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Lynchburg

As I noted in a posting a while back, when in Virginia for Liberty University’s Civil War Seminar, I did some exploring of the sites associated with the 17-18 June 1864 Battle of Lynchburg. Not having my digital camera with me, I was forced to use a disposable one and only just got the images back.

Essentially, I found, following some guides I picked up, that there were basically three stops to hit in the course of my travels around Lynchburg to understand the engagements there.

I. Quaker Meeting House – Basically, Maj. Gen. David Hunter’s Federals advanced toward Lynchburg along the Lynchburg-Salem Turnpike (modern Fort Avenue). They left Lexington on 14 June after lighting a few fires and moved over the Blue Ridge in the vicinity of the Peaks of Otter. It was on the high ground on which the Quaker Meeting House (originially built in 1798) stands that Confederate cavalry commanded by Brig. Gen. John Imboden and another noted burner of things, Brig. Gen. John McCausland, established a defensive line that was designed to delay Hunter’s advance and buy time for Maj. Gen. Jubal Early’s troops to arrive from the Richmond front in time to save Lynchburg. During the afternoon of 17 June cavalry commanded by Brig. Gen. William Averell that constituted the vanguard of Hunter’s force approached McCausland’s line, advancing over low ground toward the Quaker Meeting House. (From the meeting house you get a real good sense of how it looked to the Confederate defenders.) The Confederates successfully fought off Averell’s advance, but were forced to fall back when Brig. Gen. George Crook’s infantry reached the scene and successfully attacked McCausland’s position.

II. Sandusky – This is an old mansion that Maj. Gen. David Hunter made his tommyboyheadquarters after arriving on the scene late on June 17. Here he met with his staff and subordinates (included among them were Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley) to plan what they assumed would be a successful offensive against a weakly garrisoned Lynchburg. The house was built in 1808 by a fellow by the name of Charles Johnson; why he named it after the town where Callahan Auto Parts is located is beyond me. Seriously, it is a pretty neat site. There is a charge to go in the house, though. For more details, you can visit its website where you will also find a great clip from an Ed Bearss tour video, where he talks about the Battle of Lynchburg. The tour guide pamphlet suggested starting the tour here, but it seemed to make more sense to me to begin the tour at the Quaker Meeting House and come here second.

III. Fort Early – There are more sites where there is signage documenting the battle, but I only had time to do these three. Fort Early marked roughly the center of the left wing of the force Jubal Early deployed on the outskirts of Lynchburg after his arrival. The fortification was built about a year earlier to cover the Lynchburg-Salem Turnpike where it entered Lynchburg. Stephen Dodson Ramseur’s division was posted on the right (northwest side) of the pike where the remnants of Fort Early are and John B. Gordon’s was to the left (southeast side) of the pike. The Federals advanced against the position with Jeremiah C. Sullivan’s division on the left and Crook’s on the right. The stiffness of Confederate resistance here and further to the left, where cavalry commanded by Alfred Duffie probed a position held by John Breckinridge’s division that is now known as Fort McCausland, surprised Hunter, who did not expect to encounter such strong resistance. Consequently, that evening he decided to fall back to the Shenandoah Valley, which ultimately set up the Confederate raid across the Potomac that reached the outskirts of Washington in July.

Comments (2) to “Lynchburg”

  1. I found the CD they sell in the city tourist center helpful in doing the driving tour. Though I think ideally you would have a bicycle for touring so you wouldn’t be so constrained in going between sites.

  2. We grouped the various Civil War Trails, VA state, and other markers related to the wartime activies at Lynchburg into a virtual tour by markers on Historical Marker Database. I can pass the link if you are interested.