Historic America

Front Royal Battlefield and Bel Air Mansion

The Battle of Front Royal was fought in and around Front Royal in Warren County, Virginia on May 23, 1862 between troops under command of Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 800 total casualties.

Though a relatively small engagement, the Front Royal Visitors Center offers an extensive self-guided driving tour connecting several key sites, including Prospect Hill Cemetery, Bel Air Mansion, and Richardson’s Hill. Depicted above is the courthouse, around which two opposing Maryland regiments fought in a pitched street battle.

Bel Air Mansion, built in 1795, was home to 19-year-old Lucy Buck, whose detailed diary entries during the war have been invaluable for historians. General Robert E. Lee and his staff stopped here for refreshments on July 22, 1863, as his army retreated from Gettysburg.

Interpretive signs tell the story of the battle, and other Civil War incidents, in beautiful and compelling detail. In 1864, Richardson’s Hill was the scene of the execution of six Mosby’s Rangers in retaliation for the guerillas allegedly killing a Union officer after he surrendered.

The remnants of an old bridge, dating from the Civil War period, can still be seen in the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Retreating Union forces attempted to burn the bridges, but Confederates reached them in time and doused the flames. The tour ends at Fairview (pictured below), where Confederate cavalry overtook Col. Kenly and the remaining Union forces.

The Front Royal-Warren County Visitor Center is located at 414 E. Main Street in Front Royal, Virginia. A free pamphlet is available for the driving tour, but for only $10 you can purchase an audio tour and detailed guidebook. It’s one of the best local tour guides I’ve ever seen.

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