Improvements To Monument Featured In New Market Anniversary Events

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       Improvements at the 54th Pennsylvania Monument to be featured in events commemorating the Battle of New Market.       

A single granite Union soldier has stood along Rt 11 north of New Market since 1905. The base of the statue explains why: “Erected to the memory of the heroic dead of the 54th Regt. PA Vet. Vol. Infantry who gave their lives in defense of their country.”

Over the weekend of May 20-21 descendants of the 54th PA soldiers will be on hand to celebrate recent access and interpretive improvements to the monument during the 159th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of New Market.

In addition to civilian living history, Civil War surgeons’ displays and Civil War long-arms lectures and demonstrations, will be on site all weekend. All activities will be at New Market Battlefield State Historical Park and the Virginia Museum of the Civil War.

In 1905, veterans of the 54th Pennsylvania Infantry erected the heroic-size granite statue on their position during the battle. It featured military iconography: stars and four 8” polished granite spheres on the base. The statue was owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania until 1988 when Pennsylvania deeded the small parcel of land and the monument to New Market Battlefield State Historical Park and the commonwealth of Virginia.

A grant from the Elizabeth Van Lew Detached Tent 1 of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, 1861-1865 was awarded to the Virginia Museum of the Civil War at the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park. The grant enabled the park to create safe and barrier free access and enhanced interpretation of the 54th PA Monument. The grant also permitted restoration of the granite base of the statue. “The monument restoration and the barrier-free trail enhancement would not have been possible without the generosity of the Daughters of the Union Veterans,” stated Brittney Philips, Site Manager of the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park.    

Mid-afternoon on May 15, 1864, during a thunderous rainstorm, the Union cavalry charged down U.S. 11 — the Valley Pike — toward the Confederate right flank but were turned back by heavy fire. At the same time the Union infantry attacked the Confederate line around the Bushong Farmhouse. The 1st West Virginia led the charge, followed by the 54th PA.

Suddenly, without warning, the 1st WV retreated leaving the 54th PA on their own. When the 54th crested the rise on, they were surprised by a large number of Confederate troops approaching through a ravine to their front. As the 54th fell back under devastating fire, they made a determined stand in the cedar grove that covered this hillside, buying precious time for the Union Army to retreat from the battlefield. Suffering a 30% casualty rate, the second highest of any unit in this battle, the men of the 54th remembered this area as the “Bloody Cedars” due to the cedar trees scattered across the field.

The 159th commemoration will be held at the Virginia Museum of the Civil War/New Market Battlefield State Historical Park at

8895 George Collins Drive
, New Market, on May 20-21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For additional information, call 866-515-1864 or visit the website www.vmi.edu/newmarket. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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