Near Winchester in Frederick County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Third Battle of Winchester
"The enemy within the fort ... hastily evacuated"
1864 Valley Campaign
The fertile Shenandoah Valley was the "Breadbasket of the Confederacy" as well as an avenue of invasion. Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early's march north and his raid on Washington, D.C., in June-July 1864 alerted Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to the threat that Early posed while he held the Valley. In August, Grant sent Gen. Philip H. Sheridan and his Army of the Shenandoah to defeat Early. In several battles between September 19 and October 19—Third Winchester, Fisher's Hill, Tom's Brook, and Cedar Creek—Sheridan accomplished his mission and laid waste to much of the Valley in "The Burning."
During the Third Battle of Winchester on the afternoon of September 19, 1864, Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early ordered Col. Thomas T. Munford's brigade to Star Fort. Here, with two guns of Maj. James Breathed's Horse Artillery, Munford was to protect Early's avenue of retreat.
No sooner had the Confederate detachment arrived than Union Col. James M. Schoonmaker's cavalry brigade charged the defenses and was repulsed. A veteran of the 22nd Pennsylvania Cavalry later wrote,
As the Confederate artillery departed, Schoonmaker decided that instead of assaulting the fort from the front, he would move against its left. When the cavalrymen neared the walls, some of them dismounted and stormed the fort on foot. "The enemy within the fort," recalled a veteran of Schoonmaker's brigade, "becoming alarmed lest they be flanked and cut off, hastily evacuated."
On May 19, 1899, Schoonmaker received the Medal of Honor for bravery at the Third Battle of Winchester. His citation stated in part: "During the Battle of Star Fort, Virginia, at a critical period, gallantly led a cavalry charge against the left of the enemy's line of battle."
(left photo) Col. James M. Schoonmaker Courtesy Nicholas Picerno Collection
(upper middle illustration) Schoonmaker's Charge Courtesy Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum
(lower middle photos) Schoonmaker's Medal of Honor,
(right map) Third Battle of Winchester, Lt. Robert K. Sneden Courtesy Library of Congress
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Forts and Castles • War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical date for this entry is September 19, 1864.
Location. 39° 12.393′ N, 78° 9.843′ W. Marker is near Winchester, Virginia, in Frederick County. Marker can be reached from Fortress Drive, 0.1 miles north of North Frederick Pike (U.S. 522), on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 503 Fortress Drive, Winchester VA 22603, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Second Battle of Winchester (within shouting distance of this marker); Civil War Earthworks (within shouting distance of this marker); Constructing Star Fort (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Second Battle of Winchester (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Lord Fairfax (approx. Ό mile away); Fort Collier (approx. 0.6 miles away); George Washington in Winchester (approx. 0.6 miles away); 2nd Battle of Winchester / 3rd Battle of Winchester (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Winchester.
Credits. This page was last revised on February 26, 2020. It was originally submitted on January 21, 2017, by Pete Skillman of Townsend, Delaware. This page has been viewed 520 times since then and 21 times this year. Last updated on May 14, 2018, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. Photos: 1. submitted on January 21, 2017, by Pete Skillman of Townsend, Delaware. 2. submitted on January 23, 2017. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.