The Battle of Piedmont, Virginia (1864)

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Buckeye Bill

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After replacing Major General Franz Sigel in command of Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley, Major General David “Black Dave” Hunter renewed the Union offensive. On June 5, 1864, Hunter engaged the Confederate army under Brigadier General William E. “Grumble” Jones north of Piedmont, Virginia. After severe fighting, a flanking movement made by Thoburn’s brigade turned Jones’s right flank. While trying to stem the retreat of his soldiers, Jones was killed. The retreat became a rout. More than 1,000 Confederates, including 60 officers, were captured. Jones lost three guns. Hunter occupied Staunton on June 6 and, after a pause to await the arrival of Brig. Gen. George Crook’s column, began to advance on Lynchburg, destroying military stores and public property in his wake.

* Civil War Trust Map 1

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* Civil War Trust Map 2

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* Virginia State Historic Marker "The Battle of Piedmont"

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* The town of Piedmont, Virginia

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* The Death Site of Confederate Brigadier General William E. "Grumble" Jones

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* Maps courtesy of the Civil War Trust. Photos courtesy of William Bechmann (2014)
 
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Buckeye Bill

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Confederate Brigadier General William E. "Grumble" Jones : At the start of the Civil War, Jones joined the 1st Virginia Cavalry Regiment as a Captain, commanding a company he had raised. On May 9 he was promoted to Major in Virginia's Provisional Army, and later that month both Jones and the regiment were transferred into the Confederate Army. Jones served under Col. J.E.B. Stuart in the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. The following month he was promoted to the rank of Colonel was given command of the 1st Virginia Cavalry.

In the fall of 1861 the Confederate forces underwent a massive reorganization, during which the enlisted men could elect their officers. As a result Jones was not re-elected to his post as commander of the 1st Virginia Cavalry. That September he was appointed to command the 7th Virginia Cavalry. He led the regiment into Western Virginia, along the Potomac River. In March 1862 Jones was given command of all cavalry in the Valley District.
Confederate Cavalry General William E. Jones photographed while still a colonel with the 7th Virginia Cavalry in 1862.
Returning to eastern Virginia, Jones's cavalry was distinguished in the Second Bull Run Campaign; he was wounded in a skirmish at Orange Court House on August 2. He was part of Stuart's ostentatious raid around Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's army preceding the Seven Days battles. He was promoted to Brigadier General on September 19, 1862, and on November 8, was assigned to command the 4th Brigade of Stuart's Cavalry Division in the Army of Northern Virginia. This brigade was known as Robertson's, or the "Laurel brigade," and consisted entirely of Virginians, formerly commanded by Turner Ashby. Based on the request of Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, on December 29, 1862, he assumed command of the Valley District.

In the spring of 1863, Jones and Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden raided the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad west of Cumberland, Maryland, destroying much of the railroad and public property in the area, including theBurning Springs Complex on May 9, 1863.[3] Rejoining Stuart, he fought in the largest cavalry engagement of the war, the Battle of Brandy Station, June 9, 1863, at the start of the Gettysburg Campaign. He was surprised, as was all of Stuart's command, to be hit out of blue by Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton. Jones's brigade was outnumbered by the division of his West Point classmate, Brig. Gen. John Buford, but it held its own and ended the fight with more horses and more and better small-arms than at the beginning, capturing two regimental colors, an artillery battery, and about 250 prisoners.

As the Gettysburg Campaign continued, Jones screened the Army of Northern Virginia's rear guard during the advance north through the Shenandoah Valley, by holding gaps in the mountains that separated them from Union observation and interference. As the Battle of Gettysburg commenced on July 1, 1863, Jones' brigade crossed the Potomac River at Williamsport, Maryland, but stayed away from the principal battlefield, guarding the trains and Harpers Ferry. Jones was disgruntled that Stuart had not taken him on his movement around the Union flank to join up with General Richard S. Ewell's Second Corps on the Susquehanna River. Before moving into Pennsylvania, General Robert E. Lee ordered Ewell to capture Harrisburg if practicable. The disagreeable Jones often clashed with Stuart. On July 3, Jones's brigade fought a sharp battle with the 6th U.S. Cavalry at Fairfield, Pennsylvania, then again at Funkstown, Maryland, a few days later. After Lee's army completed its retreat back to Virginia, Jones's men fought twice again with Buford at Brandy Station, on August 1 and October 10, 1863.

In October, Stuart's dissatisfaction with Jones reached a boil and he court-martialed Jones for insulting him. Although Grumble was found guilty, Robert E. Lee intervened, and he was transferred to the Trans-Allegheny Department in West Virginia. Jones recruited a brigade of cavalry there and campaigned in eastern Tennessee with Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's forces during the winter and spring of 1864. In May, Jones assumed command of the Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley who were defending against the halting advance of Maj. Gen. David Hunter towards Lynchburg, Virginia, in the Valley Campaigns of 1864. In the Battle of Piedmont on June 5, 1864, Jones was shot in the head and killed while leading a charge against a superior attacking force.

Grumble Jones is buried in the Old Glade Spring Presbyterian Church graveyard, Glade Spring, Virginia. His fellow cavalry general, Brig. Gen. Imboden, wrote that Jones :

... was an old army officer, brave as a lion and had seen much service, and was known as a hard fighter. He was a man, however, of high temper, morose and fretful. He held the fighting qualities of the enemy in great contempt, and never would admit the possibility of defeat where the odds against him were not much over two to one.

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The disagreeable Jones often clashed with Stuart.
"In October, Stuart's dissatisfaction with Jones reached a boil and he court-martialed Jones for insulting him. Although Grumble was found guilty, Robert E. Lee intervened, and he was transferred to the Trans-Allegheny Department in West Virginia. Jones recruited a brigade of cavalry there and campaigned in eastern Tennessee with Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's forces during the winter and spring of 1864. In May, Jones assumed command of the Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley who were defending against the halting advance of Maj. Gen. David Hunter towards Lynchburg, Virginia, in the Valley Campaigns of 1864. In the Battle of Piedmont on June 5, 1864, Jones was shot in the head and killed while leading a charge against a superior attacking force."

Great post ! I had relatives in Vaughn's brigade at Piedmont. One was captured and paroled for his second and final time. Seems I recall reading somewhere that Grumble had referred to Stuart as "old farts and feathers" LOL !!!! Lee knew he'd better separate them.
 
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littledoug

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I believe that in the early part of the festivities one of the volunteers that Jones, the old army guy, had charge of training and commanding was a young lawyer named John Singleton Mosby, later to achieve fame/infamy as the Gray Ghost. I think he also had some troubles with Stuart and better relations with Lee.
 
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James N.

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I had a great deal of trouble locating Piedmont, both the village itself and the battle site. Despite it's being indicated on the Virginia Civil War Trails map, little indicates exactly where anything occurred. (And I never found the Trails descriptive marker for it either - only the one above which was placed in the 1920's by the Virginia Historical Society under the direction of Douglas Southall Freeman.) The Virginia country and county roads are poorly marked as well; at least they were coming from the direction of nearby Port Republic. I never quite figured out exactly where the monument is corresponding to the maps above, but presume it's somewhere near the end of the line marked B. Jones and on Thoburn's side of the road.

Previous to visiting, I'd read The Last Confederate General, a biography of Brig. Gen. John C. Vaughan, which had a very full description of Piedmont, since Vaughan was largely made the scapegoat for Confederate defeat. It was the author's thesis that despite how it looks on the CW Trust maps above, that Vaughn's force was made up of cavalry in name only. He was unable to charge and take Thoburn in the flank - the logical thing for him to have done - because few if any of his men had horses! Thoburn's column had previously attacked Vaughan's line, but redirected their angle of attack from the shelter of that ravine you can barely make out on the map, taking Jones in the flank instead.

Vaughan had been summoned to the Valley all the way from East Tennessee around Bristol, and many of his troopers had lost their mounts due to hard service. Supposedly his men were divided, those still mounted serving with Jones and the rest held in the rear under Vaughan. (John C. Imboden was also somewhere in this mix, possibly with or near Vaughan.) Although Grumble Jones seems to have been a fine cavalry or dragoon officer, he apparently paid too little attention to what was happening on his very refused right under Vaughan until it was too late.

Edit: Unfortunately, it appears that none of this battlefield has been preserved, though it's all open and rolling farmland looking doubtless much as it did during the battle.
 
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Buckeye Bill

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The Civil War Trails marker is located on the private property lot of the New Hope Community Center on CR 608. I stopped by this complex but a semi truck was blocking the marker. I attempted to locate the driver but he was nowhere to be found.

Crudball.....
 
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