June 13, 1863: Second Battle of Winchester Begins


In order for Lee to invade the North it was necessary for the Shenandoah Valley to be cleared of Union troops that would otherwise could pose a threat to Richmond in the absence of Lee’s army.  Lee assigned the Second Corps, Jackson’s old veterans who were quite familiar with the Shenandoah to accomplish this.

The Shenandoah was defended by a Union division of approximately 7,000 men under General Robert H. Milroy who concentrated his troops in forts around Winchester, a town well know to the men of the Second Corps who had fought and won the First Battle of Winchester in September of the previous year.  Not realizing that he face approximately 12,000 men of the Second Corps, Milroy ignored suggestions from General in Chief Halleck that Milroy abandon Winchester and retreat to Harper’s Ferry.

June 13 consisted of skirmishing as the troops of the Second Corps marched and deployed, following a battle plan of General Jubal Early to outflank both the left and right flanks of Milroy’s force.  Milroy retreated into the fortifications around Winchester.

On June 14 the Confederate outflanking attacks forced Milroy to retreat down the valley overnight to Stephenson’s Depot.

On June 15 Milroy’s force was routed and effectively destroyed as it attempted to reach Stephenson’s Depot.  The casualties were lopsided in favor of the Confederates:  4,443 Union casualties, 4000 of them prisoners or missing, to 269 Confederate losses.  Immense amounts of supply were captured by the Confederates along with 23 cannon.  Confederate morale was heartened by this victory, while the Union morale was shaken.  With the valley now cleared of Union troops the Army of Northern Virginia was free to commence the invasion of the North.  Here is Ewell’s report on the battle: (more…)