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Category Archives: Luray Sites

Readers/Users are welcome to navigate through what is available so far, and are encouraged to check back regularly to see what links/features have been added. 

As the result of taking a class in Augmented Reality (AR), as partial fulfillment of my course work in the PhD program of Writing and Rhetoric at George Mason University, I have created an AR feature for Tour 13 of Avenue of Armies: Civil War Sites and Stories of Luray and Page County, Virginia (you can see my reflection “paper” on this project, here)

This is the initial page of the web of mini-blog entries and pages I’ve created to augment both the physical published book and the key sites encountered on the tour. In addition to adding new means of accessibility to information already available in the book, I’ve also added new sites and information in which AR technology will play a minor role. There are sixteen “auras” (AR experiences) in the digital expansion of Tour 13. Seven auras are accessible from the actual historic sites, “in the field” (including two auras at the site of the Luray “Slave Auction Block); none are accessible from nine of the ten photos within the print version of the Tour 13 of the Avenue of Armies book (the Luray Inn aura will be created after I create the link to which it will lead); and one is accessible from within the Barbee Monument page in the digital tour. There will be more AR features in this project as it is further developed.

The AR features can only be accessed through the Aurasma Application used on Droid Smart Phones and/or tablets. In order to experience the AR features via smartphone or tablet, please access the Play Store icon on your device, and in the search block type “Aurasma”. Once you have downloaded the app, you need to subscribe to the “Avenue of Armies” auras (search “Avenue of Armies”).

Though additional sites and information is being provided through this digital expansion, there is no additional cost to the reader/tourist/consumer. Please note that in order to fully experience the tour, you must have a physical copy of Avenue of Armies. Content as it exists in the book will not be fully replicated on this site or in the AR features.

As listed in the published book, the key sites for Tour 13 include:

  1. Green Hill Cemetery (p. 127)
  2. Barbee Monument (p. 129)
  3. The 1918 Confederate Veterans’ Monument (p. 130)
  4. Luray Train Depot (p. 132)
  5. Inn Lawn Park (p. 134)

Stop #44 can be found on pages 73 & 74 in Avenue of Armies. Since writing the book, however, I located additional information about the action of June 30, 1862. I wrote the following in one of my columns from May 2008 (the “Heritage & Heraldry” column for the Page News & Courier). While the entry in the book was based largely on Union accounts of the action, the following is more from the perspective of the Confederate forces and civilians in Luray (mostly based on the recollections of Harry Gilmor found in his book, Four Years in the Saddle):

The morning hours of June 30 were relatively quiet around Luray. Residents were going about their daily routines, likely in appreciation of the heavy rainfall that they had received the night before. Yet, apart from the memory of the artillery-like rumblings of thunder overnight, the only obvious traces of war that morning were the tents of Harry Gilmor’s small body of cavalry in the meadow on the northern edge of town. Gilmor had rested peacefully the night before. The pickets deployed the previous evening in the direction of Rileyville were local men, cavalrymen of Capt. S.B. Coyner’s Co. D, 7th Virginia Cavalry.

However, just as the rumbling of thunder had interrupted an otherwise peaceful evening on the night before, a mad dash of pickets from the direction of Rileyville raised concern in both the soldiers and citizens alike. As word came that Federal troops – cavalry, infantry and artillery – were bearing down on the unsuspecting town, Gilmor was quick to order the wagons loaded and moved toward White House Ford. No sooner had the orders been issued than the first Union troopers appeared on the rise to the north of Luray.

Union cavalryman Horace Ide recalled that as his regiment advanced on the hill in pursuit of the pickets, the Green Mountain men noticed that the Confederates were “trying to save their wagons and finally … came to the right about and tried to charge us, but only a few men obeyed the order.” Though preparing to make a stand in the streets of Luray, some citizens, according to Gilmor, “begged” him to take the fight out of the town. Gilmor quickly agreed, moving most of his command in the direction of the Leaksville Road and leaving only a small rearguard in the town to screen the move. Despite its size, the rearguard laid-down a sharp fire, killing one trooper of the First Vermont Cavalry, before Union artillery rolled-up and forced Confederate rearguard to put to flight.

Catching site of the Confederate wagons again, the Union force seemed reinvigorated in the manner in which it readied to strike again. Determining that “there was no alternative but a hard fight or loss of the wagons, besides having my men cut to pieces in the Shenandoah River,” Gilmor prepared to fight once again. Immediately, he “wheeled the column and gave the command to charge.” As the Confederate horsemen lurched forward, the Union troopers soon gained momentum on their own mounts. “Both columns were at a charge,” wrote Gilmor, “and as we closed upon each other, I, being some distance ahead of the rest, happened to kill one of the first set of fours at a second shot.”

For a moment, Gilmor believed that the Union line began to pull back. However, he quickly discovered that another line of Union cavalry prepared to flank his line. “I was not to be caught in this trap, so I at once gave the order, “Flank out to the left and right.” The counter-move proved of little result. Gilmor recalled being caught-up in a brief exchange of fire, but soon deemed it necessary to retire. Instead of following the wagons to White House Ford, his command turned off in the direction of Columbia Ford “and scattered into the woods, checking them a good deal.”

Despite Gilmor’s boast of “checking them,” the Union command retired under orders not to move beyond Luray. Horace Ide [see his book, History of the First Vermont Cavalry] recalled, “we had already exceeded our orders, which were only to go to Luray, after coming into line and exchanging a few shots with them we returned.”

Though minor in comparison to the larger actions in the Valley, the Union push on Luray was an effort to determine the location of “Stonewall” Jackson’s command. Already engaged in the Seven Days Battles around Richmond, Jackson had left enough of a “ghost” of himself in the Valley to keep the Federals guessing about where his next tactical feat would be performed in the Shenandoah.

As for Luray, this encounter would be the first of a series of fights the town would bear witness to over a course of a few days. Shortly thereafter, Luray would be placed under Federal occupation. The town remained in the hands of the Federal army for over a month, until news arrived of the battle at Cedar Mountain, on August 9.

See more information and images on this page in The Historical Markers Database.

annieprintz2Site #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.

amissbldg