“The Strongest Position in the Shenandoah Valley”
Saturday, October 19, 2019, 10 am to 12 noon, when we will head to beautiful Shenandoah County in the heart of the Valley for a caravan-walking tour of Rude’s Hill and Meem’s Bottom. This tour is free/pay-what-you wish. You can reserve your spot here.
When Federal troops first arrived at the North Fork of the Shenandoah River in April 1862 they experienced a startling revelation. Before them lay a river as narrow and as deep as a castle moat. A mile and three-quarters beyond the river rose an imposing, flat-topped elevation crowned with Confederate guns. Between the moat and the high ground lay an open plain completely dominated by Confederate artillery. This was Rude’s Hill and Meem’s Bottom, and along with the river and the surrounding mountains they created a place of great beauty and even greater military value. A Federal division commander, with some exaggeration, called it “by far the strongest position in the Shenandoah Valley.” Confederate topographical engineer Jed Hotchkiss, less extravagantly and more accurately, simply called it “a fine possession to hold.”
Because the streams, hills, roads and mountains combined to make the 4-square-mile area military significant, it attracted a great deal of activity between 1862 and 1865.
- Tens of thousands of troops marched across the plain on the Valley Turnpike.
- Stonewall Jackson made his headquarters here for two critical weeks during his campaign in 1862.
- Routed Confederate cavalrymen found safety here after the Woodstock Races 1864.
- Rebel raiders John McNeill and Harry Gilmor were active in the neighborhood, and both were wounded nearby.
- After the battle of New Market in 1864, the defeated Federals fled across Rude’s Hill and Meem’s Bottom in confusion, and only the masterful handling of a lone Federal battery saved the beaten Federals from an even greater disaster.
Snowstorms and floods, bridge burners and bridge builders, prisoners of war and civilian refugees by the thousands — all are part of the wartime story of this historical jewel. Reserve your spot here.
We will introduce the many characters and narrate the many stories that make this one of the more important, interesting and historic locations in the Valley.
What We Will Do
We will use maps (provided for everyone) to follow the stories around Meem’s Bottom. We will share rides and drive short distances to tour stops. We will walk between some stops — total walking distance less than a mile, all of it flat and on grass or on lightly traveled rural roads. The sun can be strong in the corn fields, so come prepared to protect yourself from the rays. Insect repellent, and something to drink might be useful.
We meet at Mt. Jackson Cemetery on Rte. 11 (Old Valley Pike) south of Mt. Jackson, Virginia. NOT the Soldiers’ Cemetery north of town.
From the North: From I-81, Exit 273, go east on Rte. 292 (Conicville Rd.) to Rte. 11 (Old Valley Pike/Main St.) and turn right (11 south).
From the South: From I-81, Exit 269, go east on Rte. 730 (Caverns Rd.) to Rte. 11 (Old Valley Pike) and turn left (11 north).
Mt. Jackson Cemetery
6375 Main St. (approximate address)
Mt. Jackson, VA 22842
Park under the trees outside the cemetery.
Restrooms are available in the Mt. Jackson Town Office Building in the heart of town.
This tour is free/pay-what-you wish, which means you will not be asked to pay anything, but you will have the opportunity to anonymously pay something at the end of the tour if you are pleased.