On May 26, 1864, Union General David Hunter, under direct orders from Ulysses S. Grant, marched south from Cedar Creek, near Winchester, VA, to drive out Confederate forces, lay waste to the Shenandoah Valley and destroy transportation facilities in Lynchburg, VA.
Hunter and his army of 18,000 soldiers marched south along the Shenandoah Valley. In Staunton he destroyed depot buildings, warehouses and railroad lines. Continuing south he reached Lexington, where his men looted the Virginia Military Institute, seizing the bronze statue of George Washington as a war trophy (it was later returned). Then the Military Institute was set ablaze.
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