The Battle of Cedar Creek, or The Battle of Belle Grove, October 19, 1864, was one of the final, and most decisive, battles in the Valley Campaigns of 1864 during the American Civil War. The final Confederate invasion of the North, led by Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early, was effectively ended and the Confederacy was never again able to threaten Washington, D.C., through the Shenandoah Valley, nor protect the economic base in the Valley. The reelection of Abraham Lincoln was materially aided by this victory and Union Army Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan received lasting fame.
Early had withdrawn "up the Valley" (southwest into the higher elevations of the Shenandoah Valley) under pressure from Sheridan and his Army of the Shenandoah. Sheridan's army was engaged in destroying the economic base of the Valley, meant to deprive Gen. Robert E. Lee's army of the supplies they required. They were encamped at Cedar Creek, in parts of Frederick, Shenandoah, and Warren Counties of Virginia.
Sheridan ordered the VI Corps, under Horatio G. Wright, to return to the Petersburg siege lines, assuming that Early had no aggressive moves left to him after more than a month of battling. However, after a reconnaissance in force by Early turned into a division-sized skirmish between the armies, Sheridan recalled Wright. He sent two divisions of cavalry off to raid the Virginia Central Railroad, but Early planted rumors that Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's corps might join him from Petersburg, and Sheridan brought all of his forces back to the camps along Cedar Creek.
Battle of Cedar Creek, initial assaults
The pugnacious Early had some aggression left in him and he had Lee's exhortations to take action guiding him. (In a letter of October 12, 1864, Lee told Early, "You had better move against him and endeavor to crush him. ... I do not think Sheridan's infantry or cavalry numerically as large as you suppose.") Early examined the Union position behind Cedar Creek and found an open...