Letter to the editor
The ‘tragedy’ that is Star Fort
While it is most commendable that Star Fort has been prioritized for conservation after its long history of stewardship by the Cutshaw’s Battery re-enactment organization and the efforts of Mark Lemasters that resulted in a significant clearing of brush for a living history program some years ago, along with his mapping (lest we forget those pioneer efforts before the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation arrived on the scene), the saga of the star-shaped fortification is akin to the “Bunker Hill/Breed’s Hill” syndrome.
By that I mean to say it is a compete provable fiction that Col. James Schoonmaker’s small Union brigade of three cavalry regiments attacked or even captured the earthwork on the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 19, 1864!
Likewise, Col. Thomas Munford’s Confederate cavalry brigade was never there, nor was Capt. John Shoemaker’s battery of horse artillery there, either. All of the Confederate participant accounts concur that where they were was the Main Fort, atop the hill over looking National Fruit, and so do the Union accounts.
Additionally, by the successful resistance made by Munford’s dismounted cavalrymen and the service of Shoemaker’s cannons, the main portion of the defeated Confederate army was able to withdraw through Winchester as the day drew to a close. The three Federal assaults upon the Main Fort were repulsed.
Many years later, millionaire Schoonmaker falsified what took place that afternoon in order to obtain his Medal of Honor, and so the fable began. This is how the Virginia Historical Highway Marker on U.S. 11 near Shockey’s came to be “Capture of Star Fort” and now even a greater colossal mistake of practically unimaginable proportions, the markers adorning the fort paid for by the SVBF!
Well-known journalist Ovid Demaris stated this huge error best: “You may hear the same story from 10 sources, but sometimes that’s more like repetition that corroboration, no matter how convinced you may be of its authenticity.”
What will it take to turn this tragedy around?