After defeating the Confederates which stood up to him at the Battle of Piedmont earlier in the month, David Hunter continued his advance into the Shenandoah Valley. After capturing Staunton, the first time it had been occupied during the war, he turned his attention to Lynchburg. On the way, when he passed through Lexington, he burned the Virginia Military Institute, where Stonewall Jackson taught before the war. Robert E. Lee sent Jubal Early and the Second Corps to defend Lynchburg. Around 14,000 men were assembled in the entrenchments around the town to meet Hunter's 16,500.
The Federals attacked on June 18, 150 years ago today. Hunter did not realize that reinforcements had arrived from Lee. An attempt by the Federals to find Early's flank was unsuccessful. The Confederates attacked the Federals, and although they were driven back into their earthworks, Hunter retreated that night. Hunter did not stop retreating. He left the Shenandoah Valley and moved into West Virginia. Early's path north was open, and he setout to implement the second part of his mission from Lee – the last Confederate invasion of the North.