Army of West Virginia

The Army of West Virginia served in the Union Army during the American Civil War and was the primary field army of the Department of West Virginia. It campaigned primarily in West Virginia, Southwest Virginia and in the Shenandoah Valley. It is noted for having two future U.S. presidents serve in its ranks: Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley, both from the 23rd Ohio Infantry.

Army of West Virginia
ActiveAugust 9, 1864 – December 19, 1864
Country United States of America
BranchSeal of the United States Board of War and Ordnance.svg United States Army
TypeField Army
EngagementsAmerican Civil War
Brig. Gen. George Crook


Brigadier General George Crook was appointed to command the Department of West Virginia on July 25, 1864. Crook did not immediately assume this command and in the meantime was in command of the Army of the Kanawha. When Crook assumed command on August 9, 1864, the army in the field was given the title "Army of West Virginia". The army consisted of three divisions and for all practical purposes functioned as a corps in Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan's Army of the Shenandoah. Often this command has been referred to as the VIII Corps.[1] It should not be confused with the official Union Army VIII Corps, which was commanded by Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace and on guard duty along the B & O Railroad during this time. Crook led the army through the Shenandoah Valley Campaign and fought in all the major engagements.

The 1st Division was led by Col. Joseph Thoburn until he was killed in action at Cedar Creek. He was succeeded by Col. Thomas M. Harris. The 2nd "Kanawha" Division was led by Col. Isaac H. Duval until he was wounded at Third Winchester. Command of the division passed to Col. Rutherford B. Hayes who led the division at Cedar Creek. A Provisional Division led by Colonel J. Howard Kitching joined just prior to the battle of Cedar Creek. Exact composition of the Provisional Division is unknown other than approximately 1,000 soldiers including the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.[2] Kitching was severely wounded at Cedar Creek and died the following year as a result. His place was taken by Col. Wilhelm Heine.

On December 19, 1864, with the fighting in the Valley over, the official designation as "Army of West Virginia" was discontinued but Crook retained command of the Department of West Virginia. Hayes' division remained in the Department of West Virginia while Thoburn's (Harris') and Kitching's (Heine's) divisions were transferred to the Army of the James.


Major battles


  1. ^ Eicher does not confirm that the Army of West Virginia was synonymous with the VIII Corps in his book Civil War High Commands.
  2. ^ Cedar Creek Battlefield
1st Ohio Battery

1st Ohio Independent Battery was an artillery battery that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Army of Georgia

The Army of Georgia was a Union army that constituted the Left Wing of Major General William T. Sherman's Army Group during the March to the Sea and the Carolinas Campaign.

Battle of Berryville

The Battle of Berryville was fought September 3 and September 4, 1864, in Clarke County, Virginia. It took place toward the end of the American Civil War.

After taking control of Smithfield Summit on August 29, Union Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan marched to Berryville with his 50,000 man Army of the Shenandoah. At the same time Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early sent Maj. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw's division east from Winchester to Berryville. At about 5:00 p.m., Kershaw attacked Colonel Joseph Thoburn's division of the Army of West Virginia, while they were preparing to go into camp. Kershaw routed Thoburn's left flank before the rest of the corps came to the rescue. Darkness ended the fighting, with both sides bringing in heavy reinforcements. The next morning, Early, seeing the strength of the Union's entrenched line, retreated behind Opequon Creek.

Battle of Cedar Creek

The Battle of Cedar Creek, or Battle of Belle Grove, fought October 19, 1864, was the culminating battle of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 during the American Civil War. Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early launched a surprise attack against the encamped army of Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, across Cedar Creek, northeast of Strasburg, Virginia. During the morning fighting, seven Union infantry divisions were forced to fall back and lost numerous prisoners and cannons. Early failed to continue his attack north of Middletown, and Sheridan, dramatically riding to the battlefield from Winchester, was able to rally his troops to hold a new defensive line. A Union counterattack that afternoon routed Early's army.

At the conclusion of this battle, the final Confederate invasion of the North was effectively ended. The Confederacy was never again able to threaten Washington, D.C. through the Shenandoah Valley, nor protect one of its key economic bases in Virginia. The stunning Union victory aided the reelection of Abraham Lincoln and won Sheridan lasting fame.

Battle of Lynchburg

The Battle of Lynchburg was fought on June 17–18, 1864, two miles outside Lynchburg, Virginia, as part of the American Civil War. The Union Army of West Virginia, under Maj. Gen. David Hunter, attempted to capture the city but was repulsed by Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Anderson Early.

Cedar Creek Union order of battle

The following Union Army units and commanders fought in the Battle of Cedar Creek of the American Civil War. Order of battle compiled from the army organization during the campaign. The Confederate order of battle is listed separately.

Department of the Ohio

The Department of the Ohio was an administrative military district created by the United States War Department early in the American Civil War to administer the troops in the Northern states near the Ohio River.

George Crook

George R. Crook (September 8, 1830 – March 21, 1890) was a career United States Army officer, most noted for his distinguished service during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. During the 1880s, the Apache nicknamed Crook Nantan Lupan, which means "Chief Wolf."

Kanawha Division

The Kanawha Division was a Union Army division which could trace its origins back to a brigade originally commanded by Jacob D. Cox. This division served in western Virginia and Maryland and was at times led by such famous personalities as George Crook and Rutherford B. Hayes.

Kernstown II Union order of battle

The following Union Army units and commanders fought in the Second Battle of Kernstown of the American Civil War, on July 24, 1864 in Kernstown, now part of the City of Winchester, Virginia. The Confederate order of battle is shown separately.

Opequon Union Order of Battle

The following Union Army units and commanders fought in the Battle of Opequon of the American Civil War. The Confederate order of battle is listed separately.

Second Battle of Kernstown

The Second Battle of Kernstown was fought on July 24, 1864, at Kernstown, Virginia, outside Winchester, Virginia, as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 in the American Civil War. The Confederate Army of the Valley under Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early soundly defeated the Union Army of West Virginia under Brig. Gen. George Crook and drove it from the Shenandoah Valley back over the Potomac River into Maryland. As a result, Early was able to launch the Confederacy's last major raid into northern territory, attacking the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Maryland and West Virginia and burning Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in retaliation for the burning of civilian houses and farms earlier in the campaign.

Thayer Melvin

Thayer Melvin (November 15, 1835 – November 9, 1906) was an American lawyer, politician, and judge in the U.S. state of West Virginia. Melvin served as the fourth Attorney General of West Virginia from January 1, 1867, until July 1, 1869, and twice served as the presiding circuit judge of West Virginia's First Judicial District in the state's Northern Panhandle (1869–1881 and 1899–1906).

Melvin was born in 1835 in present-day New Manchester, West Virginia. He was educated in local common schools and began studying law at the age of 17. In 1853, at the age of 18, Melvin became a member of the Hancock County bar. By the age of 20 he was elected as the Hancock County Commonwealth's attorney, a post to which he was twice reelected in 1856 and 1860.

In May 1861, Melvin served as a delegate to the First Wheeling Convention. At the start of the American Civil War, Melvin enlisted as a private in Company F of the 1st West Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army. In August of that year, he organized a company of men in Hancock County. Melvin was later commissioned as Adjutant general of Volunteers on the staff of Brigadier General Benjamin Franklin Kelley in the Department of West Virginia. On February 21, 1865, Melvin was captured in Cumberland, Maryland, along with General Kelley and Major General George Crook, by the Confederate partisans, McNeill's Rangers. Melvin, Kelley, and Crook were taken to Richmond where they were exchanged for Confederate general Isaac R. Trimble.

In 1865, Melvin was elected prosecuting attorney of Hardy County and was elected as the prosecuting attorney for Hancock County the following year. He was elected West Virginia's Attorney General in 1866 and served in the post until 1869 when he was appointed to the circuit judgeship of West Virginia's First Judicial District. Melvin was twice reelected to his circuit judge position, resigning in 1881 to practice law in Wheeling. In 1899, Melvin was reappointed to his First Judicial District circuit judge seat and served on the bench until his death from a stroke in 1906.

Third Battle of Winchester

The Third Battle of Winchester (or Battle of Opequon), was fought just outside Winchester, Virginia, on September 19, 1864, during the Valley Campaigns of 1864 in the American Civil War.

After the victory at Battle of Berryville as the month began, Union Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan sought information about the troop strength of Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early. Earlier in the year, his subordinate Union Gen. George Crook had met Rebecca Wright, a Quaker schoolteacher and Union sympathizer in Winchester, a commercial center and transportation hub at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley with many Confederate sympathizers and which changed hands 75 times during the war. Slave Thomas Laws of Millwood (between Berryville and Winchester) had a Confederate permit to sell produce in Winchester three days per week, and agreed to act as a Union spy. On September 16, Laws took Sheridan's letter (hidden in his mouth) to Wright, who consulted her mother and then replied (in a note which Laws also hid in his mouth) that a Confederate officer recovering from his wounds had recently bragged about Confederate artillery and infantry battalions under General Joseph B. Kershaw and Lt.Col. Wilfred E. Cutshaw had left Winchester to raid the B&O Railroad at Martinsburg, in the new state of West Virginia.Accordingly, Sheridan advanced toward Winchester along the Berryville Pike with the VI Corps and XIX Corps, crossing Opequon Creek. The Union advance was delayed long enough for Early to concentrate his forces to meet the main assault, which continued for several hours. Casualties were very heavy. The Confederate line was gradually driven back toward the town. Mid-afternoon, the Army of West Virginia and the cavalry turned the Confederate left flank. Early ordered a general retreat. Because of its size, intensity, serious casualties on both sides (particularly among the general officers) and its result (Confederates never again controlling Winchester and President Abraham Lincoln winning re-election), many historians consider this the most important conflict of the Shenandoah Valley. Sheridan would later give much of the credit for the victory to "the brave Quaker girl", whose intelligence he thought worth a brigade of troops.

Union Army of the Shenandoah

The Army of the Shenandoah was a Union army during the American Civil War. First organized as the Department of the Shenandoah in 1861 and then disbanded in early 1862, it became most effective after its recreation on August 1, 1864, under Philip Sheridan. Its Valley Campaigns of 1864 rendered the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia unable to produce foodstuffs for the Confederate States Army, a condition which would speed the end of the Civil War.

VIII Corps (Union Army)

The VIII Corps was a corps of the Union Army during the American Civil War.

VII Corps (Union Army)

Two corps of the Union Army were called VII Corps during the American Civil War.

XXV Corps (Union Army)

XXV Corps was a corps of the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was unique in that it was made up almost entirely of African-American troops. These soldiers had previously belonged to the X Corps and XVIII Corps.

X Corps (Union Army)

X Corps was a corps of the Union Army during the American Civil War. It served during operations in South Carolina in the Department of the South, and later in Benjamin Butler's Army of the James, during the Bermuda Hundred and Petersburg Campaigns.

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