The Battle of Piedmont was fought June 5, 1864, in the village of Piedmont, Augusta County, Virginia. UnionMaj. Gen.David Hunter engaged Confederates under Brig. Gen.William E. “Grumble” Jones north of Piedmont. After severe fighting, Jones was killed and the Confederates were routed. Hunter occupied Staunton on June 6 and soon began to advance on Lynchburg, destroying military stores and public property in his wake.
The Battle of Piedmont resulted from Lt. Gen.Ulysses S. Grant‘s 1864 initiative to keep U.S. forces on the offensive and prevent Confederates from shuttling troops from one region to another. In the Shenandoah Valley, Grant had originally placed German-born general Franz Sigel in command, however, following Sigel’s defeat at New Market on May 15, Grant relieved him and placed Maj. Gen. David Hunter in command of the United States Army of the Shenandoah on May 21.
Hunter quickly regrouped his small army and ordered his troops to live off the bountiful farms of the Shenandoah Valley. He advanced up the Valley toward Staunton on May 26 against light opposition from the Confederates. Following New Market, the majority of the Confederate forces in the Valley joined the Army of Northern Virginia, leaving only Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden‘s brigade and the Valley Reserves to confront Hunter. Imboden kept Robert E. Lee informed of Hunter’s movements, but could do little to slow Hunter with his meager forces. Hunter set his sights on Staunton, an important railroad and logistics center for the Confederacy.
The quick Union advance upon the heels of their defeat at New Market caught the Confederates off guard. Closely engaged with the Army of the Potomac, Lee turned to Brig. Gen. William E. “Grumble” Jones, acting-commander of the Confederate Department of Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee for assistance, instructing him to open communications with Imboden. Jones soon went to the Shenandoah with roughly 4,000 infantry and dismounted cavalrymen.
By June 3, the Union Army had reached Harrisonburg. Imboden had concentrated his forces at Mount Crawford on the south bank of the North River, blocking Hunter’s direct path to Staunton upon the Valley Turnpike. Imboden, a Valley native from Augusta County, established his headquarters at the Grattan House, where his force grew when the reinforcements began to arrive from Southwest Virginia.
On the morning of June 4, Hunter sent a diversionary force toward Mount Crawford while his main army headed east to Port Republic where he camped for the night. General Jones had arrived at the Grattan House and assumed command of the hastily assembled Confederate Army of the Valley District. When Confederate scouts reported Hunter’s flank march, Imboden suggested that they move to Mowry’s Hill in eastern Augusta to confront Hunter. According to Imboden, Jones agreed to march his infantry and dismounted cavalry to Mowry’s Hill in Eastern Augusta where they would confront Hunter on June 5. Jones ordered Imboden to lead all of the mounted troops toward Mount Meridian, a few miles south of Port Republic on the Staunton or East Road. Jones added that Imboden was to delay Hunter’s advance but instructed Imboden to avoid any serious confrontation when the Federals approached the next morning.