Battles in the East

Surprises and Counterattacks – Cedar Creek, October 19, 1861

I typically try to provide short, easy to digest battle blog posts regarding the places I’ve visited. The last few weeks, however, have been packed with deadlines and personal life adjustments. As a result, I’ll be providing a great video that summarizes the activity at Cedar Creek instead of a written summary. This comes from American Battlefield Trust, which has made great strides in preserving Civil War and Revolutionary War battlefields, and they are dedicated to public education about these pivotal turning points in American history. Watch the video if you’re not familiar with the battle and then scroll for pictures from my August 2021 visit to Cedar Creek!

The above picture was taken near the epicenter of Early’s attack, approximately halfway between Emory’s position from 6am and 7am as they were pushed back. The white house in the distance was present at the time of battle and owned by Solomon and Carolina Wunder Heater. They had two sons in the Confederate army, but Mrs. Heater was a Unionist at heart and provided aid for the Federals that encamped aroun dher 600-acre farm. To the left of this photo would be Belle Grove Mansion, the focus of a later blog post.

The opening of the battle began here at 5am, facing the direction in which the Confederates would have charged.

This is Bowman’s Mill Ford on Cedar Creek, the route that would have been used by Joseph Kershaw’s 2,500 soldiers on the morning of October 19, 1864.

Above is a monument dedicated to the 128th New York, which withstood a devestated swarm of Confederates as Crook’s men were routed. They hugged their entrenchments – the remnants of which are visible in the left photo – and continued to load and refire, making a stubborn stand for their ground. Though they eventually retreated, their heroism is remembered by this monument, one of the few erected on the Cedar Creek battlefield.

Mount Carmel Cemetery was the sight of another Union stand, lasting for an hour and a half as they slowed the Confederate advance. Held by Getty’s division, withstanding an artillery bombardment for half an hour before finally falling back. However, they dealt a blow to the Confederate momentum that morning.

One of the more famous aspects of the battle, “Sheridan’s Ride” ended here at approximately 10:30am. Upon arrival, the general rode along the lines, boosting the spirits of his men before preparations were made for the sweeping counterattack that would put Early out of commission in the Shenandoah Valley.

These are just a few places on the Cedar Creek battlefield that may be of interest, but I strongly suggest visiting the place in person while you’re in the Valley. Visit the Cedar Creek Visitor Contact Station in Middletown (7712 Main St, Middletown, VA 22645) to pick up brochures, ask questions, and get a map for the driving tour. You can also follow this link to a detailed “virtual tour” with a map.

A good portion of the driving tour will take you down some rough, gravel roads, so please go slow and mindful of the terrain. Some places are also still on private property, so be respectful of the owners. And it can feel as if you’re driving all over creation, but it’s so much easier to follow the battle sequences if you follow the tour mapped out for you (meaning: don’t skip to another location just because it’s closer than the next stop).

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