View Full Version : Battle of Port Republic

06-07-2006, 09:44 PM
Here is a short description of the recent reenactment of the Battle of Port Republic:
We left our campsite early in the morning and marched about a mile to a wooded, hilly area. A dirt road led up the hill and after going up some distance we were halted on the road where we proceeded to wait for further orders. Soon, we were ordered to advance up the hill in our battle line. When we reached the top of the hill we were ordered to build breastworks, as an attack by the enemy was expected shortly. We set to work with a will and soon had an impressive breastwork thrown up, although we did not have time to dig a trench behind the works. Not long after we finished building our breastworks we heard the "pop pop pop" that told us our skirmishers were engaging the rebs. Tension began to build as we awaited attack. The tension got even higher when we heard our skirmishers on the right tell us that masses of the enemy were approaching our lightly defended right flank. Our colonel was notified and he ordered a company to move out on that flank. Not long after, the skirmisher's fire swelled to a heavy volume and then our boys came running back to our line and the first attack hit. I don't know what happened along the whole regiment front, as the woods were thick, and the enemy directly in front of my company's position had my entire attention. We fired, dropped down behind our breastworks and reloaded, then arose and fired again. Some men say that fighting behind breastworks is cowardly but it just seemed smart to me. After some time the enemy sullenly withdrew, and we set up a cheer. We did not have long to celebrate, however, as our officers ordered us to bring more cartridges up from the lower part of our tins to the upper part. This told us that our officers thought that the enemy was not finished, and they were right.
Our skirmishers had gone back out, but back they came again, and the rebel yell again let us know that the rebs were attacking again. Our right flank was pushed hard, but once again we stopped the attack. Our officers ordered us to advance and press the enemy, which we did. After advancing a short distance, however, we were ordered to halt. I didn't understand why, but soon we heard the enemy approaching yet again, and this time they appeared in overwhelming numbers. We were ordered back behind the breastworks, but the enemy were hot on our heels and we were ordered to retreat back to the road, which order we obeyed with alacrity. We reached the road, and hurried down the trail quickly. We reached the bottom of the hill, formed our lines again, but the enemy did not press us further at this time, although, having gained the high ground, and having set us on the run, they would no doubt be after us again soon. But here my narrative must end, as I am exhausted and can concentrate on my writing no further.
-Joe Bordonaro

06-07-2006, 10:47 PM
Reports from some Confederate prisoners, taken during the first assault, were that they never saw us behind our works until we rose up and lay a volley into them at a range of about 20 yards. The impact upon their ranks was immediate, and they soon withdrew in some confusion. Our position had been in the center of the works, but our company of Ohio boys was soon sent to extend the right, where it had been noticed some Reb officers were searching for our flank.

We lay low in the thick brush until the second advance had come close, then rose up and emptied a volley by ranks into them. After a brisk fight, they again withdrew. We began pursuit, nearly capturing an officer, but were recalled and sent at the double quick to the other end of the line. There we took up position on the extreme left behind the breastworks and waited.

The third assault began with a heavy concentration of Rebs to our front. Just as we began to engage these troops, the company to our right broke from the line, exposing our right to a strong flanking force. We withdrew down the road a ways, then our good Captain ordered us to stand and fire a volley into the pursuing greybacks, halting their progress. A second company took up the challenge as we filed around their flanks, to be followed by a third, and then our turn again.

It was at this time that I received a wound, taking me out of the action. I later learned that almost our entire company became casualties on the retreat down the narrow road. We paid a heavy price for the good service we did that day.

06-07-2006, 10:55 PM
Good stuff guys.

06-08-2006, 01:51 PM
A sore foot/knee laid me low as a result of our forced march from Cross Keys to Port Republic. The Battalion Surgeon ordered my evacuation to Harrisonburg Saturday night. I was so looking forward to Sunday's battle after our engagment at Cross Keys. Some of the Mayland boys and I were looking to capture a certain federal, Josiah Hurd, who was mute as a result of being kicked in the throat by a mule. Our spys tell us he had possession of many yankee secrets which could be extracted from him with the proper ecouragement.


Frank Lilley
formerly 1st Maryland, CSA

06-08-2006, 02:47 PM
How is your foot and knee healing up now. Remember how it was bothering you Saturday afternoon even before we had to pick up camp and move.

Wild Rover
06-08-2006, 03:57 PM

You were with the CVG that weekend? I guess I missed meeting you! Sorry.

06-08-2006, 04:56 PM
I was the Reb that joked on Saturday morning that you could dirty up your coat by rolling it in wettened horse droppings (joke did not go over very well). I was also sitting in for part of your meeting at the house Saturday evening. I was the guy that looked like Jeff Davis with sideburns.

Wild Rover
06-08-2006, 07:03 PM
Ah hah!

Anyhow, too bad I didnt know it was you...thanks for all the help of the forum as of late.


06-08-2006, 08:20 PM
You were with the CVG that weekend? I guess I missed meeting you! Sorry.

One of the things I most enjoy about these type events is the possibility of meeting some of the folk who's names I've come to recognize on these fora. At Shen '62 I was able to again converse with Mr's. Watson and Buffington, while introducing myself to Mr's. Anders, Grieves and Shaffner. It's nice to add a face and voice to the name.

Unfortunately, there appear to be other names on my list to meet whom I did not know of their presence there. With everything going on, it is difficult to make such introductions, especially when we're on opposing sides of the field.

Hopefully at some time in the future I can add these folk to my aquaintance, beyond just the internet. The personal contact is much more satisfying.

06-08-2006, 08:53 PM
You were busy so I did not want to just run up and introduce myself. I am sure that we will run into it other again.

06-08-2006, 10:04 PM
Here’s my recollection of the battle as it evolved on the left flank.

Hiding behind the breastworks that we hurriedly built on the Federal left, I waited nervously as I could hear the movement of a large army moving in our front on the other side of the ridgeline. Time seemed to stand still as we braced for the anticipated attack. Laying low I peered out between the stacked logs and anxiously searching for any sign of the rebs approach. Occasionally glancing back at our NCO to see if I could read anything from his expression – but nothing, just a look of intensity and concern as he kept watch over the left flank. We could hear them, we just couldn’t see them. A few minutes later and a brief cracking of gunfire erupted to our front, then our skirmisher came rushing back into the lines and we knew that we would have a real fight on our hands. Looking out between the logs I waited and watching for the first sight of the rebs, then between the trees I caught a glimpse of their colors rising up over the hill. About this time reb skirmishers appeared on our left flank and we were reminded to hold our fire. Taking careful aim at a reb hiding behind a tree to our left I waited for the order to fire, but my attention was broken by the immediate sound of the reb army rapidly approaching upon our front line. Looking over my shoulder, I was shocked to see the dense massive of grey that had suddenly materialized before our eyes all along our front. The command to fire was given and instantly a devastating volley tore through their ranks. Our 2nd Sergeant directed my attention back to the skirmishers on our flank and I began laying several rounds into them. While a good shot on the range, my nerves had gotten the better of me as I don’t think my shots had much effect other than encouraging the grey backs to beat a retreat.

The second wave of rebels saw them swarming right up again our breastworks. Hearing the commands of the enemy “ready, aim, fire” I dropped down and hugged the earth as the volley passed overhead, then fell back to take protection as best I could behind a large tree. Grabbing a round I hastily started to reload when I felt a hand upon my shoulder, I looked up expected to see our officer trying to push me back into the fight, but was surprised to find a reb sergeant instead, then everything went black. I had been too busy with the engagement on our flank that I hadn’t noticed that our front had been over run. When I came through again, I was relieved to find that we had retaken our lines and driven the rebs back, but only momentarily as it would turn out.

The fighting had been desperate but we repulsed the first attack and a second one, however the third and final attack was like a tidal wave that drove us from our works and took some of our men prisoners. I’m sure the officers will write this up as an orderly retreat in the OR’s, but from what I could see our retreat looked more like a route save for a few brave soles. I passed behind a line of Federals that had formed on the road, but were unable to fire into the rebs on account of the stream of fellow soldiers running across their front fleeing for their lives. By the time they could fire, the rebs had already formed their own line and laid a devastating volley into our men. I immediately came upon another officer, who with a hand full of men, was trying to form a new defensive line. I ignoring his plea to stop and fight and passed him by but was soon caught by Sergeant Hanson and thrown into the front rank of another defensive line. Loading my musket and fumbling for a cap, the remnants of the first two lines came scurrying passed us. I looked up to see a confederate line forming in front of us. The commands were given to us, “Front Rank Fire! Rear Rank Fire!” We then fell back and passed through the line that was forming in our rear.

Eventually the Company would regroup at the bottom of the hill, but its numbers were greatly reduce and when the roll was read many a familiar name passed by unanswered. This was one fight that I will not soon forgot.

Chuck A Luck
06-08-2006, 11:23 PM
The march from Cross Keys to Port Republic was harder -- literally -- than it was long, the smooth macadam wearing on my feet. By the time the miles were behind us my hardened feet were joyous to meet the cool waters of the Shenandoah. Saturday night's rations of sweet taters, slab bacon, coffee & a full leg of pork were more much appreciated -- and quickly divied out amongst the men of Company A, 1st Maryland Inf'y. After cleaning our weapons & cooking the rations some of the men wandered into town, others like me sacked out by the cool waters of the river.

About 5 1/2 pm Colonel Wyman came by with some "bad news" -- we had been ordered to move our bivouack by 6 o'clock. This so that the battalion could "better support us logistically." Surely we did not have to take leave of this fine camp by the river!? Many a grumble was heard in the ranks, as we repacked our kits. My voice was not the least of them, I must admit. But like good soldiers, we Marylanders harnessed up, re-slung our bedrolls, and shouldered our rifles then trudged off to our new camp, which turned out to be the front yard of Madison Hall, and the current HQ of none other than ol' Stonewall hisself!

That evening the hosts of the residence graciously shared cookies and lemonade with their unexpected guests. Needless to say, the men all came a runnin when word of lemonade was passed around! It was a cool & beautifully starry night. After the half-moon set in the wee morning hours the milky way was clearly visible streaking across the heavens. Just gorgeous...

By 5 o'clock a.m. most of Company A was already awake and boiling coffee, anticipating an early revielle. Sure enough, before the sun had clearly risen the boys of the 1st Maryland were quickly formed and marched off to join the rest of the army.

After a brief rest and reorganization of the various battalions, we set off down the dusty road, left ol' Port Republic behind and tramped down a tree-shrouded road toward The Coaling...

[to be continued]

Chuck A Luck
06-09-2006, 12:02 AM
Sunday morning's march along the road toward the Coaling was uneventful but fulfilling. Being along a dirt & gravel track, it was much easier on our sore dogs. Nevertheless, I espied a few stragglers dropping out along the way. The shroud of trees overhead soon gave way to open fields of young corn and wheat. Dogs bayed at the steady tramp of the men, and a the mounts of the officers at the head of the column stirred to life a group of horses in a nearby field. They seemed eager to join our tireless column as we continued down the long, narrow country lane.

By mid-morning the column had crossed a wider pike and was called to rest at the base of a wooded hill, which rose steeply behind us. Word circulated that the yanks might be a'waiting for us somewhere up on that hill behind us. Most of us doffed our bedrolls and packs, and pulled out some rations, or lit a soothing smoke. By now, most of us knew that a few minutes pleasure before the battle, with thoughts of home and kinfolk, tends to soothe the soul and calm the mind.

Before too long the Big Bugs were all seen to be huddled together, talking amongst themselves. We privates of course knew what that means -- they be making plans! Sure enough, not three shakes of a stick after they broke up we were called to get on our leathers, but to leave our packs and blankets under guard. Dutifully the men formed up, and we watched as one battalion quickly marched off, up and to the right, disappearing into the thick woods. Not less than 10 min. later we began to hear the sound of skirmishing, which soon increased to a steady popping. The dance had begun!

The colonel must have received word from above, as us Maryland boys were soon marched off as well, up into the woods. Up, up we trudged, keeping step to the sound of gunfire to our left-front. After a short but steep hike the ground leveled out, and the battalion was formed into companies, and the companies fronted, left towards the sound of the firing, which was by now dying off. After a few minutes we moved off at arms-port ...down a steep, wooded hill into a gulch, over much fallen timber. I followed Lt. Mason, keeping to his right and rear, and kept the flag of the 1st Maryland to my left and front. The lieutenent decided to slide down the precipitice gully on his hind quarters, in fact! I dug my heel plates into the steep sides, and managed to keep to my feet. We reached the bottom, but then doggedly pushed steadily up the other side -- just as steep and log-strewn. It was a chore just to keep a semblance of order to the lines.

Before we had even crested gunfire began to greet us through the branches. Minnies were whizzing by like a swarm of angry bees. First one man fell, then another. We tried to reform, and if I recollect correctly, were ordered to fire by rank. But it was no use, as the ground had cut us up too much. We pushed on, shouting, and some yanks were seen retreating from their works, dimly visible through the trees and smoke. Encouraged by that, and by the Lieutenant's rousing us with "Forward, boys!", we pushed on with a loud cheer, and many a yank skedaddled through the trees! We were jublilent. We had captured their works!

Just then, however, another yank volley crashed through the trees, and its effect was felt immediately in our disorganized line. Men fell on either side of me, and word was given to fall back. It was our turn to skedaddle, and run we did -- fast as we could back through the trees and over the fallen, down into that gully.

Reaching the bottom, we realized our attack, the second wave, had almost met with success. Just one more push, and surely we'd have them! We regrouped at the bottom of the ravine, and after a brief rest, and, I suppose, once all the big bugs were satisfied with their new dispositions, we once again were ordered to ascend the hill and assault those dadgum blue rascals. And that we did! This time we rent a passage through the trees like devils possessed, screaming most of the way. Company A had been moved to a position on the far right of the line, and by the time we hit the yanks' left flank we could see it had a telling effect, as they melted away like butter in the sun. We had just re-crossed their works, and I was fixin' to give chase with the rest of the men, when I took what I feared at the time was a grevious wound in the chest. I toppled to the ground in agony. Sgt Kirk was nearby, and he saw to me and we discovered my wound was but a glancing blow to my right side, although it was enough to end my action for the day. I then noticed Pvt. Burt nearby, a compatriot of Co. A and also wounded, as well as many a fallen yank, some wounded, & some showing even less signs of life.

There would be many a vacant chair caused by the action at The Coaling...


That was my perspective, from the ranks of Company A, 1st Maryland. I hope it was not overly long nor too boring. I was lucky enough to fall in with some of the best soldiers, and no better officers that day took the field than ours. It was a true thrill to follow that beautifully re-constituted & hand-painted flag of the 1st Md. that weekend!

06-09-2006, 08:19 AM
How is your foot and knee healing up now. Remember how it was bothering you Saturday afternoon even before we had to pick up camp and move.

Thanks for asking Tom. I wish I could have met you. The short story (as the doctor tells me) that I probably sprained my knee in the weight room several weeks ago (I remember something bothering it) it got better and I went to the event thinking nothing about it. Had no problem Friday and Saturday doing all the things we do, hauling wood, details, Sat battle. No problems first mile or so of the march to the Port. Then it set in. It threw off my gait and by the time I got to the Port I had two monster blisters plus severe knee pain. I tired cooling my dogs off in South Fork which helped somewhat. I decided when we moved our camp if I had trouble making it to Jacksons HQ I was done. I was. Rich Mountain is now in doubt the knee is not much better today.

I was most toubled by the blisters. I have Missouri Boot and Shoe Brogans and they never give me trouble. I was wearing their calfs wool inserts for padding plus a standard wool sock (some times I go without socks). I remember my feet were burning after marching on that black top. They never burned so much when I marched in the woods or on dirt. May have to go without that insert in the future.

bill watson
06-09-2006, 09:16 AM
... of the actual battle. Need to note that at the depiction, the "second wave" was disrupted when the "reserves" sent by federal commander Tyler crashed into the exposed Confederate left, already committed to assaulting the main federal position and, by that time, "in among the battery horses," of which they killed as many as possible. Those "reserves" were Company C and Company G, both detached and operating as a separate unit for a few minutes to implement the history as best we could. Fascinating that guys only a few yards away didn't see where the impetus was coming from that started the Confederates going backwards. It was VERY thick woods. :-)


"Winder's brigade crossed the river by 5 a.m. and deployed to attack east across the bottomland. Winder sent two regiments (2nd Virginia and 4th Virginia) into the woods to flank the Union line and assault the Coaling. When the main Confederate battle line advanced, it came under heavy fire from the Union artillery and was soon pinned down. Confederate batteries were brought forward onto the plain but were outgunned and forced to seek safer positions. Ewell's brigades were hurried forward to cross the river. Seeing the strength of the Union artillery at the Coaling, Jackson sent Richard Taylor's brigade to the right into the woods to support the flanking column that was attempting to advance through the thick underbrush.

Winder's brigade renewed its assault on the Union right and center, taking heavy casualties. General Tyler moved two regiments from the Coaling to his right and launched a counterattack, driving Confederate forces back nearly half a mile. While this was occurring, the first Confederate regiments probed the defenses of the Coaling, but were repulsed.

Finding resistance more fierce than anticipated, Jackson ordered the last of Ewell's forces still north of Port Republic to cross the rivers and burn the North Fork bridge. These reinforcements began to reach Winder, strengthening his line and stopping the Union counterattack. Taylor's brigade reached a position in the woods across from the Coaling and launched a fierce attack, which carried the hill, capturing five guns. Tyler immediately responded with a counterattack, using his reserves. These regiments, in hand-to-hand fighting, retook the position. Taylor shifted a regiment to the far right to outflank the Union battle line. The Confederate attack again surged forward to capture the Coaling. Five captured guns were turned against the rest of the Union line. With the loss of the Coaling, the Union position along Lewiston Lane became untenable, and Tyler ordered a withdrawal about 10:30 a.m. Jackson ordered a general advance."

06-09-2006, 12:41 PM
I wish I could have met you.
Actually I think that we did meet and talked at great length by the river. I was making a stew out of the issued bacon and onions supplimented by my own carrots and you made a comment about using rice and using it to indicate when it was done. I had silver hair with a block cut, goatee, and sideburns and was using the Rev War hatchet to cut wood. I even made a comment about being a moderator on one of the Civil War forums. Hope that keys your memory.

06-09-2006, 03:15 PM
Actually I think that we did meet and talked at great length by the river. I was making a stew out of the issued bacon and onions supplimented by my own carrots and you made a comment about using rice and using it to indicate when it was done. I had silver hair with a block cut, goatee, and sideburns and was using the Rev War hatchet to cut wood. I even made a comment about being a moderator on one of the Civil War forums. Hope that keys your memory.

Tom that's really interesting. I vaguely remember you. I think I was in a pain daze. I was indeed cooking my own pork stew of carrots, onions, rice, sweet potatos and a couple of morsels my trusty corporal friend Dave threw in. It turned out to be one of my best reenacting meals ever. Finally did it right. I was told by my captain that I wandered down to river lite up a pipe and fell asleep with it hanging out of my mouth, like some old fool. So sorry I always want to put a face with a name, but don't take offense that I don't remember I was in period daze. But I did see a water moccasin in the river. The boys told me that he was real. He swam away from those nakid Nancy boys polluting the fair waters of old Virginia. Amazing I think I was really out of it. Snake, food, pain and pipe is about all I remember (and the move).


Frank Lilley
formerly 1st Maryland Company B

06-09-2006, 11:38 PM
Understand about the pain daze. If it helps to jog your memory, go to the members list and then find my listing. My picture will come up there even though I still can't get it to pop up during my posts.

I did enjoy meeting you and our discussions. Have a good season reenacting and hope that your foot and knee are healing nicely.