Portrait of Nathaniel P. Banks

On July 19, 1861, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders No. 46, announcing that Major General Nathaniel Banks “will proceed to the Valley of Virginia and assume command of the Army now under Major General Patterson, when that department will be called the Department of the Shenandoah.” The troops under Banks’ command were unofficially known as the Army of the Shenandoah. [Wikimedia Commons]

First Army of the Shenandoah (USA) Facts

1861–1862

Key facts about the First Army of the Shenandoah.

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Formation Date

  • 1861

Dissolution Date

  • 1862

Commanders

Significance

  • The first Army of the Shenandoah is an unofficial designation given to troops who served in the Shenandoah Valley in 1861 and 1862.
  • The first Army of the Shenandoah traces its roots to General Orders No. 12 issued by the U.S. War Department on April 27, 1861, which created three military departments, including the Department of Pennsylvania, commanded by Major General Robert Patterson.
  • On July 19, 1861, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders No. 46, announcing that that Major General Nathaniel Banks “will proceed to the Valley of Virginia and assume command of the Army now under Major General Patterson, when that department will be called the Department of the Shenandoah.”
  • On August 20, 1861 Major General George B. McClellan issued General Orders No. 1, Department of the Potomac, stating that troops serving in the Shenandoah Valley would become part of the Army of the Potomac.
  • On March 8, 1862 President Abraham Lincoln issued President’s General War Order No.2, directing that the Army of the Potomac was to be organized into five army corps. The 5th army corps, commanded by Banks, was formed from Banks’ previous command in the Shenandoah Valley.
  • The Department of the Shenandoah was reorganized on April 4, 1862 when the War Department issued General Orders No. 34 stating, “That portion of Virginia and Maryland lying between the Mountain Department and the Blue Ridge, shall constitute a Military Department to be called the Department of the Shenandoah and be under the command of Major General Banks.”
  • On June 26, 1862, President Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation creating the Army of Virginia commanded by Major General John Pope. Lincoln’s directive specified that “the troops of the Shenandoah Department, now under General Banks, shall constitute the Second Army Corps” of the Army of Virginia.
  • During the several brief histories of the first Department of the Shenandoah, there is no evidence that either Patterson or Banks ever officially referred to the troops under their command as the Army of the Shenandoah.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title First Army of the Shenandoah (USA) Facts
  • Coverage 1861–1862
  • Author
  • Keywords first army of the shenandoah
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 31, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 2, 2021
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