Minding the Gaps

Minding the Gaps (HMLEK)

Location: Front Royal, VA 22630 Warren County
Country: United States of America

N 38° 51.716', W 78° 7.905'

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"A very fatal oversight"

— Gettysburg Campaign —

(Preface): After Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's stunning victory at Chancellorsville in May 1863, he led the Army of Northern Virginia west to the Shenandoah Valley, then north through central Maryland and across the Mason-Dixon Line into Pennsylvania. Union Gen. George G. Meade, who replaced Gen. Joseph Hooker on Jun 28, led the Army of the Potomac in pursuit. The armies collided at Gettysburg on July 1, starting a battle that neither general planned to fight there. Three days later, the defeated Confederates retreated, crossing the Potomac River into Virginia on July 14.

As a gateway to the northern Shenandoah Valley, this Blue Ridge Mountain gap was of great strategic importance during the Gettysburg Campaign. On the march north to Pennsylvania, Confederate Gens. Richard S. Ewell's and A.P. Hill's corps, as well as Gen. James Longstreet's wagon trains—far more than half of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia—passed through Chester Gap here between June 11 and June 19, 1863. After the Battle of Gettysburg, Longstreet and Hill retreated south by the same route. Mountain Home, the Gardner residence at the northern base of the mountain, then served as Longstreet's headquarters.

Union Gen. George G. Meade planned to pin Lee's army against the mountain near Front Royal and crush it but first had to block the gaps. A fierce fight erupted in Manassas Gap on July 21 but ended as a draw. That afternoon, Union Col. William Gamble's cavalry reached the eastern slopes of Chester Gap to find that Confederate Gen. Montgomery D. Corse occupied the pass. A 26-hour engagement began. At about 6 P.M. on July 22, a detachment from Longstreet's corps flanked Gamble's forces causing them to retreat to Barbee's Crossroads. Gamble had stalled the Confederates and captured about 23 prisoners and more than 1,000 livestock, but Lee's army moved on to fight another day. Longstreet's men passed through quickly en route to Culpeper, followed on July 23 by Hill's corps. Hill's wagon trains hampered the passage of his infantry through the gap. The Federals did not try to block Thornton's Gap, and Ewell's corps passed through it unchallenged on July 27.

"We probably held securely all the passes as far west as Manassas Gap. But beyond that, unfortunately, our cavalry only made their advance after the rebels had seized Chester and Thornton's Gaps. We cannot help thinking that there was a very fatal oversight here." — New York Times, July 28, 1863
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Details
HM NumberHMLEK
Series This marker is part of the Virginia Civil War Trails series
Tags
Placed ByVirginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, September 4th, 2014 at 7:31pm PDT -07:00
Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 748871 N 4305365
Decimal Degrees38.86193333, -78.13175000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 51.716', W 78° 7.905'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 51' 42.96" N, 78° 7' 54.30" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)540, 703
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 101-155 State Rte 665, Front Royal VA 22630, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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