June 5, 1864 - Southern Shenandoah Valley Battlefields

The Battle of Piedmont took place on June 5, 1864. Union General David “Black Dave” Hunter instituted a scorched earth policy and engaged Confederate General William “Grumble” Jones outside the village of Piedmont.



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

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The Battle of Piedmont

This battle was one of the lesser-known conflicts of the Shenandoah Valley and part of the first phase of the 1864 Valley Campaign, also known as the Lynchburg Campaign. It was integral to General Ulysses S. Grant’s wartime strategy to clear the Shenandoah Valley, intending to eliminate the Confederacy’s breadbasket and its invasion routes into the North. If successful, it would also threaten General Robert E. Lee’s left flank.

Following the Union’s defeat at the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864, General Grant swiftly replaced General Franz Sigel with General David Hunter as head of the Union Army of the Shenandoah on May 21, 1864.

Hunter’s 8,500-strong army enacted a scorched earth policy in the Valley, subsisting off the land as they marched toward Staunton, a major rail hub. This strategy aimed to cut off Richmond from the western supplies of the Valley and beyond.

After New Market, General Breckenridge led most of the Confederate forces east to join General Lee, leaving only a small force under General Imboden’s Valley Reserves. General Grumble Jones later assembled a makeshift army of 5,500 from the Department of Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee.

On June 3, 1864, Union General Hunter arrived in Harrisonburg and found the direct route to Staunton blocked by Confederate General Imboden. The next day, Hunter left a small diversionary force while his main force marched east to Port Republic to try flanking the rebels. The Confederates caught on to the ruse and marched east to confront Hunter.

On June 5, 1864, Confederate cavalry under General Imboden engaged in a delaying action against Union cavalry north of Piedmont, around the Bonnie Doon Plantation, until General Jones could reinforce them with infantry. Jones formed 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.

As General Hunter’s main force arrived, they launched uncoordinated and ineffective attacks against each Confederate flank to no avail. Captain Henry DuPont, commanding the Union artillery, systematically silenced most of the Confederate guns, which helped turn the tide of battle. With the southern guns crippled, the Federals assaulted the Confederate left flank and were initially repulsed.

Confederate General Jones shifted troops from his right to left flank to reinforce it. With his right flank weakened and a gap in the center, the Union launched an assault to exploit the gap, causing the Confederate line to unravel. While attempting to rally his men, General Jones was shot in the head and killed instantly.

The Confederate retreat turned into a rout, marking the first Union victory in the Valley in many years. The Union suffered 875 casualties, while the Confederates sustained 1,500, most of whom were taken prisoner.

On June 6, 1864, Union General Hunter captured Staunton, achieving his first objective. He continued his scorched earth policy, burning the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington as retribution for the loss at New Market. Although Hunter then turned his attention to Lynchburg, General Lee dispatched a force under General Jubal Early, who halted 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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