Madison Community Organizes Commemoration for Civil War Battle
The commemoration of the Battle of Jack's Shop will take place on September 21 at Madison County High School and Hoover Ridge Park.
It's a little known Civil War battle that historians say could have changed the course of the war, and it took place in Madison County.
Now community members in Madison are coming together to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the event.
The Battle of Jack's Shop was by far the largest battle in Madison County, and for a battle its size there was an extremely high number of casualties. An estimated 2,000 people lost their lives, and now Madison is planning a Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration.
Right after the Battle of Gettysburg, the two armies that were engaged in that battle -- the Union and Confederates -- were separated by about 20 miles. The Union Army was in Culpeper and the confederate army was in Orange. What lay between them was Madison County.
By coincidence the day the Union Army started its excursion into Madison from the north, the Confederate Army crossed the Rapidan River from the south into Madison.
Battle broke out in and around the town of Rochelle, also known as Jack's Shop.
General James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart, the Confederate cavalry commander, had six pieces of horse artillery, or cannons, and he opened fire. That kept the Union Army division led by Union Cavalry Officer John Buford, pretty much at bay, and for a while there was a general fight back and forth.
While this was going on, another Union division, led by Cavalry Officer Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, heard the shooting and began attacking Stuart from the rear. Stuart was then fighting a two-front battle.
He began to pull men off one front to fight Kilpatrick while keeping enough to keep Buford at bay. Stuart then had three guns shooting one way and three shooting another way.
Eventually another smaller Union brigade of New York troops that had been split off from Buford heard shooting as well, and they attacked Stuart from the other third side.
Stuart caught himself surrounded on three sides by Union troops. He turned two guns on General Thomas Casimer Devin, the Union commander who was fighting on one side, kept two guns on Buford, two on Kilpatrick, and concentrated his cavalry on the weakest part of Kilpatrick's line.
Stuart eventually managed to break through in the early afternoon and he got all six pieces of artillery off the battlefield. When he got about a mile south of the Rochelle, some of Kilpatrick's men, who were late getting into the battle, had formed crossfire, barricading themselves on both sides of the Blue Ridge Turnpike, where Stuart was trying to escape.
Stuart had to run a gauntlet to get through to safety.
Before nightfall he had almost made it to safety in Orange County. There was a bridge across the Rapidan, on the Blue Ridge Turnpike. It was the last leg on his trip to safety, but the bridge was very narrow.
In order to get 4,000 cavalrymen, the wagons, the artillery, and everything else across, Stuart had to funnel it across piecemeal. He had to make a last stand at the small town of Uno and was able to hold off Buford and Kilpatrick who had joined forces and were pursuing him.
When they got to the river, the Confederate artillery and infantry on the other side of the river in Orange supported Stuart and his men and the battle broke off that day near dark.
The next day the Confederates came back into Madison and drove the Union army out of the county.
"The Battle of Jack's Shop was overshadowed by big battles before and after but it was one of those engagements, hundreds of which took place during the war, where it was not so much what happened, it's what if," said historian Harold Woodward.
"What if Stuart had been captured at the Battle of Jack's Shop that day? He was surrounded on three sides and he had with him one whole wing of Confederate cavalry. The cavalry was divided into two divisions, he had one of them here, if he had been captured that day, General Lee would have lost the resources of one whole half of his cavalry," Woodward said.
"On the other hand, if the Confederate infantry at the Rapidan River at Liberty Mills had moved out of position they could have captured Kilpatrick that day. If they had done that, the Confederates could have captured a whole division of Union cavalry," he said. "These kinds of things would have had a big impact on the outcome of the war."
Woodward said that even though the Battle of Jack's Shop was small in scale to other battles like Gettysburg, it's still important to recognize it.
"It was important, of course, to the men who fought and died here, we want to number one remember them and honor them for their sacrifice, both north and south who were fighting for what they believed in," he said.
He said it's an important way to remember the county's history, and for many people who lived in Madison County their older relatives remembered the battle, and for them it was a big deal.
"The 150th anniversary only comes once in a lifetime," Woodward said.
The commemoration of the Battle of Jack's Shop will take place mainly on Saturday September 21 from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Madison County High School and Hoover Ridge Park.
It's free and open to the public, and will feature exhibits, demonstrations and reenactments.
Leading up to the Saturday event there will be a series of four lectures which will be held in the Madison County High School auditorium.