Lee Takes Winchester

General headquarters, Army of the Potomac in the distance.

Lee Takes the Union Garrison at Winchester Virginia

Winchester is a small Virginia town in the Shenandoah Valley. On June 14th, 1863 the Army of Northern Virginia takes the Union garrison by the Confederates marching on their way to Pennsylvania. This was a small garrison and no match for the Confederates.

Early in June the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by General Robert E. Lee began it’s invasion of the North. Lee’s army had been holding defensive positions on the Rappahannock River when they left and headed for the Shenandoah Valley. Lee and his army used the Blue Ridge Mountains to screen themselves and had little opposition on their way north. Joseph Hooker, commanding general of the Union’s Army of the Potomac, had trouble figuring out Lee’s intentions. He did track Lee always from a safe distance. Hooker’s primary job was to protect Washington, D.C.

The city of Winchester was held by the Union at the time. The city, being at the forefront of the war, had changed hands frequently and this battle was to become known as the Second Winchester. The commander of the Union garrison forces at Winchester, Robert Milroy, had learned early on of Lees advance but the Confederates had cut the telegraph wires to Washington and he never received the order to evacuate. Milroy had ascertained early in June that that he could hold the town but this was not to be the case. Richard Ewell’s Rebel unit took the small garrison easily.

Milroy escaped with 2,700 of his soldiers while Ewell and his forces captured 4,000 Union soldiers. The battle was fierce but short. Besides the capture the Northern soldiers the rebel forces lost 270 soldiers but captured 23 pieces of of mostly rifled artillery, 300 wagons and several hundred horses. Milroy was arrested and relieved of his command. He was later exonerated and released.-

More details and sketches of the Second  Battle of Winchester as well as many of the other battles in this area and time frame can be found at Wikipedia’s Second Battle of Winchester pages.

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