The Army of the Shenandoah was officially known as the Department of the Shenandoah, Middle Military Division. It grew out of Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s great raid of 1864. Defeating hastily assembled Union forces at Monocacy and sending bullets zinging past President Lincoln’s head in the Washington Defences, Early’s use of the Shenandoah Valley disrupted Grant’s siege of Petersburg by making him detach the veteran Sixth Army Corps to save Washington.
Grant gave Major General Philip Sheridan the Sixth Army Corps and two cavalry divisions from the Army of the Potomac, two divisions of the 19th Army Corps recently returned from the Department of the Gulf, and Major General George Crook’s Army of West Virginia. His mission was to drive Early from the Valley and neutralize it as a Confederate threat.
Organization of the Army of the Shenandoah by month:
Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early defeated a hastily assembled Union force and advanced on Washington D. C.
July 11 – 12
Early skirmished with Union defences on the north side of Washington before withdrawing, unable to attack the veteran reinforcements Grant sent from Petersburg. President Lincoln came out to observe and comes under fire, the only sitting U.S. President to have done so.
Second Battle of Kernstown
Major General George Crook’s troops were forced back from Winchester and retreated across the Potomac to Williamsport, where they raly and reform.
The Department of the Shenandoah, Middle District was organized under Major General Philip Sheridan
Battle of Guard Hill
Starting as a cavalry action near Front Royal, infantry from both sides was drawn in, but the battle died out inconclusively.
Battle of Summit Point
Confederate infantry under Major General Richard Anderson attacked Union cavalry, who withdrew to Halltown.
Battle of Smithfield Cossing
Two Confederate infantry divisions crossed Opequon Creek and pushed back Merritt’s Division of Union cavalry, but were counterattacked and stopped by Rickett’s Division of Union infantry.
Battle of Berryville
Confederate General Joseph Kershaw’s division attacked and routed the Union division of Colonel Joseph Thoburn. After heavy Union reinforcements arrived during the night, Early pulled back behind Opequon Creek.
Having lost heavily at Third Winchester and being further weakened by the transfer of Breckenridge’s Division, Early took up a strong defensive position near Strasburg. However, Crook launched a sunset flank attack that linked up with an irresistable assault by the rest of Sheridan’s army. Early was forced to retreat, losing a disproportionate number of men, mostly as prisoners.
Battle of Tom’s Brook
Confederate cavalry under Major General Thomas Rosser pursued and harassed Union cavalry, who were laying waste as they withdrew down the Shenandoah Valley. Union General A.T.A. Torbert turned and attacked. Two divisions of Confederate cavalry broke and fled in what became known as “The Woodstock Races.”
Early launched a surprise attack at dawn that threw most of the Union army into disorder and retreat, but failed to follow up when the attack ran out of energy in mid-morning. Sheridan, who had been away from the battlefield, returned in an epic ride and rallied his army. He then launched a counterattack that crushed Early’s extended and outnumbered force, driving them from the field. Sheridan captured hundreds of prisoners and 25 Confederate guns as well as recapturing 18 of his own guns that had been lost that morning.
Sheridan turned command of the department over to Major General Alfred T. A. Torbert and moved to rejoin the Army of the Potomac with the First and Third Cavalry Divisions.
Battle of Waynesboro
On the way up the Shenandoah to rejoin Grant at Petersburg Sheridan with two cavalry divisions encountered Early with the badly outnumered remnants of his army. Early was decisively defeated and most of his men captured. Although Early escaped capture, it was his last command.
Major General Winfield S. Hancock took over command of the department