The Engagement at Stickley’s Farm

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Also Remembered as the Battle of Strasburg

Excerpt – “From Winchester to Cedar Creek

by Jeffrey D. Wert, Pages 168 – 169

“For Jubal Early, this “time of great trial” was worsened by the uncertainties he and his men confronted. He believed that Sheridan would not remarch southward up the Valley again for the Northerners had burned all the bridges in their wake. As Old Jube told Robert Lee in an October 9 message, “the question now is, what he intends doing” By Early’s reckoning, his opponent had three options: move across the Blue Ridge, operating along the Piedmont; dispatch part of his army to Petersburg; or ensconce himself in the lower Valley, protecting the Baltimore & Ohio. Early thought that if Sheridan relocated east of the mountains, he could thwart Union movements and “defeat his infantry.” “But what shall I do if he sends re-enforcements to Grant or remains in the lower Valley?” Early asked. The ravaged Shenandoah could no longer sustain his legions for any length of time, and I will have to rely on Augusta for my supplies, and they are not abundant there. ” Early concluded his message by stating that “my infantry is now in good heart and condition”. A special messenger was enroute to get Lee’s views as expeditiously as possible.

Early did not wait for Lee’s response before testing Sheridan’s intentions. The Army of the Valley marched at sunrise on October 12. The bulk of the army encamped for the night around Woodstock, while Rosser’s regrouped division bedded down at Columbia Furnace on the Back Road and Lomax’s troopers in the Luray Valley. At 6:00 a.m., on the 13th, the infantry and artillery again filed onto the Pike. Over Fisher’s Hill, through Strasburg, the column proceeded. John Gordon’s leading division finally halted at ten o’clock at Hupp’s Hill, a mile and a half short of the Federal camps beyond Cedar Creek. Gordon shifted his troops into a stand of trees, while the divisions of Ramseur, Gabriel Wharton, John Pegram and Joseph Kershaw formed a line under the brow of the hill.

Confederate gun crews rolled their pieces forward, rammed in the charges and sent shells howling toward the Federals, like a familiar greeting from an old acquaintance. The shells exploded in the camp of the XIX Corps, and startled Yankees scrambled for cover. William Emory called for counterfire from his own batteries. George Crook soon joined Emory, and the pair ordered Joseph Thoburn’s division of Crook’s corps forward in a reconnaissance.

The brigades of Colonels George Wells and Thomas Harris soon filed down the slope to Cedar Creek and crossed the stream. As the Federals advanced across the Abram Stickley farm, about 1000 yards south of the creek, Brigadier General James Conner’s brigade of Joseph Kershaw’s division charged. The two battle lines exploded at contact. For the next hour or so, the foes hammered each other. Conner went down with a wound, and George Wells suffered a mortal wound. Finally, Conner’s South Carolinians, supported by additional troops, cracked the Union line, routing the Federals. The Confederates pursued to the Stickley farmhouse, where they came under fire from Union batteries across Cedar Creek. This ended the action. Southern losses amounted to 22 killed and 160 wounded; Northern casualties totaled 22 killed, 110 wounded and 77 captured. Emory and Crook learned that most, if not all, of the Rebel army was present. Early ascertained that an advance toward Cedar Creek would be opposed. Late in the afternoon, the butternuts withdrew through Strasburg and settled into their old works on Fisher’s Hill.”

Notes:

1) Pvt. Jacob C. Eckes was disabled by a bombshell bursting so near him that it broke the skin on the rim of his belly and a piece of the same shell struck him on left hip. Corporal Pleasant Lankford and Sergeant James Turner, both of theTenth West Virginia, were with him at the time of his wounding at Strasburg and provided evidence of that fact for his invalid pension application. Cpl. Lankford assisted him to the creek (Cedar Creek) and Uriah Rexroad of the Fifteenth West Virginia Volunteer Infantry took him out from there. Jacob Eckes was in the hospital at Winchester, Virginia and returned to duty with his company in the following month of November.

2) The Tenth West Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment was a part of the Third Brigade, Col. Thomas M. Harris commanding, of the First Division, commanded by Col. Joseph Thoburn, of the Army of West Virginia, commanded by Bvt. Major General George Crook. The regiment served with distinction throughout Major General Philip Sheridan’s successful Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864.

3) The Battle of Strasburg set the stage for the decisive Battle of Cedar Creek fought a few days later on 19 October 1864.

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Updated 8 February 2010