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Chapter 41: return to Virginia.

We rested on the 14th and 15th, near Leesburg; and on the morning of the 16th, resumed the march to the Valley, through Sincker's Gap in the Blue Ridge. Hunter had arived at Harper's Ferry, and united with Sigel, and the whole force had moved from that place, under Crook, to Hillsboro, in Loudoun, and a body of cavalry from it made a dash on our train, as we were moving towards the Valley, and succeeded in setting fire to a few wagons, but was soon driven off by troops from Rodes' and Ramseur's divisions, and one piece of artillery was captured from the enemy.

On the morning of the 17th, we crossed the Shenandoah, at Snicker's or Castleman's Ferry, and took possession near Berryville-Breckenridge covering the ford at the ferry and the river above and below, and Rodes' and Ramseur's division the roads from Harper's Ferry.

On the 18th the enemy, having moved through Snicker's Gap, appeared on the banks of the Shenandoah, and there was some skirmishing. In the afternoon, a heavy column of his infantry made a dash at Parker's Ford, one mile below the ferry, and crossed over, after driving back the picket of 100 men at that point. Breckenridge moved Gordon's and Echols' divisions to the front, and held the enemy in check, while Rodes' division was brought up from the left, and attacked and drove him across the river, with heavy loss, and in great confusion.

The enemy's main body still occupied the eastern bank of the Shenandoah on the 19th, and smaller columns moved up and down the river, to effect a crossing. Imboden, with his own and McCausland's cavalry, resisted and repulsed one of these columns, which attempted to cross at Berry's Ferry, with considerable loss to the enemy. The horses of Vaughan's cavalry having been [397] brought from Southwestern Virginia, his small force had been now mounted. On this day I received information that a column under Averill was moving from Martinsburg towards Winchester, and as the position I held near Berryville left my trains exposed to expeditions in the rear from Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry, I determined to concentrate my force near Strasburg, so as to enable me to put the trains in safety and then move out and attack the enemy. This movement was commenced on the night of the 19th; Ramseur's division, with a battery of artillery, being sent to Winchester, to cover that place against Averill, while the stores, and the sick and wounded were being removed, and the other divisions moving through Millwood and White Post to the Valley Pike at Newtown and Middletown.

Vaughan's and Jackson's cavalry had been watching Averill, and, on the afternoon of the 20th, it was reported to General Ramseur, by General Vaughan, that Averill was at Stephenson's depot, with an inferior force, which could be captured, and Ramseur moved out from Winchester to attack him; but relying on the accuracy of the information he had received, General Ramseur did not take the proper precautions in advancing, and his division; while moving by the flank, was suddenly met by a larger force, under Averill, advancing in line of battle, and the result was that Ramseur's force was thrown into confusion, and compelled to retire, with the loss of four pieces of artillery, and a number in killed and woundedBrigadier Generals Lewis and Lilly being among the wounded, and Colonel Board of the 58th Virginia Regiment among the killed. Colonel Jackson made a vigorous charge with his cavalry, which enabled Ramseur to rally his men, restore order, and arrest the progress of Averill before he reached Winchester. The error committed, on this occasion, by this most gallant officer, was nobly retrieved in the subsequent part of the campaign. I received at New Market the news of Ramseur's misfortune, and immediately moved to his assistance with [398] Rodes' division; but on arriving at Winchester, I found that the enemy, after being checked, had fallen back a short distance; and, as another and much larger column was moving through Berryville, I did not go after Averill, but moved the whole command to Newtown — the stores, and such of the wounded and sick as could be transported, having been gotten off.

On the 21st my whole infantry force was concentrated near Middletown; and, on the 22nd, it was moved across Cedar Creek, towards Strasburg, and so posted as to cover all the roads from the direction of Winchester.

A report having been sent to me, from Mount Jackson, that a force of the enemy was moving from the Valley of the South Branch of the Potomac to that place, Imboden was sent to ascertain its truth, and it proved to be false. We rested on the 23rd, while waiting to ascertain the movements of the enemy, and during the day a report was received from the cavalry in front that a large portion of the force sent after us from Washington was returning, and that Crook and Averill had united and were at Kernstown, near Winchester.

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