On March 2, 1865, Philip Sheridan‘s Union troops under the command of George A. Custer defeated Jubal Early‘s Confederate force at Waynesboro, Virginia, ending the last Confederate threat in the Shenandoah Valley.
Both armies had been wintering in the Shenandoah Valley after a series of Union victories that had hit Early’s troops hard. In February, Sheridan received word from U. S. Grant to take his 10,000 men and capture Lynchburg and then meet up with W. T. Sherman‘s forces in North Carolina. However, before he left, Sheridan decided to finish up what was left of Early’s force (which by then had dwindled to about 1,200).
Early decided to meet the Federals at Waynesboro, hoping to delay them there long enough that he could get his artillery across the mountain and reposition his troops at the more advantageous Rockfish Gap. Early set up his line with the men’s backs toward the South River, leaving his left flank exposed because he thought they would be protected by a dense wood.
Sheridan sent Custer to test Early’s position, and Custer spotted the weakness in Early’s left. On March 2, Custer sent part of his division to attack from the front, while he sent others to hit the left. The left quickly crumbled, and the Confederate line broke. The Federals captured nearly all the Confederate troops, as well as their supplies and artillery, but Early, who had climbed up a nearby hill to reconnoiter, escaped capture.