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Winchester III (1864)
 
War:   American Civil War
 
Also known as:   Opequon
 
Date(s):   19 Sep 1864
 
Location:   Frederick County, Virginia, US
 
Outcome:   Union victory
 
Principal   Commanders:   Confederate: Jubal A. Early
Union: Philip H. Sheridan
 
Description:   Sheridan had almost 40,000 men against Early’s 15,000.

Union losses were just over 5,000, while the Confederates lost about 3,600.

Even after Lee recalled Kershaw’s division to Petersburg, Early continued his raids on the B&O Railroad. He hoped by keeping the pressure on to deceive Sheridan about how weak he was, but a civilian spy smuggled the news to the Yankees. Instead of keeping the Union off balance, Early was the one at who was caught on the wrong foot.

Sheridan planned to hit Early’s one division with his own three corps, smashing the Rebels and trapping the rest of Early’s men in the upper Valley. But he moved too slowly. Wright’s VI Corps made the dawn attack, but because Wright had dragged his baggage train along, it delayed Emory’s XIX Corps until mid-morning. (Sheridan himself had to sort out the tangle of wagons blocking the infantry.)

In those hours, Early not only got his divisions back together, he did it fast enough to have a temporary numerical advantage and counterattack. The time was won by a splendid delaying action from Ramseur’s infantry and Fitz Lee’s cavalry, but those troops were fought out and John Gordon and Robert Rodes led the counterattack. The Rebel attack failed to break between Wright and Emory, but their pressure sucked in the Union reserves, so that Sheridan couldn’t get around Early’s flank and trap the army.

But after that attack the initiative passed to the Union. Sheridan had all his men on the field, and that meant about a 3:1 advantage. Weight of numbers told, and the Confederates had to give ground. Crook’s men and the Union cavalry pushed hard at the Confederate leftThe cavalry did their job and protected the retreating infantry.

Early pulled back twenty miles to Fisher’s Hill, a strong position just south of Strasburg. Sheridan sent Grant a telegram datelined Winchester, reporting 2500 prisoners, 5 guns, and 9 regimental flags. A more picturesque report had the Rebels “whirling through Winchester”.

The casualties were heavy; Early lost about a quarter of his total strength, and while Sheridan lost more men it was a much smaller part of his army. He could afford more battles than Early could.


Content provided by:
eHistory Staff

Selected sources:
American Battlefield Protection Program, Heritage Preservation Services, National Park Service.



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THESE ARE ARCHIVED PAGES OF THE OLD EHISTORY SITE
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