During the Civil War, Lynchburg served the Confederacy with rail and canal depots and a huge hospital complex. Throughout the war had been spared most of the destruction that befell other Virginia cities and towns. That was about to change.
From Lexington, General David Hunter approached the city from the west after moving down the Shenandoah Valley burning farms and towns. Only a few Valley forces stood in his way. After a series of delaying actions by Confederate General John McCausland meager forces, the Union troops managed to force back a Confederate line positioned at the old Quaker Meeting House, and took the nearby Sandusky House for use as a temporary headquarters.
Sandusky, General Hunter's headquarters
On June 18 following the fallback toward the center of Lynchburg, Confederate forces, now reinforced by General Jubal Early, established positions along a 3-mile line west of the town (extending from what is now Fort Early to McCausland Ridge). After inconclusive fighting, the Union troops withdrew under the false impression they were facing a larger Confederate force. Part of the deception arose from a continuous series of train movements on several rail lines, giving the impression that reinforcements were arriving at a steady pace.
Between the two opposing forces, approximately 44,000 men were available for duty although most of them were not involved in the actual fighting. The fight resulted in just over 900 casualties.
From Lynchburg, Hunter moved west with Early on his heels. At the town of Liberty (now Bedford), Early’s men overtook the retreating Federals and inflicting heavy casualties. Skirmishes took place at numerous other locations as Hunter’s army fled west. Finally, seeing that the way to Washington was now open, Early gave up the pursuit and rapidly moved north in the last great strategic offensive of the war in the eastern theater.
Confederate Section, Lynchburg Cemetery
Because Lynchburg had so many hospitals, many Confederate soldiers died there. Over 3,000 Confederate dead are buried in the Old Confederate Cemetery, located just west of the southern end of Fifth St.).
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