Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel was sent to invade the Shenandoah Valley and destroy Lee’s supply lines. Sigel was intercepted by troops and cadets from the Virginia Military Institute under Confederate Maj. Gen. John C. Breckenridge and defeated. He retreated to Strasburg, Virginia, and was replaced by Maj. Gen. David Hunter, who later burned VMI as a yankee tribute in retaliation for the conspicuous gallantry in the actions of the VMI cadets. Lieutenant General Jubal Early, C.S.A., arrived in Lynchburg on the 17th of June, 1864 at 1 o’clock in the afternoon and assumed command of the South’s forces.
Just in case you believe that fighting wars with no clear-cut strategy for victory is a post World War II phenomena allow us to assure you it is not. The goal of the campaign of 1864 from the union perspective was to lift the siege of Washington while not losing the war. A string of indecisive battles decided nothing but did occupy the Southern forces for the most part. Ironically it was the failure to maintain discipline after a surprise attack routed the union army at Cedar Creek that allowed Sheridan to regroup his forces, counterattack and defeat Early’s forces who were hungry and exhausted and fell out of their ranks to pillage the Union camp.
With Early damaged and pinned down, the Valley lay open to the Union. And because of Sherman’s capture of Atlanta, the press relented in their attacks on Lincoln’s incompetence and his re-election now seemed assured – just to be sure every serving soldier was recorded as having voted for Lincoln [sic]. Sheridan pulled back slowly down the Valley and conducted a scorched earth campaign which served as a model for Sherman’s March to the Sea in November. The goal to deny the Confederacy the means of feeding its armies and citizens in Virginia, and Sheridan’s army did so ruthlessly, burning homes, farms, crops, barns, mills, and factories leaving the people to starve through the coming winter in this exercise of total war.
From Winchester to Cedar Creek : the Shenandoah Campaign of 1864 Carlisle, Pa. : South Mountain Press, 1987 Jeffry D. Wert Shenandoah Valley Campaign, 1864 (August-November) Hardcover. 1st ed. viii, 324 p.,  leaf of plates : ill., maps, ports. ; 24 cm. Ill. on lining papers. Bibliography: p. 291-307. Includes Index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
The summer of 1864, the fourth in a long conflict, brought little promise of resolution in this War Between the States. A crippled South resolutely continued to resist in spite of defeats at Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Chattanooga.
Lincoln, the man whose 1860 election with less than 40% of the vote precipitated secession of Southern states, now faced the fall reelection campaign. His opponent: General George B. McClellan, former chief of the Army, dismissed by Lincoln in the president’s effort to find a more effective leader. The adversarial posture of McClellan, coupled with the growing public weariness of strife and loss, made the need for military success even more urgent. For the South their whole cause was at stake.
In that summer the focus again turned to the strategic Shenandoah Valley where the vital food supplies of the Confederacy were situated. The valley was a conduit for Jubal Early‘s raids. Confederate intrusions into Maryland and Pennsylvania and such events as the burning of Chambersburg and the demands for tribute of $100,000.00 in gold.
The New York Times editorialized that it was “the old story over again. The back door, by way of the Shenandoah Valley, has been left invitingly open.” The Republican administration in Washington was feeling the heat and again tried to marshal the seemingly uncontrollable bureaucracy of the Union Army Corps.
The response to these conditions is the story told here by Jeffry D. Wert in this complete and fully-documented account. Accompanied by critical situation maps, drawn by Mark Pfoutz, this volume is the first full exposition of the detail and significance of that fateful summer in the valley — the last for the Confederacy.