Friday, June 14, 2013

Second Battle of Winchester

As Robert E. Lee was preparing to invade the north with his Army of Northern Virginia, he decided to move through the Shenandoah Valley, as the Blue Ridge mountains would shade him from prying Union scouts. But standing in his way were Union troops under Robert H. Milroy. He was one of the generals who fought Stonewall Jackson in the famous Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862. Now the same Confederates would attack him again, but under a new and untested commander, Richard S. Ewell. Milroy had major garrisons in Winchester and Harper's Ferry. Henry Halleck wished him to fall back from Winchester because his forward position was too advanced. Milroy, however, did not agree with this order, and delayed obeying it as far as possible. He did not know the forces opposing him and thought he could hold out in the formidable forts that had been built in Winchester.

Map of 2nd Winchester
Ewell entered the valley on June 12th and the next day he was in position to strike Milroy. Ewell was well acquainted with the area's terrain and planned to secure a complete victory by cutting off Milroy's retreat. He was able to capture the high ground which Milroy had not seriously defended. However Milroy still did not realize the situation he was in, thinking he had beat off whatever attack the Confederates would make. 

He found out how wrong he was at 6 pm on June 14th, 150 years ago today, when 20 Confederate guns began pounding his forts. The bombardment continued for 45 minutes, and then the Louisiana brigade charged 300 yards toward the fort. It had been this very brigade that had won the day at 1st Battle of Winchester in 1862. The result was much the same on this day. They rushed into the fort and after a brief hand to hand fight drove off the Federal defenders. During this attack Ewell was struck by a spent bullet, but was only bruised and was able to remain in command. As night fell, the Confederate artillery directed its fire at the main fort which remained in Milroy's hands. Ewell expected that Milroy would retreat that night, and so he sent troops around Winchester to intercept him. The dramatic conclusion to the 2nd Battle of Winchester would be fought early the next morning.


Gerald said...

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.

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