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.
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.
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.