Sir :--You will post your command in the vicinity of Manassas, intrench yourself strongly and throw cavalry pickets out to the front. Your first care will be the rebuilding of the railway from Washington to Manassas, and to Strasburg, in order to open your communications to the Valley of the Shenandoah. As soon as the Manassas Gap Railway is in running order, intrench a brigade of infantry, say four regiments, with two batteries, at or near the point where the railway crosses the Shenandoah. Something like two regiments of cavalry should be left in that vicinity to occupy Winchester, and thoroughly scour the country south of the railway and up the Shenandoah Valley. * * * Occupy by grand guards Warrenton Junction and Warrenton itself. * * * Some more advanced point on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. * * *In compliance with these instructions, Shields' Division was recalled from Strasburg, and Williams' Division began its movement toward Manassas on the 20th of March. On the evening of the 21st, Ashby reported that the enemy had evacuated Strasburg. Jackson, divining that this meant a withdrawal toward Washington, at once ordered pursuit with all his available force. The whole of his little army reached Strasburg on the afternoon of the 22d, the greater part after a march of twenty-two miles. Meantime Ashby was following close behind the retreating enemy, and late in the afternoon of the 22d, as Jackson was entering Strasburg, Ashby was attacking the Federal pickets, one mile south of Winchester. After the skirmish, Ashby camped for the night at Kernstown, three miles south of Winchester. General Shields, who commanded the troops Ashby had attacked, and who was himself wounded in the skirmish, had displayed but a small part of his force; and this fact, combined with information gotten from within the Federal lines, misled the Confederates. The last of Williams' Division, of Banks' Corps, had left on the morning of the 22d for Manassas, but Shields' Division of three brigades still remained. The reports brought out led Ashby to believe that all but one brigade had gone, and that it
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