On May 23, 1862, fresh from victory at the Battle of McDowell, Stonewall Jackson marched his men down the Valley to Front Royal to drive out the 1,000 Federal troops occupying the area and seize control of the railroad and Shenandoah River bridges. The battle began when Gen. Jackson commanded the Confederate 1st Maryland to launch a surprise attack on the Union 1st Maryland in what would literally be a fight of brother against brother. Jackson placed a battery high atop Prospect Hill, where the cemetery stands with a commanding view of Front Royal. Initially, the Federals resisted the attacks, but realizing they were surrounded and outnumbered they retreated across the river, attempting to burn the bridges behind them. Union troops occupying nearby Strasburg received word of the Confederate victory at Front Royal and retreated further north toward Winchester - Stonewall Jackson's next stop.

The Confederate victory at Front Royal was aided by intelligence Stonewall Jackson received from the ardent Confederate and notorious spy Belle Boyd. At the time of the battle, Belle was 'laying low' at the home of relatives in Front Royal after having shot a Yankee soldier in Martinsburg for attempting to raise a Union flag over her house. The young and attactive Belle found it easy to mingle with Union soldiers and gain information. She ran all the way to Jackson's camp with a report of the Union's strength and position. Her report confirmed what Gen. Jackson hoped, and he launched the attack.

Visiting the Front Royal Battlefield

Your best bet to tour the Battle of Front Royal is to begin at the Front Royal Visitors Center located in the historic train station in downtown Front Royal. Here you can purchase an excellent driving tour of the Battle of Front Royal packaged as a book and CD set. The CD gives you driving directions for a 9-1/2 mile tour that begins at Asbury Church, passes by the area of Belle Boyd's reconnaissance report to Stonewall Jackson, then ascends Prospect Hill, passes by the Court House and Bel Air, and winds up at the final stages of the battle at Rose Hill, Richardson's Hill, The Bridges, Guard Hill, and finally Fairview, where the Union made their last stand. The accompanying 93-page tour book offers additional battle details and images. A brief, 2-page Brother Against Brother: Battle of Front Royal Driving Tour is also available.

The Guard Hill stop on the battlefield tour takes you to Riverton Park, a scenic spot on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River where there are picnic tables and a boat launch with a concrete ramp and access to deep water suitable for motorboats and water skiing. At the completion of the driving tour, you can return to the Visitors Center in downtown Front Royal, park your car and enjoy the many shopping and dining opportunities along Main Street and South Royal Avenue.

From the Visitors Center, you can also walk one block up Chester Street and visit Belle Boyd Cottage, the house Confederate spy Belle Boyd lived in with her aunt and uncle during the Civil War. The cottage sits behind Ivy Lodge, home of the Warren Heritage Society Museum. Adjacent to those buildings is the Warren Rifles Confederate Museum. This little gem of a museum operated by the Warren Rifles Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy® has a surprisingly large and interesting collection of artifacts from the Battle of Front Royal and the Civil War in Virginia.

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

Pictured at the top: In 1868, the Ladies Warren Memorial Association collected and reinterred Confederate soldiers who died during the Battle of Front Royal at Prospect Hill Cemetery. The Soldiers' Circle contains the graves and markers of 90 known soldiers, while the mound in the center of the circle is the resting place of 186 unknown soldiers.

front-royal-belle boyd cottage

Belle Boyd Cottage at Front Royal is open weekdays and seasonally on weekends.

Historical Photo

Front Royal Union Army

Front Royal Va.--The Union Army under Banks entering the town, Edwin Forbes, 1862  (Library of Congress)