The Blood-Tinted Waters of the Shenandoah: The 1864 Valley Campaign’s Battle of Cool Spring, July 17-18, 1864

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Jonathan A. Noyalas
Pub Date:
July 2024
Trade paper
images, maps, 192 pp.


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About the book

Decades after the Civil War’s end, Confederate veteran John Alexander Stikeleather reflected on his experiences as a soldier in the 4th North Carolina Infantry. Among all of the engagements in which Stikeleather had been involved during his four years of service, there was one he believed should “never be forgotten”: Cool Spring.

While largely overlooked or treated as a footnote to Gen. Jubal A. Early’s raid on Washington in the summer of 1864, the fight at Cool Spring—characterized by one soldier as “a sharp and obstinate affair”—proved critical to Washington’s immediate safety. It became a transformative moment for those who fought along the banks of the Shenandoah River in what ultimately became the war’s largest and bloodiest engagement in Clarke County, Virginia.

The Blood-Tinted Waters of the Shenandoah examines Gen. Horatio Wright’s pursuit of Early into the Shenandoah and the clash on July 17-18, 1864. It analyzes the decisions of leaders on both sides, explores the environment’s impact on the battle, and investigates how the combat impacted the soldiers and their families—in its immediate aftermath and for decades thereafter.

Years of archival research—including an investigation into the backgrounds of all Union and Confederate soldiers who perished during the battle—coupled with intimate knowledge of the battlefield, will preserve the memory of the fight that should “never be forgotten.”

Author Jonathan Noyalas’s study offers not only a history of an overlooked engagement in the oft-contested Shenandoah Valley, but—as Pulitzer Prize finalist Brian Matthew Jordan notes in the book’s Foreword—“a keen reminder that Civil War battles are rich laboratories in which to observe the human experience in all its complexity.”


Jonathan A. Noyalas is a history professor at Shenandoah University and director of its McCormick Civil War Institute. He is the author or editor of fifteen books. Noyalas is the recipient of numerous awards for his teaching and scholarship including the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Award.