Shenandoah Valley 1864 The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864

James N.

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LOL. I wrote that book years ago: http://www.amazon.com/Little-Phil-Reassessment-Leadership-Sheridan/dp/1574885480/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1378669588&sr=8-5&keywords=little phil

People either love that book or they hate it. It's polarizing, which makes it fun. :D

I like it! I must also admit it's the only book of yours I own and have read, but I liked immensely your popping of some of Sheridan's balloons - I've always thought him a horse's a** ever since I read about his dealings with Warren over Five Forks. At a later date, it now appears he was backpedaling in regards to Custer at Little Bighorn too, trying to place all the blame for that fiasco at his feet.
 
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dvrmte

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As far as I know, aside from the operations and engagements in the valley, Jackson was working under the orders of Lee. So to compare the actions of Jackson after he left the valley in 1862 to Early in the valley in 1864, is a stretch.

Jackson was given much leeway in how he produced the desired results of his orders. I'm not comparing what Jackson did after he left the Valley with Early's campaign, only noting that he wasn't given the chance to invade the North as was Early. I'd even go further and say that Lee probably remembered Jackson insisting that the best plan to relieve Richmond in 1862 was to threaten Washington. Early benefited from and used Jackson's secret weapon too, Jedediah Hotchkiss, the mapmaker.
 

SKC

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The Tactical Situation:
If Lee was going to detach a separate force for operations in the Valley would that force not have been more effectively utilized against the Army of the Potomac in his front? Lee’s back was against Richmond at this point and he knew as he stated “if it comes down to a siege it is only a matter of time”. At the same time the 2nd corps was beginning to move towards the Valley the Army of the Potomac was beginning an extremely risky maneuver towards the James River and Petersburg. At this point of the campaign, Lee would have the best concentration of forces that he could hope to have for the remainder of the war. In one article Gordon Rhea puts Lee’s total number of effectives at 74,000. This would be prior to the detachment of John Breckenridge’s division back to the Shenandoah Valley as well as Wade Hampton’s two divisions of cavalry, but it is still an important consideration. A move against Grant’s flanks or more importantly his logistics and supply base would have great possibilities. When one takes into consideration that Grant had a bad habit of detaching all of his cavalry corps for raids and had just done so again on June 7th the argument becomes even more compelling.

I found this paragraph, in particular, quite interesting....questions if I may.

1) From your post, does Lee have 70k plus after Cold Harbor/at the time that Grant is crossing the James?
2) What would the comparable numbers be for the AoP/various corps that had reinforced the AoP? Would this number be below 80k?
3) How much cavalry did Grant have on hand when he was crossing the James?
4) From your post, dealing with logistics, I assume that the Virginia Central was, in fact, not a key source of supplies for Lee. And therefore, cutting it would have been a relatively low priority for Grant?

thanks in advance

Steve
 
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For everyone's thoughts and comments.

In June of 1864 Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was deadlocked with the Union Army of the Potomac at Cold Harbor. During this time, Union forces were moving against Confederate logistical bases in the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Central Railroad. To counter these moves Robert E. Lee detached a large portion of his cavalry as well as Lt. General Jubal Early’s Second Corps to counter these threats. In addition, Early was given additional orders to “threaten” Washington with the hopes of drawing troops away from the Army of the Potomac as well as potentially rescuing Confederate prisoners of war from the Union prison camp at Point Lookout, MD.
This would begin what many historians consider to be “Phase One” of a three part campaign in the Valley. This phase began with Early’s move to Lynchburg in the Shenandoah Valley and ended with his withdrawal from the outskirts of Washington and the failure of the Point Lookout mission. Phase Two would be Early’s operations in the Valley from the time of his moving back into Virginia, which culminated in the Union defeat at the Second Battle of Kernstown. The third and final phase was Early confronted the Federal forces assembled to defeat him under the command of Major General Phil Sheridan. This phase ended with the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Cedar Creek and the return of the Second Corps to the Army of Northern Virginia.
The ultimate failure of this campaign had devastating consequences for the Confederacy and when looked at in hindsight would the benefits truly have outweighed the risks? From the outset of this campaign there are several points to consider:
Leadership:
While many historians agree that Jubal Early was the best qualified corps commander available at the time was he the overall best choice for leader of this mission? The first consideration is that if Early was Lee’s most aggressive corps commander then would Lee not have wanted that person close at hand? There were two extremely capable division commanders in the 2nd Corps that most likely could have filled the role of leader in the persons of John Gordon and Robert Rodes. As it was, Gordon would go on to command the 2nd Corps and become one of Lee’s closest confidants in the closing days of the war. Another factor is that the mission to Point Lookout would require the judicious use of cavalry. Now Lee might not have known of the poor caliber of the cavalry units assigned to the Valley District but he certainly would have known about the outspoken Early’s disdain for cavalry in general. That being said, another possibility for leadership would have been Major General Wade Hampton. Hampton was a proven combat leader and Valley force could have been augmented with a brigade of cavalry from the Army of Northern Virginia.
The Second Corps:
The choice of the Second corps was an interesting choice in itself. On the surface the logic is sound. The corps is made up of veterans of previous Valley Corps has also suffered horrendous casualties during the Overland Campaign. The Second Corps may very well have been down to 6000 effectives by June of 1864. The most optimistic estimates would place 9000 effectives in the ranks but the numbers vary from historian to historian to historian. Gordon C. Rhea, the acknowledged expert on the Overland Campaign states varying numbers for the Second Corps during this time in various books and magazine articles. In terms of numbers, it was the weakest combat formation at corps level in the Army of Northern Virginia at the time. Some would question Lee reducing his available infantry force by detaching the Second Corps but Lee was able to offset these losses by being able to utilize the infantry divisions under George Pickett, Bushrod Johnson, and Robert Hoke. It is also important to note that all of the combat units in the Army of Northern Virginia had been continuously marching or fighting since May 5th. It puts into perspective the plight of Confederacy at this stage in the war that such a campaign was even considered.
The Tactical Situation:
If Lee was going to detach a separate force for operations in the Valley would that force not have been more effectively utilized against the Army of the Potomac in his front? Lee’s back was against Richmond at this point and he knew as he stated “if it comes down to a siege it is only a matter of time”. At the same time the 2nd corps was beginning to move towards the Valley the Army of the Potomac was beginning an extremely risky maneuver towards the James River and Petersburg. At this point of the campaign, Lee would have the best concentration of forces that he could hope to have for the remainder of the war. In one article Gordon Rhea puts Lee’s total number of effectives at 74,000. This would be prior to the detachment of John Breckenridge’s division back to the Shenandoah Valley as well as Wade Hampton’s two divisions of cavalry, but it is still an important consideration. A move against Grant’s flanks or more importantly his logistics and supply base would have great possibilities. When one takes into consideration that Grant had a bad habit of detaching all of his cavalry corps for raids and had just done so again on June 7th the argument becomes even more compelling.
The Strategic Situation:
Many historians refer to the Shenandoah Valley as “Lee’s Strategic Left Flank”. Certainly, it was an important source of commissary and other types of supplies, but it is my opinion that Lee would not have considered it his flank. Indeed, all correspondence regarding the movement of the Second Corps to the Valley by various Confederate diarists refer to the defeat of Major General David Hunter and the importance of protecting the Valley from further Union incursions but this stems from the agricultural resources of the area; not so much as the Valley being considered a “flank”. Another reason for Lee to send forces to the Valley was to hopefully draw Union forces away from his front at Richmond and improve his odds for successfully attacking the Army of the Potomac. An interesting theory presented by Noah Trudeau is that Grant sent forces to attack the Valley and the Virginia Central Railroad in the hopes that Lee would detach forces to counter them thereby leaving the Army of Northern Virginia in position to be overwhelmed by superior Union numbers. It is Trudeau’s opinion that if Grant had better subordinates under his command this strategy would have worked.
The Logistical Situation:
In warfare it is said that amateurs study tactics and experts study logistics. From a purely logistical standpoint defending the Shenandoah Valley at this stage in the war may very well have been counterproductive. No one would argue the abundant agricultural resources of the Valley however the problem was getting those supplies from the Valley to Richmond. There were only two supply routes from the Valley that were still in Confederate Hands: The Virginia Central Railroad and the James River/Kanawha Canal. The rail line was already under attack by Union forces and even if it had not been the case, the Confederate railroad system was never a very reliable means of moving supplies. Lee should have known this from his previous experiences by being supplied by the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad when he was defending the line of the Rappahannock River around Fredericksburg. Also, with Lee being as close to Richmond as he was now, he was now being supplied by the numerous rail lines coming into Petersburg. Not defending the Virginia Central would allow Lee to concentrate his forces in front of Richmond and Petersburg with his left flank secured by the Chickahominy River. Another factor to consider is the amount of commissary supplies that could be delivered from North Carolina and South Central Virginia without relying primarily on the Shenandoah Valley. The Confederate supply system would have had another relief being this close to Richmond and her factories especially the Tredegar Iron Works. More transportation could be devoted to food and forage and less to munitions. It is interesting to note that most modern historians agree that while Lee’s supply situation during the siege of Richmond/Petersburg was tenuous his troops were by no means starving.
The Political Situation:
“War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means”, stated Carl von Clausewitz. This was especially true of the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864. Both Grant and Lee realized that the Northern presidential elections in November would most likely be directly influenced by Union successes on the battlefield…or lack thereof. Lee knew that if Early could threaten Washington, especially for an extended operational period then there was a very good chance that Abraham Lincoln and his political party could be defeated in the election and the Peace Democrats and their party nominee, George McClellan, would immediately move to end hostilities with the Confederacy. It’s interesting to note in hindsight that Lincoln secured pledges from his cabinet to pursue the war by all possible means in the event of his defeat until the new president was sworn in. Which means that by that time even the Peace Democrats would have realized that the war was merely weeks away from being over with complete Union victory being the outcome.
In conclusion, while I agree that the move to send Jubal Early and the Second Corps to the Shenandoah Valley was a bold move I again ask was it the correct move if all factors were taken into consideration. I have benefit of both hindsight as well as being a relative amateur in the study of this campaign in particular, and the American Civil War in general. Even Jubal Early spoke of this campaign in his memoirs as a “forlorn hope”.

My relative, Thomas Charles Land, 2nd Lieutenant Co. K 53rd NC, was with Early in the Valley. He had been severely wounded at Culp's Hill at Gettysbirg and not been back with the Army long before the start of the Overland Campaign. He makes reference to the The Valley Campaign in this poem he wrote after the war : http://civilwartalk.com/threads/civil-war-poem.77154/
 

TexasRick

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Steve,

Lee's forces would have taken into account the 2nd Corps prior to their departure for the Valley
It is assumed that the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James would have had a combined force in excess of 100,000. Grant most likely had little if any cavalry with him when he crossed the James except those cavalry units that were assigned to the Army of the James. All of the Army of the Potomac's Cavalry were detached on the raid on the Virginia Central Railroad which led to the battle of Trevilian Station.

As for the value of the Virginia Central Railroad that is hard to say. There are two types of value: actual and perceived. The actual value of the VCRR was most likely not that high but the perceived value by Grant could have been higher. Keep in mind the Shenandoah Valley in 1861 at the beginning of the war produced less than 20% of the state's grain, corn, wheat, and barley and 11% of the livestock. This was reduced by 50% after the first year of the war. So take that with the never reliable Southern rail system you have to ask how valuable was the Shenandoah indeed?
 

TexasRick

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For you gentleman comparing Jackson and Early in the Valley you are comparing apples and oranges so to speak. Stonewall Jackson was a brilliant commander especially in the Valley but look at what Early accomplished, what he was able to do it with, and the fact that his successes actually had more of a positive impact on the overall Southern war effort that Jackson's did....I'm talking about the 1864 presidential election.
 

JeffBrooks

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For you gentleman comparing Jackson and Early in the Valley you are comparing apples and oranges so to speak. Stonewall Jackson was a brilliant commander especially in the Valley but look at what Early accomplished, what he was able to do it with, and the fact that his successes actually had more of a positive impact on the overall Southern war effort that Jackson's did....I'm talking about the 1864 presidential election.

Early's campaigning from mid-June to mid-September a) drew nearly two entire Union corps away from Petersburg, thus greatly reducing the pressure on Lee, b) secured the valuable agricultural land of the Shenandoah Valley, c) greatly improved Southern morale, and d) made the Lincoln administration look incompetent and ridiculous at the most politically critical point of the entire war. Simply put, from a military, economic, and political point of view, it was one of the best individual campaign performances of any general in the entire war.
 

Miles Krisman

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Early's campaigning from mid-June to mid-September a) drew nearly two entire Union corps away from Petersburg, thus greatly reducing the pressure on Lee, b) secured the valuable agricultural land of the Shenandoah Valley, c) greatly improved Southern morale, and d) made the Lincoln administration look incompetent and ridiculous at the most politically critical point of the entire war. Simply put, from a military, economic, and political point of view, it was one of the best individual campaign performances of any general in the entire war.

Early accomplished this and more with an initial force of only 16,000 men! By September 1864, his force was about half that number.
 

SKC

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Early accomplished this and more with an initial force of only 16,000 men! By September 1864, his force was about half that number.

I started reading “In the Trenches at Petersburg - Field Fortifications and Confederate Defeat”, by Earl Hess, yesterday afternoon. Although this book does not deal with the ’64 Valley campaign directly, it does discuss the impact of sending the VI Corps (and the XIX corps) to deal with Early in the Valley.
At the risk of badly paraphrasing what Hess’ book argues (and no, I haven’t come close to finishing the book), by July, Hess argues Grant was faced with several options. He could invoke traditional siege practices, with sappers attempting to get Union trenches closer and closer to the Confederate lines. Or he could take a large chunk of the AoP on a wide swinging move to the left and try and come up from behind Lee’s far right. But he would need sufficient manpower to both man the existing trenches AND to support an effective flanking move around Lee’s right (that would involve a lot more than just temporarily severing a rail line etc.).
As for sufficient manpower, instead of being able to add the XIX corps (coming from the failed Red River campaign) to the existing strength of the AoP (the XIX corps was meant to replace the losses incurred during the initial attacks on Petersburg, which were in excess of 10,000), Grant was instead faced with both the XIX and the VI corps being sent to provide support for the army that Sheridan was building in the Valley.
As a result of this lack of manpower, Hess argues that Grant seriously considered siege operations, although one of Grant’s staff pointed out that the Confederates could just move their trenches back as fast as Grant could move his forward. The compromise was a series of semi-successful flanking movements, but ones that were largely aimed at breaking Lee’s supply chain, rather than one large flanking movement that was designed to circle around Lee’s right and come up behind Lee from the rear.
This is a somewhat longwinded post….but my way of agreeing that Early’s Valley campaign was probably a lot more effective than what many would otherwise conclude.
 

TerryB

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Interesting. In my humble opinion I don't think Lee should have entrenched himself at Petersburg at all. It enabled the Union to starve his Army into submission. Plus he lost all ability obviously to maneuver and led to him being surrounded. Petersburg as well Richmond were expendable. Lee's army was not.

By surrounded. I'm talking at the end. By that time the war was already won anyhow. It was just a matter of t
Interesting. In my humble opinion I don't think Lee should have entrenched himself at Petersburg at all. It enabled the Union to starve his Army into submission. Plus he lost all ability obviously to maneuver and led to him being surrounded. Petersburg as well Richmond were expendable. Lee's army was not.

By surrounded. I'm talking at the end. By that time the war was already won anyhow. It was just a matter of time.
He didn't want to defend Petersburg. I even believe he waited so long to send help to Beauregard because he was against defending Petersburg. Earlier, he had asked for permission to abandon Richmond and fight in the mountains, but was denied.
 

civilken

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Jul 25, 2013
Were there not despite times for Lee I can not think he did not already know the outcome and what a heavy load to carry the south is in disarray what to do next only a miracle can work . the south is but a Dream as Grant and his war machine march forward Time and tide wait for no man but alas ONE just one more miracle Dear GOD do not forsake us he must pray at this time for your children of the south need your Help at this time to stop the northern hoard are at our gates
 

TexasRick

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The unfortunate thing about the operations around Petersburg is they have not (in my opinion being a novice to this) gotten the attention that they deserve. Especially when the overall Confederate strategic picture in Virginia is taken into consideration. Keep in mind that Early's operations in the Valley began after the battles of Cloyd's Mountain, Piedmont, and New Market. These engagements took place during the time that Lee's forces were battling Grant in what has become known as the Overland Campaign. And in the strategic picture these were all connected. The same goes with Petersburg and Early's operations.

Now there have been several well done works on Petersburg by Ed Bearrs, Noah Trudeau, and Earl Hess but having read the works by all three of these authors I still find them lacking substance to be a true comprehensive study of the operations around Petersburg. And yet to do so would require a single author penning several volumes.
 

civilken

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ok guys just trying to be deep I have been reading a lot lately I just love this stuff and no I do not use drugs or booze .
 

TexasRick

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Ken your passion is something that Civil War history needs more of. I attended my Civil War Roundtable last week and our guest speaker was "Bud" Robertson. He was very adamant about the lack of understanding of history by our society as a whole. I was so moved by his speech that in addition to my Civil War addiction I have begun to read other works of American history starting with the "Worst Hard Time" the story of the Dust Bowl.

I have toured many battlefields in Virginia and other states and it always stuns me that people with this much history in th own backyards know so very little about it. There was one bright spot however. In 2010 I was touring various sites in Petersburg and had stopped at Fort Wadsworth. As I was standing there consulting my map a little stopped and asked me if I was touring Civil War sites and wondered if I had any questions she could answer. While I was pretty secure in my knowledge and route we visited for about 20 minutes and at the end I thanked her profusely for her interest in my travels and for her passion for history. It was a wonderful thing!

If you are new to this realm and have any questions please feel free to message me.
 

civilken

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WOW Thank you so much Texasrick I have to say for me history to me is more then just the past it is our future .
 

Rebforever

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Oct 26, 2012
Ken your passion is something that Civil War history needs more of. I attended my Civil War Roundtable last week and our guest speaker was "Bud" Robertson. He was very adamant about the lack of understanding of history by our society as a whole. I was so moved by his speech that in addition to my Civil War addiction I have begun to read other works of American history starting with the "Worst Hard Time" the story of the Dust Bowl.

I have toured many battlefields in Virginia and other states and it always stuns me that people with this much history in th own backyards know so very little about it. There was one bright spot however. In 2010 I was touring various sites in Petersburg and had stopped at Fort Wadsworth. As I was standing there consulting my map a little stopped and asked me if I was touring Civil War sites and wondered if I had any questions she could answer. While I was pretty secure in my knowledge and route we visited for about 20 minutes and at the end I thanked her profusely for her interest in my travels and for her passion for history. It was a wonderful thing!

If you are new to this realm and have any questions please feel free to message me.

TexasRick, I would like to also recommend to you, for further understanding as it did for me, the
West Point Atlas of the Civil War. Very inexpensive and full of surprises. Just a tip. I paid
$11 for mine at Costco.

R
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Columbus, OH
All of the Army of the Potomac's Cavalry were detached on the raid on the Virginia Central Railroad which led to the battle of Trevilian Station.

Incorrect. Only the First and Second Cavalry Divisions went on the Trevilian Raid. The Third Division remained with the Army of the Potomac until June 22, when it, along with August V. Kautz's cavalry division of the Army of the James, departed on the Wilson-Kautz Raid. Grant therefore had Wilson's Third Division when he crossed the James on June 13, 1864.
 

TexasRick

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Austin, TX
You got me on that one I should have checked my facts. I should have known better since I read your book on the battle last summer!!
 
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