As part of the Federal campaign to capture the Shenandoah Valley in 1862, Federal Gens. Milroy and Schenck moved eastward to threaten the Valley from what is now West Virginia. In response, Gen. Jackson cleverly deceived the Federals by marching out of the east Valley towards Richmond and then returning his army to the Valley by rail to Staunton. He then quickly marched westward along the Staunton and Parkersburg Turnpike toward McDowell. Late in the afternoon of May 8, Jackson took up positions along Sitlington’s Hill. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Milroy seized the initiative and assaulted the Confederate position. After four hours of extremely fierce fighting, the Federals were repulsed. Milroy and Schenck created the ruse of bivouacking for the night, then quietly withdrew into West Virginia. Jackson was now free to operate against other Federal forces in the Valley—a key to his success in this campaign.
This first Confederate victory during Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign relieved pressure on Richmond and saved the "Confederate Breadbasket." It also left Jackson free to operate separately against other Federal forces and revitalized Confederate hopes. Jackson's incredible bluff, pretending to move east but actually moving west, was a masterpiece of maneuver, deception and audacity.
The Battlefield Today:
To learn more about the McDowell battlefield today, click here
Highland County Museum and Civil War Orientation Center
161 Mansion House Rd, McDowell
March 1 – Oct. 31 Thu-Sat 11am-4pm, Sun 1pm-4pm
Closed Nov. 1 to Feb. 28, except by appointment
Self-Guided Tours: Follow a rigorous hiking trail with interpretive signage to the top of Sitlington’s Hill. The hill, which towers just east of the village of McDowell, was the site of the worst of the fighting during the battle. The trailhead is located along US 250 east of McDowell.