The Battle of Cedar Creek
19 October 1864 (a.m.)
Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan's Union forces established themselves on both sides of the Valley Pike, north of Cedar Creek, centered on Belle Grove.
Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early decided to send from below Strasburg three divisions, all under Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon's command, along a trail south of the Shenandoah to Bowman's and McInturff's Fords. Once across, a hike of a mile got them onto the left flank of George Crook's Eighth Corps. Wharton's Division braced to cross Cedar Creek to attack Crook's position frontally.
The attack opened at 5:00 a.m. when Kershaw's Division rushed the trenches of Thoburn's Division, Crook's Corps. A few minutes after Kershaw's attack, Gordon's Corps smashed into Hayes' Division of the Corps. Many of Crook's men fled to the rear. As soon as Wharton heard Kershaw's attack, he closed up to the Cedar Creek Bridge and the Confederate artillery raced forward to Hupp's Hill to go into battery against Emory's Corps at 5:20 a.m.
By this time Emory's men, west of the Pike, began to reorient their line to confront Gordon's threat.
The Confederate onslaught pressed to positions around Belle Grove, where mixed elements of both Crook's and Emory's Corps fought desperately.
The units of Wright's Corps, west of Meadow Brook, got into line of battle before they became seriously engaged. Keifer's Division established a line oriented toward Cedar Creek, fighting Kershaw's Division by 7:15 a.m. Contact was lost with the rest of the corps and Keifer's Division was forced back.
Wheaton's Division moved first to a position east of Meadow Brook, looking toward Belle Grove, but was pushed by Gordon to a line on high ground west of the brook. It withdrew from this position to link with Getty's Division of the corps.
Getty's Division, Sixth Corps delayed briefly on the southern edge of Middletown and then, about 8:00 a.m., deployed onto Cemetery Hill west of town. For about and hour it repelled successive assaults from four of Early's Divisions. At 10 a.m., Getty retired to the new Federal line being formed about a mile farther north. The Confederate attack halted north of Middletown.
The Battle of Cedar Creek
19 October 1864 (p.m.)
Confederate forces by 11:00 a.m. occupied the line recently vacated by Getty's Division, Wright's Sixth Corps, north of Middletown. General Jubal Early called a halt to reorganize, over the objections of many of his commanders. The armies faced each other in lines perpendicular to the Pike, a little over a mile apart. At about 10:30 a.m., General Sheridan, returning from a conference in Washington, arrived on the scene after a ride from Winchester which has become a legend. His presence energized his battered forces. Sheridan completed reordering the Federal line in time to repulse a halfhearted Confederate probe at 1:00 p.m.
By then, Sheridan had placed a cavalry division on each flank with Wright's and Emory's Corps in line. Crook's Corps was in reserve. His plan called for the cavalry to press both of Early's flanks while Emory's Corps pivoted southeastward. The Confederate shirmishers were pushed in around 3:30 p.m. and the main attack began at 4:00 p.m. Confederate resistance north of Middletown was fierce for about an hour. Then Gordon's thinner lines to the west broke and Custer's Federal cavalry on that flank struck for Early's rear. This created panic along the entire Confederate line, which quickly turned into a stampede. The Confederate artillery with a few infantrymen fought brief delaying actions at the Federal morning positions and at Hupp's Hill, but Early lost control as his forces dissolved in an effort to escape Federal pursuit.
The disaster was compounded when a bridge at Spangler's Mill, south of Strasburg, broke. This caused a jam which prevented any vehicles from moving farther south. Thus, the guns and most of the wagons captured in the morning, plus twenty-four of Early's cannon, had to be abandoned to the rampaging Federal cavalry. Early's shattered forces gathered at Fisher's Hill and withdrew southward. Confederate military power in the Valley was broken.
* Confederate names and units are in italics.
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