As part of the “Breadbasket of the Confederacy,” Augusta County and its two cities of Staunton and Waynesboro played a pivotal wartime role, supplying food, fodder, and iron for southern armies and civilians east of the Blue Ridge.
While most battles were fought in other areas, the Virginia Central Railroad, with a depot in Staunton, provided a crucial supply link between the Valley and Richmond.
During much of the war this area remained a haven for sick and wounded soldiers; following Gettysburg, the streets of Staunton filled with wounded.
At least four times during the war, lines between battlefield and homefront blurred.
In 1862, during Stonewall Jackson’s famous Valley Campaign, Jackson used the railroad to outmaneuver Union armies. That spring, western Augusta County became the staging area for the Battle of McDowell in Highland County.
In June 1864, a Union victory at Piedmont opened the door to the occupation of Staunton. From there, Union Gen. David Hunter marched south to exact revenge on Lexington. While passing through southern Augusta County, he destroyed mills, barns, and ironworks. A few months later, northern Augusta felt the heavy hand of war during The Burning under Gen. Sheridan.
The March 2, 1865, cavalry clash in Waynesboro closed the Valley fighting. Here Gen. Sheridan’s forces destroyed the remnants of the Confederate forces under Gen. Jubal Early.