assault.

Confederate Artillery at Battle of Cross Keys
Battle of Cross Keys Artillery.jpg
Battle of Cross Keys Civil War Artillery Map

Civil War Battle of Cross Keys History
Civil War Cross Keys Battlefield.jpg
Cross Keys Battlefield Map

Civil War Battle of Cross Keys History Map
Cross Keys Battlefield Map.jpg
Cross Keys Battlefield Map

Stahel did not renew his attack but brought up a battery (Buell's) to support his position. Trimble moved the 15th Alabama by the right flank and up a ravine to get on the battery's left. In the meantime, Ewell sent two regiments (13th and 25th Virginia) along the ridge to Trimble's right, attracting a severe fire from the Union battery. With a shout, the 15th Alabama emerged from their ravine and began to climb the hill toward the battery, precipitating a melee. Trimble advanced his other two regiments (16th Mississippi Infantry on the left and 21st Georgia Infantry on the right) from their position on Victory Hill, forcing back the Union line. The Union battery limbered hastily and withdrew, saving its guns. A Union regiment counterattacked briefly, striking the left flank of the 16th Mississippi, but was forced back in desperate fighting.
 
Trimble continued advancing up the ravine on the Confederate right, outflanking successive Union positions. In the meantime, Milroy advanced on Stahel's right, supported by artillery. Milroy's line came within rifle-musket range of the Confederate center behind Mill Creek and opened fire. Union batteries continued to engage Confederate batteries in an artillery duel. Bohlen advanced on the far Union left to stiffen Stahel's crumbling defense. Milroy's left flank was endangered by Stahel's retreat, and Frémont ordered him to withdraw. Jackson brought Taylor's brigade forward to support Ewell if needed, but Taylor remained in reserve on the Port Republic Road near the Dunker Church.

Battle of Cross Keys Map
Battle of Cross Keys Map.jpg
Jackson Valley Campaign Map of Battles

Seemingly paralyzed by the decimation of Stahel's brigade on his left, Frémont was unable to mount a coordinated attack. He ordered Schenck's brigade forward to find the Confederate left flank south of Union Church. Ewell reinforced his left with elements of Elzey's brigade. Severe firing erupted along the line but quickly died down. Confederate Brig. Gen. Elzey and Brig. Gen. George H. Steuart were wounded in this exchange. Frémont withdrew his force to Keezletown Road, placing his artillery on the heights to his rear (Oak Ridge). Artillery firing continued.
 
Aftermath and Analysis: The Battle of Cross Keys was fought on June 8, 1862, in Rockingham County, Virginia, as part of Confederate Army Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's campaign through the Shenandoah Valley during the American Civil War. Together, the battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic the following day were the decisive victories in Jackson's Valley Campaign, forcing the Union armies to retreat and leaving Jackson free to reinforce Gen. Robert E. Lee for the Seven Days Battles outside Richmond, Virginia.
 
Union casualties totaled 557 killed and wounded and 100 captured, while the Confederates lost fewer than 300 men. At dusk, Trimble pushed his battle line forward to within a quarter mile of the Union position, anticipating a night assault. Confederate accounts describe the Union soldiers going into camp, lighting fires, and making coffee. Schneck sent out a company to probe the Confederate positions after dark, but after a brief skirmish the company withdrew and no other engagements took place. During the night, Ewell ordered Trimble to withdraw without making the attack. Advance to: Virginia Civil War Battle of Cross Keys and Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign.

Confederate Army Order of Battle

Department of the Valley

MG Thomas J. Jackson

Forces at Cross Keys

MG Richard S. Ewell

Division

Brigade

Regiment or Other

Jackson's Division*
     MG Thomas J. Jackson

Second (Taliaferro's) Brigade


   BG William B. Taliaferro

  • 10th Virginia Infantry -
  • 23rd Virginia Infantry -
  • 27th Virginia Infantry - Col Samuel V. Fulkerson

Artillery

  • Poague's Battery - Cpt William T. Poague
  • Wooding's Battery - Cpt George W. Wooding
  • Carpenter's Battery - Cpt Joseph Carpenter

*Jackson's Division crossed over to Port Republic after a brief fight with Shields' cavalry, in which only the units listed above engaged.

Division

Brigade

Regiment or Other

Ewell's Division
     MG Richard S. Ewell

Second (Steuart's) Brigade


   BG George H. Steuart (w)
   Col W.C. Scott

  • 1st Maryland Infantry – Col Bradley T. Johnson
  • 44th Virginia Infantry – Col W.C. Scott, Maj Cobb
  • 52nd Virginia Infantry – Ltc James H. Skinner
  • 58th Virginia Infantry - Col Samuel H. Letcher

Fourth (Elzey's) Brigade


   BG Arnold Elzey (w)
   Col James A. Walker

  • 12th Georgia Infantry - Col Zephaniah T. Conner
  • 13th Virginia Infantry - Col James A. Walker
  • 25th Virginia Infantry - Ltc Patrick Duffy
  • 31st Virginia Infantry - Col John S. Hoffman

Seventh (Trimble's) Brigade


   BG Isaac Trimble

  • 15th Alabama Infantry - Col James Cantey
  • 21st Georgia Infantry - Col John T. Mercer
  • 16th Mississippi Infantry - Col Carnot Posey
  • 21st North Carolina Infantry - Col William W. Kirkland

Eighth (Taylor's) Brigade


   BG Richard Taylor

  • 6th Louisiana Infantry - Col Isaac G. Seymour
  • 7th Louisiana Infantry – Col Harry T. Hays
  • 8th Louisiana Infantry - Col Henry B. Kelly
  • 9th Louisiana Infantry - Col Leroy A. Stafford
  • Wheat’s Battalion (“Louisiana Tigers”) – Maj C.R. Wheat

Artillery


   Col Stapleton Crutchfield

  • Brockenbrough’s Battery - Cpt John B. Brockenbrough
  • Courtney’s Battery - Cpt A. R. Courtney
  • Lusk’s Battery - Cpt John A. M. Lusk
  • Raine’s Battery - Cpt Charles I. Raine
  • Rice's Battery - Cpt William H. Rice

Cavalry Brigade


   Col Thomas T. Munford

  • 2nd Virginia Cavalry - Col Thomas T. Munford
  • 6th Virginia Cavalry - Col Thomas Flournoy
  • Chew's Battery - Cpt R. Preston Chew

Battle of Cross Keys
Battle of Cross Keys.jpg
Battle of Cross Keys Historical Marker

Union Army Order of Battle

Union Forces Near Cross Keys

MG John C. Fremont

Mountain Department

MG John C. Fremont

Division

Brigade

Regiment or Other

Blenker's Division
     BG Louis Blenker

First (Stahel's) Brigade

   BG Julius Stahel

  • 8th New York: Col Francis Wutschel
  • 39th New York:
  • 41st New York: Col Leopold von Gilsa
  • 45th New York: Col George von Amsberg
  • 27th Pennsylvania: Col Adolphus Buschbeck
  • 2nd Battery, New York Light Artillery: Cpt Louis Schirmer
  • Battery C. West Virginia Light Artillery: Cpt Frank Buel
  • Howitzer battery:

Second (Steinwehr's) Brigade

   Col John A. Koltes

  • 29th New York Infantry: Ltc Clemens Soest
  • 68th New York Infantry:
  • 73rd Pennsylvania: Ltc Gustavus A. Muhlek
  • 13th Battery, New York Light Artillery: Col Julius Dieckmann

Third (Bohlen's) Brigade

   BG Henry Bohlen

  • 54th New York: Col Eugene A. Kozlay
  • 58th New York: Col Wlodzimierz Kryzanowski
  • 74th Pennsylvania: Ltc John Hamm
  • 75th Pennsylvania: Ltc Francis Mahler
  • Battery I, 1st New York Light Artillery: Cpt Michael Wiedrich

Cavalry Attachment

   Col Christian F. Dickel

  • 4th New York Cavalry: Col Christian F. Dickel

Attached Independent Units

Cluseret's Brigade

   Col Gustave Paul Cluseret

  • 8th West Virginia: Ltc Lucien Loeser
  • 60th Ohio: Col William H. Trimble

Milroy's Brigade

   BG Robert H. Milroy

  • 2nd West Virginia: Maj James D. Owens
  • 3rd West Virginia: Ltc F. W. Thompson
  • 5th West Virginia: Col John L. Ziegler
  • 25th Ohio: Ltc William P. Richardson
  • 1st West Virginia Cavalry (detachment): Maj John A. Krepps
  • Battery G, West Virginia Light Artillery: Cpt Chatham T. Ewing
  • Battery l, 1st Ohio Light Artillery: Cpt Henry F. Hayman
  • 12th Battery, Ohio Light Artillery: Cpt Aaron C. Johnson

Schenck's Brigade

   BG Robert C. Schenck

  • 32nd Ohio: Ltc Ebenezer H. Swinney
  • 55th Ohio: Col John C. Lee
  • 73rd Ohio: Col Orland Smith
  • 75th Ohio: Col Nathaniel McLean
  • 82nd Ohio: Col James Cantwell
  • 1st Battalion, Connecticut Cavalry: Cpt Erastus Blakeslee
  • Battery K, 1st Ohio Light Artillery: Cpt William L. De Beck
  • Rigby's Battery, Indiana Light Artillery: Cpt Silas F. Rigby

Attached Cavalry

  • 3rd West Virginia Cavalry: Cpt Everton J. Conger
  • 6th Ohio Cavalry: Col William P. Lloyd

Department of the Rappahannock (formerly I Corps, Army of the Potomac)

MG Irvin McDowell (not present)

Division

Brigade

Regiments and Others

Shields Division
     BG James Shields (not present)

Bayard's Brigade

[Temporarily assigned to Fremont's command beginning May 30.]
   BG George Dashiell Bayard

  • 1st New Jersey Cavalry: Ltc Joseph Kargé
  • 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry: Col Owen Jones
  • 13th Pennsylvania Reserves (1st Rifles) Battalion: Ltc Thomas L. Kane
  • 2nd Battery, Maine Light Artillery: Cpt James A. Hall

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Sources: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; National Park Service; Civil War Trust (civilwar.org); Hal Jespersen, cwmaps.com; Library of Congress; Cozzens, Peter. Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8078-3200-4; Eicher, David J. The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN 0-684-84944-5; Esposito, Vincent J. West Point Atlas of American Wars. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1959. OCLC 5890637. The collection of maps (without explanatory text) is available online at the West Point website; Krick, Robert K. Conquering the Valley: Stonewall Jackson at Port Republic. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1996. ISBN 0-688-11282-X; Robertson, James I., Jr. Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend. New York: MacMillan Publishing, 1997. ISBN 0-02-864685-1; Salmon, John S. The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001. ISBN 0-8117-2868-4; Tanner, Robert G. Stonewall in the Valley: Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign, Spring 1862. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976. ISBN 978-0-385-12148-4.

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