It’s one of those places that I’ve always driven by in a rush (or couldn’t persuade my fellow battlefield explorers to stop). Off Route 276 and just about half a mile from the left turn to the Cross Keys Ruritan Hall to begin the suggested battlefield driving tour, White Oak Lavender Farm offers shade, lemonade and wine, and plenty of calming aromatherapy.
Over the last holiday weekend, my mom and I were cruising around the central Shenandoah Valley, finding fun things to do that were not Civil War history related (mostly.) We ended up at the lavender farm…and of course I later had to see if there was a “Civil War reason” to recommend the site for a visit. Turns out…there is!
A sign near the walking entrance to the farm notes that the property was used as a “staging area” during the battle of Cross Keys, fought on June 8, 1862, as part of the Valley Campaign. Later when I got home, I pulled up some maps, and there might be a little more Civil War history involved. Check this out:
On this modern screenshot map, you’ll see the red/orange marker showing the location White Oak Lavender Farm. Note the sweeping turn of that road (Route 253) in the middle of the map.
Now, check out this battle map:
Use that sweeping turn of Port Republic Road (Route 253) as the reference. And it looks like the 60th Ohio and 8th West Virginia Union Infantries lined up in the vicinity of the lavender farm. Also note, the 15th Alabama maneuvering out in that area.
In a post-war writings of a soldier from the 15th Alabama, he wrote about taking refuge in a cemetery (probably the one near the modern Ruritan hall) and then advancing out to a wooden fence to fight an advancing column of Union troops.
There was a large old field in front, and about two hundred yards off there was a line of the “Boys in Blue” advancing to attack us. They advanced with such precision, keeping the step, and their line so well dressed that it was a matter of comment afterwards among our officers, but poor fellows, they did not know what was in store for them behind that fence. There we lay, as a Bengal tiger when he crouches down ready to spring upon his unsuspected prey, each man in deathly silence, with eyes fixed upon the advancing foe, only waiting for the command to fire…. These were almost breathless moments, not a word, not a whisper by the men, only a word of caution was whispered by the officers. See them advancing; keep cool, Alabamians, take good aim, and not fire too high. They were allowed to come within seventy-five or one hundred yards, when the command, “Fire!” was given. We hurled such a storm of “Buck and Ball” at them that it came very near annihilating their command….
While I think it’s unlikely that this fighting took place at the site of White Oak Lavender Farm, it was certainly in the nearby fields and likely across the road from the farm. The modern farm offers a chance to view the battlefield safely from a different angle and see more of the rolling terrain.
For Cross Keys Battlefield touring resources, check out this page from Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/613911608f726a197609489e/t/61a12d2e01d66c32ef94978c/1637952865932/Cross-Keys-Port-Republic-Driving-Tour.pdf
For information about White Oak Lavender Farm and The Purple Wolf Winery, visit https://www.whiteoaklavender.com/
White Oak Lavender Farm – 2644 Cross Keys Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22801