To accomplish this, Ewell
was ordered to cross the mountain and occupy the position Jackson
had held for ten days at Swift Run gap-thus keeping up the menace on Banks
left camp on the 30th of April, and marched up the east bank of the Shenandoah
to Port Republic
No participant in that march can ever forget the incessant rain, the fearful mud, the frequent quicksands which made progress so slow and toilsome.
More than two days were consumed in going fifteen miles. Meantime, Ashby
was demonstrating against the enemy and keeping Jackson
's line close, to prevent information from getting through.
At Port Republic
, the army turned short to the left, left the Shenandoah Valley altogether, crossed Brown
's gap in the Blue ridge
, and marched to Mechanic's River Station, on the Virginia Central Railroad; thence, by road and rail, it was rapidly moved to Staunton
, and by the evening of May 5th it had all reached that point.
The movement by this devious route mystified friends as well as foes.
One day is given to rest, and on the next Jackson
hurries forward, unites Johnson
's troops with his own, drives in the Federal
pickets and foraging parties, and camps twenty-five miles from Staunton
On the morrow (May 8th) he pushes on to McDowell
, seizes Sittlington's hill, which commands the town and camp of the enemy, and makes his dispositions to seize the road in the rear of the enemy during the night.
have united, and seeing their position untenable, make a fierce attack in the afternoon to retake the hill and cover their retreat.
For three or four hours a bloody struggle takes place on the brow of Sittlington's hill.
The Federals, though inflicting severe loss, are repulsed at every point, and at nightfall quietly withdraw.
They light their camp-fires and, in the darkness, evacuate the town.
They retreat twenty-four miles to Franklin, in Pendleton county
, where they meet Fremont
, advancing with the main body of his forces.
follows to this point; has found it impossible to attack the retreating foe to advantage, and now deems it unadvisable to attempt anything further in this difficult country with his ten thousand men against Fremont
's fourteen thousand or fifteen thousand.
Screening his movements from Fremont
with cavalry, he turns back (May 13th), marches rapidly to within seventeen miles of Staunton
, then turns toward Harrisonburg
, and dispatches General Ewell
that he is on his way to attack Banks
with their united forces.
Meantime, important changes have taken place in the disposition of the Federal
troops in the Valley
is calling for more troops and complaining that McDowell