Front Royal, it was impossible for me to retreat upon either Martinsburgh or Harper's Ferry. without encountering it. I could not at any time after Friday, have retreated without encountering it. And I had no knowledge of its presence, as above stated, until late on Saturday, when I learned it from prisoners. After all, it may well be doubted, whether the three days delay, and the loss which my presence at Winchester occasioned the rebel army, were not worth to the country the sacrifice which they cost it. I am, Colonel, very respectfully, Your most obedient servant,
Lieutenant H. E. Alexander's account.
Baltimore, June 18, 1863.As there have been conflicting accounts relative to the termination of the fight at Winchester, I beg to give a statement which I think may be relied on, as what I shall relate came either under my personal observation, or from first hands. On Saturday morning the rebels were reported by our scouts as marching on Berryville. The brigade commanded by Colonel McReynolds, consisting of the Sixth Maryland regiment, Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania, First New-York cavalry, and one battery, immediately fell back toward Winchester, as ordered by General Milroy, proceeding by way of Smithfield and Martinsburgh road. I was placed with my section, supported by part of the Sixth Maryland infantry and the cavalry, in one of the fortifications on the south side, which had been erected by Captain Alexander, and was fortunate enough to hold them in check for two hours, giving the advance time to get ahead. We then moved off, and, marching fast, caught up to them. The rebel cavalry pursued us, and came up at the Opequon, eight miles from Winchester, after marching twenty miles. Here we had a skirmish. The formation of the road would not permit us to fire until they were within fifty yards, and so the fire was more destructive. We succeeded in beating them back, and some prisoners captured by the cavalry stated that the two discharges of canister had killed a dozen and wounded over thirty. We arrived in Winchester at night unmolested, and camped in the star fort on the north side of the town, a small work about two hundred feet in diameter. There had been heavy fighting at Winchester during the day. The rebels made five charges and were repulsed. On Sunday there was skirmishing all around the town, but the rebels appeared in very small force, leading us to believe that they intended to march for Martinsburgh. One of the sections of the battery was out during the whole day, under Lieutenant Leary, supported by two regiments, the whole under General Elliott, and kept back the entire line of rebel skirmishers by a display of scientific practice which called forth General Elliott's admiration. To understand the battle of Sunday evening, it will be necessary to state that there are three ranges of hills on the north of Winchester. The first range was occupied by three forts. That to the left was the main fort, with twenty-pounder Parrotts, where General Milroy was with most of the command. The middle was the star fort, where our brigade was, and on the right, on the hill, commanding all the others, was an unfinished work. Had this last been finished, the whole rebel force could not have taken us. The second range of hills was occupied by battery D, First Virginia artillery, Captain Carsen, on the left, and battery L, Fifth United States regulars, Lieutenant Randolph commanding. The latter was on the hill immediately opposite us, and was supported by the Fifth Maryland regiment. On the third range the rebels were. As the men and horses of battery L were feeding, at nine P. M., the rebels opened upon them with two batteries, one of which was twenty-pounders. They fought for half an hour, and then the rebels charged with a large body of men and drove the Fifth Maryland back. The Fifth Maryland behaved with great bravery. They formed half-way down the hill, and charged up and drove the rebels back again some distance. We could see the whole, as we were within one thousand five hundred yards, and yet could not render assistance. The rebels, however, drove them back, and Randolph spiked three of his five guns. Nearly all his horses were shot. As soon as the coast was clear we opened on them with at first two guns and then four guns. There was not space on one side of the fort to work more. They answered the large fort for some time, but then brought their whole four batteries, amounting to twenty-four guns, to bear upon us, and then the fighting began. This was about seven P. M. We fired as accurately as we could. They attempted three times to take a position, and each time we drove them away, blowing up at one time a limber, then a caisson, and dismounting two guns. They had an excellent range, and fired well. The balls came flying all around the fort and over our heads, but only one man was wounded, and one man flung down by the wind of a ball. We lost five horses. We returned the compliment as well as we could, and succeeded by half-past 9 P. M. in causing them to cease firing. Shortly after that they tried to storm the large fort, but were repulsed. We expected them to storm our works, and the infantry were drawn up inside and in the rifle-pits outside, and I don't think ten thousand men could have taker us, from the calmness and firmness which the Sixth Maryland evinced.