Site #42 (Augustus S. Modesitt House) is pictured on page 71 (and to the right in this post). Look also at the Luray Sites Map on page 107 for the exact location. According to the WPA records, this house was used by Gen. James Shields as a headquarters. However, I have also come across the mention of Shields using the old Amiss building, just a few blocks to the east, and also on Main Street. It may be that both residences were used, but the story that goes along with the Modesitt House may be indicative of its use during Shields’ southerly advance toward Port Republic in the earliest days of June 1862.
At one time during the war several Yankees were held prisoners in the Luray jail. These were taken out and shot by unknown persons. General Shields heard of this, and was most angry. He came to Luray and stopped at the first home, that happened to be of Mr. Modesitt. He was met at the door by Mrs. Modesitt, who invited him in and was most nice to him. She had the servants, who were more than willing, prepare a meal of the best for him, which he enjoyed very much.
This is definately a reference to the story of the murder of two local Unionists (not “Yankee soldiers”) by the name of Haines and Beylor. I’ll write more about that later in another post.
However, the story about Shields’ interaction with the Modesitt children seems a bit hard to believe, considering he was, at that time, advancing to strike Stonewall Jackson at Port Republic. Perhaps he stopped to see the children again on the return visit, after the defeat at Port Republic. Hard to say… nonetheless, the WPA report reflects
While here, General Shields became attached to the children and would swing them in a large rope swing in the back yard. He was especially fond of Elizabeth, later the wife of D.S. Stover, and gave her a pair of cuff bars that she still has. Before he left he told Mrs. Modesitt that when he came to Luray his intention was to leave the town in ashes, for the outrage committed on the yankee prisoners, but after staying with him and talking to him and his family, he decided it was not the people of Luray who were responsible for the ill treatment of the men.
The Amiss building (later named for the County Surveyor who lived there in the early 1900s) is pictured below.