Inscription reads: "Two miles west on the former Staunton-to-Parkersburg Turnpike is Camp Allegheny, the highest Civil War fortification east of the Mississippi. Its rolling meadows and spectacular views belie a punishing winter climate."
The turnpike was completed in 1839 to "benefit the state by retaining and increasing its western population, clearing and settling an extensive territory, and adding to the revenue...the formidable central range of mountains of Virginia, a county at present almost a wilderness and where comforts are unknown," according to Claudius Crozet, then Principal Engineer of the Virginia Board of Public Works.
In 1861, the road became an important strategic target for both armies. Confederates dug in at Camp Allegheny, overlooking the turnpike, to bar advances into the Shenandoah Valley after Union victories at Rich Mountain and Corricks Ford in July 1861. They held this vital position during Gen. Robert E. Lee's attack on nearby Cheat Mountain that September. The garrison here under Edward "Old Alleghany" Johnson was attacked by Federals led by Gen. Robert Milroy on December 13, 1861. The Confederate defenders won one of the hardest fought battles of the war's first year.
Southern soldiers endured a horrible winter at Camp Allegheny. Diseases swept through the exposed camp, killing scores of men whose unmarked graves still lie scattered across the mountaintop.
Abandoning Camp Allegheny in April 1862, Confederate survivors retreated east on the turnpike, toward Staunton, before joining Gen. T.J. "Stonewall" Jackson. The combined force marched west again, defeating Union forces under Milroy once more at McDowell on May 8, 1862. Though western Virginia remained in Union hands, Jackson's famous Valley campaign continued, ending in June with victories at Port Republic and Cross Keys.