The Battle of Cedar Creek
19 October 1864 (a.m.)
Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan Union forces established themselves on both sides of the Valley Pike, north of Cedar Creek, centered on Belle Grove.
Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early decided to send from below Strasburg three divisions, all under Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon command, along a trail south of the Shenandoah to Bowman and McInturff Fords. Once across, a hike of a mile got them onto the left flank of George Crook Eighth Corps. Wharton Division braced to cross Cedar Creek to attack Crook position frontally.
The attack opened at 5:00 a.m. when Kershaw Division rushed the trenches of Thoburn Division, Crook Corps. A few minutes after Kershaw attack, Gordon Corps smashed into Hayes? Division of the Corps. Many of Crook men fled to the rear. As soon as Wharton heard Kershaw attack, he closed up to the Cedar Creek Bridge and the Confederate artillery raced forward to Hupp Hill to go into battery against Emory Corps at 5:20 a.m.
By this time Emory men, west of the Pike, began to reorient their line to confront Gordon threat.
The Confederate onslaught pressed to positions around Belle Grove, where mixed elements of both Crook and Emory Corps fought desperately.
The units of Wright Corps, west of Meadow Brook, got into line of battle before they became seriously engaged. Keifer Division established a line oriented toward Cedar Creek, fighting Kershaw Division by 7:15 a.m. Contact was lost with the rest of the corps and Keifer Division was forced back.
Wheaton Division moved first to a position east of Meadow Brook, looking toward Belle Grove, but was pushed by Gordon to a line on high ground west of the brook. It withdrew from this position to link with Getty Division of the corps.
Getty Division, Sixth Corps delayed briefly on the southern edge of Middletown and then, about 8:00 a.m., deployed onto Cemetery Hill west of town. For about and hour it repelled successive assaults from four of Early Divisions. At 10 a.m., Getty retired to the new Federal line being formed about a mile farther north. The Confederate attack halted north of Middletown.
The Battle of Cedar Creek
19 October 1864 (p.m.)
Confederate forces by 11:00 a.m. occupied the line recently vacated by Getty Division, Wright Sixth Corps, north of Middletown. General Jubal Early called a halt to reorganize, over the objections of many of his commanders. The armies faced each other in lines perpendicular to the Pike, a little over a mile apart. At about 10:30 a.m., General Sheridan, returning from a conference in Washington, arrived on the scene after a ride from Winchester which has become a legend. His presence energized his battered forces. Sheridan completed reordering the Federal line in time to repulse a halfhearted Confederate probe at 1:00 p.m.
By then, Sheridan had placed a cavalry division on each flank with Wright and Emory Corps in line. Crook Corps was in reserve. His plan called for the cavalry to press both of Early flanks while Emory Corps pivoted southeastward. The Confederate shirmishers were pushed in around 3:30 p.m. and the main attack began at 4:00 p.m. Confederate resistance north of Middletown was fierce for about an hour. Then Gordon thinner lines to the west broke and Custer Federal cavalry on that flank struck for Early rear. This created panic along the entire Confederate line, which quickly turned into a stampede. The Confederate artillery with a few infantrymen fought brief delaying actions at the Federal morning positions and at Hupp Hill, but Early lost control as his forces dissolved in an effort to escape Federal pursuit.
The disaster was compounded when a bridge at Spangler Mill, south of Strasburg, broke. This caused a jam which prevented any vehicles from moving farther south. Thus, the guns and most of the wagons captured in the morning, plus twenty-four of Early cannon, had to be abandoned to the rampaging Federal cavalry. Early shattered forces gathered at Fisher Hill and withdrew southward. Confederate military power in the Valley was broken.
* Confederate names and units are in italics.
This material is based upon work done under cooperative agreement with the Department of Interior, National Park Service, American Battlefield Protection Program. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Interior.