The Battle of Waynesboro

March 1, 1865 – Major General Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry advanced to within seven miles of the last Confederate force in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The Federals attacked the next day.

Sheridan had been ordered by U.S. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant to clear out the Valley to increase pressure on Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s starving army under siege at Petersburg. Sheridan dispatched 10,000 men (one infantry and two cavalry divisions) under General Wesley Merritt from Winchester on February 27. Their only opposition was Confederate General Jubal Early’s two decimated brigades and some artillery.[1]

Brig Gen G.A. Custer | Image Credit: claseshistoria.com

Brig Gen G.A. Custer | Image Credit: claseshistoria.com

Early made a stand at Waynesboro on March 2, and an advance force of 5,000 Federals led by General George A. Custer attacked. The Confederate left flank broke, and the massive assault quickly destroyed most of Early’s army. The Federals captured 200 wagons, 17 battle flags, 11 cannon, and over 1,000 Confederates, including several of Early’s staff officers.[2]

Barely escaping, Early reported on “the mortification of seeing the greater part of my command being carried off as prisoners.” Early and the few Confederates not captured eventually returned to Richmond. Because of Early’s many defeats over the past few months, public opinion turned against him and General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee relieved him of command.[3]

This ended Confederate opposition in the Shenandoah Valley, as Sheridan’s Federals continued on to Charlottesville unopposed. The Waynesboro rout not only deprived Lee of a final infantry reserve, but it gave Sheridan free reign to destroy Lee’s vital westward supply lines before rejoining Grant’s Federals at Petersburg. Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign, which had begun last August, was a stunning Federal success.[4]

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  • [1] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 16797-16816; Lewis, Thomas A., The Shenandoah in Flames: The Valley Campaign of 1864 (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 159; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 644
  • [2] Lewis, Thomas A., The Shenandoah in Flames: The Valley Campaign of 1864 (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 159; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 645-46; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 482
  • [3] Lewis, Thomas A., The Shenandoah in Flames: The Valley Campaign of 1864 (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 159; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 645-46
  • [4] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 17569-17579; Lewis, Thomas A., The Shenandoah in Flames: The Valley Campaign of 1864 (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 159; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 265; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 645-46
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2 thoughts on “The Battle of Waynesboro

  1. […] Battle of Waynesboro occurred in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, as a portion of Major General Philip Sheridan’s Federal […]

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  2. […] Battle of Waynesboro occurred in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, as a portion of Major General Philip Sheridan’s Federal army […]

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