New Market Today
New Market, Virginia is still a small Valley town. It has a population of 1,859 as of July 2009. The town bills itself as the historic heart of the Shenandoah Valley with a preserved downtown on VSH 11. New Market is located at exit 264 on I-81, the main north-south highway in the Valley. I-81 bisects the town with the business district to the east and the battlefield to the west. The entrance to the battlefield is on the right side as your heading west on 211.
The battlefield part is owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and operated by the Virginia Military Institute. The main buildings are about a mile off the road. You will pass a museum that is not part of the battlefield site before you reach the Virginia Museum of the Civil War. Park and enter to pay your admission fee of $10 before your self-guided tour of the museum and battlefield site itself. The museum supplies an annotated map of the entire battlefield with drawings and explanations of significant parts of the battle. The Hall of Valor Civil War Museum is well-done, informative and chock-full of Civil War memorabilia, particularly from Virginia. There is an excellent movie about the VMI cadets’ part in the battle called Field of Lost Shoes.
The Jacob Bushong Farm about a half mile northeast of the museum is accessible by either a walking trail or driving. In fact, there is an extensive walking trail that will take you to all of the main sites of the park. The farm with a number of outbuildings is well-preserved and informative with both audio and written descriptions of farm life in the mid-19th century. The cellar of the farmhouse where the Bushong family took refuge during the battle is accessible to the public as are rooms on the first and second floors. You are also able to visit a number of outbuildings surrounding the main house. The wheelwright building and the blacksmith building have audio explanations of each craft. The Bushongs used both of these buildings to fashion wagon wheels and metal tools and equipment. The open fields to the west and north are probably like they were in 1864.
They are a number of cannons located around the field indicating the locations of different batteries during the battle. The battlefield is bisected north and south by I-81. If you wish to visit the east side of the battlefield you can either drive over or if you’re walking go through the tunnel on the highway. The only significant site on this side of the battlefield is a large monument dedicated to the 54th Pennsylvania Infantry. This regiment had a 45% casualty rate in the battle with 32 men killed, 180 wounded and 42 captured.
You should allow two to three hours for you visit to the New Market Battlefield in order to explore the museum and the grounds. The museum shop offers many items for all ages of visitors including hats, books and a variety of memorabilia.
In honor of the VMI cadets who were killed at New Market, the Cadet Corps holds a special ceremony every May 15th at VMI. As the name of each fallen cadet is called, a cadet in the formation will answer: “Died on the Field of Honor, Sir”. The ceremony is held at VMI in Lexington, Virginia in front of the monument entitled Virginia Mourning her Dead.