By Pedro Garcia As the Civil War continued in the spring of 1864, a Shenandoah Valley resident lamented, “Our prospects look gloomy, very gloomy.” Those prospects dimmed even further when the relentless new Union general in chief, Ulysses S. Grant, orchestrated a concerted scheme of simultaneous advances. “My primary mission,” Grant declared, “is to bring pressure to bear on the Confederacy so no longer [can] it take advantage of interior lines.” Grant focused on the key Southern cities of Atlanta and Richmond. While Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman drove into Georgia, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks would advance into Louisiana and southern Arkansas. Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade would lead the Army of the Potomac against its old nemesis, Robert E. Lee, in Virginia. In support of the drive on Richmond, Grant called for a move from western Virginia into the Shenandoah Valley to divert attention from Meade’s effort, tying down much-needed Confederate troops. One of the richest and most productive regions in the South, the Shenandoah, called “the Breadbasket of the Confederacy,” is cradled between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains. Approximately 125 miles long, the valley stretches from Martinsburg, West Virginia, to Staunton in southern Virginia. The headwaters of the Shenandoah River rise 10 miles below Staunton and flow northward to its confluence with the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry. The topography of the countryside gives rise to some odd local ter


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