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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Stephenson in Frederick County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Third Battle of Winchester

"One Moving Mass of Glittering Sabers"

 

—1864 Valley Campaigns —

 
Third Battle of Winchester Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, August 25, 2007
1. Third Battle of Winchester Marker
Inscription. On September 19, 1864, Union Gen. Philip H. Sheridan’s Army of the Shenandoah routed Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early’s Valley Army at the Third Battle of Winchester (also called Opequon) in the bloodiest and largest battle in the Shenandoah Valley. The opening action was several miles to the east, where opposing infantry divisions slugged it out at the mouth of Berryville Canyon and over the plain of First Woods, Middle Field and Second Woods. The crushing end of the battle began here, where about 6,000 Federal cavalrymen made one of the grandest charges in United States history along the Valley Turnpike (present-day U.S. Rte. 11).

Crossing the Opequon Creek fords early in the morning, Union Gen. Wesley Merritt’s and Gen. William W. Averell’s cavalry divisions probed Confederate Gen. John C. Breckinridge’s defenses at several points. After several Federal assaults, Early readjusted his forces in the afternoon north of Winchester, folding back his line on an east-west axis. Merritt and Averell patiently waited for the right opportunity, and it finally arrived. Their cavalrymen, formed in a mile-long line three ranks deep, advanced first at a trot then charged in a furious onslaught of horses and sabers that smashed through the Confederate lines. The charge engulfed two redoubts, Star Fort and Fort Collier, as the tidal wave of
Close Up View of the Map image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, August 25, 2007
2. Close Up View of the Map
blue rolled forward, sending Early’s force “whirling through Winchester” in retreat. One veteran later wrote, “Winchester was the first battle in the war in which the cavalry was properly handled in cooperations with the infantry.”
 
Erected by Virginia Civil War Commission.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
 
Location. Marker has been reported missing. It was located near 39° 13.802′ N, 78° 6.589′ W. Marker was near Stephenson, Virginia, in Frederick County. Marker was at the intersection of Milburn Road (County Route 662) and Old Charlestown Road (County Route 761), on the right when traveling south on Milburn Road. Touch for map. Marker was in this post office area: Stephenson VA 22656, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this location, measured as the crow flies. Stephenson Depot (within shouting distance of this marker); Action at Stephenson’s Depot (approx. 0.6 miles away); John Rutherford's Farm (approx. 1.3 miles away); Rutherford's Farm (approx. 1.3 miles away); Battle of Rutherford's Farm (approx. 1.3 miles
Two Civil War Trails Markers at Stephenson image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, August 25, 2007
3. Two Civil War Trails Markers at Stephenson
Merritt's portion of the charge passed to the west (on the right of the picture), generally parallel to Milburn Road.
away); Hackwood Park (approx. 1.3 miles away); The Great Indian (and Wagon) Road (approx. 1½ miles away); a different marker also named Third Battle of Winchester (approx. 1.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Stephenson.
 
More about this marker. A painting of “U.S. Cavalry over-running an artillery redoubt near Fort Collier (Stine Field)” is on the upper center section of the marker. A map showing the location of the charge is on the right side, with a portrait of Captain M. Birge.
 
Also see . . .
1. Opequon or Third Winchester. National Park Service narrative of the battle. The action discussed on the marker is summarized as phase nine of this rather complex battle. (Submitted on September 7, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 

2. General Wesley Merritt. While somewhat overshadowed by the other big names, such as Sheridan and Custer, Merritt had a distinguished career in his own right, including service in the Civil War, Indian Wars, and eventually the Spanish-American War. (Submitted on September 7, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
 
Categories. War, US Civil
 
Cavalry Fords of the Opequon image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, August 26, 2007
4. Cavalry Fords of the Opequon
Merritt's Division forded the Opequon where present day Old Charlestown Road (Route 761) crosses the creek. From this point, the Federals advanced down the road towards Stephenson. Their advance was countered by Confederate cavalry under Gen. John McCausland. Eventually Merritt's men formed on line near where Stephenson Road intersects the Martinsburg Pike (U.S. 11). (Close to the monument for the June 1863 Battle of Second Winchester.)
Third Battle of Winchester Marker image. Click for full size.
January 18, 2015
5. Third Battle of Winchester Marker
The marker has been vandalized.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 22, 2017. This page originally submitted on September 7, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,879 times since then and 178 times this year. Last updated on January 21, 2017, by Pete Skillman of Port Deposit, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 7, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   5. submitted on January 18, 2015. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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