Stone Sentinels, battlefield monuments of the American Civil War

Civil War Battles and Events Around Winchester, Virginia

Winchester, Virgnia was on the front lines for much of the Civil War. Its strategic location at the center of a road hub in the lower Shenandoah Valley made it a magnet to armies.

Fort Collier at Winchester, Virginia

June 1861 - Winchester becomes the front lne


Virginia had only been out of the Union for a few week when Confederate General Joseph Johnston decided Harpers Ferry could not be defended. He fell back to Winchester and began to fortify the town. One of the main earthworks he created is Fort Collier, next to the main road and railroad coning into the north sde of town. It played only a minor role in the fightng around Wnchester until 1864 when it was a strongpoint in the Confederate defences during the Third Battle of Winchester.

Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters in Winchester, Virginia

November 1861 - Jackson takes command of the Valley District


After First Manasas only a few miltia units held the Shenandoah Valley aganst a growing Union force across the Potomac. Major General Thomas J. Jackson was appointed to command the newly created Valley District with headquarters at Winchester. He took residence in a house on North Braddock Street, sending for Mrs. Jackson. It was his headquarters and home until March of 1862, when he was forced to evecuate Winchester and withdraw up the valley. Today his headquarters is a museum.

View from Pritchard's Hill of the First Kernstown Battlefield outside Winchester, Virginia

March 22, 1862 - First Battle of Kernstown


Jackson briefly returned to the Winchester area, attacking what he thought was a weak and withdrawing Union force. Instead he found himself dealing with an aggressive Union force twice his size. By nightfall his badly battered army was forced to withdraw up the valley.


It was the only battle Jackson lost, but the stretegic results were more than he could have hoped for. Union forces several times larger than his small army were diverted from the Union assault on Richmond.

Monument to the First Battle of Winchester, Virginia

May 25, 1862 - The First Battle of Winchester


After Jackson overran the Union outpost at Front Royal Union General Nathaniel Banks was forced to hastily withdraw from his postion at Strasburg, forming a defensive line south of Winchester. Jackson attacked early in the morning of the 25th. He outnumbered Banks by more than 2 to 1, and after three hours fighting Banks' army was fleeing north for the Potomac. But Jackson's unruly cavalry were not at hand, and an ideal oportunity to destroy Banks' army slipped through a frustrated Jackson's fingers.

Monument to the Second Battle of Winchester, Virginia

June 14-15, 1863 - The Second Battle of Winchester


Robert E. Lee began his Gettysburg Campaign by taking his army into the Shenandoah Valley in a wide sweep around Union positions along the Rappahannock River. In his way was the Union garrison of Winchester under Major General Robert Milroy.


Milroy was up against the late "Stonewall" Jackson's battle-hardened veterans of Richard Ewell's Second Corps. Ewell outhflanked the Union strong points, causing Milroy to try a night withdrawal. But Ewell had sent part of another division to lie in wait on Milroy's line of retreat. In a surprise night attack at Stephenson's Depot Milroy's army was almost completely destroyed. Ewell - and Lee - would have a clear path through the Shenandoah and all the way to Pennsylvania.

Wayside markers at the site of the Battle for Rutherford's Farm outside Winchester, Virginia

July 20, 1864 - Action at Rutherford's Farm


Union General William Averell's Division was pushing south toward Winchester, guarded by the Confederate division of General Stephen Ramseur. Ramseur mistakenly believed he outnumbered the Northerners and attacked late in the afternoon. Averell counterattacked, sending Ramseur's men flying and capturing 300 prisoners and four guns.

Marker for the Second Battle of Kernstown outside Winchester, Virginia

July 23, 1864 - Second Battle of Kernstown


Union General George Crook pursued Confederate General Jublal Early's Army of the Valley back up the Shenandoah after its raid on Washington. Crook had recoccupied Winchester and his advanced positions were on the old Kernstown battlefield when Early turned on him and sent his corps flying back across the Potomac. Early succeeded in his mission of diverting Union forces from the attack on Richmond - Grant sent back two Union corps he had just withdrawn from the Valley. But it was at the price of facing those men under Phil Sheridan, who was given orders to destroy Early once and for all.

Red Bud Run Area of the Third Winchester Battlefield

September 19, 1864 - Third Battle of Winchester (or Battle of Opequon)


The final battle around Winchester was the largest and bloodiest in the Shenandoah Valley. Union General Philip Sheridan attacked with 50,000 men, hoping to hit Confederate General Jublal Early's much smaller force of 15,000 while they were dispersed on raids against Union positions. Sheridan's force was delayed, however, and Early was able to concentrate his army northeast of town. The battle cost Sheridan 5,000 casualties and Early 3,600, including an unusual number of general officers on both sides. While Early came out ahead in the numbers of casualties they represented a much larger percentage of his army, which fled south up the Valley to Fisher's Hill. Confederate forces had given up Winchester for the last time.

About the Author • ©2007-2014 Steve Hawks