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[660] --that is the crucial test. It is at such a time that all the mental struggle involved in a soldier's death is undergone, leaving nothing but the mere physical pang of sudden dying to complete the sacrifice.

Custer's Division to the centre!” was the laconic command from General Wright; and as the sun was rising, our four thousand troopers, with accompanying batteries, marched into the fight. As we came into full view of the field, the whole sickening truth flashed upon us — the infantry had been surprised in their beds by Early's reinforced army; our best artillery was already in the hands of the Confederates and turned against us; thousands of our men had been killed, wounded, or captured before they could even offer resistance; Sheridan's victorious and hitherto invincible army was routed and in disorderly retreat before a confident, yelling, and pursuing enemy. The roads were crowded with wagons and ambulances hurrying to the rear, while the fields were alive with wounded, stragglers, camp-followers, and disorganized troops, without officers, without arms, and without courage-all bent on being the first to carry the news of the disaster back to Winchester. A brave nucleus of the army, which had not shared in the surprise and the consequent demoralization, was fighting with determined pluck to prevent disaster from becoming disgrace. The timely arrival and the spirited onset of the cavalry soon checked the pursuit by the Confederates and gave time for our infantry to begin re-forming their lines; but the battle and the retreat continued. Two regiments of cavalry were speedily deployed across the country-well to the rear — for the purpose of checking the stampede and turning back the flying mob of panic-stricken infantrymen; but the attempt was fruitless and was soon abandoned. Our two divisions of cavalry deployed in heavy lines to the right and left of the Valley pike, and began their hot day's work against rebel infantry and artillery.

At nine o'clock a portion of the enemy's troops occupied, and were plainly seen plundering, the camps where the Sixth Corps had slept the night before; our left was being pressed with great vigor by a flanking force which seemed determined to reach the pike, and thus strike our wagon trains; General Wright had unquestionably resolved on a retreat to a new line near Winchester, and the best we hoped for was, that our mounted troops could so protect the retreat and retard the pursuit, as to prevent the annihilation of the broken army and the exposure of Washington. The universal thought and, in varying phrase, the spontaneous utterance was: “Oh for one hour of Sheridan.” The unvarying success that had attended our leader in all his campaigns; the instinctive promptness with which he

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H. G. Wright (2)
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