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This dispatch, translated by our signal officers from the rebel signal flag on Three-Top mountain, whether genuine or a ruse, seemed to betoken activity of some sort on the part of the Confederates. Sheridan attached to it sufficient significance to induce him to abandon the raid on Charlottesville, and to order all the cavalry back to the army at Cedar creek, with the following message to General Wright, dated the evening of the 16th: The cavalry is all ordered back to you; make your position strong. If Longstreet's dispatch is true, he is under the impression that we have largely detached. I will go over to Augur, and may get additional news. Close in Colonel Powell, who will be at this point [Front Royal]. If the enemy should make an advance, I know you will defeat him. Look well to your ground, and be well prepared. Get up everything that can be spared. I will bring up all I can, and will be up on Tuesday, if not sooner. On the same night, after having thus provided for the safety of his army, Sheridan himself, escorted by the Second Ohio Cavalry from Custer's Division, passed on to Piedmont, east of the Blue Ridge, whence he took cars for Washington. On the return of the cavalry to the army, instead of being placed in its former position, the divisions of Merritt and. Custer, aggregating nearly eight thousand of the finest mounted troops in the world, were both ordered to the right of the infantry, where Wright anticipated attack, should any be made, while Powell's Division, instead of being “closed in,” as directed in Sheridan's last message, was left in the neighborhood of Front Royal, near the eastern margin of the Valley-its attenuated line of pickets only connecting with the left of the infantry along the river front. It was no longer a matter of indifference where the cavalry was placed. For the first time during the war the Federal cavalry was really raised to the dignity of a third arm of the service, and given its full share in the hard fighting, heavy losses, and great victories under the leadership and discipline of Sheridan. With their Spencer repeating-carbines, their expertness in transforming themselves
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