New Market

Leadership and Lessons at New Market

Federal Guns at New MarketMention the Battle of New Market, and even the most casual student of the Civil War will immediately think “VMI Cadets!” The story of the Cadets and their role in the action inspires both admiration and horror. No other episode so plainly reveals the terrible desperation and determination of the Confederacy in 1864. But putting the Cadets at the heart of the story of the Battle of New Market tends to obscure many other stories and lessons offered by this fascinating fight.

Because of its size and its tactical simplicity, New Market serves an excellent starting point for anyone wishing to know more about military actions of Civil War. New Market is an exceptional case study of how even small decisions – whether made on a battlefield or in a nation’s capital – can produce enormous consequences. On the field at New Market, the commanders knew little of the men under their

Gen. John C. Breckenridge, a former U.S. senator and vice president bore a heavy burden of responsibility as overall Confederate commander at New Market.

command and knew even less of the terrain. In this sense, it was a pure and severe test of leadership as the commanders struggled to understand the evolving situation amid the smoke and chaos of combat and wield unfamiliar troops – infantry, artillery and cavalry – effectively. In the end, victory settled upon the Confederates not because of the courage of the Cadets but because of the decisions and preparations of the two commanders many hours before the climactic charge by the boys from VMI. The lessons of New Market are lessons of leadership, on many levels.

Duration: The standard 4-hour tour visits the key positions on the battlefield and in the surrounding area to present a full picture of the engagement. The tour can be compressed or expanded easily to fit the schedules of guests.

Amenities: New Market offers many places to eat. Public restrooms are available at the battlefield.

Fee: $100 for 2-4 guests. The fee includes admission to the Virginia Museum of the Civil War on the battlefield.