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Winchester in Frederick County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Third Battle of Winchester

September 19, 1864 • Sheridan's Shenandoah Campaign

 

— Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District —

 
Third Battle of Winchester image. Click for full size.
By Jay Randall Richardson, August 20, 2020
1. Third Battle of Winchester
Inscription.  (left panel)
Shenandoah At War
In 1996, Congress designated eight counties as the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District, with a mission to preserve and interpret the region's Civil War battlefields and related historic sites. The effort is led by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. Third Winchester is one of more than 20 battlefields that are part of the Foundation's work.

To learn more about the battle, the Valley's Civil War story, or to support our efforts, go to www.ShenandoahAtWar.org. To contact the Foundation, call 540-740-4545 or email info@svbf.net.

Third Winchester Battlefield Park
The Third Winchester Battlefield Park is a 600-acre park that includes 5 miles of trails, interpretive markers, restored battlefield landscapes, and the James R. Wilkins Winchester Battlefields Visitor Center. There are three trailheads for the park, located at the Redbud Road, West Woods, and Millbrook High School entrances. (Please note that parking is not permitted in the high school parking lot during school hours.)

The Third Winchester Battlefield
Marker located at trailhead image. Click for full size.
By Jay Randall Richardson, August 20, 2020
2. Marker located at trailhead
was preserved by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District and the Civil War Trust; now owned and managed by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District.

(center panel)
Early on the morning of September 19, Union Gen. Philip Sheridan's cavalry divisions crossed the Opequon Creek at three different points—the vanguard of some 39,000 Union soldiers moving on Winchester. Behind the cavalry marched three infantry corps. Sheridan's plan was to surprise and overwhelm Early's scattered forces - but on September 18, Early had realized Sheridan's intentions and hurriedly moved to consolidate his army. In addition, Sheridan's advance through the narrow Berryville Canyon was confused and tangled with men and supply wagons, which gave the Confederates time to prepare.

When the Federals launched their first main attack around 11:40 am, Union Gen. Horatio Wright's VI Corps and Gen. William Emory's XIX Corps were severely mauled attacking across the Berryville Pike, from the First Woods across the Middle Field - and on to the Second Woods and West Woods. Confederate artillery and counter-attacks from Gen. John Gordon's and Gen. Robert Rodes' divisions and stopped the assaults. By mid-afternoon, Sheridan called upon his reserve, Gen. George Crook's Army of West Virginia (VIII Corps), which fell upon Early's weakened
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left line from the north, forcing it to fold back into Winchester. Simultaneously, two Union cavalry divisions—6,000 mounted soldiers—attacked along the Valley Pike, engulfing all resistance in their path. The Confederate left flank collapsed, and Early ordered a retreat which turned into a rout through the streets of Winchester.

(right panel)
Sheridan's 1864 Shenandoah Campaign
During the summer of 1864, Confederate forces under Gen. Jubal A. Early ran roughshod in and around the Shenandoah Valley, defeating Federal armies, burning Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and threatening Washington, D.C. — and also threatening President Abraham Lincoln's chances for reelection. In August 1864, frustrated Union leaders sent Gen. Philip Sheridan to the Valley with orders to bring an end to Confederate control.

Uncertain of the size of Early's army, Sheridan moved carefully at first. For weeks, the two opposing armies probed, marched, and clashed in smaller battles such as Guard Hill (August 6) and Berryville (September 3-4), but avoided major engagements. Early mistakenly believed that Sheridan's caution reflected a lack of aggressiveness, and felt safe in dividing his forces. Learning of this, and that one of Early's divisions had left for Richmond, Sheridan moved to attack.

The Third Battle of Winchester
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(September 19, 1864) became the largest battle ever fought in the Valley, a ferocious see-saw struggle that saw the Confederates gradually forced back into an L-shaped line north and east of Winchester — until a final attack by Federal infantry and cavalry broke the defender's line and sent them "whirling through Winchester."

Third Winchester was one of the pivotal battles of the Civil War. Additional northern victories at Fisher's Hill (September 22), Tom's Brook (October 9), and Cedar Creek (October 19), coupled with the devastation of the region's agriculture in "The Burning," gave the Union permanent control of the Valley, aided in Abraham Lincoln's reelection, and helped speed the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox the following spring.
 
Erected by Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil.
 
Location. 39° 12.607′ N, 78° 7.639′ W. Marker is in Winchester, Virginia, in Frederick County. Marker can be reached from Redbud Road (Virginia Route 661) 0.9 miles east of Martinsburg Pike (U.S. 11), on the right when traveling east. Located in the parking lot of the Third Winchester Battlefield Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 541 Redbud Rd, 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. "Like A Thousand Bricks" (a few steps from this marker); Three Battlefields (within shouting distance of this marker); The First Battle of Kernstown (within shouting distance of this marker); The First Battle of Winchester (within shouting distance of this marker); The Second Battle of Winchester (within shouting distance of this marker); The Battle of Rutherford's Farm (within shouting distance of this marker); The Second Battle of Kernstown (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named The Third Battle of Winchester (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Winchester.
 
Also see . . .
1. Third Winchester Battlefield – Redbud Run Trails. The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District (Submitted on August 21, 2020.) 

2. Old Marker at this Location. This marker replaced an older one at this location titled “The Third Battle of Winchester" (Submitted on August 21, 2020.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on November 2, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 21, 2020, by Jay Richardson of Martinsburg, West Virginia. This page has been viewed 91 times since then and 11 times this year. Last updated on August 21, 2020, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. Photos:   1. submitted on August 21, 2020, by Jay Richardson of Martinsburg, West Virginia.   2. submitted on August 20, 2020, by Jay Richardson of Martinsburg, West Virginia. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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Mar. 4, 2021