In the late summer and fall of 1864, the American Civil War was entering its final phases. To those that were fighting the war the outcome was still anything but certain. Even with the Union victory at Gettysburg more than a year before, there were still several critical theaters of war left to be resolved, and there was a great deal of sacrifice yet to transpire. With the outcome of a presidential election also in doubt, a successful resolution of all these combat arenas were critical to the resolution of the war. One of the most important of these combat theaters was in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the so-called Breadbasket of the Confederacy.
Between September 1, and October 19, 1864, some forty thousand Union soldiers under General Phillip Sheridan and twenty thousand troops under Confederate General Jubal Early were destined to fight it out in several major battles in the Shenandoah Valley. During this campaign some two thousand Maine men would struggle there. Of this number nearly 500 men, or some twenty-five per cent, would end up either killed, wounded, or missing. Many of the casualties would be buried at the national cemetery in Winchester. The casualties would originate from four Maine infantry regiments and two artillery units. Among these would be the 1st Maine Veteran Infantry, the 12th Maine, the 14th Maine, and the 29th Maine Infantry Regiments, as well as the 1st and 5th Maine Artillery Batteries.
Photos Courtesy Nicholas Picerno Collection
As you visit these many battlefields in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley one thing becomes painfully clear. There are no permanent monuments to the sacrifice of these brave Maine Heroes on any of these battlegrounds. Currently there is an opportunity to place a lasting memorial to these Maine soldiers on the largest of these battlefields. The contest of which I speak was the Third Battle of Winchester, which was fought on September 19, 1864. In this fight more than 230 Maine men became casualties and nowhere is there an undying testament to their bravery and sacrifice.
Currently there is an effort coordinated by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, to raise the funds needed to purchase and install a stone memorial to Maine’s contribution at the Third Battle of Winchester. The monument will be placed on the Third Winchester battlefield near the Middle Field where men from Maine, serving in the 19th Army Corps, shed blood that has consecrated the ground forever. Please contribute to this endeavor because these boys from Maine, though gone, should never be forgotten.