Published on August 14, 2019

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Atlanta, the Valley, and the Crossroads of History:
The Battles and Leaders That Influenced Lincoln’s Reelection in 1864

Saturday, November 9, 2019
George Washington Hotel
Winchester, Virginia
Speakers and Guides:  Gary L. Ecelbarger and Scott C. Patchan

In August 1864, the outcome of the Civil War hung in the balance, and Abraham Lincoln’s chances for reelection looked doubtful – until a series of pivotal battles around Atlanta and in the Shenandoah Valley helped propel Lincoln to victory. Led by historians Gary Ecelbarger and Scott Patchan, this conference will examine those events – and the fights and personalities that changed the course of history.

The cost will be $27 for members; $30 for non-members.  Lunch will be on your own. Space will be limited, and pre-registration is required.  To register, click the button below or call the SVBF at 540-740-4545.

Schedule for the day:

8am:  Check-In Desk Opens
9am:  Lincoln’s Jeopardized Election Status in Summer 1864 – Gary Ecelbarger
10am:  The Battle of Atlanta – Unheralded Turning Point –  Gary Ecelbarger
11am:  The Battle of Jonesboro and Sherman’s Capture of Atlanta –  Scott Patchan
Noon:  Lunch (On your own)
1:15 pm:  Black Jack Logan’s 6 Months of Unprecedented Political Generalship – Gary Ecelbarger
2:15 pm:  Phil Sheridan’s Leadership at the Battle of Cedar Creek: From Union Disaster to Icing on the Cake – Scott Patchan
3:15 pm:  Final Actions of the Third Battle of Winchester – Tour in Old Town Winchester – Scott Patchan

Summary of Talks

“Lincoln’s Jeopardized Election Status in Summer 1864” – Gary Ecelbarger
As late as the last week of August 1864 – a mere ten weeks from Election Day — Abraham Lincoln doubted he could reclaim the U.S. presidency. Gary Ecelbarger, author of Lincoln’s 1860 nomination, will highlight Lincoln’s unpopularity, peaking in those summer months, and the evidence confirming Lincoln’s uncertainty of remaining in the White House. Ecelbarger will also illustrate how Lincoln’s questionable decisions as Commander in Chief regarding the 1862 and 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaigns helped to author the discontent directed back at him.

“The Battle of Atlanta – Unheralded Turning Point” –  Gary Ecelbarger
On July 22, 1864, across a rolling landscape two miles east of Atlanta, two armies named “Tennessee” waged war against each other in perhaps the most gripping and dramatic daylong contest ever waged on American soil and inflicted single-day casualties upon each other that were never equaled in the U.S. for the remaining ten months of the War (and for 154+ years afterwards).  As the author of the only existing book-length treatment of the Battle of Atlanta, Gary Ecelbarger will  narrate the events of this intense and brutal day  and demonstrate how this battle decided the outcome of what is largely regarded as the most decisive campaign of the Civil War.

“The Battle of Jonesboro and Sherman’s Capture of Atlanta” – Scott Patchan
In late August of 1864, the campaign for Atlanta seemed to be in a state of deadlock. Confederate commander Gen. John B. Hood had parried Sherman’s efforts to lay siege to the Gate City and Hood’s cavalry was raiding the Union supply lines in north Georgia. At a time when many commanders would pull in their forces and focus on their communications, Sherman did the opposite. Leaving one corps to guard the railroad crossings of the Chattahooche River, he swung south to sever Hood’s last supply line into Atlanta. Sherman’s campaign resulted in victory at the battles of Jonesborough on August 31 and September 1, 1864, securing the railroad and forcing Hood to abandon Atlanta.  Scott Patchan will explain the campaign and battle in intricate detail. He is currently work on a detailed history of the campaign, battles and its impact on Lincoln’s reelection and subsequent military operations.

“Black Jack Logan’s 6 Months of Unprecedented Political Generalship” – Gary Ecelbarger
John “Black Jack” Logan’s battlefield record ranks him among the best generals of the Civil War, North and South, Eastern and Western Theaters, political or otherwise. But what this “Human Hurricane on Horseback” accomplished between May and November 1864 in the War and on the home front was as astounding as it was impactful. Surprisingly, this half-year feat has gone unrecognized for a century and a half afterwards. Gary Ecelbarger – the most recent biographer of Logan (a subject of eight books during his lifetime) – will present how Black Jack came to be and what he did in those six stellar months to influence the Election of 1864.

“Phil Sheridan’s Leadership at the Battle of Cedar Creek: From Union Disaster to Icing on the Cake” – Scott Patchan
On the morning of October 19, 1864, Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early’s Army of the Valley District surprised the U.S. Army of the Shenandoah in its camps along the banks of Cedar Creek in Sheridan’s absence. Early succeeded in driving the Federals north of Middletown, where Sheridan returned to the army in most spectacular fashion in his celebrated ride from Winchester. Scott Patchan will narrate the events and their impact, including Sheridan’s less noted ride; the one he made along his line of battle to inspire his troops and rally the men before launching his counterattack that negated what could have been  politically damaging defeat for Abraham Lincoln only a couple of weeks before voters went to the polls.

“Final Actions of the Third Battle of Winchester – Tour in Old Town Winchester” – Scott Patchan
This walking tour will visit sites related to final stages of the Third Battle of Winchester, when the battle spilled through the streets of the city – including the Bell House, the Old Court House, the Taylor Hotel, and more.  Stories will include the final Confederate attempts to stem the tide, civilians caught up in the chaos, and caring for the wounded after the fighting.

Speaker Bios

Gary Ecelbarger, a Shenandoah Guard Member of SVBF, has written seven books, co-authored three others, as well as published more than two dozen monographs, essays, and articles – all about mid-19th Century events and personalities. His works most pertinent to this conference are The Great Comeback: How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination (St. Martin’s Press, 2008), Three Days in the Shenandoah: Stonewall Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester (University of Oklahoma Press, 2008), The Day Dixie Died: The Battle of Atlanta (St. Martin’s Press, 2010), and Black Jack Logan: An Extraordinary Life in Peace and War (Lyons Press, 2005).

Scott C. Patchan, a member of the SVBF’s Shenandoah Guard, is the author of many articles and books, including The Forgotten Fury: The Battle of Piedmont (1996), Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign (2007), Second Manassas: Longstreet’s Attack and the Struggle for Chinn Ridge (2011), The Battle of Piedmont and Hunter’s Raid on Staunton (2011), and The Last Battle of Winchester: Phil Sheridan, Jubal Early and the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign (2013). Scott has worked extensively on the interpretation of the Third Winchester battlefield for the Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation. He is currently completing a book on the Battle of Jonesboro and Sherman’s capture of Atlanta, and recently finished editing the journal of Union Colonel Joseph Thoburn.  Col. Thoburn’s journal will be published and available for sale soon.

Host Site

The conference will be hosted at the George Washington Hotel at 103 E Piccadilly Street in historic downtown Winchester.  For more information, see the hotel’s website here.


Lunch will be on your own.  You can dine at the hotel’s restaurant, George’s Food & Spirits (see the menu here), or one of the many other outstanding options located a short walking distance from the hotel.

Visitor Information

For information about historic sites, attractions, lodging, and dining opportunities in the Winchester-Frederick County area, see the Discover Winchester website here.  For more information, call 540-542-1326.  And while you’re in town, visit the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center (1400 S. Pleasant Valley Road), which also hosts the Civil War Orientation Center for the Winchester-Frederick County area.

Questions or Need More Information?

Call the SVBF at 540-740-4545 or email