been attributed by Sheridan
, at Winchester
, to a reconnoissance, which he knew had been ordered from our lines, and it was only when the head of the column of fugitive troops and baggage wagons was seen, between nine and ten o'clock A. M., approaching Winchester
“with appalling rapidity,” that a conception of the real situation dawned on the astounded general, and promptly started him on his now famous “ride” to the front.] The enemy, believing the continued cheers announced the arrival of Federal reinforcments, became more cautious, and even, like ourselves, threw up temporary breastworks.
Our commander instantly decided to hold the line we were then fighting on, and sent galloping orders to the Sixth and Nineteenth Corps to hasten up to our support before the enemy should attack.
By two o'clock our lines were fully re-formed, the various infantry divisions, greatly strengthened by the return of stragglers, were in position, and the cavalry had been sent to the flanks-Custer to the right, and Merritt
to the left.
Everything now indicated that we should be able to hold our ground without further retreat.
By this time Early
, apparently satisfied that we had received no reinforcements, made a confident and persistent assault upon our lines-obviously determined to close the day with our final rout, and, returning the courtesy of thirty days before, send the remnant of Sheridan
's army “whirling through Winchester
The attack was repulsed at every point.
This defensive success under Sheridan
's leadership perfectly restored the courage and spirit of the army.
It had got over its panic, and was again ready for business.
Shortly after this attack and repulse, report came from the Front Royal pike
, which was held by Powell
's cavalry, that a strong column of rebel infantry was marching past our left, and toward Winchester
— a report which, although proving erroneous, delayed the execution of Sheridan
's quickly-formed intention to attack the enemy and save the day. At four P. M. the command was sent along the line to prepare for a general forward movement.
Everything was soon ready; two hundred bugles sounded the advance; all our artillery opened on the enemy with shot and shell, and the long line of cavalry and infantry moved steadily forward across the open plain, under a heavy fire, toward the rebel position, with a coolness and order I never saw surpassed during four years of service.
To one who had seen the rout and panic, and loss of the morning, it seemed impossible that this was the same army.
The enemy was evidently astonished at our taking the offensive, but met our attack with confident coolness, and then with determined fury.
As soon as the