American Battlefield Trust's map of the Battle of Cedar Creek - The Federal Counterattack
Phil Sheridan’s Union Army of the Shenandoah had been completely surprised by the Confederate attack that forced them from their camps on the morning of October 19, 1864. Only confusion and serious miscommunication in the Southern ranks—as well as a few brave defensive stands by the Federals—prevented the rout from becoming an unmitigated Union disaster. By mid-morning, Yankee corps commanders were thinking only of how to best bring their battered troops out of harm’s way. That is, of course, until Sheridan arrived. The diminutive Union chief had been in Winchester, some twenty miles away, when the fighting began. Upon hearing of the battle he saddled up his prize horse, Rienzi, and rode to the scene of the action. Once there, he commenced rallying his dispirited troops and launched a counterattack that not only drove the Rebels from the field, but also ended substantial Confederate resistance in the Shenandoah Valley for the duration of the war.