The record of clashes in the Valley begins with the burning of the armory at Harper’s Ferry on April 21, 1861 – just eight days after the fall of Fort Sumter – and ends with a skirmish at Fisher’s Hill on March 21, 1865, nineteen days before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. The four years bookended by those dates witnessed every type of combat imaginable, from small but lethal clashes on remote back roads to 54,000 Americans locked in a desperate stand-up fight at Third Winchester.
Twenty of those battles stand out because of their significance, as determined by the National Park Service’s landmark 1993 Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields. That significance is measured by their “special strategic, tactical, or thematic importance to local operations, campaigns, theaters, or to the war as a whole.” Those 20 battles are listed below, along with two non-Valley battles (Monocacy and Lynchburg) that were part of major campaigns.
Each of these battles has tales to tell, such as the desperate race for the stone wall at First Kernstown, the ferocious struggle for The Coaling at Port Republic, the charge of the VMI cadets across the “Field of Lost Shoes” at New Market, or Sheridan’s inspiring ride to rally his shattered ranks at Cedar Creek. Each of these clashes featured remarkable feats of heroism and sacrifice. And each of them took a terrible human cost, a cost reflected in sobering scenes on the battlefield, empty spaces at the campfire, and empty chairs at home.
You can discover more about those battles by following the links below. Longer accounts and featured stories, as well as articles about some of the smaller engagements fought in the Valley can also be found in the Stories section.