Home of Lucy Buck, Diarist
— Battle of Front Royal - May 23, 1862 —
A remarkable number of Front Royal residents recorded the battle in their diaries. At least five of these diaries survive to reveal the civilian side of the Civil War, usually absent from official military records or soldiers' letters.
One of the most colorful diaries was kept by Lucy Buck, the 19-year-old daughter of William M. and Elizabeth A. Buck. Lucy witnessed the action from her parents' home, Bel Air, which was built in 1795. Her father was a leading merchant and citizen of Front Royal. At the time of the war, the distance from Bel Air to the town was less than a quarter mile.
Lucy's account of the battle is typical of the entire diary, which is full of the fire and brimstone of an ardent young Confederate patriot:
Of one thing I am particularly glad - our First Maryland Regiment was the first to charge the Yankee First Maryland - drove them out of town, captured and then marched back singing "Maryland, (My Maryland)." They have always wanted to meet and have been justified with a vengeance, on one side at least.
(Lower Center Sidebar): Lee at Bel Air
On July 22, 1863, as the Army of Northern Virginia marched through Front Royal on its retreat from Gettysburg, William M. Buck met the commanding general and his staff at the pontoon bridges over the Shenandoah River and invited them to Bel Air for refreshment. Gen. Robert E. Lee accepted the invitation, and Lucy Buck wrote in her diary how the officers arrived to "stretch their cramped limbs and drink fresh buttermilk. I shall never forget the grand old chief as he stood on the porch surrounded by his officers; a tall commanding figure clad in dusty, travel-stained gray but with a courtly, dignified bearing." Lucy and her sister, at Lee's request, played and sang Southern songs while he stood by the piano.
After the war, when Lee was president of Washington College in Lexington, Lucy wrote to request a personal momento. He responded with a kind note enclosing a uniform button that, he said, had "accompanied him in all his Virginia campaigns." The note and the button are on display at the Warren Rifles Confederate Museum on Chester Street.