The Battle of Lynchburg
June 17-18, 1864 in Lynchburg, Virginia
Union Forces Commanded by:
Maj. Gen. David Hunter
Maj. Gen. David Hunter
Confederate Forces Commanded by:
Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early
**Missing and Captured
Conclusion: Confederate Victory
From Lexington, Maj. Gen. David Hunter advanced against the Confederate rail and canal depots and the hospital complex at Lynchburg. On June 17, Maj. Gen. David Hunter approached the city from the west after moving down the Shenandoah Valley burning farms and towns. That morning , Crook was ordered to march across to the main road at New London. He arrived there at 10:00 A.M. and stopped to wait for Gen. Jeremiah C. Sullivan's division. At 4:00 P.M., Crook led the 2 divisions forward on the main road to Lynchburg. Averell was marching on a road to the right, which intersected the main road some four miles from Lynchburg and when Crook reached the intersection, Averell was engaging the Confederates at the church on the hill beyond. After a series of delaying actions by Confederate Gen. John McCausland, the Union troops managed to force back a Confederate line positioned at the old Quaker Meeting House, and took the nearby Sandusky House for use as a temporary headquarters.
On June 18, following the fallback,Confederate forces, now reinforced by General Jubal Early, maintained positions along a 3-mile line west of the town.
The night before a train had scurried up and down the tracks as if it brought in reinforcements to Lynchburg and bugles and drum rolls could be heard by even Hunters men. It was a ploy that even the townspeople took part in, with bands playing and citizens screaming. Hunter became convinced Lee had sent an army in. On the turnpike outside the city near the old Quaker church, McCausland was at the right flank, somewhere between the river and creek. Crook was going to attack McCausland's men but decided it unwise. The day grew hot and the soldiers suffered from exhaustion, fear, heat and dust. The constant noise of the artillery filled the air on and off throughout the day. The battle ended sometime after 2:00 P.M.
At sunrise on the 18th, the Confederates opened heavily with artillery. Crook took his division to see if he could turn the Confederate left, but decided against it. As he was returning, the Confederates suddenly came out of their works and attacked him on the Bedford Turnpike, hoping to cut his line in half. Sullivan, however, was able to hold the enemy until Crook had safely returned.
Hunter began preparing to retreat as soon as darkness came, but meanwhile, because there were still five hours of daylight left, he ordered the army to continue fighting. The Thirteenth was deployed in the line of battle in front of brigade at 1:00 P.M., and slowly advanced under a heavy artillery and musketry fire toward the Confederate works. The Confederates were repulsed with loss and fell back to their works and kept a desultory fire until 8:00 P.M., when learning that the enemy had been re-enforced by Earleys Corps from Richmond, we were ordered to withdraw. At 8:00 P.M., they were ordered to march 1 mile beyond the village of New London where they camped for the night.
After inconclusive fighting, the Union troops withdrew under the false impression they were facing a larger Confederate force. Part of the deception arose from a continuous series of train movements on several rail lines, giving the impression that reinforcements were arriving at a steady pace. The following day, Gen. Early chased the Union troops back towards Liberty, overtaking them and inflicting heavy casualties. The course of these events turned to favor the Confederates and now the Federals fled. That morning, Maj. Gen. R. Ransom joined McCausland's brigade as they sped to Buchanan in an effort to cut off Hunter. The day became hot and the roads thick with dust. McCausland hoped to take General David Hunter prisoner, and on the 19th caught up with Hunter's rear guard at Liberty 10 miles west of Lynchburg. McCausland then captured part of Hunter's supply train, destroying part of it and then resumed the chase.
Early's line of retreat through West Virginia took his army out of the war for nearly a month and opened the Shenandoah Valley for a Confederate advance into Maryland.