June 5, 1864 - Southern Shenandoah Valley Battlefields

The battle of Piedmont took place on June 5, 1864. Union Gen. David Black Dave Hunter will institute a scorched earth policy and engage Confederate Gen. William Grumble Jones outside of the village of Piedmont.

Located in the Southern Shenandoah Valley, Augusta County, three-acres of the battlefield are preserved today by the Shenandoah Battlefield Foundation. Notable sites include Bonnie Doon and the UDC Freeman battlefield marker.

The Battle of Piedmont

This is one of the lesser-known battles of the Shenandoah Valley and part of the first phase of the 1864 Valley Campaign also known as the Lynchburg Campaign. Part of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s overall wartime strategy was to clear the Shenandoah Valley once and for all while eliminating the breadbasket of the Confederacy and invasion route of the North. If effective, it will also threaten Gen. Robert E. Lee’s left flank.

Immediately following the Union defeat at the battle of New Market on May 15, 1864, Gen. Grant takes swift action and replaces Gen. Franz Sigel with Gen. David Hunter in charge of the Union Army of the Shenandoah on May 21, 1864.

A scorched earth policy is enacted in the Valley. Gen. Hunter’s army of 8,500 will live off the land as they march towards their objective of Staunton, a major rail hub, which will deprive Richmond of western supplies of the Valley and beyond.

After the battle of New Market, Gen. Breckenridge will lead most of the Confederate army in the Valley east to join Gen. Lee. This will leave only a small rebel force under Gen. Imboden’s Valley Reserves until Gen. Grumble Jones’ will assemble a small scrabbled army from the Department of Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee bringing the total to 5,500.

On June 3, 1864, Union Gen. Hunter will arrive in Harrisonburg and find the direct route to Staunton blocked by Confederate Gen. Imboden. The next day, Gen. Hunter will leave a small diversionary force while his main force will march east to Port Republic to try to flank the rebels.

The Confederates will catch onto the ruse and march east to confront Gen. Hunter.

On June 5, 1864, Gen. Imboden’s Confederate cavalry will fight a delaying action against Union cavalry just north of the village of Piedmont, around the Bonnie Doon Plantation until Gen. Grumble Jones could bring up the infantry.

Gen. Jones will form a strong battle line on each side of the road with his left flank on a high bluff along the Middle River and his right flank six hundred yards to the rear along a farm lane, creating a gap in his center.

Gen. Jones will form a strong battle line on each side of the road with his left flank on a high bluff along the Middle River and his right flank six hundred yards to the rear along a farm lane, creating a gap in his center.

When Gen. Hunter’s main force arrived, they threw uncoordinated and unsuccessful attacks against each Confederate flank with no result.

Captain Henry DuPont commanding Union artillery will systematically silence most of the Confederate guns which will help turn the tide of battle. With the southern guns crippled, the Federals will assault the Confederate left flank and were repulsed.

Confederate Gen. Jones will shift troops from his right to left flank in order to bolster it. With his right weakened and a gap in the center, the Union will launch an assault to exploit the gap and the Confederate line will become unhinged. While trying to rally his men, Confederate Gen. Grumble Jones was shot in the head and was instantly killed.

The southern retreat became a route and this became the first Union victory in the Valley for many years. The Union will suffer 875 casualties while the Confederates sustained 1,500 casualties, most being prisoners.

The next day on June 6, 1864, Union General Hunter will seize Staunton, his first objective. He will continue his scorched earth policy and burn the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington for the loss at New Market. Though he will turn his attention to Lynchburg, Gen Lee will send a force west under Gen. Jubal Early where he will stop the Union advance on June 18, 1864.

Notable Places of Interest at the Piedmont Battle Site

  • UDC Freeman Battlefield Marker – Erected in the 1920s, it’s one of the few landmarks to identify the battlefield today.
  • Bonnie Doon – A 19th Century Plantation where Confederate forces converged andopening cavalry actions occurred. (Private property)
  • Civil War Orientation Center & Valley Turnpike Museum – Located in Harrisonburg 20 miles away, under one roof some excellent interpretation material on the battle and visitor center can be found here.

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