In 1865, Waynesboro played host to the last gasp of the Confederate army in the Shenandoah Valley. Although the Battle of Waynesboro isn’t among the most recognizable clashes, such as Gettysburg or Antietam, it still holds a special place in American history. The Union forces, led by General Philip Sheridan, included a young brigadier general named George Armstrong Custer. The battle was also the last major conflict for famed Confederate general Jubal Early, whose defeat during the fight spelled the end of his war service.
“Waynesboro-based Civil War historian Richard G. Williams, who grew up very close to the site of the battle, has written a lengthy and comprehensive analysis of the battle. The focus of the book is the battle itself, but he adds a lengthy description of the events leading up to the battle including useful sections on the lives of Union and Confederate troops including Generals Sheridan and Early. There is an interesting sub-chapter on the merits of Sheridan’s “burning” of the Valley from Winchester to Augusta County where Williams reminds readers that Sheridan was acting on direct orders from General U.S. Grant and acted with restraint on some occasions,but he also tells of instances of unnecessary cruelty by Union troops in the Valley. There is a lengthy section on the “Aftermath” of the battle as well as an Appendix section on one Maria Lewis, a Black woman who allegedly rode in disguise with the 8th New York Cavalry during the Civil War. Williams’ The Battle of Waynesboro is a superb study not only of the battle itself, but also of events preceding and following the battle, the leading actors on both sides, and the desperate condition of the Confederacy in the late winter of 1865. His approach is balanced and fair except that he may go overboard a bit in his criticism of Sheridan’s “burning” campaign. Williams has done excellent research even using the memoirs of both Generals Early and Sheridan and his very clear writing is a joy to follow. The book is well illustrated. Williams is to be commended for his excellent work.” –Augusta County Historical Society Bulletin