April 25, 2007

Confederate Gibralter

Sketch is signed J. E. Taylor

At Fisher's Hill Battlefield (south of Strasburg, Virginia), there is this interpretive sign. It reads:

Confederate Gibralter

This is Fisher's Hill, the Shenandoah Valley's "Gibralter" -- a commanding height that offered Confederate forces a superb defensive position.

Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early's beaten and bloodied army filed into position here on September 20, 1864, one day after the disaster at the Third Battle of Winchester. For the next two days the men strengthened their position, but no amount of digging could make up for Early's lack of men.

Early's defensive line extended along Fisher's Hill for almost three miles. The right flank rested on Massanutten Mountain, but the left fell about one mile short of Little North Mountain in front of you. His infantrymen held most of the line -- and they were stretched thin -- while a small number of cavalrymen occupied the left flank, which was "in the air" (not anchored on a natural feature such as a mountain or river). It was a weakness that the Union commander, Gen. Philip. H. Sheridan, was determined to exploit. On the morning of September 22, he sent Gen. George Crook's corps toward Little North Mountain to strike the Confederate left.

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