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The History Press
The History Press • 2 years ago

Nestled between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley enjoyed tremendous prosperity before the Civil War. A valuable stretch of land—called “the Breadbasket of the Confederacy” due to its rich soil and ample harvests—it became the source of many conflicts between the Confederate and Union armies. Of the thirteen major battles fought here, none was more influential than the Battle of Cedar Creek (October, 1864).

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In 1864, General Grant tasked General David Hunter with raiding the breadbasket of the Shenandoah Valley and destroying the Confederate supply lines. General Lee dispatched General William E. “Grumble” Jones, and the forces collided up the fertile fields of eastern Augusta County. It was a bloody day—the Battle of Piedmont saw more men killed and wounded than in any of Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley encounters.

On 4 April 1862, Major General George McClellan marched his 121,500-strong Army of the Potomac from Fort Monroe toward Richmond. Blocking his path were the Warwick-Yorktown Line fortifications & the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia. Despite outnumbering Magruder almost four to one, McClellan was tricked by Magruder’s bluff of strength & halted his advance. Yorktown, the scene of Washington’s 1781 victory, was once again besieged. It was the Civil War’s first siege & lasted for 29 terrible days.

The Queen City’s factories produced gunpowder, percussion caps & medicine for the Confederate cause. Perhaps most importantly, Charlotte housed the Confederate Naval Ordnance Depot and Naval Works, manufacturing iron and providing valuable ammunition for the South. Charlotte also served as home to a military hospital, a Ladies Aid Society, a prison and even the mysterious Confederate gold. When Richmond fell, Jefferson Davis set up his headquarters in Charlotte, making it the unofficial capital.

torn Union Flag, 1864.

During the fateful winter of 1865, General William T. Sherman led an army of over 60,000 troops on a destructive march through SC. Hundreds of the affected residents recorded their harrowing experiences, much of which is corroborated by the testimony of Sherman’s own soldiers. Civilians were also affected by two lesser-known military operations that followed Sherman’s raid—Potter’s Raid & the raids conducted by Union troops pursuing Confederate president Jefferson Davis through the state.