Stone Sentinels, battlefield monuments of the American Civil War


Winchester

Star Fort
Guardian of Winchester

The wayside marker about Winchester's Star Fort was erected in 2008 by the Virginia Civil War Trails and Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Association. The Association owns the Star Fort site and is in the prcess of developing it for the public. It is not currently open, although it can be viewed from the marker.

 

Location and Directions

The marker is nothwestwest of Winchester, Virginia. Take North Frederick Pike (U.S. 522) to Fortress Drive, either 1.2 miles north from Picadilly Street in downtown Winchester or 0.9 mile east of the Virginia Route 37 interchange. Then take Fortress Drive 0.16 mile north. The marker is on the east sde of the street in a residential neighborhood. (39.2068° N, 78.1645° W; see map)

 

Text from the marker

 

Star Fort

***
Guardian of Winchester

 

Three times during the Civil War, Star Fort played a major role in the defense of Winchester. Union Gen. Robert H. Milroy’s troops began constructing the fort in January 1863 on the site of artillery emplacements Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s men had built in 1861. Milroy, a fervent abolitionist, used stone from the nearby home of U.S. Senator James Mason, author of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Star Fort commanded the Martinsville Turnpike and the Pughtown Road.

 

In June 1863, Gen. Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia here in his second invasion of the North. On June 14, in the Second Battle of Winchester, Confederate Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s corps spearheaded Lee’s advance, forcing Milroy into the Winchester forts. Gen. Jubal A. Early’s division captured West Fort and shelled Star Fort, which fired in return. “The guns in the Star Fort greeted them,” wrote one of Milroy’s soldiers, “with shell after shell planted among them with astonishing precision.” Milroy withdrew that night. Most of his men surrendered at Stephenson’s Depot the next day, then were held temporarily at Star Fort. A year later, on July 24, 1864, Union Gen. George Cook fought a delaying action here while retreating north after the Second Battle of Kernstown.

 

Star Fort figured prominently in the Third Battle of Winchester on September 19, 1864, when detachments of Early’s cavalry and horse artillery held it to guard his army’s left flank. Union Col. James M. Schoonmaker’s cavalry brigade twice charged the fort, then dismounted and stormed it. Schoonmaker received the Medal of Honor for his actions.

 

Photos from the wayside marker, from top to bottom:

 

Gen. Robert H. Milroy

 

Gen. Jubal A. Early

 

Col. James M. Schoonmaker

 

All Courtesy Library of Congress


The wayside marker for Star Fort, Guardian of Virginia is next to the unrestored site of the fort northwest of Winchester, Virginia.
(above) The wayside marker for Star Fort, Guardian of Virginia (see enlargement of marker) is next to the site of the fort northwest of Winchester, Virginia. (see enlargement of photo below)

The wayside marker for Star Fort, Guardian of Virginia
(below) Map of WInchester and its defences from the Star Fort wayside marker
Map of WInchester and its defences from the Star Fort wayside markerGen. Robert H. Milroy

Gen. Jubal A. Early

Col. James M. Schoonmaker





About the Author • ©2007-2014 Steve Hawks