The Shenandoah Valley is rich in Civil War history. During the War, the northern end of the Valley, know as the lower Shenandoah Valley, was in constant flux as both sides recognized its strategic value. It has been estimated that Winchester, Virginia, located approximately 12 miles north of Thorndale, changed hands over 70 times. on October 19, 1864, Thorndale became an active witness to the sustained actions of both armies, when the Battle of Cedar Creek spilled onto the property.
The Battle of Cedar Creek
In the early morning hours of October 19th, 1864 Confederate troops under the command of General Jubal Early launched a surprise attack on Union troops, under the command of Major General Phillip Sheridan, who were encamped along Cedar Creek, south of Middletown, Virginia. Although Union troops attempted to repulse the attack, collapsing back upon one another, they were routed and retreated northward heading towards Winchester.
In Winchester at the time, upon learning of the battle, Gen. Sheridan rode post haste to the engagement. Upon arrival Sheridan found his troops approximately 2 miles to the north of Middletown in disarray. He immediately began to reform his line in anticipation of a counterattack. Cavalry regiments from Gen. Sheridan's First Division under the command of Brigadier General Wesley Merritt were positioned on the left flank, which was situated on and around Thorndale farm. Brigadier General Wesley Merritt, Colonel Charles Russell Lowell, General Thomas Casimer Devin, and Colonel James H. Kidd are just a few notables that were present on that day, with Col. Lowell positioned on the farm just to the north of the home.
Late in the afternoon, Gen. Sheridan commenced his counterattack. After a long day of fighting, the Union proved victorious, pushing the Confederates south through Middletown and back across Cedar Creek. Although the Union had won the day, Col. Lowell was mortally wounded by a sharpshooter firing from a second story window of the Brinker house during the counterattack. He was subsequently taken to home in Middletown where he died the following day. The Battle of Cedar Creek proved a most decisive victory as the Confederate Army never again regained a foothold in the Valley.
Finding Thorndale on the Map
Thorndale appears on both Confederate and Union maps of the battle. Identifying Thorndale depends on when the map was drafted and which army drafted it. For example, on Confederate Major Jed Hotchkiss’s Sketch of the Battle of Bell Grove or Cedar Creek, Wednesday, October 19, 1864, the location of Thorndale is indicated by the name “Mrs. Larrick.”
On a more detailed Union map, drafted in 1873 by Union Lt. Col. G.L. Gillespie, entitled Battle fields of Fisher's Hill [22 Sept. 1864] and Cedar Creek [19 Oct. 1864], Virginia, Thorndale is indicted by the name “Joseph Nixon.”