Battle of James City

The Battle of James City, the other notable battle to take place in Madison, was part of the last offensive campaign launched by the Confederacy, the Bristoe Campaign, in which Robert E. Lee planned to march north and force a decisive end to the war. On October 8 th, 1863, Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry corps was sent on a separate route from the rest of the Confederate army in order to capture a vital Union signal station and meet up with Lee further north.

His path took him through Madison, at the time under the control of the Union. As Stuart was marching through Madison, he encountered a cavalry brigade from Union general Judson Kilpatrick’s army and forced the smaller force to retreat. It met up with an infantry brigade, also from Kilpatrick’s army, and made a stand at a local church near James City. Stuart defeated the Union troops handily and advanced toward his target, Thoroughfare Mountain. He arrived in James City to see that the men he had sent ahead to attack the signal station had succeeded in capturing the station, but had not been fast enough to prevent the Union soldiers from reporting valuable information about Lee’s advances north.

Kilpatrick was already in James City when Stuart arrived, but withdrew to a firing position on a nearby hill in order to bombard Stuart’s army. Having already completed his goal, Stuart was not eager to get into a costly battle, merely returning artillery fire from the town. After half a day of artillery fire and several unsuccessful cavalry charges, Kilpatrick left under cover of night and Stuart left the next morning.

The next time they met was at the Battle of Buckland Mills in Fauquier County, where Stuart won a decisive victory by ambushing Kilpatrick. The Battle of James City had a very large impact on the local area due to the heavy use of artillery by both Stuart and Kilpatrick, starting several fires and destroying most buildings in James City.

Content in this article was taken from a senior project produced by high school student Peter Rice at the Blue Ridge Virtual Governor's School in Madison County. To see the full paper with references, please visit his project website.
 
 
 

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