Updated:
Original:
Year
1864
Month Day
October 19

Battle of Cedar Creek

Union General Philip Sheridan averts a near disaster in the Shenandoah Valley when he rallies his troops after a surprise attack by Confederate General Jubal Early and scores a major victory that almost destroys Early’s army at the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia.

Through the summer of 1864, Early moved his army with impunity around the Shenandoah and its surrounding area. Union General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant dispatched Sheridan to take care of Early’s army, which was distracting Grant and preventing him from applying the full pressure of the Union army against the forces of Robert E. Lee around Petersburg, Virginia. Sheridan performed his task well, defeating Early at Winchester, Fischer’s Hill, and Tom’s Brook. By mid-October, Sheridan’s troops were busy destroying the rich harvest of the Shenandoah to deny food supplies to Lee’s army.

Sheridan departed for a military conference in Washington, D.C., and before he returned, Early launched a devastating attack on the surprised Yankees at Cedar Creek. Throughout the morning of October 19, the Rebels drove the Union troops back more than three miles. By late morning, Early slowed the attack despite the urgings of General John B. Gordon, who insisted that Early press his assault to achieve total destruction of the Federal force. Returning from Washington, Sheridan heard the battle from Winchester and began a furious, 12-mile ride to the front. Along the way, he met his retreating soldiers and turned them back toward the battle for a counterattack. This effort, which was later called Sheridan’s Ride, became legendary.

After Early cut off his assault, an eerie silence settled on the battlefield. Sheridan orchestrated his counterattack by late afternoon, and it was devastating. The Yankees tore through the Confederate lines and sent Early’s army in retreat. Sheridan lost 5,500 out of 31,000 troops. Early lost almost 3,000 of the 22,000 men in his command, but nearly all of the Confederate artillery was captured in the Union counterattack. It was the last major battle in the Shenandoah campaign, and Early was never able to mount a serious offensive again.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Stock markets crash on "Black Monday"

The largest-ever one-day percentage decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average comes not in 1929 but on October 19, 1987. As a number of unrelated events conspired to tank global markets, the Dow dropped 508 points—22.6 percent—in a panic that foreshadowed larger systemic ...read more

Napoleon retreats from Moscow

One month after Napoleon Bonaparte’s massive invading force entered a burning and deserted Moscow, the starving French army is forced to begin a hasty retreat out of Russia. Following the rejection of his Continental System by Czar Alexander I, French Emperor Napoleon I invaded ...read more

First Battle of Ypres

On October 19, 1914, near the Belgian city of Ypres, Allied and German forces begin the first of what would be three battles to control the city and its advantageous positions on the north coast of Belgium during the First World War. After the German advance through Belgium and ...read more