From Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign, which helped save the fledgling Confederacy, to Phillip Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Campaign, which helped seal its doom, the Shenandoah Valley was the setting for some of the most pivotal and memorable campaigns of the American Civil War.
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In the spring of 1862, with Confederate fortunes falling at every point, Jackson conducted one of the most brilliant campaigns in military history, a swift feat of fighting, marching, deception, counter-marching and boldness that befuddled his opponents and Union leaders, drew thousands of Union troops from the Federal campaign to take Richmond, and infused new hope and enthusiasm for the Confederate cause.
In 1863, Robert E. Lee used the Shenandoah Valley’s unique geography and position as an “avenue of invasion” during his advance north – and as a safe refuge when he withdrew southward after his costly defeat in Pennsylvania. In 1864, the war in the Valley reached a violent crescendo, with a seesaw series of campaigns that raged up and down the landscape.
The Lynchburg Campaign saw each side trade victories and the first moves towards a wider war of destruction. With his vital supply lines threatened, an already undermanned Lee gambled by sending nearly a third of his army under Gen. Jubal Early to fend off the Federal threat. During his Maryland Campaign Early not only drove Union forces from the Valley; he and his men advanced to the very gates of Washington itself. Finally, desperate Federal leaders turned to a new commander, Gen. Philip H. Sheridan.
In the fall of 1864 Sheridan delivered a series of stinging defeats, dashing Confederate hopes – and contributing to the reelection of Abraham Lincoln in November 1864. In the midst of the campaign, Federal forces also embarked on scorched earth operations that burned and laid waste much of the Valley’s agricultural bounty, a new turn to “total war” that came to be known as The Burning.
The Confederacy had lost control of the Shenandoah Valley, and Stonewall Jackson’s words proved prophetic. Just months later, Virginia itself fell when Lee surrendered his army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox.
|First Kernstown (March 23)|
|McDowell (May 8)|
|Front Royal (May 23)|
|First Winchester (May 25)|
|Cross Keys (June 8)|
|Port Republic (June 9)|
|Second Winchester (June 13-15)|
|Manassas Gap (Wapping Heights) (July 23)|
|Monocacy (July 9)|
|Cool Spring (July 17-18)|
|Rutherford’s Farm (July 20)|
|Second Kernstown (July 24)|
|Guard Hill (August 16)|
|Berryville (Sept. 3-4)|
|Third Winchester (Opequon) (Sept. 19)|
|Fisher’s Hill (Sept. 22)|
|Tom’s Brook (Oct. 9)|
|Cedar Creek (Oct. 19)|