Battle of Wapping Heights to be commemorated Tuesday

By Ryan Cornell

A battlefield tour and commemoration honoring the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Wapping Heights/Manassas Gap will be held on Tuesday.

The guided tour, which will start at 2 p.m. from the Warren Heritage Society, 101 Chester St., Front Royal, will take visitors on a one-hour car caravan down the same routes used by Confederate and Union troops in 1863.

Drivers will be given a map with directions to the different stops, in case they separate from the group. Patrick Farris, executive director of the Warren Heritage Society, will lead the tour and speak about the historical significance of each stop as well as the battle’s impact on civilians.

Stops include Morgan’s Ford, which offers views of where some of the Confederate troops would have crossed the Shenandoah River; the Linden Park and Ride, where Farris will point out the position of troops near the start of the battle and the parking lot of a flea market in Front Royal, which served as the final location of combat before the Confederate retreat.

“Once you’re aware of what happened, the landscape just looks different to you,” Farris said. “You’ll never drive there and think about the area the same way again.”

Beginning at 6:30 p.m. next to the Apple House in Linden, near the intersection of Route 55 and Dismal Hollow Road, a commemoration will dedicate the spot of a new roadside Civil War Trails marker. The marker will feature the history of the battle and will be erected in August. A poster of the marker will be presented at the commemoration.

A color map of the battle, designed by Darryl Merchant, also will be presented. The map displays the detailed positions of both troops, the lines of attack and retreat and the geographic features of the region.

Known as the Battle of Wapping Heights to the Confederate Army and the Battle of Manassas Gap to the Union, the engagement took on another nickname: “The Blackberry Affair,” as the troops of both armies, hungry and tired, stumbled across blackberry bushes around Linden and started eating the berries they picked.

General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was retreating from its July defeat at Gettysburg when it was attacked at Front Royal by Major General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac.

By nightfall on July 23, the casualties had numbered about 440 soldiers. Farris said the daylong battle involved more troops than any other battle in Warren County.

“One thing about the Battle of Wapping Heights is it’s the largest battle in Warren County you’ve never heard of,” Farris said. “Most history buffs know about the battles of Front Royal and Cedar Creek, but the Battle of Wapping Heights often gets forgotten.”

Although the battle proved inconclusive, Farris said the Confederate Army was able to successfully delay Union advances and retreat further south.

The battle also marked the only time when Warren County infantrymen, as part of the 17th Virginia, would fight on their own soil.

“Both commanders were in Warren County (Meade west of Linden and Lee in Front Royal) at the same time, writing dispatches,” Farris said. “They hadn’t been this close together since Gettysburg.”

Co-hosted by Farris and Suzanne Silek, and sponsored by the Warren County Committee of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, both events are free and open to the public. Those interested in attending the tour should drive their own vehicles.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com