During the summer of 1864, the upcoming presidential election greatly affected Union army strategy. Abraham Lincoln's Republican administration met a severe threat from the Democrats, led by General George B. McClellan. Lincoln feared a major engagement just weeks before the elections could result in a loss for the Army, and himself. U. S. Grant and Phil Sheridan thought differently and planned an attempt to "once-and-for-all" clear out the Shenandoah Valley that had been a Confederate strong point for troop movements, reconnaissance and supplies. Opequon or Third Winchester, fought 19 September 1864, was the largest and most desperately contested battle of the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley, resulting in more than 9,000 casualties. The battle raged furiously at several points along the battle lines for an entire day. During the height of the battle in the late afternoon, Colonel James M. Schoonmaker of the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry detected weakness to the left of the Confederate lines where an earthen fort anchored the enemy on the highest ground. Siezing the initiative as Custer and other young Cavalry commanders had done throughout the previous year, Schoonmaker ordered his troops to prepare to launch an attack that had never been attempted during the war. Under a hail of gunfire, musketry and shot & shell, the entire brigade consisting of Schoonmakers 14th Pennsylvania, the 8th Ohio, and the 22nd Pennsylvania began an assault on the earthen compound known as Fort Alabama or "Star Fort" on the left and weakening side of the Confederate line. With Schoonmaker on his white charger at the lead and probably raising this very sword above his head, he led the first charge ever attempted over such a fort with his entire brigade. With their blades glistening in the sun and colors running across the entire front of their line, Schoonmaker's brigade of Averell's division repeatedly attacked the fortified Confederate Infantry armed with 8 big guns and outlying rifle trenches who lied in wait and were supported by Munford's Cavalry. On the final charge, Schoonmaker led his troopers over the walls, overrunning the works where the CS infantry began to break and withdraw to another line about 150 yards to the rear. The sound of Union cavalry pounding in their ears spread panic all along the Confederate line, and soldiers began streaming and ``whirling through Winchester.'' in full retreat. During the event, seven Federal horseman captured Confederate battle flags, each earning a Medal of Honor. Schoonmaker was also awarded the same honor several years later for his heroism and daring on September 17th. The battle was a turning point of the war in the Valley, marking the rise of Sheridan and the decline of Confederate power. Together with General William T. Sherman's capture of Atlanta on September 2, Northern hopes were revived and breathed new life into the Lincoln administration allowing the war to continue to Union victory in 1865. This magnificent saber is of the rarest of patterns with the French designed "Cente Guard" face to the hilt. It consists of a huge, spread-winged Federal Eagle on a silver shield that is set into a medallion bordered with laurel. The grip is fabricated of sheet silver. The spectacular scabbard is etched for its entire length on the right hand side with c-scrolls in arabesque patterns that are only broken with displays of "stands of arms". The blade is very fine and stamped "Horstmann". The presentation reads "Col. Jas. M. Schoonmaker, from a Friend".