Action at Wapping Heights-July 23, 1863
Action at Wapping Heights
Page News & Courier
Heritage and Heraldry
Some on the retreat from Gettysburg found passage
Article of January 25, 2001
While not necessarily a direct result of the battle
of Gettysburg and while General Lee wasn't among those
that found passage through Page County in July 1863,
there was an action near Front Royal that gave Page
County a brief tie to the end and beginning of two
major campaigns of the Civil War.
Nearly three weeks after the Pennsylvania battle,
after having crossed the Potomac River into Virginia
Williamsport, Confederate troops from Lt. Gen. A.P.
Hill's III Army Corps were in the vicinity of Manassas
Gap. Wishing to both relieve the cavalry posted in
that gap and to cut off the continued avenue of
retreat, Union Gen. George G. Meade ordered Maj. Gen.
William H. French (ironically of the Army of the
Potomac's III Corps) to advance against the
Confederates in that area.
On July 23, 1863, Brig. Gen. A.R. Wright's Brigade
(under the command of Col. E.J. Walker of the 3rd
Georgia Infantry) of Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson's
Division was assigned to guard the flank of Hill's
Corps. At daylight, the brigade marched 5 miles into
Manassas Gap and was soon alerted of a possible Union
cavalry force in their front. Taking position on a
ridge that extended across the Gap, Colonel Walker
detached the 3rd Georgia and ordered it forward about
1 mile to "Wapping Heights" overlooking the valley.
At about 11 o'clock the enemy attacked all along the
front in heavy line of battle. Although outnumbered,
the 3rd Ga., with help from the strong position, held
the Federals in check for several hours. Late in the
day, Gen. Ewell formed the advanced lines of his corps
and opened with several of his batteries on the enemy.
Near dusk, the poorly coordinated Union assaults were
abandoned. While Confederate forces withdrew into the
Luray Valley that night, on the following day, the
Union army occupied Front Royal.
The battle of "Wapping Heights" or Manassas Gap
resulted in at least 21 killed and 84 wounded for the
Federals. While Confederate losses were not
ascertained, the overall casualties for the engagement
was estimated at 440 total. Present with the II
Corps, Stonewall Jackson's former mapmaker, Jedediah
Hotchkiss disputes this estimate stating, "we lost 45
killed and wounded."
Following the engagement, Hotchkiss also kept a
careful account of the retreat into Page County.
While Rodes halted at Milford on the 24th, some
elements reached a point three miles beyond Milford.
The following day, Hotchkiss was in the company of the
force that made their way "up to Pass Run and fixed
our headquarters near the Brick Church, Rodes being
just below the Sperryville Road. Johnson [Maj. Gen. Ed
"Allegheny" Johnson's Division] is encamped near the
Luray and Front Royal, on Pass Run; Early [Maj. Gen.
Jubal Early's Division] spends tonight at Mt. Jackson;
Longstreet and A.P. Hill are in Culpeper." The
following day, a Sunday, was spent comfortably still
in Page County at the base of Thornton Gap in camp.
Rev. Beverly Tucker Lacy preached at Headquarters in
the morning. By that evening, Early's Division was
moving across the Luray/New Market Gap into the Page
Valley to join the balance of Ewell's Corps.
The following morning, Hotchkiss accompanied Rodes'
and Johnson's Divisions as they crossed Thornton Gap.
Early later marched across the Blue Ridge at either
Fisher's or Milam's Gap. Thus passed the three days
that tied the history of Page County with the
conclusion of the Gettysburg Campaign. "Wapping
Heights" is also associated with the beginning of the
"Bristoe Campaign" that would not end until October.
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