Skip to content

1864 Septemeber 24: “A Splendid Victory” at the Battle of Opequon

September 27, 2014

The following article comes from the September 24, 1864 issue of The Polk County Press.  It concerns the Battle of Opequon, often called the Third Battle of Winchester, which was fought on September 19, 1864, in Winchester, Virginia, during the Valley Campaigns of 1864.  Confederate General Jubal A. Early raided the B&O Railroad at Martinsburg, West Virginia.  Meanwhile, Union General Philip H. Sheridan advanced toward Winchester, crossing Opequon Creek.  When the two forces met, the main assault continued for several hours and casualties were very heavy.  When the Confederate left flank was turned, Early ordered a general retreat.  There were serious casualties among the general officers on both sides.

A Great Battle and a Splendid Victory !


He Captures 2,500 Prisoners, five Guns and 9 Battle Flags.

(Official.).                                                                                           .
WINCHESTER, Va., Sept. 19.

To Lieutenant General Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] :

I have the honor to report that I attacked the forces [of] Gen. Early over the Berryville Pike at the crossing of Opequan [sic] Creek, and after a most stubborn and sanguinary engagement, which lasted from early in the morning until 5 o’clock in the evening, completely defeated him, driving him through Winchester, capturing about 2,500 prisoners, five pieces of artillery, nine army flags and most of their wounded.

The rebel General Rhodes and Gordon were killed and three other general officers were wounded.  Most of the enemy’s wounded and all of their killed fell into our hands.¹

Our losses are severe ;  among them Gen. D. A.  Russell [David A. Russell], commanding a division in the 6th corps, who was killed by a cannon ball.  Gens. Upton, McIntosh and Chapman, are wounded.  I cannot tell our losses.²

The conduct of the officers and men was most superb.  They charged and carried every position taken by by [sic] the rebels from Openquan [sic] Creek to Winchester.

The rebels were strong in numbers and very obstinate in their fighting.

I desire to mention to the Lieut. General commanding, the gallant conduct of Gens. Wright [Horatio G. Wright], Crook [George R. Crook], Torbett [sic: Alfred T. A. Torbet], and the officers and men under their command.  To them the country is indebted for this handsome victory.  A more detailed report will be forwarded.

Maj. Gen. Commanding.

Full details of casualties will be given when received

(Signed)                .E. M. STANTON [Edwin M. Stanton],
.                                          .Sec’y of War.

"Battle of Opequan [sic] or Winchester, Va.--Sept. 19' 1864," by Kurz & Allison

“Battle of Opequan [sic] or Winchester, Va.–Sept. 19′ 1864,” by Kurz & Allison³



To E. M. Stanton:

Reliable news from the front state our army was crossing Cedar Creek yesterday at 2 P. M.

There has been no further fighting.

The following list of rebel generals killed and wounded is correct :—Gens. Rhodes [Robert E. Rodes], Ramsur [sic],4 Gordon [John B. Gordon], Terry [William Terry], Goodwin [sic: Archibald C. Godwin], Bradley Johnson, and Fitzhugh Lee.

From all I can learn the number of prisoners will approach 5,000.

Indications are that the rebels will not make a stand short short [sic] of Stannton [sic]. They are evidently too much pressed to make a fight.

(Signed) J. D. STEVENSON,
Brigadier General.

The loss to the enemy in killed, wounded and prisoners will, it is believed, reach not less than 10,000, while the circumstances of the enemy’s defeat leave Early’s army in a condition little short of absolute ruin and demoralization.  The bearing of the operation on the greater problem immediately before Gen. Grant, is of capital importance and goes far to decide the fate of Lee’s army and of Richmond.  [Robert E. Lee]

A disdatch [sic] just rec’d from Gen. Sherman [William T. Sherman] at Atlanta says everything continues well with him.

The reports to-day show that the draft is proceeding quietly in all the States.  In most of the districts vigorous efforts are continued to fill the puotn [sic: quota] by volunteers before the drafted men are mustered in.

(Signed) E. M. STANTON,
.                          .Sec’y of War.

1.  Union Brigadier General David A. Russell was killed, and Brigadier Generals Emory Upton, John B. McIntosh, and George H. Chapman were seriously wounded.
2.  Confederate Major General Robert E. Rodes and Colonel George S. Patton, Sr. were killed. Major General John B. Gordon was not injured in the battle and lived until 1904. Major General Fitzhugh Lee, Brigadier Generals William Terry and Archibald Godwin, and Colonel William Wharton were wounded.
3.    “Battle of Opequan [sic] or Winchester, Va.—Sept. 19′ 1864—Union: (Gen. Sheridan) … Conf. (Gen. Early).” This digital image is from an original 1893 Kurz & Allison print, available at the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. The UWRF University Archives & Area Research Center has in its Special Collections a copy of Battles of the Civil War: The Complete Kurz & Allison Prints, 1861-1865, Birmingham, Ala.: Oxmoor House, 1976 (Oversized E 468.7 .B3 1976), which includes a copy of this print.
4.  Stephen Dodson “Dod” Ramseur (1837-1864), at one point, the youngest general in the Confederate Army, had graduated from West Point in 1860. Ramseur fought at the Battle of Malvern Hill (Seven Days Battles), where he was severely wounded in the arm. General Robert E. Lee, impressed with Ramseur’s performance at Malvern Hill, promoted him to brigadier general in November 1862, when he was only 25. He then fought at the Battle of Chancellorsville (May 2, 1863), where Ramseur was again wounded, this time in the leg. On the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Ramseur’s brigade, in an assault south from Oak Hill against the Union’s right flank, hit the defenders in the rear, routing them and driving them back through the town. At the Battle of the Wilderness, Ramseur’s brigade drove Burnside’s troops back over a half mile, and the Battle of Spotsylvania, his brigade counterattacked Hancock’s Corps and he was wounded again in the arm.  Ramseur assumed command of Jubal A. Early’s division when that general took over from Ewell after Spotsylvania. He fought at Cold Harbor and was the first division to intercept Grant before he could capture Petersburg. A month after the Battle of Opequon, Early routed two thirds of the Union army at the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19 where Ramseur displayed great bravery in rallying his troops. He was mortally wounded in that battle and died the next day.


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: