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[601] and moved thence directly to Lexington; disappointing Grant, who had expected him at Gordonsville, and had sent his cavalry under Sheridan to meet him there. His failure to do so subjected Sheridan to like failure in his approach to Gordonsville, as we have seen.

Hunter's force was now increased to about 20,000 men; and he hastened, via Lexington, to Lynchburg — the chief city of western (old) Virginia — intent on its speedy reduction. But Lynchburg, the focus of a rich, populous region, and of extensive manufactures, lies on the James river and canal, in unbroken railroad communication with Richmond and Petersburg on the one side, and with the farther south on the other. Lee — who might as well have lost Richmond — dispatched a very considerable force to its relief; part of which arrived the day before Hunter attacked1 the city from the south, and still more during the following night, wherein several trains arrived from the east filled with men.

Hunter found his ammunition running low, a strong city before him, and the whole Confederacy virtually rallying to overwhelm him. He had no choice but to retreat, sharply pursued; following the railroad westward to Salem — where the pursuit ended — and thence striking, via Newcastle,2 for Meadow bluff,3 in West Virginia; his provisions long since exhausted, and very little to be gleaned in midsummer from that poor, thinly-peopled, war-exhausted region. No rations were obtained till the 27th; and the sufferings of men and loss of horses were deplorable.

The direction of his retreat may have been misjudged; but Hunter, lacking many things, never lacked courage; and he believed that an attempt to regain the Shenandoah directly from Lynchburg would have seriously imperiled his army. But his withdrawal into West Virginia rendered him no longer formidable to the enemy, and involved a circuitous, harassing movement by the Kanawha, the Ohio, Parkersburg, and Grafton, before lie could again be of any service.

The Rebels, aware of this, promptly resolved to make the most of their opportunity. Early, who had headed the corps sent from Richmond to the relief of Lynchburg, collecting all the forces he could muster, moved rapidly northward, and very soon appeared4 on the Potomac: Sigel, commanding at Martinsburg, retreating precipitately by Harper's Ferry, with a heavy loss of stores, and taking post on Maryland Heights, where tlhe enemy did not see fit to assail him, but once more destroyed the Baltimore and Ohio railroad for a considerable distance, levied a contribution of $20,000 on Hagerstown, burned some buildings at Williamsport, and, raiding up into the border of Pennsylvania, scoured the country far and wide for horses, cattle, provisions, and money. The movement was so well masked by cavalry that the strength of the invading force — probably never so much as 20,000--was enormously exaggerated, spreading general panic, and causing the Government to call urgently on Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts, for militia to meet the emergency.

Gen. Couch was commanding in Pennsylvania; Gen. Lew. Wallace

1 June 18.

2 June 22.

3 June 25.

4 July 2-3.

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