Shenandoah Valley 1864 SHERIDAN'S SHENANDOAH VALLEY CAMPAIGN

tmh10

Major
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Mar 2, 2012
Location
Pipestem,WV
As a result of the embarrassment of Early's Washington Raid, the Federal authorities set up the Middle Military Division and placed it under Major General Phil Sheridan who took command on August 7, 1864. Sheridan reorganized the various forces under his command to include a cavalry corps of three divisions. His effective strength was about 48,000 men.

Meanwhile, Early's Army of the Valley, with four infantry divisions and a division of cavalry, was to be reinforced by mid-August with Kershaw's infantry division and Fitz Lee's cavalry division. These reinforcements, under the command of Richard Anderson, were to support Early's operations east of the Blue Ridge. With these additional troops, Early's strength was about 23,000 infantry and cavalry, although the Federal estimates were that he might have as many as 40,000 men. Therefore, Sheridan was ordered to assume the defensive for the time being.

A time span of about five weeks were spent in maneuvering by both sides before Sheridan and Early finally met in battle. Because of lack of activity on Sheridan's part, Anderson's forces were ordered to return to Lee. However, Fitz Lee's cavalry remained in the Valley, leaving Early with about 12,000 infantry and 6,500 cavalry.

The return of Anderson to Lee was what Sheridan had been waiting for. This, coupled with overconfidence on the part of Early, led to his defeat at Winchester on September 19. Early fell back to Fishers Hill where Sheridan again defeated the Confederates on September 22. The demoralized Southerners reached Browns Gap where they were again reinforced by Kershaw's division. Sheridan reorganized his cavalry with Brigadier General George Custer and Colonel William Powell as division commanders following the dismissal of Averell for lack of aggressiveness and Wilson's transfer to Sherman.

Sheridan believed he had ridded the Valley of any threat by Early, and was in the process of transferring troops to reinforce Grant. These troops had to be recalled when Sheridan learned that Early was still in the area.

In a brilliant dawn surprise attack, Early's numerically inferior forces struck the Federals in camp at Cedar Creek on October 19. Despite initial success in driving the Federals from their positions, Sheridan arrived on the scene and helped rally his men to counterattack and rout Early's command. This was the last major action in the Valley.

Sheridan detached most of his infantry to rejoin Grant and Sherman, but kept his excellent cavalry corps in the divisions of Custer and Devin (about 10,000 troopers). Meanwhile, Early was left with only two brigades under Wharton (about 2,000 men) and two artillery battalions. Sheridan decided to eliminate this remaining Confederate force. At Waynesboro on March 2, 1865, Custer's division overran and annihilated these remaining troops. Early managed to escape with several others, but his military career was ended.

http://www.civilwarhome.com/SheridanShenadoah.htm
 

kholland

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Feb 13, 2011
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Howard County, Maryland
Great post. It's amazing that it took this long to "conquer" the south's breadbasket and launching point for the two main invasions of the north. It was a thorn in the side of the Union and figured into troop movements and placements in other parts of the Eastern theater (Harpers Ferry in the Antietam campaign and Winchester in the Gettysburg campaign just to give two examples).
 

tmh10

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Mar 2, 2012
Location
Pipestem,WV
Great post. It's amazing that it took this long to "conquer" the south's breadbasket and launching point for the two main invasions of the north. It was a thorn in the side of the Union and figured into troop movements and placements in other parts of the Eastern theater (Harpers Ferry in the Antietam campaign and Winchester in the Gettysburg campaign just to give two examples).
I agree, Ken. It seems the Union should have seen the value of controlling that region sooner.
 

diane

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Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
I think Jackson's Valley campaign really kept the Union from the Shenandoah. There were back and forths, but Jackson fairly well sealed it for the Confederacy for a long time. (And he scared the heck out of Abe doing it!) Sheridan annihilated the place. He forced the removal of large numbers of the people by destroying their means of livelihood, meaning their food supply. (Having practiced on the Southerners, he was all ready for the Plains people!)
 

ErnieMac

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Pennsylvania
From what I've read in a few sources there were strategic reasons as well. For the South the Valley was a pathway that gave access to vital Union areas of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Blue Ridge / South Mountain provided a screen and limited access as Lee demonstrated in 1863.

For the North it led nowhere. Movement up the Valley (south) led away from Richmond and the ANV. Supply lines became vulnerable as the army advanced.
 

truthckr

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 1, 2010
Location
Waynesboro, Virginia
On maps it didn't look like much of a job to Abe and Stanton, but the Shenandoah/Appalachian Mts to the west kept the Union Army out of the Valley. A handfull of men could and did guard the passes and gaps easily. The Central Virginia Rail Road, a grandparent to CSX, kept the foodstuffs rolling into Richmond. The Valley Turnpike, current US 11, was one of only a few macadmized roads in VA. This road ran from Staunton to Winchester and made the movement of goods easy to the railhead at Staunton. It was rough on unclad feet, so Jackson's men didn't like to march on it. They preferred the dirt roads to the east, Page Valley Turnpike. Currently US Rt 340 more or less follows this path.

As for Phil Sheridan, like Sherman in the deep South, he's hated by some to this day in the Shenandoah Valley.
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Keeper of the Scales
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Jun 2, 2013
Location
Columbus, OH
Ummm...there always was a Middle Military Division. It was based in Baltimore. During the Gettysburg Campaign, as an example, it was commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert Schenck. The forces assigned to it were designated as the Eighth Corps.

At the time of the Battle of Monocacy, the 8th Corps was commanded by Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace.

Maj. Gen. David "Black Dave" Hunter commanded the Middle Military District. The original concept was to leave him in administrative command and to give Sheridan field command since Stanton felt he was too young to command the Middle Military District. However, Hunter categorically refused, saying that if he didn't have field command, he wanted to be relieved. His request was granted, and Sheridan was named overall commander despite Stanton's misgivings.
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Keeper of the Scales
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Jun 2, 2013
Location
Columbus, OH
The best thing that I've ever heard said about Sheridan's Valley Campaign appears in Jeff Wert's From Winchester to Cedar Creek, which includes the brilliant but incredibly accurate statement that Sheridan fought a victorious campaign bereft of decision. Truer words have never been said.

Early consistently outgeneraled Sheridan and Sheridan demonstrated little in the way of tactical genius. The fact that he enjoyed a nearly 3-to-1 numerical advantage assured the defeat of Early's little army.
 
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