The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864

By Berkey, Jonathan M. | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, October 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864


Berkey, Jonathan M., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 * Gary W. Gallagher, ed. * Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006 * xxii, 392 pp. * $45.00

The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864, the ninth and largest volume of the Military Campaigns of the Civil War series, features essays on key leaders, important military engagements, and the experiences of common soldiers and civilians. Gary W. Gallagher's opening essay compares the performance of Confederate general Jubal A. Early to his Union counterpart, Philip H. Sheridan. Gallagher concludes that had resources on both sides been equal, Sheridan's accomplishments would not have exceeded Early's. Keith S. Bohannon addresses the conflict between Early and Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon over the Confederate defeat at Cedar Creek in October 1864. Gordon's postwar memoirs claimed that Early ordered a "fatal halt" when victory was in his grasp; Early blamed the defeat on undisciplined troops who stopped to plunder Union camps. Bohannon suggests that postwar considerations of mutual honor among Union and Confederate soldiers shaped Gordon's explanation. Joseph Glatthaars essay focuses on a leader not often considered in the 1864 Valley Campaign: Ulysses S. Grant. According to Glatthaar, the campaign caused Grant to consider the political aspects of his military decisions. Grant's physical absence from Washington and the need to coordinate various military departments required him to flex his political muscle to form an effective counterpoint to Early.

Other essays in the volume feature less-well-known figures. William W. Bergen traces the career of Horatio G. Wright, who oversaw the Federal effort at the battle of Cedar Creek before Sheridan arrived on the field. Bergen argues that Weight's early management of the battle allowed Sheridan to achieve victory, but Wright s loathing of the spotlight has hidden his efforts from his peers and historians. Joan Waugh examines the experience of Charles Russell Lowell, who was killed at Cedar Creek. Waugh suggests that Lowell epitomized New England's ideal Civil War soldier, who fought for the ideals of freedom and union, not to establish control over an unruly working class, as other historians have argued for members of the New England elite. …

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