HARRISONBURG — The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation’s state conference will focus on how cavalry warfare shaped the outcome of the Civil War in the Valley.
The conference, titled “Like a Thousand Bricks: Cavalry in the Valley,” will be held at the Mimslyn Inn in Luray from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 5.
The conference’s seven scheduled speakers include Keven Walker, the foundation’s director; Charlie Knight, military curator for the North Carolina Museum of History; and Purdue University professor and Luray native Caroline Janney.
“The program will cover colorful characters such as Turner Ashby, John Mosby and George A. Custer, the pivotal role that cavalry played at battles such as New Market, Third Winchester, and [Toms Brook], the effects on the civilian population — and what it was like to face a ‘thousand bricks’-worth of horseflesh thundering your way,” according to a description of the conference on the foundation’s website.
Discussions will be based on the use of cavalry by both sides, particularly during the Union’s 1864 Valley Campaign.
According to Terry Heder, the foundation’s director of interpretation, education and history, cavalry troops were used in battle and in “partisan warfare,” when bands of soldiers or vigilantes disrupted supply chains heading toward U.S. or Confederate camps.
“It was all about logistics,” Heder said. “If you can’t feed your troops or bring them ammunition, then you have no business being out there.”
Although the Confederacy had the upper hand in cavalry skirmishes for a time, Heder said, a boosting of the Union’s cavalry battalions paired with the systematic destruction of Valley crops and homes known as “The Burning” during the summer of 1864 helped turn the tide against the Confederacy for good.
“It went beyond harassing,” he said. “The Valley was important because there wasn’t enough forage for [Confederate] cavalry troops.”
The battlefields foundation hosts a state conference in the summer and a national conference in the spring. Last year’s state conference focused on The Burning and was held at James Madison University.
Foundation officials chose cavalry as the main topic this year because it is a lesser-known factor in why the war ended like it did, Heder said.
“We like to look at topics not covered in depth,” he said.
Luray was chosen as the site of the conference, Heder said, because of its role in The Burning, as well as the beauty of the Mimslyn’s hotel and surrounding area, which supports the foundation’s goal of promoting the Valley as a heritage tourism destination.
“It fits in with what we’re trying to do,” he said.
Registration is $30 for foundation members and $35 for nonmembers. To register, call the foundation at 740-4545 or visit www.shenandoahatwar.org.