To clear the Shenandoah River valley of Confederates, Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan moved on Winchester in mid-September 1864. Sheridan’s force of over 39,000 men was more than twice the size of the Confederate force defending the lower valley, under the command of Maj. Gen. Jubal Early. Caught unaware by Sheridan’s rapid advance, Early rallied his forces at Winchester just in time to meet the oncoming Federals. The battle began at dawn on September 19th. Union infantry attacked from the east along the Berryville Pike, were driven back, and then counterattacked. Union and Confederate cavalry clashed north of town along the Opequon Creek. By early afternoon the Confederate lines were forced into a constricted “L” shape facing north and east, with Fort Collier anchoring the left of their desperate last-ditch defense. With the battle hanging in the balance, nearly 6,000 troopers advanced up the Martinsburg Pike from Stephenson’s Depot, arrayed in five brigades astride the Pike and in the fields on either side of the road, and charged. The tremendous force first hit Confederate forces north of the fort. Three small infantry regiments, commanded by Colonel George S. Patton, ancestor of the World War II general, were hit hard, and the Confederate forces formed a hollow square in a vain attempt to hold off the cavalrymen. The charge shattered Patton’s regiments and the remnants fell back toward Fort Collier. Patton was killed. Union Brig. Gen. George A. Custer led yet another charge. The Confederates retreated through the streets of Winchester, briefly rallied in the Mount Hebron Cemetery, and then retreated to Fisher’s Hill above Strasburg. Defeat there and at Cedar Creek soon followed.