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Army of the Shenandoah

From Academic Kids

The Army of the Shenandoah, first organized in 1861 and then disbanded, is best known for its recreation in 1864 under Philip Sheridan. It played a crucial role in the closing days of the American Civil War, the Valley Campaigns of 1864.

Contents

History

A Union force was designated Army of the Shenandoah in 1861 under the command of Robert Patterson, but saw little action before being disbanded by the order of General-in-Chief Winfield Scott.

The force was next created by order of Ulysses S. Grant on July 7, 1864, in response to a raid by Jubal Early and his army of 15,000 on Washington, D.C., and especially his defeat of Lew Wallace at the Battle of Monocacy Junction. The new Army of the Shenandoah was comprised of the Union VI Corps (Horatio G. Wright), XIX Corps (William H. Emory), and George Crook's Army of West Virginia (VIII Corps). It was placed under Sheridan’s command with orders to repel Early, deal with Confederate guerillas, and press on into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

Early, ever the cunning strategist, kept his force moving so as not to be trapped by Sheridan’s vastly superior force; his raid had, if anything, a good deal of success for southern morale. Confederate General Robert E. Lee, coming to the conclusion that Early had done all that was practical, ordered Early to return two of his divisions to Richmond and remain to tie up Sheridan. Learning of this, Sheridan waited until Early weakened himself and then attacked at the Third Battle of Winchester on September 19 and then again at the Battle of Fisher’s Hill on September 20 and 21. By the end of these battles, Early’s force was effectively out of the war, and Sheridan proceeded with his secondary orders to destroy the ability of the Shenandoah Valley to produce foodstuffs for the Confederacy, torching farms and more than 2,000 mills.

Reinforced again in reaction to the threat of Sheridan’s 31,000-man army, Early moved against Sheridan once more. After a decisive cavalry victory by Union forces under Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Tom’s Brook, Early’s army launched a surprise attack against Sheridan at the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19. Initially successful, the Confederates were repelled by a Union counterattack and the Valley was firmly under Union control.

Following their victory, portions of the Army of the Shenandoah were detached to Grant at Petersburg and to William Tecumseh Sherman in Georgia. Sheridan himself joined Grant. Command of the army then passed to Brig. Gen. Alfred Thomas Torbert until June 27, 1865, when the force was disbanded for the final time.

Commanders

Notable battles

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