Cedar Creek, VA
3516 Wounded 1801 Missing or Captured Bri.Gen. Bidwell Killed Bri.Gen. Thornburn Killed
My great-great grandfather Alden Boyington Rowe fought in this battle. He was wounded in the leg by a bullet. The story is that he dug the bullet out of his leg himself using a pocket knife and a piece of wire. It looks like he was lucky to have come out alive. But he did, and he lived many, many more years.
In October of 1864 the Federal Army of the Shenandoah, having soundly defeated the Confederate Army of the Valley at Winchester (September 19) and again at Fisher’s Hill (September 22), chased the Confederate forces out of the Shenandoah Valley and either burned or appropriated all food reserves and livestock between Staunton and Strasburg. Thinking he had thus finally denied the Valley to the Confederacy — both as a food source and as an invasion route to the North — Major General Philip Sheridan left his army camped along Cedar Creek at Middletown and went to Washington for consultations.
Refusing to yield the Valley, Lieutenant General Jubal Early marched his famished, ill-equipped army of about 17,000 to Fisher’s Hill (north of Strasburg) on October 13. Confronting Sheridan’s entrenched army of over 30,000, desperately short of provisions, Early had to attack or retreat. On the night of October 18, he sent three of his divisions under Major General John B. Gordon across the Shenandoah River and along the flank of Massanutten Mountain to approach the Federal position from the east, behind its entrenchments along Cedar Creek.
After marching all night, Gordon’s divisions struck in thick fog at dawn. The Federals were at breakfast, or still in their tents east of the Valley Pike, and as one Confederate remembered it, “they jumped up running.” Early drove the Federals from their camps, past Belle Grove plantation and through Middletown. At mid-day he halted his forces at the northern edge of Middletown to consolidate his victory and regroup.
Hearing the sounds of battle, Sheridan made a hard ride from Winchester (later celebrated in poetry and song), found his army along a ridge north of Middletown, rallied his men and counterattacked, sweeping the Confederates from the field.
The Federal victory ended Jubal Early’s career, lifted the pall of war-weariness from the North, helped assure the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln and freed Sheridan and his army to participate in the final siege of Richmond. In addition, it claimed the lives of two of the brightest stars of their respective causes — Stephen Dodson Ramseur of North Carolina and Charles Russell Lowell of Massachusetts — while sparing those of future U.S. president Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley, and future legend George Armstrong Custer.
BATTLE OF CEDAR CREEK, VA., OCTOBER 19, 1864.-The Confederate Army under General Early driving back the Sixth, Eighth and Nineteenth Federal Army Corps, under General Wright, on the morning of October 19, 1864 -From point to point they were driven back before the furious rush of Kershaw in front, while Gordon and Ramsear poured in a fire on their left flank. The camps of the Eighth and Nineteenth corps were in possession of the Confederates and what remained of the corps were pushed back on the Sixth, which alone maintained the fight. This also finally fell back and all retreated for three miles, where General Wright began at nine o’clock to form his broken lines. They were beaten, but not routed. From a sketch by J. E. Taylor.