Confederate forces, though far outnumbered and ill-equipped, attacked sleeping and encamped Union soldiers on Oct. 19, 1864, at Cedar Creek in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. The Confederate charge swept over Union fighters during the fog-shrouded hours before dawn — not far Belle Grove — shaped up early on as a disaster for the North. But the battle this week 150 years ago in the Civil War was not yet over.
Sounds of fighting drew the attention of fast-approaching Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, who rode into the fray with reinforcements after a trip to Washington, D.C., to confer with authorities. Amid Sheridan's rallying cries, the Union counterattacked and drove off the Confederates in what would be one of the bloodiest battles in the Shenandoah Valley. At a cost of thousands of dead and wounded soldiers on both sides, the Union muscled its way to victory and smashed the last major Confederate resistance there. The outcome, following the Union capture of Atlanta weeks earlier, provided another morale boost to the North weeks before its voters would sweep Abraham Lincoln back into office for a second term.