The Battles of Waynesboro, Virginia

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FrazierC

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Does anyone have any info about the battle of Waynesboro, Virginia fought on September 28, 1864? I knew about the battle there on March 2, 1865, but apparently a Federal captain received a Medal of Honor for actions awarded during a separate battle fought there on September 28, 1864. Any info on either battle would be greatly appreciated: there's not much out there at all.
 

James N.

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Well, there's this - but somehow I'll bet you had something else in mind! Other than this, all that readily comes to mind is that this second and last battle was the crushing end to Jubal Early's vain attempt to hold onto at least a small portion of the Shenandoah Valley in the face of overwhelming odds. He really didn't have a chance though, because after Cedar Creek in October of 1864 most of his infantry returned to Petersburg and Lee's army, leaving him little but the rag-tail cavalry which he despised with which to confront George Custer's superb division of Sheridan's cavalry.

The first battle in Sept., 1864 had come on the heels of Early's first significant defeats at Third Winchester (Opequon) and Fisher's Hill. After it, Sheridan mistakenly thought Early was leaving the Valley and prepared his own army for either winter quarters or leaving it himself. Early chose however to make a spectacular comeback at Cedar Creek, but it ran out of steam and led to the defeat and utter rout of his small army. The account on the card as seen below gets the basics right other than the fact that it was Custer who attacked Early and not the other way around.

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ErnieMac

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Following Sheridan's defeat of Early at the Battle of Fisher's Hill (September 21 - 22, 1864) Union cavalry advanced through Harrisonburg, Staunton and into Waynesboro, destroying Confederate military supplies and rail lines as they went. (This was shortly before Sheridan gave orders to burn the valley.) Early's command, reinforced by Kershaw's Division, moved to halt the Federal raiding. The skirmish in Waynesboro occurred as Early advanced. The Federal captain honored with the Medal of Honor was Captain George Bliss - 1st Rhode Island Cavalry. His citation follows. The following link to Sabres and Spurs: the First Regiment Rhode Island Cavalry in the Civil War, 1861-1865 gives details starting on page 394.
https://archive.org/details/sabresandspurs00denirich

Bliss, George Newman (POW)
Captain (Cavalry), U.S. Army
Company C, 1st Rhode Island Cavalry
Date of Action: September 28, 1864

Citation:
The Medal of Honor is presented to George Newman Bliss, Captain (Cavalry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism on September 28, 1864, while serving with Company C, 1st Rhode Island Cavalry, in action at Waynesboro, Virginia. While in command of the provost guard in the village, Captain Bliss saw the Union lines returning before the attack of a greatly superior force of the enemy, mustered his guard, and, without orders, joined in the defense and charged the enemy without support. He received three saber wounds, his horse was shot, and he was taken prisoner.

• Date of Issue: August 3, 1897
Born: 7/22/1837 at Tiverton, Rhode Island
Home Town: Pawtucket, Rhode Island​
 

lelliott19

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Following Sheridan's defeat of Early at the Battle of Fisher's Hill (September 21 - 22, 1864) Union cavalry advanced through Harrisonburg, Staunton and into Waynesboro, destroying Confederate military supplies and rail lines as they went. (This was shortly before Sheridan gave orders to burn the valley.) Early's command, reinforced by Kershaw's Division, moved to halt the Federal raiding. The skirmish in Waynesboro occurred as Early advanced.
I am also looking for accounts of this engagement of Sept 28, 1864 at Waynesboro. Would love to find some resources. @ErnieMac are you sure Early was advancing there at Waynesboro? I was under the (perhaps mistaken) impression it was just Kershaw's division? I'm going to PM you.
 

lelliott19

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Bliss, George Newman (POW)
Captain (Cavalry), U.S. Army
Company C, 1st Rhode Island Cavalry
Date of Action: September 28, 1864

Citation:
The Medal of Honor is presented to George Newman Bliss, Captain (Cavalry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism on September 28, 1864, while serving with Company C, 1st Rhode Island Cavalry, in action at Waynesboro, Virginia. While in command of the provost guard in the village, Captain Bliss saw the Union lines returning before the attack of a greatly superior force of the enemy, mustered his guard, and, without orders, joined in the defense and charged the enemy without support. He received three saber wounds, his horse was shot, and he was taken prisoner.

• Date of Issue: August 3, 1897
Born: 7/22/1837 at Tiverton, Rhode Island
Home Town: Pawtucket, Rhode Island​
Bliss' account of the actions that day:
A SINGLE-HANDED CHARGE

THE following account of a single-handed cavalry charge is
graphically told by Captain George N. Bliss, Company C, First
Rhode Island Cavalry:


" About three o'clock in the afternoon of September 28,1864, I
received an order from Major Farrington to ride to Waynesborough,
Va., and give orders to the provost guards to prevent soldiers
from entering the houses, as the entire cavalry force was about
to pass through the town to water their horses in the Shenandoah.....

Looking back, I saw my men coming on with a splendid squadron
front; looking forward, I saw the enemy in columns of fours,
turning to retreat. The ground was down hill towards the enemy;
I had never seen a better opportunity for a sabre charge, and as
the squadron neared me, I shouted: 'Come on boys, they are
running,' and jumping my horse over the low barricade, dashed in
among the rebels, only to find myself making the attack single-
handed.

" I had ridden past a dozen of the enemy before I discovered my
desperate situation. They were retreating in loose column of
fours, and as I rode in among them there were three files on my
left hand and one on my right. I felt that death was certain.
Like a lightning flash my whole life seemed to pass in review
before me, closing with the thought, 'and this is the end.'
There was but one chance. Fifty men behind me were shouting,
'Kill that ****ed Yankee ! '
"​

Read the whole thing here: http://www.civilwardata.com/active/hdsquery.dll?SoldierHistory?U>&854917
 
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ErnieMac

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I am also looking for accounts of this engagement of Sept 28, 1864 at Waynesboro. Would love to find some resources. @ErnieMac are you sure Early was advancing there at Waynesboro? I was under the (perhaps mistaken) impression it was just Kershaw's division? I'm going to PM you.
The Official Records indicate Robert E. Lee had been notified of Early's defeat at Fishers Hill by September 23 and ordered Richard Anderson to order Kershaw to return to the Valley that day. Jeffrey Wert in his book From Winchester to Cedar Creek states Kershaw reported to Early by noon of September 26 (Chapter 8 - In The Upper Valley). The following communique (OR Series 1, Volume XLIII, Part 1, page 552) was sent from Lee to Secretary of War James Seddon on the 29th. It seems likely the Confederate move on Waynesboro was a coordinated move by Early.

Honorable J. A. SEDDON.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, September 29, 1864.

General Early reports that after driving the enemy's cavalry from his front near Port Republic he moved to Waynesborough and drove two divisions of cavalry from that place. This last force retreated through Staunton, and a portion of our cavalry entered that place to-day. No enemy south of Staunton. His main force is about Harrisonburg.

R. E. LEE.​
 
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