On June 8, 1862, the Battle of Cross Keys began with an early morning skirmish at Cross Keys Tavern, once located on what is now Artillery Road. The Union retreated from the Tavern but commenced a long-range artillery duel and several subsequent actions in the area. The Union objective was to rout out Stonewall Jackson and take control of the Valley.

The Union first attempted to secure North River Bridge in nearby Port Republic, however, General Jackson, who was headquartered at Madison Hall in 'Port', as the town is known locally, rushed to the scene to defend the bridge. The Union retreated under Confederate fire from the north bank of the South River and bluffs east of Port Republic. The Union then formed lines around Union Church while the Confederates positioned infantry and artillery at Mill Creek Church, on bluffs above Mill Creek, along Port Republic Road and at Goods Mill. From this position of 'uncommon strength' the Confederates launched devastating attacks that forced Union withdrawal from the field by days' end.

Visiting the Cross Keys Battlefield

Your best bet to tour the Cross Keys Battlefield is to follow the Battlefields and Tasting Rooms Cross Keys Tour. This 17-mile loop tour is suitable for both automobiles and bikes. The winding country roads are a little hilly but generally lightly travelled. The tour begins and ends at the Port Republic Museum with stops at the major areas of action of the Cross Keys battle. Several of the stops have short hiking trails with interpretive signs. The final stop is a visit to Cross Keys Vineyards before returning to Port Republic.

Visit Civil War Trust and Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation for battle details and information about the preservation of this battlefield.

Pictured at the top: Confederate victory at Cross Keys was achieved through the use of artillery placed on 'Artillery Ridge' along the high bluffs above Mill Creek.

cross keys battlefield hills

Situated in a rural and agricultural area with many historic buildings and structures remaining intact, Cross Keys Battlefield appears much as it did in the 19th century.

cross keys battlefield preservation

Although Cross Keys Battlefield retains much of its rural, historic character, suburban development encroaches. According to the National Park Service, 30 acres of Civil War battlefield land are destroyed every day. The biggest battle Cross Keys faces today may well be the preservation of this historic battlefield.