The Valley Campaigns of 1864 were American Civil War operations and battles that took place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from May to October 1864. While some military historians divide this period into three separate campaigns, they interacted in several ways, so this article considers all three together.
As 1864 began, Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to lieutenant General and given command of all Union armies. He chose to make his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac, although Maj. Gen. George G. Meade remained the actual commander of that army. He left Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in command of most of the western armies. Grant understood the concept of total war and believed, as did Sherman and President Abraham Lincoln, that only the utter defeat of Confederate forces and their economic base would bring the war to an end. Therefore, scorched earth tactics would be required in some important theaters. Grant devised a coordinated strategy that would strike at the heart of the Confederacy from multiple directions: he would join with Meade and Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler to fight against Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia near Richmond; Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel would invade the Shenandoah Valley and destroy Lee's supply lines; Maj. Gen. Sherman would attack Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee, invade Georgia and capture Atlanta; and finally Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks was assigned to capture Mobile, Alabama.
The first campaign started with Grant's planned invasion of the Shenandoah Valley from the Department of West Virginia, which Gen. Sigel commanded. West Virginia remained loyal and had been admitted to the Union, despite the Confederate Jones-Imboden Raid the previous summer. Grant ordered Sigel to move "up the Valley" (i.e., southwest to the higher elevations) with 10,000 men to destroy the Confederate railroad, hospital and supply center at Lynchburg, Virginia.
Sigel was intercepted by 4,000 troops and cadets from the Virginia Military Institute under Confederate Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge and defeated. His forces retreated to Strasburg, Virginia. Maj. Gen. David Hunter replaced Sigel, and as discussed below would again strike southward, eventually burning VMI in retaliation for the Jones-Imboden Raid as well as subsequent actions of VMI cadets.
On June 11 Hunter, who had continued to strike southward, fought at Lexington against John McCausland's Confederate cavalry, which retreated to the mountains and Buchanan. Hunter ordered Col. Alfred N. Duffié's cavalry division to join him in Lexington. While awaiting their arrival, Union forces burned former Governor John Letcher's home, as well as shelled and burned the Virginia Military Institute. They seized the statue of George Washington, and nearly destroyed the campus (VMI moved classes to the Richmond Alms House).
Joined by Duffié on June 13, Hunter sent Averell to drive McCausland out of Buchanan and capture the James River bridge. However, McCausland burned the bridge and fled. Hunter joined Averell in Buchanan on June 14 and on June 15 advanced via the road between the Peaks of Otter to occupy Liberty that evening. Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge sent Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden and his cavalry to join McCausland. Breckinridge arrived in Lynchburg the next day. Maj. Gen. Daniel Harvey Hill and Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays constructed a defense line in the hills just southwest of the city. When McCausland fell back, Averell's cavalry pursued, engaging in the afternoon Skirmish at New London Academy. Union forces launched another attack on McCausland and Imboden that evening, and the Confederates retreated from New London.
Gen. Jubal A. Early and his troops arrived in Lynchburg on June 17 at 1 p.m. Although Hunter had planned to destroy railroads and hospitals in Lynchburg, as well as the James River Canal, when Early's initial units arrived, Hunter thought his forces outnumbered. Hunter, short on supplies, retreated back through West Virginia.
Robert E. Lee was concerned about Hunter's advances in the Valley, which threatened critical railroad lines and provisions for the Virginia-based Confederate forces. He sent Jubal Early's corps to sweep Union forces from the Valley and, if possible, to menace Washington, D.C., hoping to compel Grant to dilute his forces against Lee around Petersburg, Virginia. Early was operating in the same area that Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson had in his successful 1862 Valley Campaign. Early got off to a good start. He drove down the Valley without opposition, bypassed Harpers Ferry, crossed the Potomac River, and advanced into Maryland. Grant dispatched a corps under Horatio G. Wright and other troops under George Crook to reinforce Washington and pursue Early.
Early attacked a fort on the northwest defensive perimeter of Washington without success and withdrew back to Virginia.
Union cavalry attacked Early's supply trains at Purcellville as the Confederates withdrew across the Loudoun Valley towards the Blue Ridge Mountains. Several small cavalry skirmishes occurred throughout the day as the Federals attempted to harass Early's column.
Also known as Snicker's Ferry. Early attacked and repulsed pursuing Union forces under Wright.
Wright withdrew, thinking Early was no longer a threat. Early attacked him to prevent or delay his return to Grant's forces besieging Petersburg. Union troops were routed, streaming through the streets of Winchester. Early pursued and burned Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, along the way in retaliation for Hunter's previous destruction in the Valley.
Also known as the Battle of Oldfields. Confederate cavalry returning from the Chambersburg burning were surprised in the early morning and defeated by Union cavalry.
Grant finally lost patience with Hunter, particularly his allowing Early to burn Chambersburg, and knew that Washington remained vulnerable if Early was still on the loose. He found a new commander aggressive enough to defeat Early: Philip Sheridan, the cavalry commander of the Army of the Potomac, who was given command of all forces in the area, calling them the Army of the Shenandoah. Sheridan initially started slowly, primarily because the impending presidential election of 1864 demanded a cautious approach, avoiding any disaster that might lead to the defeat of Abraham Lincoln.
Also known as Front Royal or Cedarville. Confederate forces under Richard H. Anderson were sent from Petersburg to reinforce Early. Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt's Union cavalry division surprised the Confederate columns while they were crossing the Shenandoah River, capturing about 300. The Confederates rallied and advanced, gradually pushing back Merritt's men to Cedarville. The battle was inconclusive.
Two Confederate divisions crossed Opequon Creek and forced a Union cavalry division back to Charles Town.
A minor engagement in which Early attempted to stop Sheridan's march up the Valley. Early withdrew back to Opequon Creek when he realized he was in a poor position for attacking Sheridan's full force.
Also known as the Battle of Opequon. After learning from Quaker Unionist Rebecca Wright that Early had dispersed his forces to raid the B&O Railroad and had removed infantry and artillery from nearby Winchester, Virginia (an important town and transportation center that changed hands 75 times in the war), Sheridan attacked Early's camp at Opequon Creek just outside the town. Sustaining ruinous casualties, Early retreated from the largest battle in all three of the campaigns, taking up defensive positions at Fisher's Hill.
With Early damaged and pinned down, the Valley lay open to the Union. And because of Sherman's capture of Atlanta, Lincoln's re-election now seemed assured. Sheridan pulled back slowly down the Valley and conducted a scorched earth campaign that would presage Sherman's March to the Sea in November. The goal was to deny the Confederacy the means of feeding its armies in Virginia, and Sheridan's army did so ruthlessly, burning crops, barns, mills, and factories.
As Early began a pursuit of Sheridan, Union cavalry routed two divisions of Confederate cavalry.
In a surprise attack, Early smashed two thirds of the Union army, but his troops were hungry and exhausted and fell out of their ranks to pillage the Union camp; Sheridan, in a ride from Winchester, managed to rally his troops and utterly rout Early's men, and the Confederates lost everything they had gained in the morning. This victory helped Lincoln get reelected.
After his missions of neutralizing Early and suppressing the Valley's military-related economy, Sheridan returned to assist Grant at Petersburg. Most of the men of Early's corps rejoined Lee at Petersburg in December, while Early remained to command a skeleton force. His final action was defeat at the Battle of Waynesboro on March 2, 1865, after which Lee removed him from his command because the Confederate government and people had lost confidence in him.
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 Cool Spring
The Battle of Cool Spring, also known as Castleman's Ferry, Island Ford, Parker's Ford, and Snicker's Ferry, was a battle in the American Civil War fought July 17–18, 1864, in Clarke County, Virginia, as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864. The battle was a Confederate victory.Battle of Fisher's Hill
The Battle of Fisher's Hill was fought September 21–22, 1864, near Strasburg, Virginia, as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 during the American Civil War. Despite its strong defensive position, the Confederate army of Lt. Gen. Jubal Early was defeated by the Union Army of the Shenandoah, commanded by Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan.Battle of Folck's Mill
The Battle of Folck's Mill, also known as the Battle of Cumberland, was a small cavalry engagement, fought August 1, 1864, in northern Maryland, as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 during the American Civil War.
After burning Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, on July 30, cavalry under Confederate generals John McCausland and Bradley T. Johnson set out for western Maryland towards Cumberland, to disrupt traffic on the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad and to demand a ransom from the town or torch it as well. At 3 p.m. on August 1, the Confederates arrived at Folck's Mill, east of Cumberland. There, Union Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Kelley, with three regiments of untested "100-days" troops and six pieces of artillery, met the Confederate advance. As the Confederates arrived at the outskirts of town, Kelley's artillery fired on the cavalry. Lacking familiarity with the local terrain and the strength of the opposing force, McCausland decided against an assault and brought up his own artillery. The gunners from both armies dueled until about 8 p.m., at which point McCausland withdrew, heading southeast to Old Town on the Potomac River.
The following day the Confederates prepared to cross the Potomac and head into West Virginia but found the bridges over the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal had been burned by Col. Israel Stough and his regiment of 100-days troops. Stough deployed his force on the spit of land between the canal and river to contest the Confederate advance toward the river. After initially repulsing a charge by the Confederate cavalry, Stough was forced to retreat across the Potomac when the 21st Virginia successfully constructed a bridge and crossed the canal on his left flank. On the south bank of the river the Federals took cover in a blockhouse on the B&O Railroad and in an armored ordnance train operated by the Potomac Home Brigade that was stopped on the line. McCausland briefly considered an all out charge on the blockhouse, but then thought it wise to first demand its surrender. The Federals in the blockhouse agreed to the terms of surrender, and the Confederates crossed the river and headed to Springfield, West Virginia, where they rested until the 4th.
Although the action around Cumberland was tactically inconclusive, Kelley's stand likely saved the town from being burned and greater damage being inflicted on the railroads. The stubborn resistance of Stough at the Potomac represented the first time McCausland's force had been contested since burning Chambersburg.Battle of Fort Stevens
The Battle of Fort Stevens was an American Civil War battle fought July 11–12, 1864, in Northwest Washington, D.C., as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 between forces under Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early and Union Major General Alexander McDowell McCook. Although Early caused consternation in the Union government, reinforcements under Maj. Gen. Horatio G. Wright and the strong defenses of Fort Stevens minimized the military threat and Early withdrew after two days of skirmishing without attempting any serious assaults. The battle is noted for the personal presence of President Abraham Lincoln observing the fighting.Battle of Guard Hill
The Battle of Guard Hill, Battle of Crooked Run, or the Battle of Front Royal took place on August 16, 1864, in Warren County, Virginia as part of Philip H. Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley Campaign of the American Civil War. According to Pachan, the Union's superior numbers and quality leadership routed the Confederate infantry, and the battle proved a watershed event in the Shenandoah Valley campaign.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.Battle of Monocacy
The Battle of Monocacy (also known as Monocacy Junction) was fought on July 9, 1864, approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) from Frederick, Maryland, as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 during the American Civil War. Confederate forces under Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early defeated Union forces under Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace. The battle was part of Early's raid through the Shenandoah Valley and into Maryland in an attempt to divert Union forces away from Gen. Robert E. Lee's army under siege at Petersburg, Virginia. The battle was the northernmost Confederate victory of the war. While the Union troops retreated to Baltimore, Maryland, the Confederates continued toward Washington, D.C., but the battle at Monocacy delayed Early's march for a day, allowing time for Union reinforcements to arrive in the Union capital. The Confederates launched an attack on Washington on July 12 at the Battle of Fort Stevens, but were unsuccessful and retreated to Virginia.Battle of New Market
The Battle of New Market was fought on May 15, 1864, in Virginia during the Valley Campaigns of 1864 in the American Civil War. A makeshift Confederate army of 4,100 men, which included cadets from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), defeated Union Major General Franz Sigel and his Army of the Shenandoah. The cadets were integral to the Confederate victory at New Market.
As a result of this defeat Sigel was relieved of his command and replaced by Maj. Gen. David Hunter.Battle of Rutherford's Farm
The Battle of Rutherford's Farm, also known as Carter's Farm and Stephenson's Depot, was a small engagement between Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Stephen D. Ramseur and Union forces under Brig. Gen. William W. Averell on July 20, 1864, in Frederick County, Virginia, during the American Civil War, as part of Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early's Valley Campaign, resulting in a Union victory.Battle of Smithfield Crossing
The Battle of Smithfield Crossing was a small battle during the American Civil War fought August 25 through August 29, 1864, in Jefferson and Berkeley counties in West Virginia.Battle of Summit Point
The Battle of Summit Point, also known as Flowing Springs or Cameron's Depot, was an inconclusive battle of the American Civil War fought on August 21, 1864, near Summit Point, West Virginia.The battle was part of Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley Campaign, which took place between August and December 1864. While Sheridan concentrated his army near Charles Town, Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early and Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson attacked the Union forces with converging columns on August 21. Anderson struck north against the Union cavalry at Summit Point. The Union forces fought effective delaying actions, withdrawing to near Halltown on the following day. The battle resulted in approximately 1,000 casualties.Heaton's Crossroads
Heaton's Crossroads, also known as the Purcellville Wagon Raid, was an American Civil War skirmish that took place between Federal cavalry under Brig. Gen. Alfred N. Duffié and Confederate infantry under Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge on July 16, 1864, near present-day Purcellville, Virginia in Loudoun County as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864. The action was tactically inconclusive.List of Medal of Honor recipients for the Battle of Cedar Creek
The Battle of Cedar Creek was fought near Middletown, Virginia on October 19, 1864. The battle was the decisive engagement of Major General Philip Sheridan’s Valley Campaigns of 1864 and was the largest battle fought in the Shenandoah Valley. Twelve Union Army enlisted men and nine officers were awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry during the battle.
The Medal of Honor was created during the American Civil War and is the highest military decoration presented by the United States government to a member of its armed forces. The recipient must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States. Due to the nature of this medal, it is commonly presented posthumously.Milford Battlefield
Milford Battlefield is situated in Overall, Virginia in Warren County and Page County, Virginia. It was the site of a battle on September 22–24 during the Valley Campaigns of 1864 in the American Civil War. The site is located on property now privately owned.Monocacy Confederate order of battle
The following Confederate States Army units and commanders fought in Maryland's Frederick County Battle of Monocacy on July 9, 1864, during the American Civil War. The Union order of battle is shown 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.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.