previous next

[53] of cavalry and infantry. Gen. Hatch, with nearly our whole force of cavalry and six pieces of artillery, was charged with the protection of the rear of the column and the destruction of army stores for which transportation was not provided, with instructions to remain in front of the town as long as possible, and hold the enemy in check, our expectations of attack being in that direction. All these orders were executed with incredible alacrity, and soon after nine o'clock the column was on the march, Col. Donnelly in front, Col. Gordon in the centre, and Gen. Hatch in the rear.

The column had passed Cedar Creek, about three miles from Strasburgh, with the exception of the rear-guard, still in front of Strasburgh, when information was received from the front that the enemy had attacked the train, and was in full possession of the road at Middletown. This report was confirmed by the return of fugitives, refugees, and wagons, which came tumbling to the rear in fearful confusion.

It being apparent now that our immediate danger was in front, the troops were ordered to the head of the column and the train to the rear; and in view of a possible necessity for our return to Strasburgh, Capt. James W. Abert, Topographical corps — who associated with him the Zouaves d'afrique, Capt. Collis--was ordered to prepare Cedar Creek bridge for the flames, in order to prevent a pursuit in that direction by the enemy. In the execution of this order Capt. Abert and the Zouaves were cut off from the column, which they joined at Williamsport. They had at Strasburgh a very sharp conflict with the enemy, in which his cavalry suffered severely. An interesting report of this affair will be found in the reports of Capt. Abert and Capt. Collis.

The head of the reorganized column, Col. Donnelly commanding, encountered the enemy in force at Middletown, about thirteen miles from Winchester. Three hundred troops had been seen in town, but it soon appeared that larger forces were in the rear. The brigade halted, and the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, Col. Knipe, was ordered to penetrate the woods on the right and dislodge the enemy's skirmishers. They supported by a section of Cothran's New-York battery. Five companies of the enemy's cavalry were discovered in an open field in the rear of the woods, and our artillery, masked at first by the infantry, opened fire upon them. They stood fire for a while, but at length retreated, pursued by our skirmishers. The Twenty eighth New-York, Lieut.-Col. Brown, was now brought up, and under a heavy fire of infantry and artillery, the enemy were driven back more than two miles from the pike. Col. Donnelly, being informed at that point, by a citizen in great alarm, that four thousand men were in the woods beyond, the men were anxious to continue the fight; but as this would have defeated our object by the loss of valuable time, with the exception of a small guard, they were ordered to resume the march.

This affair occurred under my own observation, and I have great pleasure in vouching for the admirable conduct of the officers and men. We lost one man killed and some wounded.

This episode, with the change of front, occupied nearly an hour, but it saved our column. Had the enemy vigorously attacked our train while at the head of the column, it would have been thrown into such dire confusion as to have made a successful continuation of our march impossible. Pending this contest, Col. Brodhead, of the First Michigan cavalry, was ordered to advance, and, if possible, to cut his way through and occupy Winchester. It was the report of this energetic officer that gave us the first assurance that our course was yet clear, and he was the first of our column to enter the town.

When it was first reported that the enemy had pushed between us and Winchester, Gen. Hatch was ordered to advance with all his available cavalry from Strasburgh, leaving Col. De Forrest to cover the rear and destroy stores not provided with transportation. Major Vought, Fifth New-York cavalry, had been previously ordered to reconnoitre the Front Royal road, to ascertain the position of the enemy, whom he encountered in force near Middletown, and was compelled to fall back, immediately followed by the enemy's cavalry, infantry and artillery. In this affair five of our men were killed and several wounded. The enemy's loss is not known.

After repeated attempts to force a passage through the lines of the enemy, now advanced to the pike, Gen. Hatch, satisfied that this result could not be accomplished without great loss, and supposing our army to have proceeded but a short distance, turned to the left and moved upon a parallel road, made several ineffectual attempts to effect a junction with the main column. At Newtown, however, he found Col. Gordon holding the enemy in check, and joined his brigade. Major Collins, with three companies of cavalry, mistaking the point where the main body of the cavalry left the road, dashed upon the enemy until stopped by the barricade of wagons and the tempestuous fire of infantry and artillery. His loss must have been very severe.

Six companies of the Fifth New-York, Col. were De Forrest, and six companies of the First Vermont cavalry, Col. Tompkins, after repeated and desperate efforts to form a junction with the main body — the road now being filled with infantry, artillery and cavalry — fell back to Strasburgh, where they found the Zouaves d'afrique. The Fifth New-York, failing to effect a junction at Winchester, and also at Martinsburgh, came in at Clear Spring, with a train of thirty-two wagons and many stragglers. The First Vermont, Col. Tompkins, joined us at Winchester with six pieces of artillery, and participated in the fight of the next morning. Nothing could surpass the celerity and spirit with which the various companies of cavalry executed their movements, or their intrepid charges upon the enemy.

Gen. Hatch deserves great credit for the manner in which he discharged his duties as chief of cavalry in this part of our march, as well as at

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Francis Hatch (5)
Dudley Donnelly (3)
James W. Abert (3)
Tompkins (2)
George H. Gordon (2)
Collis (2)
Vought (1)
Knipe (1)
F. Forrest (1)
De Forrest (1)
Cothran (1)
J. T. Collins (1)
J. N. Brown (1)
Brodhead (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: