An early battle in the Gettysburg campaign. Winchester, in the Shenandoah Valley, was protected by a Union garrison 6,900 strong under Major-General Robert Milroy. Lee decided to send Ewell’s corps on a sweep through the northern Shenandoah, to clear his route to the north. This meant that Milroy would be outnumbered three to one by Ewell’s 19,000 men. He received orders to retreat to Harper’s Ferry, but decided that the fortifications at Winchester would be strong enough to resist any potential attack.
He was wrong. On 14 June repeated Confederate attacks captured one of the main forts protecting Winchester. It was clear that if Milroy remained at Winchester the next day, his remaining defences would also be overrun. Accordingly, just after midnight on 15 June, Milroy’s men slipped out of their lines to attempt to reach Harper’s Ferry. Ewell had anticipated this move, and had moved one of his divisions to block just this move potential move.
Four miles outside Winchester Milroy’s men ran into General Edward Johnson’s division of Ewell’s corps, and despite repeated efforts were unable to break through. When more Confederate troops came up, Milroy was forced to surrender. For very low losses, Ewell captured around 3,000 Federal troops, and cleared the northern Shenandoah valley of Federal troops. The road to the north was clear.