on occasion from troopers into foot soldiers, not unfrequently fighting rebel infantry behind breastworks-added to the celerity of movement and audacity of spirit, without which cavalry is well-nigh useless-Sheridan
's mounted force was at once the eye and the right arm of his fighting column.
, flowing from the west and north, joins the North
fork of the Shenandoah
, on the Valley pike
About the same point the North
fork turns sharply eastward toward the Blue Ridge
, the two streams thus forming a partial line of defense nearly across the Valley
In the bend of the river rises the bold front of Massanutten mountain
— the northern extremity of a subordinate range extending southward from this point parallel to the Blue Ridge
, and dividing the Shenandoah Valley lengthwise.
The Valley pike
, the race-track of armies, and formerly one of the noblest highways of the continent, leads southward to Staunton
and beyond, and northward through Winchester
to the Potomac
After the ceaseless activity, watchfulness and fighting of the Valley
campaign, then considered at an end, our troops found the quiet of camp life a luxury to be appreciated.
Arrears of sleep were to be made up, neglected correspondence revived, wardrobes renovated, and toilets attended to. Since the 10th of October this quiet of the main army had only been varied and amused by the invariable day-break skirmish between our pickets and the enemy's scouting parties; the usual grapevine telegrams, announcing the wholesale surrender of the Confederacy
; the customary pleasantries at the expense of the hundred day troops, who were so eager to get to the front and smell powder before their term expired; the prevalent wicked offers to bet that “Old Jubal” was still on the retreat toward the Gulf
, and the perennial grumbling about rations, with a corresponding alacrity in consuming them.
The 18th of October in the Shenandoah Valley was such a day as few have seen who have not spent an autumn in Virginia
; crisp and bright and still in the morning; mellow and golden and still at noon; crimson and glorious and still at the sun setting; just blue enough in the distance to soften without obscuring the outline of the mountains, just hazy enough to render the atmosphere visible without limiting the range of sight.
As evening closed above the Valley
the soft pleadings of some homesick soldier's flute floated out through the quiet camp, while around a blazing camp-fire an impromptu glee club of Ohio
boys lightened the hour and their own hearts by singing the songs of home.
An unusually large letter mail arrived that evening, and was distributed to the men, which reminds me that the