Closeup of the North River Bridge Civil War wayside marker at Port Republic, Virginia

Closeup of the North River Bridge Civil War wayside marker at Port Republic, Virginia

North River Bridge
Covered bridge instrument in Valley Campaign

 

The road seen across the river was the original route into the village from the north and west. Early visitors crossed North River by means of a ford, later a ferry, and finally a bridge. After the Civil War, four more bridges were built on approximately the same site; two of them destroyed by floods, two dismantled.

 

In June 1862, near the end of his Valley Campaign, Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was being pursued by two Union forces, those of Gen. John Fremont on the Shenandoah’s west bank and those of General James Shields on the east. Jackson chose to take his stand here, where the covered bridge offered the only means for the Union troops to unite. On June 8, Jackson had left half his forces under Richard Ewell to stop Fremont at Cross Keys, while half were camped on the bluffs across the river. He and his officers were headquartered in the village when Shields’ advance guard arrived, scattered the pickets, set up guns, and invaded the town.

 

Jackson survived his closest personal call of the war he when he narrowly escaped across the bridge. His gallop through town brought him here, even as artillery fire from beyond the forks of the river was crashing through the bridge’s timbers. Soon after the general reached the relative safety of the far shore, an Ohio battery’s cannon was rolled to the end of the bridge and aimed toward the mounted figure on the opposite bank. Jackson, suspecting that the gun might be a captured Confederate piece, yelled and gesticulated toward the gunners. The booming North River made his voice inaudible, so the Yankees had no idea what he was saying, but the episode of Jackson giving orders to an enemy gun crew became part of Stonewall legend.

 

The 37th Virginia Infantry massed on the far side of the river, poured through the covered bridge, and drive the advance guard out of Port Republic. The next day, during the Battle of Port Republic ,Jackson ordered the bridge burned, leaving a frustrated Fremont marooned and unable to come to the aid of Shields. After a morning of heavy fighting, Jackson won the battle to end the Valley Campaign.
 
Sign courtey of the Society of Port Republic Preservationists, Inc. in cooperation with Shenandoaha Battlefield National Historic District Commission. Installation by the Port Republic Ruritan Club.