Tour group hears of battle’s impact

By Alex Bridges

STRASBURG — The Civil War Battle of Hupp’s Hill let federal forces know defeat didn’t drive Confederate troops out of the Valley.

The engagement that took place Oct. 13, 1864, preceded the larger Battle of Cedar Creek by six days.

Local historians Rich Kleese and Mike Kehoe gave a tour of Hupp’s Hill Civil War Park for about 25 people on Monday commemorating the 150th anniversary of the conflict. The group met at the Hupp’s Hill Cedar Creek Museum and the Strasburg Gateway to Shenandoah Visitor Center housed at the 18-acre park. The tour group then traveled to the area of the battlefield, inside a subdivision where much of the stone wall built by federal forces still stands.

Union Gen. Philip Sheridan’s troops camped along the north bank of Cedar Creek following his valley campaign and victories at Winchester, Fishers Hill and Toms Brook, historians say.

Soldiers under Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early followed federal troops and reached the crest of Hupp’s Hill the morning of Oct. 13, 1864. Confederate soldiers could see the camps of Col. Joseph Thoburn’s division of Gen. George Crook’s 8th Federal Corps. Early’s artillery reached the top of Hupp’s Hill and soldiers began firing into nearby federal camps. Crook sent brigades led by Cols. George D. Wells and Thomas M. Harris, who engaged the enemy.

While fewer Confederate and federal soldiers died at the Battle of Hupp’s Hill, both sides still lost a high percentage of their men on the field. Several high-ranking military leaders also died during the battle, including Wells, killed after a minie ball struck him in the chest.

Following the tour, Kleese questioned the strategy to send troops up a hill to engage the enemy.

“It is kind of amazing to me that two artillery pieces are allowed to pull out here on the field and open up on these guys, saying ‘here we are, come get us,'” Kleese said. “It just seems like that’s not a very wise thing.”

The Battle of Hupp’s Hill let Sheridan know that Confederate forces had not left the area.

“[Federal troops are] still here and they’re here in force and their position is north of Cedar Creek,” Kleese added. “It will tell the federals that, whoops, there are some Confederates left out here and we need to be a little more alert than nothing. See, these guys are thinking it’s all over and this is a cakewalk. We’re just camped here until we do something else, not knowing that Early would follow them.”

Federal losses were 22 killed, 110 wounded and 77 captured. Confederate losses were reported as 22 killed and 160 wounded.

The Battle of Hupp’s Hill has significance for Linda Meeneghan, a military history buff who traveled from her home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to take the tour of the site. Among her four relatives who participated in the Civil War, William Armstrong fought with the 5th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment at Hupp’s Hill. Meeneghan said Armstrong would be captured at the Battle of Cedar Creek while on picket duty that morning. Armstrong later died from starvation and disease, Meeneghan said.

“I love military history, period,” Meeneghan said. “You can read all you want. But you cannot understand until you walk the terrain and you see the field. You see the field and what happens now begins to make sense.”

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com