Major General Sheridan—With great pleasure I tender to you and your brave army, the thanks of the Nation, and my own personal admiration and gratitude, for the months operation in the Shenandoah Valley; and especially for the splendid work of October 19, 1864.
–Your Obedient Servant, Abraham Lincoln
The battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864 started off with a surprise morning attack by Confederate General Jubal Early and 17,000 men that sent 30,000 Union forces scurrying, but ended in a resounding defeat that would essentially end the Confederate dominance of the Shenandoah Valley.
General Philip Sheridan, believing that he had finally defeated Confederate forces, left his army camped along Cedar Creek at Middletown, Virginia and rode toward Washington D.C. He didn't count on the daring of the hungry and poorly equipped Confederate forces. Hearing the sounds of battle while traveling through Winchester, Sheridan turned back and made a legendary ride to arrive in time to rally his men to victory. The battle ended the career of Gen. Early and helped assure the re-election of Abraham Lincoln, who needed a victory to inspire the war-weary North.
Two future U.S. presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley served on the field at Cedar Creek, as did future legendary General George Custer.
Today, although parts of the battlefield, including the Belle Grove plantation house, are part of the National Park System, the Park Service does not currently operate any visitor facilities there. The park land and buildings, including a visitor center, are administered by the park’s partners, including the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation and Belle Grove Inc.
—Tracey McIntire, NPCA
If You Go
Try to visit the battlefield during the anniversary weekend in October when every year, thousands of re-enactors gather to recreate the famous conflict. Infantry, cavalry, and artillery units from both sides encamp on the field and provide a living history lesson for young and old.