SOL: VS.7.b

ENTRY

Winchester during the Civil War

Located in the Shenandoah Valley, Winchester was the most contested town in the Confederacy during the American Civil War (1861–1865), changing hands more than seventy times and earning its reputation (in the words of a British observer) as the shuttlecock of the Confederacy. Three major battles were fought within town limits and four others nearby. In 1862, Confederate general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson won a victory there during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign that solidified his reputation as the Confederacy’s first hero. Following Jackson’s death in May 1863, Richard S. Ewell took over his corps and, on the way to Gettysburg, scooped up the Union garrison at Winchester, suggesting to many that he might have the stuff to replace the fallen Stonewall. The Third Battle of Winchester (1864) was a Union victory, part of Union general Philip H. Sheridan‘s successful Valley Campaign against Jubal A. Early. The war, meanwhile, brought huge changes for the town’s residents, including rampant inflation, often harsh measures imposed by occupiers, and the destruction of slavery. By 1865, the town was largely destroyed.

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Virginia Military Institute during the Civil War

The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is a state-funded military academy founded in 1839. Located in the Shenandoah Valley town of Lexington, it was only the second governmental military academy in the United States, after the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York (founded in 1802), and represented increased educational opportunity for non-elite southern men. Future Confederate generals Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and John McCausland were VMI instructors during John Brown‘s raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859, and they led cadets to his execution in Charles Town, where they helped to provide security. During the American Civil War (1861–1865), approximately 1,800 VMI graduates served (including 19 in the U.S. Army), with about 250 of them killed in action. Cadets famously were called to fight in the Battle of New Market, contributing to the Confederate victory on May 15, 1864. In June, Union general David Hunter ordered the school burned, and the cadets relocated to Richmond, where they helped to defend the Confederate capital.

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Stonewall Brigade

The Stonewall Brigade was a collection of five Virginia infantry regiments and an artillery battery in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Trained and first led by Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, it was perhaps the most accomplished—and certainly one of the most famous—units of its kind in American military history. The brigade saw action in many of the bloodiest battles of the war, from First Manassas (1861) to Antietam (1862) to Gettysburg (1863) to Spotsylvania Court House (1864), losing only a single engagement under Jackson’s command but also losing more than 96 percent of its men by 1865.

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Staunton during the Civil War

Staunton, Virginia, the seat of Augusta County, was a key target in two major campaigns during the American Civil War (1861–1865), and remained strategically important throughout the entire war. With a population of about 4,000 in 1860, Staunton was situated at a vital transportation crossroads in the Shenandoah Valley, and the Confederacy sought to utilize and protect its infrastructure and wealth from the recurrent threat of destruction by Union forces. Various Confederate leaders, including the generals Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and Richard S. Ewell, used the town as their headquarters, and it served almost continuously as an army depot, quartermaster and commissary post, and training camp. Union troops targeted Staunton for more than two years before they were able to break the Confederates’ protective hold and lay waste to much of the town and miles of nearby railroad track.

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South Side Railroad during the Civil War

The South Side Railroad, completed in 1854, was one of the most important supply routes in southern Virginia during the American Civil War (1861–1865). With tracks laid east to west across the state, the railroad began at City Point in Hopewell on the James River and extended westward through Petersburg, Burkeville, Farmville, Appomattox Station, and finally Lynchburg, in western Virginia, for a total of about 132 miles. The South Side Railroad was imperative to the Confederate army for the transport of food, military supplies, and troops throughout the war. Behind the lines of battle, the South Side line saw little damage for the first few years of the war; as the conflict moved south in 1864 and 1865, however, the railroad incurred heavy damage from both the Confederate and Union army as each sought to cut the supply lines of the other.

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Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862

The Shenandoah Valley Campaign, conducted from February to June 1862 during the American Civil War (1861–1865), catapulted Confederate general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson from relative obscurity to the first rank of Southern generals. In six small engagements—at Kernstown, McDowell, Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys, and Port Republic—Jackson tied down large Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley that otherwise would have been used—probably decisively—in a Union offensive against the Confederate capital at Richmond. Jackson drove his troops hard and fast, outpacing and outsmarting an array of Union generals, including Nathaniel P. Banks, Irvin McDowell, John C. Frémont, James Shields, Robert H. Milroy, and Robert C. Schenck. In the process, he arrested and recommended for court-martial one of his own—Richard B. Garnett—and lost to battle another, the cavalry general Turner Ashby. In addition to its strategic importance, the victorious campaign also provided a huge boost to Southern morale at a time when the Confederacy had suffered through a springtime of defeats. As Jackson said early in the campaign, “If the Valley is lost, Virginia is lost.”

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Seven Days’ Battles

The Seven Days’ Battles, fought June 25–July 1, 1862, were the decisive engagements of the Peninsula Campaign during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Union general George B. McClellan had attempted to march his Army of the Potomac up the Peninsula between the York and James rivers but was stalled first at Yorktown, then at Williamsburg, and finally at the fierce battle at Seven Pines–Fair Oaks (May 31–June 1), during which Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston was severely wounded. General Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia and, to prevent a siege of the Confederate capital at Richmond, went on the offensive. The first of Lee’s attacks occurred on June 26, and after two days of fighting he forced McClellan to abandon his supply line and begin a retreat back to the James River. Lee pursued and came close to destroying the Union army on June 30 at Glendale. He suffered a major tactical defeat the next day at Malvern Hill, but McClellan ensured a Confederate strategic victory by continuing his retreat to Harrison’s Landing. The battles ended McClellan’s campaign to take Richmond, as well as the last chance to end the war under circumstances that might resemble the status quo of 1860.

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Fredericksburg, Second Battle of

The Second Battle of Fredericksburg was fought May 3–4, 1863, and was part of the Chancellorsville Campaign during the American Civil War (1861–1865). While Union general Joseph Hooker and the Army of the Potomac engaged Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia twelve miles to the west near Chancellorsville, the First and Sixth corps under Union general John Sedgwick were ordered to cross the Rappahannock River and attack at Fredericksburg, on Lee’s far right flank. Hooker’s plan was to force an already undermanned Lee to shift troops to his right, weakening his defenses and forcing him to retreat. By the time the cautious Sedgwick was in position, however, Confederate general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson had outflanked the Union right and it was Hooker, not Lee, who was reeling back. Sedgwick did finally charge up Marye’s Heights, where the previous December the Union army under Ambrose E. Burnside had so ignominiously been defeated. This time, a small contingent of Confederates under Jubal A. Early held on for a short while before finally giving way. When Sedgwick failed to press his victory, Lee reinforced his line, attacking at Salem Church on May 3 and Bank’s Ford on May 4. On May 5, Sedgwick retreated back across the Rappahannock River, followed shortly by Hooker.

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Saltville during the Civil War

Saltville is a small town that lies mostly in Smyth County in southwestern Virginia, between the Holston River and the Tennessee and Virginia Railroad. During the American Civil War (1861–1865), Saltville was of strategic importance for two reasons: the railroad provided an important link between the eastern and western theaters of the war, and the town’s salt mines were crucial in supplying provisions for the Confederate army. As such, Saltville was the target of numerous Union raids. It was also the site of a battle on October 2, 1864, when outnumbered Confederate cavalry troops repulsed the advance of Union troops, including members of the 5th U.S. Colored Cavalry, under the command of General Stephen G. Burbridge. The next day, according to some accounts, Confederate soldiers killed a number of the wounded black troopers, who were being held as prisoners of war at nearby Emory and Henry College. The notorious and still-disputed incident is known as the “Saltville Massacre.”

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First Rockbridge Artillery

The First Rockbridge Artillery was organized on April 29, 1861, in Lexington, Virginia, and served throughout the duration of the American Civil War (1861–1865), firing its first shot in anger at the First Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861, and fighting in most major battles of the Army of Northern Virginia until its surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Initially led by Lexington rector and West Point graduate William N. Pendleton, the battery quickly became renowned for its daring and firmness under fire as part of the Stonewall Brigade. Pendleton, with ecclesiastical panache, named the first four tubes of the battery “Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke,” and “John.”

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