After Jubal Early's 1864 invasion of Maryland, Union cavalry general Philip Sheridan, one of Grant's favorite commanders, was detached to command the Army of the Shenandoah to deal with that threat. For several weeks the armies of Sheridan and Early skirmished in the Shenandoah Valley without any major fighting. Sheridan had 39,000 men, Early only 14,000. Early decided that Sheridan did not plan to fight him, so he did not concentrate his army and left it spread out over many miles. Sheridan, however, was looking for an opportunity just like this to attack. He set his troops moving out to strike Stephen Ramseur's division around Winchester. When Early heard of this movement he ordered all of his troops to concentrate on Ramseur's isolated force.
With his attacked stalled Sheridan brought up his reserves, the VII Corps under George Crook, and sent them to strike the Confederate left flank, while the other two corps advanced in support. The advance encountered difficulty. Crook's men had to move through a swamp, and the XIX Corps did not get moving at all. A shell tore off a piece of Emory Upton's thigh, but he continued to command his division from a stretcher. Future president Rutherford B. Hayes, commanding a division with Crook, wrote of crossing the swamp:
[T]o stop was death. To go on was probably the same; but on we started again ... the rear and front lines and different regiments of the same line mingled together and reached the rebel side of the creek with lines and organizations broken; but all seemed inspired by the right spirit, and charged the rebel works pell-mell in the most determined manner."Finally the Federals began to drive back the Southern lines. Early pulled back his lines, but the Federals drove them back closer and closer to Winchester. Sheridan was riding along his lines, waving his hat and encouraging his men. His cavalry was moving around Early's flank, threatening to surround his entire force. Finally as the sun set, the Confederate army was in full retreat.
|Sheridan leads the charge|