Civil War in Harrisonburg—Follow the Trail to History
The Shenandoah Valley played a major role in the Civil War and so did Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, due to its position near a huge Confederate rail and supply center in Staunton. At the time, Rockingham County was one of the most prosperous agricultural counties in the nation. There were two major highways crossing Harrisonburg—the Rockingham Turnpike (modern day U.S. 33) and the Valley Turnpike (modern day U.S. 11).
The region including Harrisonburg and Rockingham County was known as the "The Breadbasket of the Confederacy," resulting in a prime location for the struggle between Union and Confederate forces. The thriving town of Harrisonburg, Virginia experienced conflict and bravery, and challenges to hearth and home, God and country.
The Valley also set the stage for two important and memorable campaigns during the War Between the States—Confederate Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson's 1862 Valley Campaign, which earned him a permanent place in military history; and 1864's "The Burning" of the Valley, ordered by Union General Philip H. Sheridan.
The unique history of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County includes the settlement of a large group of Mennonite and Brethren whose religious beliefs and role during the war are highlighted at Crossroads: Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center. Primarily Union sympathizers, several events during the war, such as Sheridan's Burning did not favor the southern Unionists; Valley Mennonite and Brethren lost their farms to fire as well.
Rockingham County also had two great Confederate leaders fall casualty to the war within its borders: General Turner Ashby and partisan ranger chief John H. McNeill. Harrisonburg and Rockingham County are home to 23 Civil War sites, complete with the Civil War Trails markers.
The region boasts two of the most pristine battlefield sites in the National Historic District, the twin battlefields of Cross Keys and Port Republic.