From Winchester To Cedar Creek: The Shenandoah Campaign Of 1864

Wert, Jeffry D.
New York: Simon & Schuster Inc.
Jeffry D. Wert examines the severe defeat of Jubal Early's Confederate army in From Winchester to Cedar Creek: The Shenandoah Campaign of 1864. Up to this point the Shenandoah Valley proved a symbol of Southern victory, but it would not remain unconquered. Union General Philip Sheridan would receive contemporary and historic renown from his accomplishments. This campaign in August through October 1864, shattered the stalemate in Virginia. Though historians in the past have, according to Wert, neglected the final campaign for the Shenandoah Valley, he argues that the campaign's outcome ensured Southern defeat in Virginia. He also shows that although the number of troops engaged and the casualties they suffered did not rival other major engagements, the fighting in the Valley "was some of the bloodiest of the war in relation to the numbers engaged and casualties inflicted." The idea of the campaign into the Shenandoah Valley began with the gambling strategy of Robert E. Lee. He had refashioned the campaign led into the Valley by Stonewall Jackson two years earlier. The early success of the Confederates in the Valley during the summer of 1864 brought a response from Ulysses S. Grant as the political and military stakes became extremely high for both sides. "If the summer stalemate in Virginia were to be broken, it would be beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley." For the first time Union authorities brought a command in strength, leadership, and combat ability worthy of strategic value into the Shenandoah Valley. The Army of the Shenandoah exceeded any previous Union forces in the region in numbers alone and the Confederate Army of the Valley failed to compare in numbers of effectiveness to this new Union army. When Grant handed Sheridan his orders on August 6, 1864, he had determined to change the past and had created a new weapon for the task in the new Army of the Shenandoah. His orders meant a hard campaign in the Valley lay ahead. The constant shifting and counter shifting of troops into the region by both Lee and Grant showed how the operations at Petersburg and in the Shenandoah Valley were intertwined. When Sheridan and Early first met at the Battle of Third Winchester it ended in a disaster for Early's Confederate troops. The Yankees attributed the victory to Sheridan who overlooked a series of flaws and blunders that would have caused a disastrous defeat had he not held such superior numbers. Still, he could afford these mistakes because he held a three to one advantage. This battle showed characteristics of Sheridan that not only contributed to this victory but would also impact the remainder of the campaign. "He possessed a remarkable sense of ebb and flow of an engagement, grasping the key to changing situations and implementing new tactical arrangements for those circumstance." He also had a charismatic presence that inspired his troops. Jubal Early, on the other hand, had suffered the first loss in a major engagement for a Confederate general in the Shenandoah Valley. His soldiers realized this and doubts began to grow in the minds of Early's men about the competence of his generalship. At Fisher's Hill, unlike at Winchester, Sheridan beat Early with superior generalship. In the span of one week Early's army had been beaten at Winchester, routed at Fisher's Hill, and almost pushed out of the Valley altogether. For three months of the campaign Jubal Early accomplished Lee's risky designs through hard marching, tough fighting and daring bluff. Yet, in the end, this was not enough against the odds that faced the Confederates. Ultimately the Army of the Shenandoah conquered what had previously proved unconquerable. With the Confederate defeat at Cedar Creek, the Union army sealed the fate of the Army of the Valley. After this final defeat the Confederates finally retired from the Shenandoah Valley. Wert gives a complete and detailed account of the Shenandoah Campaign in 1864. He chronicles the battles that ultimately ended in the expelling of the Confederate Army of the Valley from the region. Here he successfully argues that the campaign's result ensured Southern defeat in Virginia and shows the desire of both Grant and Lee to use the Shenandoah Valley to end the stalemate in Petersburg.
Description (physical):
Softbound, 6" x 9", 325 p.
6125 Boydton Plank Rd.Petersburg,Virginia 23803
Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier