The last conflicts in the Shenandoah
War's wreckage in the Shenandoah valley
Ruins of the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington, after Hunter's raid in 1864.
The picture shows the blackened walls of the leading Virginia military institution after General Hunter's raid through the valley in the early summer of 1864.
The “V. M. I.”
meant much to the people of Virginia.
It was in this well-known school that “Stonewall” Jackson had served for ten years as a professor before the outbreak of the war. The cadets of the “V. M. I.”
had fought like veterans in a body under Breckinridge in the battle with Sigel at New Market.
Possibly it was because of the school's contributions to the Confederate cause that General Hunter ordered it to be burned.
At any rate, he seems to have acted solely on his own responsibility in the matter.
General Grant never approved of the unnecessary destruction of schools, churches, and private property.
Retaliatory movements had an important part in the operations of General Early during the remainder of the summer.
Such scenes undoubtedly spurred his footsore soldiers in their march.|
Sheridan's operations were characterized not so much, as has been supposed, by any originality of method, as by a just appreciation of the proper manner of combining the two arms of infantry and cavalry.
He constantly used his powerful body of horse, which under his disciplined hand attained a high degree of perfection, as an impenetrable mask behind which he screened the execution of maneuvers of infantry columns hurled with a mighty momentum on one of the enemy's flanks. --William Swinton, in Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac.
On July 12, 1864, in the streets of Washington
, there could be distinctly heard the boom of cannon and the sharp firing of musketry.
The excitement in the city was intense.
The old specter “threaten Washington
,” that for three years had been a standing menace to the Federal
authorities and a “very present help” to the Confederates
, now seemed to have come in the flesh.
The hopes of the South
and the fears of the North
were apparently about to be realized.
The occasion of this demonstration before the very gates of the city was the result of General Lee
's project to relieve the pressure on his own army, by an invasion of the border States and a threatening attitude toward the Union
The plan had worked well before, and Lee
believed it again would be effective.
was pushing him hard in front of Petersburg
despatched the daring soldier, General Jubal A. Early
, to carry the war again to the northward.
He was to go by the beautiful and fertile Shenandoah valley, that highway of the Confederates
along which the legions of the South
had marched and countermarched until it had become almost a beaten track.
With that celerity of movement characteristic of Confederate
The capitol at Washington in 1863
When the Capitol at Washington was threatened by the Confederate armies, it was still an unfinished structure, betraying its incompleteness to every beholder.
This picture shows the derrick on the dome.
It is a view of the east front of the building and was taken on July 11, 1863. Washington society had not been wholly free from occasional “war scares” since the withdrawal of most of the troops whose duty it had been to guard the city.
Early's approach in July, 1864, found the Nation's capital entirely unprotected.
Naturally there was a flutter throughout the peaceable groups of non-combatants that made up the population of Washington at that time, as well as in official circles.
There were less than seventy thousand people living in the city in 1864, a large proportion of whom were in some way connected with the Government.|
marches, General Early
prepared to sweep from the valley the fragmentary bodies of Union troops there collected.
Less than a week after receiving his commission, he encountered the forces of General Hunter
at Lynchburg, Virginia
There was some skirmishing, but Hunter
, who did not have enough ammunition to sustain a real battle, returned westward.
For three days Early's barefoot, half-clad soldiers followed the retreating columns of Hunter
until the latter had safely filed his men through the passes of the Blue Ridge Mountains
and into the Kanawha valley
The Shenandoah valley was now uncovered, but not as Lee
Believing that if Hunter
were defeated he would retreat down the Valley
had been instructed to follow him into Maryland
But the Federal
general had gone in the other direction, and southwestern Virginia
had thereby been placed in great danger.
The question was, how to draw Hunter
from his new position.
To pursue him further would have been a difficult task for Early
So it was decided to carry out the plans for a march into Maryland
, in the hope of luring Hunter
from his lair.
turned to the north with his seventeen thousand troops, and marching under the steady glare of a July sun, two weeks later, his approach was the signal for the Union
troops at Martinsburg
, under Sigel
, to fall back across the Potomac
to Maryland Heights
The road to Washington
was thus blocked at Harper's Ferry
, where Early
intended to cross.
He therefore was compelled to get over at Shepherdstown
, while Breckenridge
at Harper's Ferry
Once across the river, Early
's scouting parties quickly destroyed miles of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, cut the embankments and locks of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
, levied contributions upon the citizens of Hagerstown
and Frederick, and pushed their tattered ranks of gray in the direction of the Federal
On the 9th of July, the advance lines of the Confederate
force came to the banks of the Monocacy
, where they
Protecting locomotives from the Confederate raider
The United States railroad photographer, Captain A. J. Russell, labeled this picture of 1864: “Engines stored in Washington to prevent their falling into Rebel hands in case of a raid on Alexandria.”
Here they are, almost under the shadow of the Capitol dome (which had just been completed). This was one of the precautions taken by the authorities at Washington, of which the general public knew little or nothing at the time.
These photographs are only now revealing official secrets recorded fifty years ago.|
One of Washington's defenders
Heavy artillery like this was of comparatively little use in repulsing such an attack as Early might be expected to make.
Not only were these guns hard to move to points of danger, but in the summer of 1864 there were no trained artillerists to man them.
Big as they were, they gave Early no occasion for alarm.|
found General Lew Wallace
posted, with eight thousand men, half of Early
's numbers, on the eastern side of that stream, to contest the approach of the Southern
The battle was brief but bloody; the Confederates
, crossing the stream and climbing its slippery banks, hurled their lines of gray against the compact ranks of blue.
The attack was impetuous; the repulse was stubborn.
A wail of musketry rent the air and the Northern
soldiers fell back to their second position.
Between the opposing forces was a narrow ravine through which flowed a small brook.
Across this stream the tide of battle rose and fell.
Its limpid current was soon crimsoned by the blood of the dead and wounded.
's columns, as did those of Early
, bled, but they stood.
The result of the battle for a time hung in the balance.
Then the Federal
lines began to crumble.
The retreat began, some of the troops in order but the greater portion in confusion, and the victorious Confederates found again an open way to Washington
Now within half a dozen miles of the city, with the dome of the Capitol
in full view, the Southern
general pushed his lines so close to Fort Stevens
that he was ready to train his forty pieces of artillery upon its walls.
, in command of the capital's defenses, hastily collected what strength in men and guns he could.
Heavy artillery, militia, sailors from the navy yard, convalescents, Government employees of all kinds were rushed to the forts around the city.
, with two divisions of the Sixth Corps, arrived from the Camp at Petersburg
, and Emory
's division of the Nineteenth Corps came just in time from New Orleans.
This was on July 11th, the very day on which Early
appeared in front of Fort Stevens
The Confederate had determined to make an assault, but the knowledge of the arrival of Wright
caused him to change his mind.
He realized that, if unsuccessful, his whole force would be lost, and he concluded to return.
Nevertheless, he spent the 12th of July in threatening the city.
In the middle of
the afternoon General Wright
sent out General Wheaton
's brigade of Getty
's division, and Early
's pickets and skirmishers were driven back a mile.
This small engagement had many distinguished spectators.
in “The Shenandoah Valley” thus describes the scene: “On the parapet of Fort Stevens
stood the tall form of Abraham Lincoln
by the side of General Wright
, who in vain warned the eager President
that his position was swept by the bullets of sharpshooters, until an officer was shot down within three feet of him, when he reluctantly stepped below.
Sheltered from the line of fire, Cabinet officers
and a group of citizens and ladies, breathless with excitement, watched the fortunes of the fight.”
Under cover of night the Confederates
began to retrace their steps and made their way to the Shenandoah
, with General Wright
As the Confederate army was crossing that stream, at Snicker's Ferry, on the 18th, the pursuing Federals came upon them.
Early turned, repulsed them, and continued on his way to Winchester
, where General Averell
, from Hunter
's forces, now at Harper's Ferry
, attacked them with his cavalry and took several hundred prisoners, two days later.
The Union troops under Wright
returned to the defenses of Washington.
The Confederate army now became a shuttlecock in the game of war, marching and countermarching up and down, in and across, the valley of the Shenandoah
, in military maneuvers, with scarcely a day of rest.
This fruitful valley was to be the granary for its supplies.
From it, as a base of operations, Early
would make his frequent forays — a constant menace to the peace of the authorities at Washington
was sent up the Valley
after him, but at Kernstown
, near Winchester
, on July 24th, he met a disastrous defeat and made his way to the north side of the Potomac
Early, now in undisputed possession of the Valley
, followed him to Martinsburg
and sent his cavalry across the
General Jubal A. Early, the Confederate raider who threatened Washington
“My bad old man,” as General Lee playfully called him, was forty-eight years of age when he made the brilliant Valley Campaign of the summer of 1864, which was halted only by the superior forces of Sheridan.
A West Point graduate and a veteran of the Mexican War, Early became, after the death of Jackson, one of Lee's most efficient subordinates.
He was alert, aggressive, resourceful.
His very eccentricities, perhaps, made him all the more successful as a commander of troops in the field.
“Old Jube's” caustic wit and austere ways made him a terror to stragglers, and who shall say that his fluent, forcible profanity did not endear him to men who were accustomed to like roughness of speech?|
With a bold movement General McCausland
swept into Chambersburg
and demanded a ransom of war. Compliance was out of the question and the torch was applied to the town, which in a short time was reduced to ashes.
dashed in pursuit of McCausland
and forced him to recross the Potomac
The Federal authorities were looking for a “man of the hour” --one whom they might pit against the able and strategic Early
Such a one was found in General Philip Henry Sheridan
, whom some have called the “Marshal Ney
He was selected by General Grant
, and his instructions were to drive the Confederates
out of the Valley
and to make it untenable for any future military operations.
It was a magnificent setting for military genius.
The men, the armies, and the beautiful valley combined to make it one of the great strategic campaigns of the war. The Union forces comprising the Army of the Shenandoah, as it was afterward called, amounted to about twenty-seven thousand men; the Confederates
, to about twenty thousand.
There was over a month of preliminary skirmishing and fighting.
Cavalry raiders from both armies were darting hither and thither.
pushed up the Valley
and fell back again toward the Potomac
Early followed him, only to retreat in turn toward Winchester
now being pursuer.
Both generals were watching an opportunity to strike.
Both seemed anxious for battle, but both were sparring for the time and place to deliver an effective blow.
The middle of September found the Confederate forces centered about Winchester
, and the Union
army was ten miles distant, with the Opequon
At two o'clock on the morning of September 19th, the Union Camp
was in motion, preparing for marching orders.
At three o'clock the forward movement was begun, and by daylight the Federal
advance had driven in the Confederate
Emptying into the Opequon
from the west are two converging streams,
A house near Washington struck by one of Early's shells
The arrival of Grant's trained veterans in July, 1864, restored security to the capital city after a week of fright.
The fact that shells had been thrown into the outskirts of the city gave the inhabitants for the first time a realizing sense of immediate danger.
This scene is the neighborhood of Fort Stevens, on the Seventh Street road, not far from the Soldiers' Home, where President Lincoln was spending the summer.
The campaign for his reelection had begun and the outlook for his success and that of his party seemed at this moment as dubious as that for the conclusion of the war. Grant had weakened his lines about Richmond in order to protect Washington, while Lee had been able to detach Early's Corps for the brilliant Valley Campaign, which saved his Shenandoah supplies.|
forming a triangle with the Winchester and Martinsburg pike
as a base.
The town of Winchester
is situated on this road, and was therefore at the bottom of the triangle.
Before the town, the Confederate army stretched its lines between the two streams.
The Union army would have to advance from the apex of the triangle, through a narrow ravine, shut in by thickly wooded hills and gradually emerging into an undulating valley.
At the end of the gorge was a Confederate outwork, guarding the approach to Winchester
Both generals had the same plan of battle in mind.
would strike the Confederate
center and right.
Early was willing he should do this, for he planned to strike the Union
right, double it back, get between Sheridan
's army and the gorge, and thus cut off its retreat.
It took time for the Union
troops to pass through the ravine, and it was late in the forenoon before the line of battle was formed.
The attack and defense were alike obstinate.
Upon the Sixth Corps and Grover
's division of the Nineteenth Corps fell the brunt of the battle, since they were to hold the center while the Army of West Virginia, under General Crook
, would sweep around them and turn the position of the opposing forces.
The Confederate General Ramseur
, with his troops, drove back the Federal
center, held his ground for two hours, while the opposing lines were swept by musketry and artillery from the front, and enfiladed by artillery.
Many Federal prisoners were taken.
By this time, Russell
's division of the Sixth Corps emerged from the ravine.
Forming in two lines, it marched quickly to the front.
About the same time the Confederates
were also being reenforced.
plunged into the fight, making a gallant attack and losing his life.
, with his columns of gray, swept across the summit of the hills and through the murky clouds of smoke saw the steady advance of the lines of blue.
One of Russell
's brigades struck the Confederate
flank, and the Federal
line was reestablished.
The first Connecticut heavy artillery, assigned to the defense of Washington
When Early approached Washington from the north, in 1864, the crack artillery companies, like that represented in the photograph (the First Connecticut Heavy), had all left the city to its fate.
In the spring of 1862, as this picture was taken, just before the beginning of McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, Colonel Tyler was in the act of examining a despatch at the sally-port of Fort Richardson, Arlington Heights, Virginia.
During the first two years of the war the Government devoted a great part of its energies to the development of a strong line of fortifications around the capital city, on both sides of the Potomac.
Washington's nearness to the Confederate lines made such precautions necessary.
The political significance of a possible capture of the national capital by the Confederates was fully appreciated.
The retaining of large bodies of troops for the protection of Washington was a fixed policy during 1861 and 1862, as the first commander of the Army of the Potomac knew to his sorrow.
As the war wore on, the increasing need of troops for the investment of Richmond, coupled with the apparent security of the capital, led to a reversal of that policy.
Washington was practically abandoned, in a military sense, save for the retention of a few regiments of infantry, including a very small proportion of men who had seen actual fighting, and the forts were garrisoned chiefly by raw recruits.|
division moved forward to do this General Russell
fell, pierced through the heart by a piece of shell.
The Fifth Maine battery, galloping into the field, unlimbered and with an enfilading storm of canister aided in turning the tide.
Piece by piece the shattered Union line was picked up and reunited.
Early sent the last of his reserves into the conflict to turn the Union
Now ensued the fiercest fighting of the day. Regiment after regiment advanced to the wood only to be hurled back again.
Here it was that the One hundred and fourteenth New York left its dreadful toll of men. Its position after the battle could be told by the long, straight line of one hundred and eighty-five of its dead and wounded.
It was three o'clock in the afternoon; the hour of Early
's repulse had struck.
To the right of the Union
lines could be heard a mighty yell.
The Confederates seemed to redouble their fire.
The shivering lightning bolts shot through the air and the volleys of musketry increased in intensity.
Then, across the shell-plowed field, came the reserves under General Crook
Breasting the Confederate
torrent of lead, which cut down nine hundred of the reserves while crossing the open space, they rushed toward the embattled lines of the South
At the same moment, coming out of the woods in the rear of the Federals
, were seen the men of the Nineteenth Corps under General Emory
, who had for three hours been lying in the grass awaiting their opportunity.
The Confederate bullets had been falling thick in their midst with fatal certainty.
They were eager for action.
Rushing into the contest like madmen, they stopped at nothing.
From two sides of the wood the men of Emory
The Union line overlapped the Confederate
at every point and doubled around the unprotected flanks.
The day for the Southerners was irretrievably lost.
They fell back toward Winchester
As they did so, a great uproar was heard on the pike road.
It was the Federal
Where Lincoln was under fire
This is Fort Stevens (originally known as Fort Massachusetts), north of Washington, near the Soldiers' Home, where President Lincoln had his summer residence.
It was to this outpost that Early's troops advanced on July 12, 1864.
In the fighting of that day Lincoln himself stood on the ramparts, and a surgeon who stood by his side was wounded.
These works were feebly garrisoned, and General Gordon declared in his memoirs that when the Confederate troops reached Fort Stevens they found it untenanted.
This photograph was taken after the occupation of the Fort by Company F of the Third Massachusetts Artillery.|
sweeping up the road, driving the Confederate
troopers before them.
The surprised mass was pressed into its own lines.
The infantry was charged and many prisoners and battle-flags captured.
The sun was now sinking upon the horizon, and on the ascending slopes in the direction of the town could be seen the long, dark lines of men following at the heels of the routed army.
Along the crest of the embattled summit galloped a force of cavalrymen, which, falling upon the disorganized regiments of Early
, aided, in the language of Sheridan
, “to send them whirling through Winchester
The Union pursuit continued until the twilight had come and the shadows of night screened the scattered forces of Early
from the pursuing cavalrymen.
The battle of Winchester
, or the Opequon
, had been a bloody one--a loss of five thousand on the Federal
side, and about four thousand on the Confederate
By daylight of the following morning the victorious army was again in pursuit.
On the afternoon of that day, it caught up with the Confederates
, who now turned at bay at Fisher's Hill
to resist the further approach of their pursuers.
The position selected by General Early
was a strong one, and his antagonist at once recognized it as such.
The valley of the Shenandoah
at this point is about four miles wide, lying between Fisher's Hill
and Little North Mountain
. General Early
's line extended across the entire valley, and he had greatly increased his already naturally strong position.
His army seemed safe from attack.
From the summit of Three Top Mountain, his Signal Corps informed him of every movement of the Union
army in the valley below.
's actions indicated a purpose to assault the center of the Confederate
For two days he continued massing his regiments in that direction, at times even skirmishing for position.
pushed his men to within seven hundred yards of the Southern
While this was going on in full view of the Confederate
general and his army, another movement was being executed
War department officials and clerks in war-time
Non-combatants of this type formed the main reliance of the authorities against Early's veterans in July, 1864.
The forces available, prior to the arrival of the Sixth and Nineteenth Corps from Grant's army, are summarized by General Barnard thus: “The effective forces were 1,819 infantry, 1,834 artillery, and 63 cavalry north of the Potomac, and 4,064 infantry, 1,772 artillery, and 51 cavalry south thereof.
There were besides, in Washington and Alexandria, about 3,900 effectives and about 4,400 (six regiments) of Veteran Reserves.
The foregoing constitute a total of about 20,400 men. Of that number, however, but 9,600, mostly perfectly raw troops, constituted the garrison of the defenses.
Of the other troops, a considerable portion were unavailable, and the whole would form but an inefficient force for service on the lines.”
which even the vigilant signal officers on Three Top Mountain had not observed.
On the night of September 20th, the troops of General Crook
were moved into the timber on the north bank of Cedar Creek
All during the next day, they lay concealed.
That night they crossed the stream and the next morning were again hidden by the woods and ravines.
At five o'clock on the morning of the 22d, Crook
's men were nearly opposite the Confederate
Marching his men in perfect silence, by one o'clock he had arrived at the left and front of the unsuspecting Early
By four o'clock he had reached the east face of Little North Mountain
, to the left and rear of the Confederates
While the movement was being made, the main body of the Federal
army was engaging the attention of the Confederates
Just before sundown, Crook
's men plunged down the mountain side, from out of the timbered cover.
The Confederates were quick to see that they had been trapped.
They had been caught in a pocket and there was nothing for them to do except to retreat or surrender.
They preferred the former, which was, according to General Gordon
, “first stubborn and slow, then rapid, then — a rout.”
After the battle of Fisher's Hill
the pursuit still continued.
The Confederate regiments re-formed, and at times would stop and contest the approach of the advancing cavalrymen.
By the time the Union
infantry would reach the place, the retreating army would have vanished.
had been sent down Luray Valley in pursuit of the Confederate cavalry, with the hope of scattering it and seizing New Market
in time to cut off the Confederate
retreat from Fisher's Hill
But at Milford
, in a narrow gorge, General Wickham
and prevented the fulfilment of his plan; and General Early
's whole force was able to escape.
Day after day this continued until Early
had taken refuge in the Blue Ridge
in front of Brown's Gap.
Here he received reenforcements.
in the mean time had gone into Camp at Harrisonburg
, and for
A Maryland village on the line of Early's retreat
This is a winter scene in Poolesville, a typical village in this part of Maryland, overrun for the last time by Confederate armies in the summer of 1864.
Early passed through the place on his second day's march from Washington, closely pursued by General Wright's force of Federals.
After Early had made good his escape and threatened to levy heavy toll on the defenseless communities of Maryland and Pennsylvania if he were not vigorously opposed, Grant selected Sheridan for the task of clearing the Valley of Confederates and finally destroying its value as a source of supplies for Lee's army.
Sheridan waited until Early had been seriously weakened before he assaulted him; but when he struck, the blows were delivered with tremendous energy.
The battles of the Opequon, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek (the latter made memorable by Read's famous poem, “Sheridan's ride” ), drove Early back to New Market and wholly broke the Confederate power in that part of Virginia.
This photograph (loaned by Mr. George A. Brackett, of Annapolis), was taken when the Eighth Minnesota held it, in the winter of 1862.|
some time the two armies lay watching each other.
The Federals were having difficulty in holding their lines of supply.
With the Valley
practically given up by Early
was anxious to stop here.
He wrote to Grant
, “I think the best policy will be to let the burning of the crops in the Valley
be the end of the campaign, and let some of this army go somewhere else.”
He had the Petersburg
line in mind.
's consent to this plan reached him on October 5th, and the following day he started on his return march down the Shenandoah
His cavalry extended across the entire valley.
With the unsparing severity of war, his men began to make a barren waste of the region.
The October sky was overcast with clouds of smoke and sheets of flame from the burning barns and mills.
As the army of Sheridan
proceeded down the Valley
, the undaunted cavaliers of Early
came in pursuit.
His horsemen kept close to the rear of the Union
On the morning of October 9th, the cavalry leader, Rosser
, who had succeeded Wickham
, found himself confronted by General Custer
's division, at Tom's Brook
At the same time the Federal
general, Wesley Merritt
, fell upon the cavalry of Lomax
on an adjacent road.
The two Union forces were soon united and a mounted battle ensued.
The fight continued for two hours. There were charges and countercharges.
The ground being level, the maneuvering of the squadrons was easy.
The clink of the sabers rang out in the morning air. Both sides fought with tenacity.
The Confederate center held together, but its flanks gave way. The Federals charged along the whole front, with a momentum that forced the Southern
cavalrymen to flee from the field.
They left in the hands of the Federal
troopers over three hundred prisoners, all their artillery, except one piece, and nearly every wagon the Confederate cavalry had with them.
The Northern army continued its retrograde movement, and on the 10th crossed to the north side of Cedar Creek
Early's army in the mean time had taken a position at the
One of Chambersburg's quiet streets
The invasion of Pennsylvania had only a minor part in the plan of Early's campaign, which in a month's time had accomplished two important results: It had restored to Lee free access to the rich supplies which the Shenandoah Valley could furnish, and it had caused Grant to withdraw from his operations at Petersburg a strong force for the protection of Washington.
The cavalry raid in Pennsylvania was planned as retaliation for Hunter's operations in the Shenandoah.
Early succeeded in holding the “Valley of Virginia” (Shenandoah) until the concentration of Sheridan's forces compelled his retirement.
Then the “Valley” finally became eliminated as an avenue of danger to Washington. |
wooded base of Fisher's Hill
, four miles away.
The Sixth Corps started for Washington
, but the news of Early
at Fisher's Hill
led to its recall.
The Union forces occupied ground that was considered practically unassailable, especially on the left, where the deep gorge of the Shenandoah
, along whose front rose the bold Massanutten Mountain
, gave it natural protection.
The movements of the Confederate army were screened by the wooded ravines in front of Fisher's Hill
, while, from the summit of the neighboring Three Top Mountain, its officers could view, as in a panorama, the entire Union camp.
Seemingly secure, the corps of Crook
on the left of the Union
line was not well protected.
The keen-eyed Gordon
saw the weak point in the Union
Ingenious plans to break it down were quickly made.
was summoned to Washington
to consult with Secretary Stanton
He did not believe that Early
proposed an immediate attack, and started on the 15th, escorted by the cavalry, and leaving General Wright
At Front Royal
the next day word came from Wright
enclosing a message taken for the Confederate
signal-flag on Three Top Mountain.
It was from Longstreet
, advising Early
that he would join him and crush Sheridan
The latter sent the cavalry back to Wright
, and continued on to Washington
, whence he returned at once by special train, reaching Winchester
on the evening of the 18th.
Just after dark on October 18th, a part of Early
's army under the command of General John B. Gordon
, with noiseless steps, moved out from their camp, through the misty, autumn night.
The men had been stripped of their canteens, in fear that the striking of them against some object might reveal their movements.
Orders were given in low whispers.
Their path followed along the base of the mountain — a dim and narrow trail, upon which but one man might pass at a time.
For seven miles this sinuous line made its way through the dark
Chambersburg — a landmark in Early's invasion of the North
After withdrawing from Washington, in July, 1864, Early sent a cavalry expedition under General McCausland to invade Pennsylvania.
Chambersburg, in the Cumberland Valley, which was burned by McCausland's orders, marked the limit of the northward advance in this remarkable campaign.
Early's force of ten thousand men had been detached from Lee's army of defense around Richmond on June 12th, had driven Hunter out of the Shenandoah, and (after marching the length of that valley) had crossed the Potomac, forced back Lew Wallace with his six thousand Federals at the Monocacy, and camped within sight of the capitol's dome at Washington.
Much of this marching had been at the rate of twenty miles a day, and at one time half of the command had been shoeless.
The dash and endurance of the troops shone as bright as the leadership displayed by Early. |
gorge, crossing the Shenandoah
, and at times passing within four hundred yards of the Union
It arrived at the appointed place, opposite Crook
's Camp on the Federal
right, an hour before the attack was to be made.
In the shivering air of the early morning, the men crouched on the river bank, waiting for the coming of the order to move forward.
At last, at five o'clock, it came.
They plunged into the frosty water of the river, emerged on the other side, marched in “double quick,” and were soon sounding a reveille to the sleeping troops of Sheridan
The minie balls whizzed and sang through the tents.
In the gray mists of the dawn the legions of the South
looked like phantom warriors, as they poured through the unmanned gaps.
The Northerners sprang to arms.
There was a bloody struggle in the trenches.
Their eyes saw the flames from the Southern
muskets; the men felt the breath of the hot muzzles in their faces, while the Confederate
bayonets were at their breasts.
There was a brief struggle, then panic and disorganization.
Only a quarter of an hour of this yelling and struggling, and two-thirds of the Union
army broke like a mill-dam and poured across the fields, leaving their accouterments of war and the stiffening bodies of their comrades.
, with the cavalry, attacked Custer
and assisted Gordon
Meanwhile, during these same early morning hours, General Early
had himself advanced to Cedar Creek
by a more direct route.
At half-past 3 o'clock his men had come in sight of the Union
They waited under cover for the approach of day. At the first blush of dawn and before the charge of Gordon
hurled his men across the stream, swept over the breastworks, captured the batteries and turned them upon the unsuspecting Northerners.
The Federal generals tried to stem the impending disaster.
From the east of the battlefield the solid lines of Gordon
were now driving the fugitives of Crook
's corps by the mere force of momentum.
Aides were darting hither and thither, trying to reassemble the
General Philip H. Sheridan in the Shenandoah campaign
Two generations of schoolboys in the Northern States have learned the lines beginning, “Up from the south at break of day.”
This picture represents Sheridan in 1864, wearing the same hat that he waved to rally his soldiers on that famous ride from “Winchester, twenty miles away.”
As he reined up his panting horse on the turnpike at Cedar Creek, he received salutes from two future Presidents of the United States.
The position on the left of the road was held by Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, who had succeeded, after the rout of the Eighth Corps in the darkness of the early morning, in rallying some fighting groups of his own brigade; while on the right stood Major William McKinley, gallantly commanding the remnant of his fighting regiment — the Twenty-sixth Ohio. |
The Nineteenth Corps, under Emory
, tried to hold its ground; for a time it fought alone, but after a desperate effort to hold its own, it, too, melted away under the scorching fire.
The fields to the rear of the army were covered with wagons, ambulances, stragglers, and fleeing soldiers.
The Sixth Corps now came to the rescue.
As it slowly fell to the rear it would, at times, turn to fight.
At last it found a place where it again stood at bay. The men hastily gathered rails and constructed rude field-works.
At the same time the Confederates
paused in their advance.
The rattle of musketry ceased.
There was scarcely any firing except for the occasional roar of a long-range artillery gun. The Southerners seemed willing to rest on their well-earned laurels of the morning.
In the language of the successful commander, it was “glory enough for one day.”
But the brilliant morning victory was about to be changed to a singular afternoon defeat.
During the morning's fight, when the Union
troops were being rapidly overwhelmed with panic, Rienzi
, the beautiful jet-black war-charger, was bearing his master, the commander of the Federal
army, to the field of disaster.
Along the broad valley highway that leads from Winchester
, General Sheridan
had galloped to where his embattled lines had been reduced to a flying mob. While riding leisurely away from Winchester
about nine o'clock he had heard unmistakable thunder-peals of artillery.
Realizing that a battle was on in the front, he hastened forward, soon to be met, as he crossed Mill Creek
, by the trains and men of his routed army, coming to the rear with appalling rapidity.
News from the field told him of the crushing defeat of his hitherto invincible regiments.
The road was blocked by the retreating crowds as they pressed toward the rear.
The commander was forced to take to the fields, and as his steed, flecked with foam, bore him onward, the disheartened refugees greeted him with cheers.
Taking off his hat as he rode, he cried, “We will go back and recover our camps.”
Sheridan's cavalry in the Shenandoah--General Torbert and his staff
Sheridan appointed General Alfred T. A. Torbert Chief of Cavalry of the Army of the Shenandoah in August, 1864. General Torbert had been a regular army officer and was now a major-general of volunteers.
This photograph was taken in 1864, on the vinecovered veranda of a Virginia mansion occupied as headquarters.
In all the operations in the Valley during September and October, Sheridan made such good use of the cavalry that this branch of the service leaped into prominence, and received a goodly share of the praise for eliminating the Valley of Virginia from the field of war. |
seemed to inspire the demoralized soldiers.
Stragglers fell into line behind him; men turned to follow their magnetic leader back to the fight.
Vaulting his horse over the low barricade of rails, he dashed to the crest of the field.
There was a flutter along the battle-line.
The men from behind their protecting wall broke into thunderous cheers.
From the rear of the soldiers there suddenly arose, as from the earth, a line of the regimental flags, which waved recognition to their leader.
The straggling lines re-formed.
Early made another assault after one o'clock, but was easily repulsed.
It was nearly four o'clock when the order for the Federal
advance was given.
, hat in hand, rode in front of his infantry line that his men might see him. The Confederate forces now occupied a series of wooded crests.
From out of the shadow of one of these timbered coverts, a column of gray was emerging.
The Union lines stood waiting for the impending crash.
It came in a devouring succession of volleys that reverberated into a deep and sullen roar.
The Union infantry rose as one man and passed in among the trees.
Not a shot was heard.
Then, suddenly, there came a screaming, humming rush of shell, a roar of musketry mingling with the yells of a successful charge.
Again the firing ceased, except for occasional outbursts.
The Confederates had taken a new position and reopened with a galling fire.
dashed along the front of his lines in personal charge of the attack.
Again his men moved toward the lines of Early
's fast thinning ranks.
It was the final charge.
The Union cavalry swept in behind the fleeing troops of Early
and sent, again, his veteran army “whirling up the Valley
The battle of Cedar Creek
was ended; the tumult died away.
The Federal loss had been about fifty-seven hundred; the Confederate
over three thousand. Fourteen hundred Union prisoners were sent to Richmond
Never again would the gaunt specter of war hover over Washington