Having visited just about all the “Civil War” and Confederate museums, I have found the New Market Battlefield Military Museum to be the best – hands down. It is unrivaled in its displays and historical exposition – telling a story that needs to be told.
The New Market Battlefield Military Museum is the life’s work of John M. Bracken. A native Southerner, by the 1980s John realized there was a huge void in historical attractions devoted to the War for Southern Independence. This was alarmingly evident in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, once known as the “breadbasket of the Confederacy.”
So John went to work.
In 1988, the New Market Battlefield Museum (pictured above) opened. It is situated on high ground within the “Core Area” of the New Market Battlefield Cluster Group as designated by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (SVBF). The Museum stands between the first Union line of battle and the second Confederate line of battle, putting it squarely in the heat of the fighting those two days in May 1864 when Confederates pushed back a concerted Union effort to invade and conquer the Shenandoah Valley.
Unlike many historical attractions, the Museum’s emphasis has been on building its collection rather than tourism promotion. Thus many of our good people are tragically unaware of this sterling Southern treasure situated squarely in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. Nonetheless, the New Market Battlefield Military Museum is slowly but surely emerging as the premier focal point for historic “Civil War” attractions in the Valley, inspiring both the serious student of history as well as the casual tourist with its vast resource of displays and exhibits.
Quite a few visitors have described their visit to the New Market Battlefield Military Museum as a life-changing experience for discovering their Southern heritage. The spirit of the Shenandoah Valley’s Southern defenders resonates with every well-designed and exquisitely crafted exhibit.
In July 1990, at a ceremony on the battlefield, fourteen granite and marble markers were dedicated to preserve the memory of the men who fought and died on this battlefield. They are the only markers on the New Market Battlefield that actually show where the participating units were positioned during the fight.
Given its central battlefield location, the stunning displays of original artifacts and in-depth historical interpretation, the New Market Battlefield Military Museum is a resource like no other, and has been widely commended for its displays and exhibits. The founder’s passion for historical truth is evidenced in every aspect of the one hundred thirty displays of historically important items.
The Museum bookshop has an impressive collection, including historical reprints it has commissioned such as The Southern Side; Or Andersonville Prison by Dr. R. Randolph Stevenson and The New Market Campaign by Edward Turner.
The New Market Battlefield Military Museum is quite visible from Interstate 81, just a minute’s drive from the New Market exit. An impressive structure, the façade resembles the Custis-Lee Mansion in Arlington. You can’t miss it.
General Lee told us that “The consolidation of the states into one vast empire, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of ruin which has overwhelmed all that preceded it.” A visit to the New Market Battlefield Military Museum certainly provides the visitor with an informed understanding of the times that inspired Lee’s prescient statement.
I can say without reservation that it should be a duty for every loyal Southerner to visit and support this museum.