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by Robert C. Schenck, Major-General U. S. V.
On the 7th of May I left Franklin with about 2000 men to join and support General Milroy, menaced with attack by Stonewall Jackson, near McDowell, about forty miles distant. During this forced march my troops made the remarkable time of 34 miles in 23 hours. When I arrived, on the morning of the 8th, I found Milroy, with his small force in the village at the foot of the mountain, defending himself against the enemy occupying the heights above, shut in, in fact, in a sort of amphitheater. The only easy escape from the position was down the narrow valley and small stream back by the road by which I had arrived. I, of course, assumed the command by right of seniority. The only question was how best to extricate ourselves from this disadvantageous position in the presence of a force of the enemy largely superior in numbers. My whole force, after my arrival at McDowell and junction with Milroy, was but about 4000 men.

General Milroy, always moved by undaunted and impetuous, though rather uncalculating, bravery, would have remained to challenge and await attack. But, after conference, it was agreed that the better plan would be to send, that evening, whatever portion of our united force was available for the attack up the side of the mountain to assault the enemy and deliver a blow, if we could, and then retire from his front before he had recovered from the surprise of such a movement. I gave the order accordingly. No officer could have carried it out more effectively than did General Milroy.

The movement was executed successfully. The attacking force was composed of a good part of Milroy's men and of those of my immediate command who were least fatigued. The whole number engaged was 2600; of these we had just ten per cent. killed and wounded. We remained at McDowell, at the foot of the mountain, the point from which our troops moved to the attack through that night, buried our dead, sent off the wounded and all stores, and withdrew in good order toward Franklin in the early morning. Our march back to Franklin, which occupied three days, was orderly and was not seriously molested by Ashby's cavalry or any force of the rebels in pursuit.

At Franklin we kept Jackson with his whole force at bay with our still much inferior numbers, until General Fremont arrived there on the 13th of May. With the troops I had left behind at Franklin, when I marched to the relief of Milroy, I had at no time before Fremont arrived to take command more than 6500 men. On the 8th of May, Fremont was at Petersburg on his march from Lost Creek to Franklin, and certainly nowhere within less than 50 or 60 miles of McDowell. That was poor “supporting distance.”

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