The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864
By Jack H. Lepa, McFarland, 2010, $39.95
It is difficult to sort through Jack Lepa’s The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 and argue that the outcome of the war was completely inevitable. From the moment in July when Jubal Early’s Confederate army was poised on the verge of capturing a lightly defended Washington, D.C., to the dramatic Battle of Cedar Creek in October, when Phil Sheridan narrowly avoided disaster, Lepa convincingly argues that significant battles in the Valley were won and lost by individual acts of bravery and split-second decisions by commanders that had consequences far beyond the relatively isolated battlefields.
Although the story is compelling enough on its own merits, Lepa perhaps does himself an injustice by quoting too extensively from the Official Records, already a well-mined source. Nevertheless, both the lay reader and the scholar will find satisfying aspects in the narrative, which tells an oft-told story with fresh energy and surprising drama. For students of the Valley Campaign, as well as those interested in Virginia, it is a worthy addition to the bookshelf.
Originally published in the November 2010 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.