Virginia's Shenandoah Valley in 1864 was the scene of one of the most crucial campaigns of the Civil War. The outcome of the fighting there would have consequences that stretched far outside the valley to help decide the fate of the nation.
In 1864 the Union Army's new commander, Ulysses Grant, created the Union's first cohesive strategy for conquering the Confederacy. One of his key objectives was to control the Shenandoah Valley. The valley shielded the Confederacy, served as the bread basket for Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, and provided remounts for Confederate cavalry. When an initial invasion in spring 1864 failed in the face of a skillful counter-attack by General Jubal Early, Grant turned to his cavalry commander, Brigadier-General Philip Sheridan, to drive the Confederacy from the valley. On August 7, 1864, "Little Phil" assumed command of the Army of the Shenandoah, as the new command was styled. Over the next 90 days two armies--the Union forces led by Sheridan and the Confederate troops commanded by Early--maneuvered across the Shenandoah Valley in a storied campaign of move and countermove, where unexpected attacks were met by equally unexpected ripostes. The stakes in the battles were not just the fate of one disputed agricultural valley in the United States. Rather, its implications would be felt throughout a nation torn by Civil War. Victory or defeat in the Shenandoah could affect the outcome of the Presidential election to be held in November 1864. Confederate loss of the Valley would cripple the Army of Northern Virginia. Sheridan's eventual victory helped ensure Lincoln's re-election and removed the Confederate threat, hastening the eventual end to the Civil War.