United States Armies in the East

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:

Army of the Shenandoah, August 1864
Army of the Shenandoah, September 1864
Army of the Shenandoah, October 1864
Army of the Shenandoah, November 1864
Army of the Shenandoah, December 1864
Army of the Shenandoah, January 1865
Army of the Shenandoah, February 1865
Army of the Shenandoah, March 1865
Army of the Shenandoah, April 1865
Army of the Shenandoah, May 1865
Army of the Shenandoah, June 1865
Army of the Shenandoah, July 1865

Union Major General Philip Sheridan

Major General Philip Sheridan

Timeline of the Army of the Shenandoah 1864

July 9 Battle of Monocacy

Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early defeated a hastily assembled Union force and advanced on Washington D. C.

July 11 – 12 Fort Stevens

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.

July 23-24 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.

August 7 The Department of the Shenandoah, Middle District was organized under Major General Philip Sheridan
August 16 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.

August 21 Battle of Summit Point

Confederate infantry under Major General Richard Anderson attacked Union cavalry, who withdrew to Halltown.

August 29 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.

September 3-4 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.

September 19 Third Battle of Winchester, or Opequon

Sheridan’s 40,000 men attacked Early, who had around 12,000 men. The battle was a defeat for Early, but not a disaster, and Early was abe to retreat in good order.

September 22 Battle of Fishers Hill

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.

October 9 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.”

October 19 Battle of Cedar Creek

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.


February 28 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.
March 2 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.

March 7 Major General Winfield S. Hancock took over command of the department
June 27 The department was abolished.