The Battle of Waynesboro was fought on March 2, 1865, at Waynesboro in Augusta County, Virginia, during the American Civil War. It was the final battle for Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early, whose force was destroyed.
On February 27, 1865, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan rode with two cavalry divisions from Winchester "up" the Shenandoah Valley toward Staunton. He had orders to take his cavalry south to join Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's army in the Carolinas Campaign. After crossing the North Fork of the Shenandoah River on March 28, Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer's division encountered some 300 Confederate cavalrymen under Brig. Gen. Thomas Rosser guarding the Middle River near the village of Mount Crawford. Rosser set a long covered bridge on fire, hoping to delay the Federals. Custer ordered two of his regiments to swim across the river and strike Rosser's flank, while additional regiments stormed the bridge. Custer successfully drove off Rosser's meager force, extinguished the fire, and rode on to Staunton, where they were joined by the bulk of Sheridan's force the next day.
Desiring to eliminate Early's small force as a threat to his rear and perhaps wanting to remain in Virginia to help finish off Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia near Richmond and Petersburg, Sheridan turned east instead of proceeding to Sherman. Custer's Union division slogged through muddy roads in cold downpour, and on March 2 encountered the last remnant of Early's Army of the Valley at Waynesboro. Aligned in a defensive position along a ridge in front of the South River, Early had placed his artillery (11 to 14 guns) in a good position to contest any Federal advance. However, he left his left flank exposed, supposing (incorrectly) that a dense woods would impede any Union thrust in that direction. After a brief stand-off, a determined Federal attack rolled up Early's left flank and scattered his small force. CSA general William Henry Harman was killed attempting to rally the routing Confederates.
More than 1,500 Confederates surrendered, while Early and a few of his staff evaded capture. Sheridan crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains to Charlottesville and then raided south, destroying the James River Canal locks near Goochland Court House. He joined forces with the Army of the Potomac near Petersburg on March 26 for the opening of the Appomattox Campaign. Early was sacked by Lee and never received another field assignment for the rest of the war.
- National Park Service battle description
- CWSAC Report Update
- U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880–1901.
- Tyler, Lyon Gardiner. 'Encylcopedia of Virginia Biography, under the editorial supervision of Lyon Gardiner Tyler', Volume V. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1915. OCLC 2576742. Retrieved September 16, 2012.
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