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.
On July 19, following a series of unsuccessful Union attacks on his flanks, General Early decided to withdraw from his precarious position at Berryville to a more secure position near Strasburg. During the evacuation of the military hospitals and storage depots at Winchester, Union forces under Brig. Gen. William W. Averell won a rare victory over Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Stephen D. Ramseur at the Battle of Rutherford's Farm. The poor Confederate performance at the battle, as well as a series of small cavalry engagements south of Winchester the following day led Union commanders George Crook and Horatio G. Wright to conclude the Confederates were merely fighting a rearguard action and that Early was leaving the Valley and heading for Richmond to reinforce the Army of Northern Virginia.
With the threat to Washington, D.C., seemingly over, Wright withdrew the VI Corps and XIX Corps from the valley to return to the aid of Ulysses S. Grant's siege of Petersburg, Virginia, on July 20, leaving only the three-division strong Army of West Virginia in the Valley. The following two days were relatively quiet with both armies resting in their camps some 15 miles (24 km) from each other. On July 23, Confederate cavalry attacked the Union advanced picket line at Kernstown, leading to a sharp cavalry skirmish. From prisoners caught in the skirmish Early learned of Wright's departure. In order to continue to be of service to Lee in the Valley, Early realized he had to attack the diminished force in front of him to ensure that Grant's force at Petersburg would not be reinforced.
On the morning of July 24, Early marched his army north against Crook. Confederate cavalry encountered its Union counterpart south of Kernstown in the morning and heavy skirmishing broke out. Couriers alerted Crook to the attack. Crook still believed Early's infantry had left the Valley and sent only two of his division with cavalry support to meet the attack. In the early afternoon the infantry of both armies had arrived on the field. The Confederate position extended well to each side of the Valley pike south of Kernstown, anchored on each flank on high ground and screened by cavalry. Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon's division formed the Confederate center along the Valley Turnpike. Ramseur's division formed on his left with its flank resting on Sandy Ridge to the west of Kernstown, screened by Col. William "Mudwall" Jackson's cavalry. Brig. Gen. Gabriel C. Wharton's division, led by Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, formed the Confederate right, with its flank screened by Brig. Gen. John C. Vaughn's cavalry. Early initially concealed his infantry in a woods, sending out his cavalry and skirmish line of sharpshooters to draw the Federals into battle, thus playing into Crook's misconception that the Confederate infantry had left the Valley.
The Union infantry position remained clustered around the Valley Pike in Kernstown anchored by Col. James A. Mulligan's division on Pritchard's Hill, one of the keys to the Union success at the First Battle of Kernstown in 1862. To his right, Col. Joseph Thoburn's division formed on Sandy Ridge. To his left, future president Rutherford B. Hayes's brigade formed east of the Valley turnpike. Crook dispatched cavalry under Averell to ride around the Confederate right flank and get in its rear. As the two armies skirmishers encountered one another the battle got under way. It soon became apparent to the Federal divisional commanders that they were facing a superior Confederate force which they were hesitant to attack and relayed the information to Crook.
Crook quickly became impatient by his divisional commanders hesitance to attack the Confederate position, and distrusted their report of the Confederate strength. He ordered Mulligan to attack the Confederates with Thorburn's division in support. At 1 p.m. the Union infantry reluctantly moved out, abandoning Pritchard's Hill. Mulligan's division bitterly held its ground at Opequon Church where its advance was halted by Gordon's men. As Hayes's brigade advanced in support, Breckinridge marched Wharton's division to the northeast into a deep ravine that ran perpendicular to the Valley Turnpike. He turned the division into the ravine, which screened his movement from the Federals on the turnpike. As Hayes came up the road past the ravine, Breckinridge ordered a charge and the Confederates assaulted Hayes's exposed flank and sent his division reeling in retreat, taking many casualties.
Thoburn was supposed to support Mulligan's right flank in the attack, but because of the topography of the battlefield, he became separated from Mulligan and saw little action during the battle. Gordon's Confederates exploited the gap in the Union line to get on Mulligan's right and when Hayes's division broke, Mulligan found himself caught between two Confederate divisions. Mulligan immediately ordered a withdrawal, and was mortally wounded as he tried to rally his troops and prevent a full rout during the retreat. The Confederate infantry pressed the fleeing Federals all the way back through Winchester and the cavalry kept at their heels well into West Virginia.
Averell's cavalry had attempted to flank the Confederates as ordered but ran headlong into Vaughn's cavalry on the Front Royal Pike. The shock of the unexpected Confederate cavalry attack sent the Federal cavalry racing towards Martinsburg. When the fleeing cavalry encountered the retreating wagon and artillery trains north of Winchester it incited a panic among the Federal teamsters, causing many to abandon their charges as they got caught up in retreat. Many of the wagons had to be burned to prevent them from falling into Confederate hands. As night fell the Confederate cavalry swept the countryside looking for Federals who had become lost from their units in retreat. Most of the Federals spent the night out in the rain, scattered across countryside, trying to evade capture.
The victory marked the high-water point for the Confederacy in the Valley in 1864. Crook's broken army retreated to the Potomac River and crossed near Williamsport, Maryland, on July 26. With the Shenandoah Valley clear of Union forces, Early launched a raid into northern territory, the last made by a substantial Confederate force during the war, burning Chambersburg, Pennsylvania as retribution for David Hunter's burning of civilian houses and farms earlier in the campaign. (Hunter had also burned the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, but Early's orders to his cavalry under John McCausland did not mention this as a justification.) They also attacked Union garrisons protecting the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad near Cumberland, Maryland. As a result of this defeat and McCausland's burning of Chambersburg on July 30, Grant returned the VI and XIX Corps to the Valley and appointed Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan as commander of Union forces there, turning the tide once and for all against the Confederates in the Valley.
The 123rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (or 123rd OVI) was an infantry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War.13th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment
The 13th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.14th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment
The 14th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.170th Ohio Infantry
The 170th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (or 170th OVI) was an infantry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War.18th Connecticut Infantry Regiment
The 18th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.1st Ohio Battery
1st Ohio Independent Battery was an artillery battery that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.1st West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry Regiment
The 1st West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry Regiment served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Although it started slowly, it became one of the most active, and most effective, of the West Virginia Civil War regiments—and had 14 Medal of Honor recipients. The regiment was originally called 1st Virginia Cavalry, but it should not be confused with the Confederate version also called 1st Virginia Cavalry. Some reports added "Union", "Loyal", or "(West)" when identifying this Union version of the Virginia cavalry. After the loyal-to-the-union state of West Virginia was created in 1863, the regiment could be differentiated from the Confederate version by calling it the 1st West Virginia Cavalry. The National Park Service identifies it as the 1st Regiment, West Virginia Cavalry.
The regiment was organized in northwestern Virginia (now West Virginia) during 1861, and consisted of 13 companies plus an additional company that was attached for most of the war. Members included men from this region plus additional men from western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. The regiment was often split during the first two years of the war, with detachments spending time guarding the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and hunting bushwhackers. During July 1863, ten companies of the regiment fought at the Battle of Gettysburg as part of a division.
The regiment began fighting in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley during the second half of 1864. At the beginning of 1865, it became part of the 3rd Brigade in General George Armstrong Custer's Third Division, Cavalry Corps—which, along with another division was under the command of General Philip Sheridan. Sheridan's two cavalry divisions were responsible for eliminating Confederate General Jubal Early's Army of the Valley from the war, and also played an important part in the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. After the war, the 1st West Virginia Cavalry participated in the Grand Review of the Armies, and was mustered out on July 8, 1865.5th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment
The 5th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.8th Ohio Cavalry
The 8th Regiment, Ohio Cavalry was a regiment of cavalry raised by the state of Ohio for service during the American Civil War. It served in the Eastern Theater, primarily in West Virginia and then in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia.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 the Valley
The Army of the Valley (officially the Army of the Valley District) was the name given to the army of Lt. Gen. Jubal Early's independent command during the Shenandoah Valley Campaigns in the summer and autumn of 1864. The Army of the Valley was the last Confederate unit to invade Northern territory, reaching the outskirts of Washington, D.C.. The Army became defunct after its decisive defeat at the Battle of Waynesboro, Virginia, on March 2, 1865.Battery "C" West Virginia Light Artillery
The Battery "C" West Virginia Light Artillery was an artillery battery that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.Battle of Kernstown
The Battle of Kernstown may refer to one of two battles during the American Civil War, both fought in the general vicinity of Kernstown, Virginia:
First Battle of Kernstown in 1862
Kernstown I Confederate order of battle
Kernstown I Union order of battle
Second Battle of Kernstown in 1864
Kernstown II Confederate order of battle
Kernstown II Union order of battleGeorge 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."James A. Mulligan
James Adelbert Mulligan (June 30, 1830 – July 26, 1864) was colonel of the 23rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. On February 20, 1865, the United States Senate confirmed the posthumous appointment of Mulligan to the rank of brevet brigadier general of U.S. Volunteers to rank from July 23, 1864, the day before he was mortally wounded at the Second Battle of Kernstown, near Winchester, Virginia. He commanded the Federal forces at the First Battle of Lexington, and later distinguished himself in other engagements in the Eastern theater prior to his death in battle.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 Confederate order of battle
The following Confederate States Army units and commanders fought in the American Civil War's Second Battle of Kernstown on July 24, 1864 in Kernstown, now part of the Virginia city of Winchester. The Union order of battle is shown separately.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.Thomas Anderson (Medal of Honor)
Thomas A. Anderson (July 12, 1841 – September 8, 1912) was a United States soldier and native of Pennsylvania who fought with the Union Army as a corporal in Company I of the 1st West Virginia Cavalry during the American Civil War. He was awarded his nation's highest award for valor, the U.S. Medal of Honor, for capturing the flag of a Confederate regiment during the Battle of Appomattox Station on April 8, 1865. The award was conferred on May 3 of that same year.