Wednesday, July 2, 2014

150 Years Ago This Week - The Valley

Often overlooked due to actions going on at the same time in the Petersburg/Richmond region and over in northern Georgia, the Shenandoah Valley was also the scene of army movements and deadly fighting in the summer of 1864.

One of the men in Confederate General Jubal Early's army, and in William Terry's brigade (pictured) was Lt. John H. Worsham. A member of the 21st Virginia Infantry, Worsham had fought in the Valley two year earlier under Stonewall Jackson. Now, in 1864, he once again found himself in familiar confines as Early pushed on north toward Washington D.C. Worsham wrote the following about this week 150 years ago:

"On the 28th [June 1864] we resumed our march down the valley [northward] and felt perfectly at home, since nearly all of the valley from Staunton to the Potomac river was familiar to us, and many of its inhabitants old acquaintances. We stopped regularly at night and continued the march each day. On the afternoon of July 3d we reached Martinsburg, running in on the Yankees who were there, so suddenly, that they did not have time to move any of their stores. They were making big preparations to celebrate the Fourth, and many of the men had received boxes of good things from home and friends. The depot and express office were filled with articles of this kind. A guard was placed around these buildings and their storehouses. The express office was put in charge of a quartermaster who was an old friend of mine. At night I went there and inquired of the guard for him and and he let me into the building. He was very glad to see me, as he had only one man to help him get these articles in shape, and asked me to help him; this I consented to do, if he would give me a barrel of cakes. He said 'all right.' I found one and carried it out and turned it over to my company . . . who were profuse in their thanks for the cakes, and soon fell asleep,--dreaming of little cakes, big cakes, and a mountain made of cakes.

The next morning was the Fourth of July, 1864! Gen. Early did not move us at the usual early hour, but issued to the men the good things captured the evening before. They were divided among the men as fairly as possible, F Company getting a few oranges, lemons, cakes and candy, and a keg of lager beer. We certainly enjoyed the treat, and celebrated the day as well as we could for our hosts, and regretted they did not stay to preside for us. We drank their health with the wish that they would not do the like again. This was the biggest Fourth of July picnic celebration we enjoyed during the war. We took up our march and crossed the Potomac river at Shepherdstown."

Less than a week later Worsham and the rest of Early's army clashed with Gen. Lew Wallace's Federals at Monocacy, Maryland (July 9), then pushed on to the outskirts of Washington D.C.

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