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A short story by Etta Belle Walker

Front Royal

Title:     Front Royal
Author: Etta Belle Walker [More Titles by Walker]

As most of us know, Charles II lived in such extravagant style and had such a luxurious court he had difficulty in keeping his bills paid. He was accustomed to resorting to one scheme after another in order to raise revenue. At one time he dreamt of great wealth from the Virginia colony through its tobacco crop--and it did supply him generously with taxes.

Realizing a lucrative business might be established by trading in furs with the Indians, Charles ordered Governor Berkeley to send explorers beyond the mountains. The governor chose a man of whom history records very little. John Lederer was at one time a Franciscan monk. He obviously had leanings towards an adventuresome life. In 1761 he set out for the West, under the compulsion of Governor Berkeley. The party was composed of five Indian guides and a Colonel Catlett. They went through Manassas Gap in the neighborhood of Front Royal.

The expedition proved a failure because of the unfriendly attitude of the Indians and the roughness of the country. Charles was destined for another disappointment.

White settlers came to Front Royal as early as 1734 and built their little houses in sheltered coves near the Shenandoah. Soon, news of the desirable home sites in the Valley attracted other settlers. Lehewtown was the early name given the settlement.

Rough characters began to find their way here and shootings, brawls and hard drinking were the order of the day--so much so that the place later became known as "Helltown." However, it acquired more dignity and order with the years and about 1788 it was incorporated under the name of Front Royal. And why did the town get its double name? There are several existing legends as to the derivation of the town's present name.

The trails from Page and Shenandoah valleys crossed at this point. One account states that the settlers going from one place to another met at a tavern at the crossroads where the Royalist troops were stationed. Hence ground around the town was a military post. When the sentry on guard called out "Front" and the settlers were not able to give the password "Royal." The name Camp Front Royal was given the post and later it was known by the last two words.

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A particularly tragic battle occurred at Front Royal in May, 1862, when the First Maryland Regiment of the Union forces met the First Maryland Regiment of the Confederate Army. It happened when Stonewall Jackson came out suddenly from the Page valley and attacked General Banks' left wing stationed at this town. The Federals were defeated and were driven on through Rivertown where they tried hard to burn the bridges and cut off the Confederate advance. The cavalry of the latter under Ewell saved the bridges which spanned the two branches of the Shenandoah River. About two weeks later the Confederates themselves burned the bridges, but this was after Jackson had flanked Banks away from the position at Strasburg, followed him to Winchester and won a victory there.

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Etta Belle Walker's short story: Front Royal