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[655] Third) of the already famous cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac. A new Middle Department was erected, and General P. H. Sheridan, as its commander, was given his first opportunity to earn his spurs in control of a separate army and an independent campaign.

By the middle of August, the armies of Sheridan and Early confronted each other in the Valley north of Winchester. Then ensued that brilliant campaign of the Shenandoah which, through a score of minor engagements, resulted in the thorough defeat of Early's army in the battle of Winchester, or the Opequan, on September 19th, followed on the 22d by its disastrous rout at Fisher's Hill, and its confused retreat beyond Staunton, where the pursuit was discontinued. At this time Sheridan and his whole victorious army considered the enemy in the Shenandoah Valley as thoroughly and permanently broken, dispirited and disposed of. The question asked about our camp-fires was: Where shall we be sent next Our success in the Valley, coupled with Sherman's victories in the West, had lighted up the whole horizon and given the nation the first real glimpse of its final triumph and the coming of peace. But such troops as Sheridan could spare was needed before Richmond, and our army began falling back toward the Potomac, preparatory to such a transfer. During our return march the rear of our several columns was persistently harassed by a large force of surprisingly active cavalry, under General T. L. Rosser, who provokingly refused to consider himself or his command as hors de combat. Among many memories of hard service, those who were among Custer's troopers in the Valley will not soon forget their arduous task of protecting the rear of a victorious army against the onslaughts of the crushed enemy's horsemen!

After several days of this annoyance, and on the night of October 8th, near Fisher's Hill, Sheridan notified General Torbert, Chief of Cavalry, that he would halt the army there for twenty-four hours, and that on the following day he (Torbert) must face about, and “whip the enemy or get whipped himself.” Rosser's saucy cavalry numbered about three thousand effectives, and was supported by some fifteen hundred infantry and two batteries, under Generals Lomax and Bradley Johnston. With Merritt's First Division deployed to the right of the Valley pike, and Custer's Third extending from Merritt's right westward, across the back road, toward the North mountain, the bugles sounded the advance early on the morning of the 9th. The two lines of battle met at Tom's creek, and one of the most spirited cavalry engagements of the war speedily ended in the

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P. H. Sheridan (5)
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