Portrait of Rutherford B. Hayes

On June 24, 1863, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders No. 186, creating the Department of West Virginia. The troops who served in the department were designated as the Army of West Virginia. Among the men who served with the Army of West Virginia were two future U.S. presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes (pictured here) and William McKinley. [Wikimedia Commons]

Army of West Virginia (USA)

June 24, 1863–June 1865

The Army of West Virginia served under Brigadier General George Crook during Major General Philip Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley Campaign in 1864.

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Origin

On June 24, 1863, the U.S. War Department issued General Orders No. 186, creating the Department of West Virginia commanded by Brigadier General Benjamin Franklin Kelley. Troops assigned to the department came from the 8th Army Corps. Major General Franz Sigel succeeded Kelley as commander of the district from March 10 to May 21, 1864. Major General David Hunter succeeded Sigel from May 21 to August 8, 1864.

When Lieutenant General sent Major General Philip Sheridan to the Shenandoah Valley in 1864 to command Hunter’s forces during Early’s Valley Campaign, Hunter asked to be relieved of his command. On August 8, 1864, Brigadier General George Crook succeeded Hunter as the department commander.

During Sheridan’s operations in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864, he assembled a large force numbering between 30,000 and 50,000 soldiers to drive Confederate General Jubal Early out of the valley. Among them were Crook’s 7,500 men known as the Army of West Virginia.

Notable Engagements

The Army of West Virginia served with distinction at the Battle of Opequon (September 19), the Battle of Fisher’s Hill (September 22), and the Battle of Cedar Creek (October 19) during the autumn of 1864.

Dissolution

At the conclusion of Sheridan’s Valley Campaign, the army dispersed the soldiers of the Army of West Virginia to various districts in the Department of West Virginia.

Notable Members

Among the men who served with the Army of West Virginia were two future U.S. presidents. Rutherford B. Hayes commanded the army’s Second Division, and William McKinley served on Crook’s staff.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Army of West Virginia (USA)
  • Coverage June 24, 1863–June 1865
  • Author
  • Keywords army of west virginia
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 27, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 2, 2021
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