Sheridan's army following Early up the Valley of the Shenandoah
Union general Philip H. Sheridan, at bottom left, lifts his hat to acknowledge the hearty cheers of his soldiers in the fall of 1864, during the second Shenandoah Valley campaign. This pencil sketch was made by in-the-field artist Alfred R. Waud, who captioned the drawing, "Sheridan's Army following Early up the Valley of the Shenandoah." The sketch was the basis for an engraving that appeared in the October 22, 1864 issue of Harper's Weekly.
During September and October of the 1864 Valley campaign, Confederate general Jubal A. Early faced an enemy that outnumbered him almost three to one, and he lost three major battles at Winchester, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek. Confederate control of the Shenandoah Valley had helped prolong the Confederate war effort until 1864, with the region providing sustenance to Confederate stomachs and succoring Confederate nationalism. When those connections were destroyed by Union general Sheridan in the autumn of 1864—a campaign that culminated in what residents called "the Burning," and that also helped U.S. president Abraham Lincoln win reelection—victory for the Union and defeat for the Confederacy were all but assured.