2005 Civil War Institute

Shenandoah in Flames
June 17-20, 2005 

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2005 Pictures

The Civil War Institute, sponsored by the Shenandoah Civil War Associates, will present “Shenandoah in Flames- the 1864 Valley Campaign” on June 17-20, 2005. The program was based on the campus of James Madison University.

Battlefield tours were conducted by outstanding Civil War Historians. Jeffry Wert, John Heatwole, Eric Wittenberg, Joseph Whitehorne, and Nick Picerno led tours of New Market, Piedmont, Staunton, Third Winchester, Cedar Creek, Fishers Hill Tom’s Brook, and “The Burning” sites in the Shenandoah Valley.

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia was important to both sides in the Civil War, partly because of its shape and partly because it was the wealthiest agriculture region in the state. The 100-mile long Valley ran southwest to northeast. Confederate forces in the Valley could advance against the Cumberland Valley of Maryland and Pennsylvania, and the important cities of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. During the war the bounty of the Valley included horses and foodstuffs that sustained the Confederacy.

Good roads in the Valley allowed rapid movement. The Valley Pike was the only Macadamized turnpike in the state. Its hard surface expedited the movement of troops and wagons through its length. Good east-west roads entered the Valley from its eastern edge -- the Blue Ridge Mountains -- and expedited movements to and from Northern Virginia and Washington.

After Stonewall Jackson’s brilliant campaign in the Valley in 1862, the Valley was relatively quiet the next two years. Confederate guerrillas sometimes stung Union garrisons in the lower Valley.

When Grant assumed command of all the Union armies in March 1864, he was determined to apply pressure in all major areas from Virginia to Texas at the same time.

Grant’s main advance, the Overland Campaign, reached the vicinity of Richmond after much fighting but without defeating Lee, and became the bloodiest campaign in American history. At the same time, Confederate General John C. Breckinridge defeated Franz Sigel, the incompetent "political” general leading the Federals in the Valley at New Market on May 15. Lee then summoned Breckenridge’s army eastward to help in the fighting around Richmond. The reduction of Confederate strength in the Shenandoah permitted Sigel’s successor, General David Hunter, to launch another thrust up the Valley in June. He easily defeated the Rebel command of William E. "Grumble” Jones at Piedmont on June 5. Hunter now pushed southward, took Lexington, and burnt the Virginia Military Institute there, and marched on Lynchburg, east of the Blue Ridge.

Lee detached his Second Corps under Jubal Early to rescue Lynchburg and reclaim the Valley. Early compelled Hunter to retire into West Virginia , freeing the Valley of the enemy. He then decided to take the war to the North by threatening the Federal capital. Early nearly entered Washington before Union reinforcements from Grant’s army arrived. Early reluctantly retired back to the Valley.

In early August, Grant placed his Cavalry Corps commander, Philip H. Sheridan, in charge of a new administrative district, the Middle Military Division.

He gave him simple orders: remove Early as a threat and end the Shenandoah’s role as Breadbasket of the Confederacy. Sheridan saw an opening when Early spread his army out excessively near Winchester. He attacked Early and badly defeated him on September 19 at the battle of the Opequon (Third Winchester). Two days later, at the bastion of Fisher’s Hill, below Strasburg, Sheridan skillfully pried Early out of his position and sent him flying as far as Staunton.

Sheridan then embarked upon the Burning of the Valley. From the Blue Ridge to the Alleghenies, the sky was dark with smoke as the slowly withdrawing Federals destroyed barns, mills, crops and anything else that conceivably would help the Confederate war effort. Sheridan’s men finally went into camp along Cedar Creek between Middletown and Strasburg. There, to their great surprise, the irrepressible Early attacked them on October 19. The skillful Confederate attack nearly overwhelmed the Federals. However, Sheridan rallied his men, counterattacked, and turned the day into a disaster for Early. The shattered Southerners retreated yet again. The final defeat of Early’s command -- the last defenders of the Valley -- came at the minor battle of Waynesboro on March 2, 1865. The Confederate defense of the Valley had ended.

2005 Schedule

Friday, June 17

1:00 - 1:30   Check in at Ashby Hall at JMU. (Lunch is not provided)
1:30 - 2:30   “The Armies in the Shenandoah” at Taylor Hall - John Heatwole
2:30 - 3:15   Book Signing sponsored by the JMU Book Store, Taylor Hall
3:15 - 5:00   “Sheridan in the Valley: A Victorious Campaign Bereft of Decision” - Eric Wittenberg
5:00 - 6:00   Free Time
6:00 -     Reception and banquet at Madison Grill, JMU. Followed by “The Spring 1864 Campaign” - Jeff Wert

Saturday, June 18

7:45 -
8:00
  Bus picks up those staying at the Sleep Inn
8:00 -
12:00
  Depart JMU for New Market. Tour New Market Battlefield with John Heatwole and Joe Whitehorne. John describes points of interest in Harrisonburg and enroute to New Market
12:00 -
2:00
  Box lunch New Market Battlefield
2:00 -
3:00
  Tour of Piedmont Battlefield by John Heatwole
3:00 -
6:00
  Arrive Staunton. Visit historic sites including Thornrose Cemetary led by John Heatwole, joined by Serge Trobetzkoy, Staunton Visitor’s Bureau.
6:00 -
8:00
  Dinner in Staunton
8:00 -
  Return to Harrisonburg

Sunday, June 19

7:45 -
8:00
  Bus picks up those staying at the Sleep Inn
8:00  
9:30
  Depart JMU
9:30 -
11:30
  Tour Third Winchester Battlefield with John Heatwole and Joe Whitehorne
11:30 -
12.00
  Travel to Strasburg
12:00 -
12:45
  Box lunch at County Park, Strasburg
1:00 -
3:00
  Tour Cedar Creek with Jeff Wert, Joe Whitehorne and John Heatwole.
3:15 -
3:30
  Travel to Fishers Hill
3:30 -
4:30
  Tour Fishers John Heatwole, and Joe Whitehorne
4:30 -
5:30
  Tom’s Brook led by Eric Wittenberg
5:30 -
6:15
  Return to Harrisonburg
7:30 -
  Buffet dinner at the Fordneys’ in Harrisonburg with Civil War music

Monday, June 20

7:45 -
8:00
  Bus picks up those staying at the Sleep Inn
8:00 -
12:00
  Depart JMU for tour of burning sites by John Heatwole
12:00 -
1:30
  Lunch in Woodstock
1:30 -
2:30
  Return to Harrisonburg
2:30 -
3:30
  “Animal Logistics in the Civil War” by Joe Whitehorne, at Taylor Hall
3:30 -
5:00
  Open discussion on the 1864 Valley Campaign. All presenters and participants
5:00 -
6:00
  Free Time
6:00 -
 

Farewell Dinner at Madison Grill, JMU

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