Although the Battle of Second Winchester occurred on June 15th 1862; the battlefield at Middletown, Virginia served as the near perfect site to reenact the battle that was very close to this site. As reenactors we really like the Cedar Creek site. It's usually the last battle event of the year and it's very close to most rebellion historians hearts. We also like it here partly because the weather is mixed; mild to warm days and cool to freezing nights. We just have to throw another blanket between the ground and your body and another over top to ward off the chilly temperatures.
When we use another location to reenact a particular battle we have to adjust many details. The area around Winchester was exchanged several times. The Shenandoah Valley was very important to the war effort of the Army of Northern Virginia and in general the Confederacy; because and it was a major bread basket for the south. This area became a center piece for control with both armies.
We did the “Second Battle of Winchester” on Saturday coming in from the northeast as much as possible and both armies were concentrated. The fighting again was as intense as possible with musket firing both hot and heavy. Support artillery occupied the high ground as both sides advanced toward each other. Casualties were high, sometimes with many men going down by the handful. The air was filled with the sight and smell of cannon and rifle smoke. After about an hour of fighting, the sound of “TAPS” fills the air and the battle is done. The men who have fallen-rise and give greetings to each other for a battle well fought. We have again honored those who actually fought and died during this battle. We have kept their memory alive. They wanted to be remembered for the bravery and sacrifice they have given; not so much on the battlefield. This field is owned by a private foundation and is mainly kept alive because of the efforts of “Living Historians” and those visitors who donate time and monies to keep this National Treasure open to the public. Cedar Creek Battlefield has only a few plaques describing what happened on this field. The preserved ground appears much as it did during the actual battle at Cedar Creek, Middletown, Virginia. The fields lay open with outcroppings of limestone sticking through the surface here and there; but nothing big enough for cover. It remains to this day pasture for livestock when we aren't present. If you're ever in the Middletown Virginia area, I recommend a visit. Belle Grove mansion is a beautiful cut limestone home designed by Thomas Jefferson. Belle Grove and the Henry House are still the only buildings existing on the field. It is a rare experience to reenact on an historic field. I can tell you it's one of my favorite historic site's.
Lt. General Richard Ewell's Second Corp. Army of Northern Virginia, 12,500 men strong suffered 47 Killed, 219 wounded and 3 missing. Major General Robert Milroy's Second Division, 7th Corp, Army of the Shenandoah 7,000 men suffered 97 Killed, 348 wounded and nearly 4,000 missing or captured. This meant Second Winchester was an astounding defeat for the Union Army. This victory emboldened the confederacy with great hope for their case.
With the first part of the weekend completed, we settled into the other reason we were on this hallowed ground. The Battle of Cedar Creek was on the 19th of October 1864. It started at about 4:30 am when the rebels routed the Union troops from their night sleep. Carrying their clothes and equipment they ran, fought and eventually were rallied, but were seriously pressed for several hours of hard fighting. By late morning and afternoon General Philip Sheridan”s Army of the Shenandoah with his 31,610 men turned the tide of battle and began pushing General Jubal Early's 21,102 troops back to where they came from. Both sides suffered severely in this action. Sheridan lost 569 Killed, 3,425 Wounded and 1,770 missing or captured. Early lost 320 Killed, 1,540 Wounded and 1,050 missing or captured. October 19th 1864 marked the near end for the Confederates foraging in the Shenandoah Valley.
One can only imagine the real impact of such an attack. We were up at 5:00AM and the fight started shortly thereafter. Even with the light number of troops the fighting was surreal. The muzzle flashes in the darkness reveals much. Where just moments before we saw shadowy figures, now it is realized whether they are blue or gray. This was probably the case then as well... The ground is covered with a touch of frost and could be seen as daylight approached. Before we saw it though we could feel it's effect... The afternoon rally and fight was equally impressive as the day before. Literally tens of thousands of rounds were fired. Again “TAPS” is play and echoed several times and the battle is over.
Two years ago; two of my closest friends formed a group called “Civil War Riders.” Our goal was to ride motorcycle to as many battlefields as the men of the 148th PA Volunteer Infantry fought on. Our next goal was to place our foot or touch the water of the fords these men walked through, visit these sites and walk the fields where the blood of the heroes we represent fought and died on. For two fall rides we did this. Then this spring we did our first nice weather ride. We logged nearly a thousand miles in the saddle over three days. Late summer we learned that, Lee's Lost Order # 191 was going to be on display at the Monocacy Battlefield Visitors Center just south of Frederick, Maryland. Not really needing an excuse to go on a ride, we planned on this 270 mile round trip... You can look at a copy all you want, but nothing can replace the real thing. It was on loan from the Library of Congress, and would be returned to that depositor on October 31st. We didn't get to ride as originally planned, because of Hurricane Sandy and the potential for hard rain fall we were forced to drive instead. Whatever the means of transportation the trip was rewarding and the conversation was as well. Thanks Guys.
150 Years Ago
Pvt. Issac Fry; 53rd Company “I” township unknown; Killed in Action, Fredericksburg, VA. 11-07-1862 Antietam National Cemetery, Section 26, Lot E, Grave #466
Donald E. Husler Jr.