The Battle of Cedar Creek, October 19, 1864

James N.

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Part V - Aftermath and Legacy of the Battle of Cedar Creek
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Phil Sheridan stands at left in a post-battle photo taken in early 1865 along with his chief-of-staff Brig. Gen. James Forsyth, and cavalry commanders Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt, Brig. Gen. Thomas Devin, and Maj. Gen. George A. Custer.

It was the Union cause in general and Gen. Phil Sheridan in particular that profited most from the overwhelming Federal victory at Cedar Creek: only three weeks later Abraham Lincoln won a landslide victory over his Democratic opponent, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan and "Sheridan's Ride" propelled him to the first rank of Grant's subordinates, right alongside William T. Sherman and David Farragut. Following the battle the Confederacy never attempted to regain control of the Shenandoah Valley; most surviving units were withdrawn to assist in the defense of Petersburg. John B. Gordon was promoted to lead the skeleton-like remains of the Second Corps in Lee's army, while Jubal Early was left with the thankless task of trying to defend with only exhausted cavalry what was left in the Valley. Ultimately, he was smashed by the division of George Custer in the Feb., 1865, Battle of Waynesboro.

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As Civil War battles went, Cedar Creek had been a middling affair, only about 31,000 Federals with some 90 cannon versus 21,000 Confederates with less than half as many guns. It wasn't even the largest battle in the Shenandoah - Third Winchester or Opequon the preceding month was slightly larger in terms of men engaged - but it had been bigger than any of the battles of Stonewall Jackson's legendary Valley Campaign two years previously.

Immediately following the battle darkness brought an end to the Federal pursuit, but an outpost was established on Hupp's Hill in the unlikely event Early should ever return and make a similar attempt. A short loop trail leads to trenches and redoubts seen here that were dug by the Union VI Corps which remain in the small regional park.

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As usually occurred in the wake of any Civil War battle, all public buildings and many houses in the area as well were pressed into use as hospitals for both sides. Middleton had been surrounded by the worst of the fighting and all its churches like the one below became scenes of death and suffering as they had two years earlier after one of Stonewall Jackson's victories here. Wayside Inn above had been used throughout the war as quarters for generals of both sides and it too became a hospital; in a private house still standing just across the street Union Col. Charles Russel Lowell died of his wounds. For more on Wayside Inn, Col. Russel, and artist-correspondent James E. Taylor please see: http://civilwartalk.com/threads/wayside-inn-middleton-virginia-sleep-where-generals-slept.118333/

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The dead of both sides had been buried where they fell, but post-war Federals were removed to Winchester's National Cemetery which had been established on the battlefield of Opequon or Third Winchester where they remain today. Confederate dead from the vicinity including those from several other engagements like Fisher's Hill were relocated in either Winchester's Stonewall Cemetery or the small Strasburg Cemetery seen below with Massanutten Mountain looming in the background.

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Visiting the Battlefield Today

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Cedar Creek can be a confusing site to visit: although it is considered to be a unit of the National Park Service there is in fact NO park there and the sprawling battle site covers land that is alternately: threatened by urban sprawl emanating from Winchester only a dozen miles away and local quarrying operations that have already obliterated the camp sites of the VI Corps and Union cavalry; hemmed in by I-81 which borders the area to the southeast paralleling U.S. 11 (the Valley Turnpike of the Civil War) and has destroyed part of the VIII Corps camp sites; and protected by a bewildering variety of preservationist organizations like the National Trust and Belle Grove Plantation and the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation.

The NPS maintains a small and almost invisible office in a tiny strip mall in downtown Middleton which contains information, sells books, and is home to an excellent electric fiber-optic map of the battle. Another more obvious visitor station is in a converted residence right on U.S. 11 near the heart of the battlefield and is run by the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation; in fact NPS ranger-led tours of the battlefield originate there. Probably the closest thing to an actual visitor center and museum, however, can be found at the Hupp's Hill Cedar Creek Museum pictured above; formerly called the Stonewall Jackson Museum it has been re-done to better interpret the entire war in the Shenandoah and the Battle of Cedar Creek in particular and features interpretive exhibits, battlefield relics, and artifacts like weapons and ammunition used by both sides.

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The map above does NOT correspond to the excellent one provided by the NPS at either their office or that of the Cedar Creek Foundation, or the Foundation's excellent Self-Guided Tour booklet; rather it is provided here to give an idea of my photographs and their relation to each other and the battlefield. Numbers relate to and are in the order I have posted them in this thread and include:

1. Hupp's Hill - before the battle a Confederate observation post and battery site for guns firing on the Union camps beyond Cedar Creek; subsequently site of Federal VI Corps trenches which remain.

2. Hilltop where Thoburn's division of VIII Corps was driven from and Thoburn killed.

3. 128th New York Monument on U.S. 11 (the Valley Turnpike); park here for:

4. Trailhead leading to XIX Corps trenches.

5. Belle Grove Plantation - Headquarters of Wright and Sheridan and where Ramseur died; after the battle the surrounding fields were covered with captured Confederate prisoners and their equipment.

6. Center of the battlefield containing a group of markers and monuments near the wartime Heater House and scene of annual reenactment of the battle.

7. Middletown Cemetery where the stand of Getty's VI Corps division bought time which possibly saved the Union army.

8. Miller's House and Mill ruins - center of the Confederate line in the afternoon near where Ramseur was mortally wounded.

9. Sheridan's Winchester quarters from which he began his famous "ride" to the battlefield.

10. Charles Russel Lowell monument and The Wayside Inn; across the street is the private residence where Lowell died.

11. North Carolina monument dedicated to Ramseur located at the entrance to Belle Grove Plantation.

12. Spengler's (or Spangler's) Mill, now a restaurant where the bridge was blocked allowing virtually all of Early's artillery and trains to be captured by pursuing Union cavalry.

13. Middletown churches used as hospitals after the battle.

14. Strasburg Cemetery and monument dedicated to the unknown Confederate dead buried there.

Note that this map contains both the Oct. 19 battle at Cedar Creek and the earlier Sept. 22 Fisher's Hill which appears at the left.

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Redbud in the Spring at Hupp's Hill above and near Cedar Creek below.

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James N.

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This is a battle and campaign that I've read very little about. What books could you recommend, James (and to the group in general)?

R
Start out with this book. I purchased this book at the Cedar Creek National Battlefield visitor center last September. It is small but it is packed with a punch!
James, I wish I'd had your excellent account when I was at the 150th Cedar Creek reenactment a year ago! The summary with the program they gave out was horrible. I had read Jeffry D. Wert's From Winchester to Cedar Creek: The Shenandoah Campaign of 1864 a couple of months before, but found it a bit tedious. I should have reread the appropriate sections while riding in my son's truck from southern Ohio to the Shenandoah Valley, but I was too busy rubbernecking fall foliage!..
Very interesting. I see that I missed a lot.

At one time the guides at the Visitor Center were providing a self-guided tour book. I mostly only visited points along the pike but it shows many of the locations shown above. I don't know if it's still available.
The Battle of Belle Grove or Cedar Creek -- Self-Guided Tour -- by Joseph W.A. Whitehorne...
Have always loved Ramseur. Have ordered that book from a company in Arizona. (I am in England.)
Will be three weeks before it arrives, but am excited.
Thank you for the recommendation.

Image (5).jpg Cedar Creek Book.jpg Wert Book.jpg Image (4).jpg Image (7).jpg

Thanks to all of you for your interest and recommendations, and my apologies for the delayed response. In preparing this I have relied heavily on Whitehorne's Self-Guided Tour booklet, suggested by Dave G which I purchased there and used extensively and I might say exclusively in touring the sites. However, there's a newer 2006 revised Third Edition pictured above which is available from the Cedar Creek Foundation on their website (and the edition I actually followed) but that is already somewhat outdated due to recent acquisitions by the Civil War Trust and other groups. According to the recommendations in Whitehorne, there's a 1992 book by Theodore C. Mahr called The Battle of Cedar Creek: Showdown in the Shenandoah, October 1 - 30, 1864 that he termed "the most comprehensive study of the battle." I have never seen it, but have read both the others he also recommends. Previously, Thomas A. Lewis' 1988 The Guns of Cedar Creek was the only modern work on the battle itself and I remember liking it a great deal when I read it now quite a few years ago. I have seen but not read the one Bill suggests above.

The other books mentioned here deal with the entire 1864 Valley Campaign: Lewis also authored the text of The Shenandoah in Flames, a volume in the Time-Life series The Civil War. MaryDee has already mentioned Jeffrey Wert's 1987 book From Winchester to Cedar Creek: The Shenandoah Campaign of 1864 which is also recommended by Whitehorne and one I'd also previously read. I had actually forgotten the very first book on the campaign I'd read so very many years ago and which was probably the first modern study of the entire campaign, the comprehensive 1961 volume Sheridan in the Shenandoah - Jubal Early's Nemesis by retired Lt. Gen. Edward J. Stackpole featuring maps by Col.Wilbur S. Nye which I still highly recommend. The Time-Life book at less than two hundred pages is more an overview of everything from New Market in May through Cedar Creek in October, including Jubal Early's foray against the Washington defenses; Gen. Stackpole covers the same time period and events, but in much greater detail; Wert's book is probably between the two in length and comprehensiveness of details.

Thank you again for your interest in my account.
 
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bdtex

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I had actually forgotten the very first book on the campaign I'd read so very many years ago and which was probably the first modern study of the entire campaign, the comprehensive Sheridan in the Shenandoah by retired Brig. Gen. Edward J. Stackpole featuring maps by Col.Wilbur S. Nye which I still highly recommend.
Oh no! Another one. :D
 

James N.

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Did you locate the 8th Vermont Monument, James?

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Unfortunately no, Bill, though I spent time in the Middletown-Strasburg area twice this year, in late April and again in July. April was when I toured most of the field, but unfortunately part of the time was rainy so the 8th Vermont fell victim to that. In July, I attended two guided tours/lectures given by NPS guides, one to the scene of the first Confederate attack on Thoburn; the other a walking tour of the grounds of Belle Grove which coincided with a reunion of descendants of the Hite family, builders of the manor house. I saw a few additional markers such as the one at the end of Sheridan's Ride but for one reason or another missed photographing them. During the visit to the site of Thoburn's camps, I was busy following the ranger's car so didn't stop to photograph the sites of the fords used by Gordon's men in crossing the Shenandoah, though we drove past two of them.
 
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James N.

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Oh no! Another one. :D

Yes, somehow I'd totally forgotten this one - probably because it isn't about either Lee or Stonewall Jackson! It's very much in the same style as the others; one thing Stackpole and Nye understood that most authors - or more likely their publishers - seem not to is the vital importance of good, readable MAPS to any military history. One final book in this vein I'll venture to mention that wasn't written by Gen. Stackpole - though he did publish it along with his own books - is Edward Steere's The Wilderness Campaign, also written around the time of the Civil War Centennial. Despite the title, it's approximately 700 pages are devoted entirely to the two-day Battle of the Wilderness and once again Col. Nye's maps make that highly confused and confusing event comprehensible to a modern reader.
 
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Buckeye Bill

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Unfortunately no, Bill, though I spent time in the Middletown-Strasburg area twice this year, in late April and again in July. April was when I toured most of the field, but unfortunately part of the time was rainy so the 8th Vermont fell victim to that. In July, I attended two guided tours/lectures given by NPS guides, one to the scene of the first Confederate attack on Thoburn; the other a walking tour of the grounds of Belle Grove which coincided with a reunion of descendants of the Hite family, builders of the manor house. I saw a few additional markers such as the one at the end of Sheridan's Ride but for one reason or another missed photographing them. During the visit to the site of Thoburn's camps, I was busy following the ranger's car so didn't stop to photograph the sites of the fords used by Gordon's men in crossing the Shenandoah, though we drove past two of them.

There is a house which was turned into a NPS sub-station just south of the Belle Grove Plantation on US 11. A NPS Ranger took my wife and I behind this sub-station to visit this monument. This is the same wooded area where the 8th Vermont Infantry fought.

Bill
 

James N.

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I'm a big fan of James E. Taylor ... so:
View attachment 82526 Ramseur Falls in Federal Attack - by James E. Taylor

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Another drawing by James E. Taylor shows Federal cavalry driving the Confederates down the Valley Pike.

So am I - while visiting Middletown and the area battlefields I had the pleasure of staying at the Wayside Inn:
http://civilwartalk.com/threads/wayside-inn-middleton-virginia-sleep-where-generals-slept.118333/

This thread devolves into a discussion of Taylor who was also a guest there; the current owners actually had a copy of his Sketchbook in the lobby which I spent time perusing one evening.
 

James N.

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A *BUMP* for the anniversary of the battle!
 

Eric Wittenberg

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James N.--that's just excellent. Cedar Creek is one of my favorite battles and battlefields, in part because it represents the very zenith of the power of the Union cavalry. Very well done, and I love your photos. You've obviously spent a lot of time on the ground, for which I commend you.

Keep up the good work.
 

James N.

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James N.--that's just excellent. Cedar Creek is one of my favorite battles and battlefields, in part because it represents the very zenith of the power of the Union cavalry. Very well done, and I love your photos. You've obviously spent a lot of time on the ground, for which I commend you.

Keep up the good work.

Thank you, Eric - I consider that high praise, considering the source!

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James N.

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Another *BUMP* for the anniversary of the battle of Cedar Creek which seems to have seriously confused the folks at Civil War News.
 
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