Battle of Front Royal
— 1862 Valley Campaign —
On May 23, 1862, Front Royal was occupied by 1000 Federal troops (1st Maryland Infantry, 29th Pennsylvania and a battery of Knap's Artillery) under the command of Col. J. R. Kenley
In the early afternoon Confederate Gen. T. J. "Stonewall" Jackson, after advancing his army north during the morning hours on the Luray Road, ordered Col. Bradley Johnson's and Col. Roberdeau Wheat's Louisiana Battalion forward. Kenly's Federal infantry pickets were driven back from their positions 1½ miles from the village of Front Royal.
As the Confederate advance appeared on the wooded heights south of town, Jackson placed his artillery in a commanding position on Prospect Hill.
A charge by the confederates sent the Union soldiers through the town to join their main body on a height just north of the Winchester Pike (modern route 340/522). Kenley made a spirited resistance for a time but soon realized Jackson's army was surrounding him. Kenley retreated quickly across the two rivers and attempted to burn the bridges. He failed. Jackson's cavalry overtook the Federals at Cederville and the Confederate victory was complete.
The Union forces lost 904—killed, wounded and captured. The Confederates lost 36—killed and wounded. The battle is referred to as a "brother vs. brother" fight. The 1st Maryland Infantry, C.S.A., fought and captured the 1st Maryland Infantry, USA.
This action forced the main Federal army at Strasburg to withdraw along the Valley Pike. Jackson struck the moving force in the flank May 24, then pursued it to Winchester, fighting there May 25.
(Caption for portrait at the bottom of the marker)Col. John R. Kenley,1st Maryland (U. S.) Infantry.
Kenley was severly wounded during the Battle of Front Royal and his regiment overwhelmed. The Confederates climaxed their victory by seizing Kenly's flag.
(Caption for portrait at upper right of marker)Col. Bradley T. Johnson,1st Maryland (C. S.) Infantry.
Johnson had to deal with insubordination in his regiment on May 23, 1862. Scores of men refused to obey orders on the grounds that their terms of service had expired. With a speech that one of the men stated was "the most effective eloquence to which it has been my pleasure to listen," Johnson reinvigorated his ranks for the Front Royal Fight.
(Sidebar on lower left of marker)
Riverside, the home of Maj. James R. Richards, stands in the forks of the Shenandoahs and was in the path of the Battle of Front Royal. Stonewall Jackson slept here on the night of the Battle."May 24. Last night the soldiers were coming in town til 12 o'clock and such shouting and cheering I have never heard before. I did not close my eyes with sleep the whole night. Our men have been bringing in prisoners all day..." —Buck Blakemore, Warren Heritage Society Archives