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Rapid-Fire History: Battle of Cedar Creek


On October 19, 1864, Union Major General Philip Sheridan rallied his Army of the Shenandoah and achieved, “A victory turned from disaster…” over Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Army of the Valley at the Battle of Cedar Creek. As Union General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant tried to break through against Robert E. Lee at Petersburg, Virginia, Sheridan was ordered to go after Early and follow him to the death in the Shenandoah Valley. With its food and supplies, the Valley was the “Breadbasket of the Confederacy,” and after achieving victories in September and October, Sheridan followed Grant’s instructions to turn it into “a barren waste,” denying invaluable resources to Confederate forces. On the 19th, Early struck back, launching a surprise attack against Sheridan’s army camped near Cedar Creek and forcing Union troops to retreat four miles down the Valley. After returning from Washington, Sheridan was in Winchester and heard rumblings of the battle off to the south. He mounted his horse Rienzi and galloped 12 miles to the battlefield, rallying his men and launching a counterattack that nearly destroyed Early’s army. Sheridan’s victory helped ensure President Lincoln’s re-election and extinguished the Confederacy’s ability to conduct offensive operations in the Shenandoah Valley.

Sources

American Battlefield Trust: Battle of Cedar Creek.

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson.

History.com: Battle of Cedar Creek.

National Park Service: The Battle of Cedar Creek.

Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James M. McPherson.

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