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"The Battle of Waynesboro: Jubal Early’s Last Stand" Topic

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American Civil War

387 hits since 6 Oct 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP06 Oct 2018 4:10 p.m. PST

"The unrelentingly harsh winter of 1864-1865 gave no respite to Virginia's war-torn Shenandoah Valley. Heavy snows and frigid temperatures made travel difficult, and the two opposing armies found themselves literally frozen into place, 90 miles apart and in no particular hurry to get at each other again before the weather broke. At the northern end of the valley, in Winchester, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan's Union Army of the Shenandoah waited in comparative comfort, warm, dry, and well supplied by the increasingly efficient Quartermaster Corps. But their Confederate counterparts at Staunton were not so fortunate. There, Lt. Gen. Jubal "Old Jube" Early's Army of the Valley huddled together miserably, wet, hungry, and shivering in rundown huts and ragged tents. The men's morale was as low as the temperature outside. "Men's spirits dull, gloomy, and all are evidently hopeless," wrote one private, "waiting for we know not what end."

The two armies' contrasting moods reflected their recent history with each other. Three times in the past six months—at Winchester, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek—Sheridan's Union forces had decisively beaten Early's men. The third loss, at Cedar Creek, had been the most demoralizing for the Confederates, who for much of the day on October 19 had believed, with good reason, that they had finally bested their hated foes. That morning, before dawn, while the diminutive Union commander was still asleep in Winchester after a whirlwind visit to Washington, Early's men had waded across icy, chest-deep water in the Shenandoah River and fallen on Sheridan's unsuspecting camp at Cedar Creek. The surprise attack, spearheaded by three divisions under Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon of Georgia, had come within an inch of destroying Sheridan's entire army, which fell back in disarray to a new position eight miles north at Belle Grove…."
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