Published on May 23, 2016

"Now the whole vale is red with fire mile on mile, and enveloped in smoke high overhead, twisting and writhing, dissolving. Is the world being set on fire?" - Newton Burkholder, Confederate soldier, October 6, 1864

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Burning Conference

In 1864, a new kind of warfare came to the Valley.  That fall, Gen. Philip Sheridan’s Union army embarked on “The Burning,” a systematic two-week campaign to neutralize the Shenandoah Valley’s role as the “Breadbasket of the Confederacy.”  Thousands of mills, barns, and farm buildings were put to the torch, stores of grain and livestock were destroyed or confiscated, and livelihoods were turned to ash.

Burning Conference Speakers and GuidesBut the destruction in the Valley wasn’t limited to those two weeks, or to the areas customarily identified with “The Burning.”  It began much earlier, under Union Gen. David Hunter, and ranged throughout the Valley, north to Clarke County and east to Page County.  And its effects were widespread, from civilians left destitute by “fire and sword” to soldiers ensnarled in the vicious cycle of reprisals.

On Saturday, August 13, 2016, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation will look back at those events with a conference entitled “Red With Fire:  The Burning of the Shenandoah Valley.”  The conference will feature eminent Civil War historians Eric A. Campbell, Col. Keith E. Gibson, Scott C. Patchan, Eric J. Wittenberg, and Edward L. Ayers.

The conference will be held at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  The cost to attend will be $20 per person.  Space will be limited, so early registration is encouraged.  You can sign up today by filling out the form below.

Schedule for the Day
9am – Check-in begins
10am: Eric A. Campbell[A] scene of desolation and ruin”: The Burning of the Shenandoah Valley
11am: Col. Keith E. GibsonHunter in the Valley
Noon: Scott C. PatchanDestruction and Reprisal in the Northern Valley
1pm: Lunch break
2pm: Eric J. WittenbergThe Union and Confederate Cavalry and the Battle of Tom’s Brook
3pm: Edward L. Ayers“Making Sense of the Burning”: The Civilian Experience
4pm: Panel Discussion

The weekend will also feature two special free programs. On Friday, August 12, at 7pm: Dr. Ken Rutherford will present “Landmines in Our Backyard: The Civil War’s Buried History” at James Madison University. (Click here for more information.)  And on Sunday, August 14, at 1pm, Art Candenquist will lead “Columns of Black Smoke: Page County on Fire, 1864,” a car caravan tour that will begin at Luray Caverns.  (Click here for more information.)

For more information on the Red With Fire Conference or the additional programs, please call 540-740-4545 or email