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Winchester/Frederick County Living PRSRT STD U.S. POSTAGE PAID PERMIT 31 ECRWSS EDDM Postal Patron ENJOY! September 2013 Reenactors flock to Middletown to portray Cedar Creek battle CEDAR CREEK By Ryan Cornell MIDDLETOWN — A s the campaigns for Virginiaʼs next governor come to a close, both candidates are searching for anything that might give them an upper hand on election day. One month before election day in 1864, President Lincoln was facing a similarly deadlocked race against George B. McClellan. Park Ranger Eric Campbell said it was the Union Armyʼs decisive victory at the Battle of Cedar Creek that helped lead Honest Abe to a landslide at the polls and a second term. “Many people, including Lincoln, believed he was not going to be reelected,” Campbell said. “And if he didnʼt, then the Democratic Party that wouldʼve beaten him wouldʼve sued for peace and the South wouldʼve had its independence. “But instead, [Philip] Sheridan wins this victory just three weeks before the election and finally, the Union is showing theyʼre making progress,” he said. “That victory at Cedar Creek, combined with a victory that Sherman had won in Atlanta, those two military events, significantly convinced the northern public that Lincoln was winning the war and that it could be won.” Fought on Oct. 19, 1864, the Battle of Cedar Creek might have been the last battle in the Shenandoah Valley, but it certainly wasnʼt the least. It involved only 1,495 fewer troops (52,945) and 55 fewer casualties (8,600) than the Battle of Third Winchester, the valleyʼs bloodiest battle. Two years before the battle, Stonewall Jackson had said, “If this Valley is lost, Virginia is lost.” A source of wheat and grain production, the area earned its moniker Nancy Hogan-Ruhrbaugh, of Dillsburg, PA, left, stirs dinner while Susan Davidson, of Madison, and Darlene Tomlin, of Fredricksburg, right, warm themselves with a hot drink and a campfire. as “The Breadbasket of the Confederacy.” But Ulysses S. Grant was determined to end this. “In August, when Grant put Sheridan in charge, he gave him three distinct orders,” Park Ranger Chris Nelson said. “The first is to not lose another battle in the valley. The second is to not allow the Confederates to use the valley as their breadbasket. And also, to rout the Confederates from the valley.” Leading up to the battle, Sheridan spent two and a half weeks burning a 75-mile swath of the Shenandoah Valley and destroying its resources. The Battle of Cedar Creek would be a last ditch effort by the Confederacy to wrestle control of the valley. After an all-night march from Fishers Hill, Jubal Earlyʼs troops launched a surprise attack out of the dense fog at about 4 a.m. Outnumbered by more than 10,000 men, they separately attacked and overran three Union divisions. They captured Belle Grove and its wagons of supplies. By 10:30 a.m., the Union Army was in full retreat. It was looking Andrew Thayer/Daily TOP: A company of Confederates are drilled in the field during the 145th Anniversary Reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek near Middletown. ABOVE: Confederate and Union cavalry clash with their sabers drawn. like the Valley would fall under Confederate control. General Sheridan, who had been in Winchester the morning of the battle, heard rumors of the fighting and headed straight to Middletown on horseback to reinvigorate his defeated troops. Nelson said Sheridan rode up and down, rallying his two-mile line of soldiers, before ordering a counterattack at about 4 p.m. The Confederate defense “rolled up like a scroll,” she said, and was soon retreating back through the same fields they had just conquered. “So he basically takes a horrible defeat that morning and turns it into an overwhelming victory by the afternoon,” Campbell said. Groups such as the Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation are fighting to preserve the hallowed grounds. Terry Heder, director of interpretations and communications at the foundation, said most of the preservation work on the site of Cedar Creek and the Battle of Third Winchester has been done in the past 10 years. “I see it as a debt we owe,” he said. “We owe it to the men who fought in the wars the same way we owe it to the men who fight in wars today.” The 149th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek will be held Oct. 19 and 20 at the battlefield, located at 8437 Valley Pike in Middletown. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for students ages 7-17 and free for children 6 years old and younger. Dressed in uniform, the men camp out on the battlefield and stage the massive comeback story. The women wear 1860s-era dresses and participate in living history and cooking demonstrations at Belle Grove Plantation. The plantation is hosting a civil war living history and reenactment weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 19 and 20. Belle Grove Executive Director Kristen Laise said the house will be open to visitors and she said she hopes to have long rifle demonstrations on its front lawn. Tim Stowe, board member of the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, said the event attracts between 2,500 and 3,000 reenactors each October. He said the foundation has already started planning for the battleʼs sesquicentennial in 2014. “Itʼs going to be a big one,” he said. “Our plan next year is to bring in 10,000 reenactors and 50,000 spectators.” For more information about the reenactment, visit or call 540-869-2064. Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or Voted for the second year in a row for the Best Place to Sell Gold, Best Coin Dealer, Best Pawn Shop and new this year... Best Jeweler! Let us update your stone with a new mount! 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Winchester/Frederick County Enjoy - Sept. 2013

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