Stone Sentinels, battlefield monuments of the American Civil War

Front Royal

The Bridges - "Torch the Bridges"

A wayside marker on the fight for The Bridges over the Shenandoah River during the Civil War Battle of Front Royal, Virginia. The marker is at the site of the south end of the Civil War bridge over the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. The remains of the bridge pilings can still be seen in the river.

 

This is stop 8 on the Civil War Trails tour of the Battle of Front Royal. (previous stop - Richardson's Hill • next stop - Guard Hill)

 

Location and directions

The marker is on the north side of Front Royal at the northern end of N. Royal Avenue. (38.942263° N, 78.19433° W; see map)

 

Text from the marker:

 

The Bridges

***
“Torch the Bridges!”


— Battle of Front Royal - May 23, 1862 —

Flanked out of his position on Richardson's Hill, Union Col. John R. Kenly hurried his command north to the bridges spanning the forks of the Shenandoah River. At this spot on the South Fork stood the Front Royal Turnpike Bridge, and the Manassas Gap Railroad bridge was located just east. Another bridge led over the North Fork.

 

As the Federals crossed the bridges, the 1st Maryland Infantry (CSA) pressed the Union rear and the Louisianans attacked the flanks. Kenly's troops burned their tents and supplies, as well as Kenly's headquarters at the Vannort house to the west. Kenly ordered the bridges burned to thwart the Confederate pursuit. He also deployed the 5th New York Cavalry and his cannons on Guard Hill, across the forks, to protect his retreat route.

 

The Federal attempt to burn the bridges failed when the Louisianans, led by Gen. Richard Taylor, charged into the flames to beat them out.

 

The North Fork Bridge was damaged enough, however, that it and the cannon and musket fire from Guard Hill slowed the Confederate crossing. The Federal advantage evaporated when Lt. Col. Thomas S. Flournoy's 6th Virginia Cavalry swam the rain-swollen river and formed for the pursuit.

 

From the sidebar:

Medal of Honor at Front Royal
Although Col. John R. Kenly ordered the bridges over the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah River to be burned, the Confederates succeeded in putting out the flames. Thanks to the determination of Sgt. William Taylor, Co. H, 1st Maryland Infantry (USA), however, Kenly's goal was partially accomplished. Taylor was painfully wounded in the process, but he single-handedly destroyed enough of the North Fork Bridge that the Southerners could not use it. On Aug. 2, 1897, Taylor received the nation's highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor, for his courage above and beyond the call of duty at Front Royal.

The Bridges wayside marker in Front Royal, Virginia(above) The Bridges wayside marker in Front Royal, Virginia (see enlargement) (below) The marker is at the site of the south end of the Civil War bridge over the South Fork of the Shenandoah River (see enlargement)
The marker is at the site of the south end of the Civil War bridge over the South Fork of the Shenandoah River






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