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[338] signaled Jackson, with fires upon the hill-tops, that Winchester was being evacuated by the Federal forces, and about five o'clock P. M., the brigand Ashby with some of his cavalry drove in our pickets.

The Federal troops immediately sprung to their arms, and two regiments of infantry, accompanied by two batteries of artillery, pushed forward and drove back the enemy, who retreated after a short resistance to a little distance beyond Kernstown, a small village on the Valley Turnpike, about three and a half miles southernly from Winchester. It was during this attack that Gen. Shields, while directing one of the batteries to its position, was struck by a fragment of a shell, which burst near him, breaking his arm above the elbow, and for the time entirely paralyzing one side of his body. No one around him supposed him injured, for the old hero gave no word or sign of having been wounded, but continued to give his orders, through his staff-officers, as coolly and deliberately as if nothing had happened, until everything had been arranged to his satisfaction. The same shell killed an artilleryman near him, and barely missed Major H. G. Armstrong, Assistant Adjutant-General. The General, divining the attack of the enemy to be only a ruse to make him show his strength, kept the rest of his forces out of sight; and though prostrated by the injuries he had received, set to work to make the requisite disposition of his force for the ensuing day. Under cover of night he pushed forward Kimball's brigade nearly three miles on the Strasburg road. Daum's artillery was posted in a strong position, to support this brigade if attacked. Sullivan's brigade was posted in the rear of Kimball's, and within supporting distance of it, covering all the approaches to the town from the east, south, and west. Tyler's brigade and Broadhead's cavalry were held in reserve, so as to support our force in front at any point where it might be attacked. These dispositions being made, the General rested for the night as well as his wounds would permit.

A brief description is here necessary of the approaches to Winchester and of the field which the next day became the scene of one of the most bloody and desperately fought battles of modern times. Winchester is approached from the south by three principal roads. These are the Cedar Creek. road on the west, the Valley Turnpike leading to Strasburg in the centre, and the Front Royal road on the east.

On the Valley Turnpike, about three and a half miles from Winchester, is a little village called Kernstown; about a half a mile north of this village and west of the Valley Turnpike, is a ridge of high hills commanding the approach by the valley road and a part of the surrounding country.

This ridge was the key-point of our position, and on this Col. Kimball, the senior officer in command of the field, took his station. Along this ridge Lieut.-Col. Daum, Chief of Artillery, posted three of his batteries, keeping one battery in reserve some distance in the rear. Part of the Federal infantry was posted on this ridge, within supporting distance of the artillery, and sheltered by the irregularities of the hills.

The main body of the enemy was posted in order of battle, about half a mile beyond Kernstown, his line extending about two miles from the Cedar Creek road on his left, to a ravine near the Front Royal road on his right. The enemy had so skilfully selected his ground that, while it afforded facilities for manoeuvring, he was completely masked by high and wooded grounds in front, and so adroitly did he conceal himself, that at eight o'clock A. M., of the twenty-third, nothing was visible but the same force which had been repulsed the evening previous.

Being unable in consequence of his wound to reconnoitre the point in person, Gen. Shields despatched an officer to perform that duty, who returned about an hour after, reporting that there were no indications of any hostile force, except that of Ashby's cavalry. Gen. Shields and Gen. Banks, after consulting together, came to the conclusion that Jackson was nowhere in the vicinity, and therefore Gen. Banks took his departure for Washington. Although the conclusion had been reached that Jackson was not before Winchester, yet Gen. Shields, knowing the crafty enemy he had to deal with, did not neglect a single precaution.

About half past 10 o'clock A. M., another battery opened against our position, and Col. Kimball saw in that quarter indications of a considerable force in the woods. Informing General Shields of this fact, Sullivan's brigade was immediately pushed forward and placed in a position to oppose the advance of the enemy's right wing. The action opened by a fire of artillery on both sides, but at too great a distance to be very effective. The advance was made by the enemy, who pushed forward a few more guns to his right, supported by a considerable force of infantry and cavalry, with the apparent intention of enfilading our position and turning our left flank. An active body of skirmishers, consisting of the Eighth Ohio, Col. Carroll, and three companies of the Sixty-seventh Ohio, under Major Bond, was immediately thrown forward on both sides of the valley road to check the enemy's advance. These skirmishers were supported by four pieces of artillery and Sullivan's brigade, and this united force repulsed the enemy at all points. The attempt against our left flank having failed, the enemy withdrew the greater part of his force on the right and formed it into a reserve to support his left. He then added his original reserve and two batteries to his main body, and under shelter of a hill on his left, on which he had already posted other batteries, he advanced their formidable column, with the evident determination of turning our right flank or overwhelming it. Our batteries on the opposite hill were soon found insufficient to check or even retard him. A message was sent to Gen. Shields informing him of the state of the field. Not a moment was to be lost. “Throw forward all your disposable infantry, carry his batteries, turn ”


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James Shields (6)
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