Despite these victories, Confederate armies still remained a potent force in the field and Lincoln faced a tough fall reelection campaign in a North wearied by three years of war. If he had lost, the war might have ended quite differently with a possible chance of Southern independence.
Wert asserts that this campaign played a large role in the overall strategy of the war and significantly influenced the military situation at Petersburg as well as Northern politics. Wert provides a well-written narrative of the Valley campaign including the background events that positioned Sheridan and Early in the area. Prior to August, General Robert E. Lee dispatched Early to the Valley in order to protect Confederate supplies in the area and to divert Union forces from the Overland campaign further east.
Early drove Union forces from the Valley, advanced on Washington, D. General Ulysses Grant reorganized his forces in Maryland and northwest Virginia and placed them under the command of Sheridan. This move surprised President Lincoln and other officials in the army high command because Sheridan had little experience in commanding troops above the corps level.
Valley campaigns of 1864
Throughout August, Early and Sheridan engaged in maneuvering and several relatively minor clashes. Although fewer men participated in the fight and the total number of casualties remained lower than other battles, Third Winchester rivaled Gettysburg and Shiloh in intensity and percentages of casualties. The Confederates withdrew from the Upper Valley and Sheridan enacted a policy of total war burning food stores, confiscating livestock, and destroying anything that might supply the Confederacy. After these depredations, the Shenandoah Valley could no longer support Confederate forces.
Despite being outnumbered, the Confederates almost won, but Sheridan rallied in troops and smashed the Southern attack. Although minor engagements continued until early , the Confederates no longer posed any threat to the North in the Shenandoah. Wert provides thoughtful analysis of Early and Sheridan. Both generals made tactical errors on the battlefield but they served ably and fought their armies well. He could not provide a diversion and sit safely on the defensive at the same time.
For Sheridan, superior numbers negated his tactical mistakes somewhat but he also had the ability to inspire his troops and provided aggressive leadership at critical points in battle.
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It would have been interesting had Wert written more about the effects of the fighting on the civilians in the valley. The Union strategy of total war played an important role in the campaign and more detailed descriptions of this aspect of the campaign would have dovetailed nicely with the battle narrative.
Murray on Gallagher, 'The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of ' | H-CivWar | H-Net
Carlisle: South Mountain Press, Inc. Jeffry D. Up to this point the Shenandoah Valley proved a symbol of Southern victory, but it would not remain unconquered. Union General Philip Sheridan would receive contemporary and historic renown from his accomplishments.
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This campaign in August through October , shattered the stalemate in Virginia. The idea of the campaign into the Shenandoah Valley began with the gambling strategy of Robert E. He had refashioned the campaign led into the Valley by Stonewall Jackson two years earlier. The early success of the Confederates in the Valley during the summer of brought a response from Ulysses S.
Grant as the political and military stakes became extremely high for both sides.
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For the first time Union authorities brought a command in strength, leadership, and combat ability worthy of strategic value into the Shenandoah Valley. The Army of the Shenandoah exceeded any previous Union forces in the region in numbers alone and the Confederate Army of the Valley failed to compare in numbers of effectiveness to this new Union army. Philip H. In the fall of Sheridan delivered a series of stinging defeats, dashing Confederate hopes — and contributing to the reelection of Abraham Lincoln in November Just months later, Virginia itself fell when Lee surrendered his army to Ulysses S.
Grant at Appomattox. Lynchburg Campaign — The Campaigns. Other March 01, — March 02, Outcome: Inconclusive.
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