After the Battle of Cedar Creek ended large-scale combat in the Valley, both Union Gen. Philip Sheridan and Confederate Gen. Jubal Early remained in the Valley, although each saw their commands reduced as their remaining troops were called east to Petersburg.
Early attempted a last offensive in mid-November, advancing to Middletown. But his weakened cavalry was defeated by Union cavalry at Newtown (Stephens City) and Ninevah, forcing him to withdraw his infantry. The Union cavalry now so overpowered his own that Early could not maneuver offensively against Sheridan. On November 22, the cavalry fought at Rude’s Hill, and on December 12, a second Union cavalry raid was turned back at Lacey Springs, ending active operations for the winter season. The winter was disastrous for the Confederate army, which was no longer able to sustain itself on the produce of the devastated Valley. Cavalry and infantry were returned to Lee’s army at Petersburg or dispersed to feed and forage for themselves.
Riding through sleet on March 2, 1865, Custer’s and Brig. Gen. Thomas Devin’s cavalry divisions advanced from Staunton, arriving near Waynesboro in the early afternoon. There, they found Early’s small army, consisting of a remnant of Brig. Gen. Gabriel Wharton’s division and some artillery units. Early presented a brave front although the South River was to his rear, but in a few hours, the war for the Shenandoah Valley was over. Early’s army fled before the Union cavalry, scattering up the mountainside. Early escaped with a few of his aides, riding away from his last battle with no forces left to contest Union control of the Shenandoah Valley.
With the Confederate threat in the Valley eliminated, General Sheridan led his cavalry overland to Petersburg to participate in the final campaign of the war in Virginia. On April 9, 1865, after collapse of the Petersburg lines and a harried retreat, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.
|Waynesboro (March 2)|