This will be the first of many posts that document the development of the portion of the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign that culminated in the Battle of Piedmont and the capture of Staunton. The following entry is by Col. David Hunter Strother, a Virginia native from Bath, Virginia (now Berkeley Springs, WV) who sided with the Union and served on the staff of both General Franz Sigel, the disgraced U.S. commander at New Market, and his successor Gen. David Hunter, associate of both President Abraham Lincoln and Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant.
It was near sunset when as I was standing on the front portico of the Hite House (Belle Grove Plantation) we saw a cavalcade approaching from the
direction of Middletown. As the horsemen drew nearer I perceived that it was something uncommon. The escort turned into a wood while half a dozen distinguished-looking cavaliers came on toward the house. The first idea that presented itself was that it was a committee of Congress. At the front gate they dismounted, and I saw the triple buttons of a major general among them. “What does this mean?” asked Putnam with a look of blank dismay. “It means that our Captain (Sigel) is relieved,” said I (with a very different feeling from the Captain’s).
By this time I had recognized my kinsman, Major General David
Hunter, and walked down the steps to meet him. He received me
cordially and immediately took me aside and we walked arm in arm
to a secluded spot where he said, “I have come to relieve General
Sigel. You know it is customary with a general who has been un
fortunate to relieve him whether he has committed a fault or not.”
He then asked me to remain with him and to talk to him like a man
and kinsman and give him my views freely. In a few words I
described the campaign from which we had just returned and, in
giving my views of the situation, advised an immediate move up the
Valley to Staunton, there to meet Crook and Averell, and with the
combined force to occupy Charlottesville. We then scarcely thought of
venturing so far as Lynchburg, although I proposed it as one of the possibilities. The General immediately telegraphed Crook to advance
without delay on Staunton and to ensure the message, asked me to
procure two trusty scouts who would ride through the country with
the message. This I arranged with Captain [John] McEntee.
Hunter’s assistant adjutant general, Major Charles G. Halpine, and his
nephew and aide-de-camp, Major Samuel Stockton, were next introduced. Halpine was the original “Miles O’Reilley,” an Irishman, a
clever writer and humorist. Stockton was a son of Mary Hunter of
Princeton, a cousin of my mother who once visited us and was called
Jersey Mary. We are to advance without baggage and to cut loose en
tirely from our base of operations and live on the country. The value
of a secondary movement up this Valley seems at length to be recognized at headquarters. This doubtless comes from Grant. I have
always thought it most important.
To learn more about Piedmont, see my book