Battle of Piedmont, 5 June 1864

The Battle of Piedmont was the first real Union success in the Shenandoah Valley since 1862 (American Civil War). After his defeat at New Market (15 May 1864), General Franz Sigel had been removed, and replaced by General David Hunter. Hunter had not seen battle since being wounded at First Bull Run (1861), having spent much of the intervening period in command of occupation forces, most famously on the South Atlantic coast in 1862, where he had made one of the first attempts to abolish slavery. Now he was given command of an army of 15,000 men and ordered to occupy the Valley.

His campaign in the Shenandoah Valley began well. He advanced with 8,500 of his men towards Staunton, a key railroad junction. Confederate forces in the valley had become quite scattered after New Market. As Hunter advanced, General John Imboden’s force of about 1,000 men had been forced to retreat from the northern valley. Another 3,000 men were rounded up by General William Jones from south west Virginia and the eastern tip of Tennessee. Eventually, the Confederates were able to gather up 4,500 men from three separate commands. On 4 June this force was in place between Harrisonburg and Staunton, ready to oppose Hunter’s advance.

The combined force, under the command of General Jones, took up a position north-east of the village of Piedmont. On 5 June, Hunter attacked. The smaller Confederate force was able to withstand two Federal attacks, before finally their left wing was outflanked and attacked from front and rear. General Jones was killed in the fighting, and his army collapsed. Total Confederate losses were around 1,500, including 100 dead and 500 wounded. Union losses were 150 killed and 450 wounded.

Hunter continued on to Staunton, where he was reinforced up to 18,000 men. From there his newly strengthened force moved south to Lexington, where they burnt the Virginia Military Institute, which had provided many Confederate officers, and whose cadets had played a key role at New Market. From Lexington, Hunter moved south east out of the valley towards Lynchburg, where he was to find Confederate reinforcements under Jubal Early. However, his biggest problem on the march through the Shenandoah was the swarm of partisans that attacked his supply lines. Despite his victory at Piedmont, Hunter never felt secure in the valley.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (15 August 2006), Battle of Piedmont, 5 June 1864 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_piedmont.html

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