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General Torbert in the Shenandoah This photograph, made in the Shenandoah Valley in the fall of 1864, shows General Alfred T. A. Torbert, immaculately clad in a natty uniform, on the steps of a beautiful vine-clad cottage. Virginia homes such as this fared but badly in that terrible October. The black shame of war spread over the valley and rose in the smoke from burning barns. Grant had resolved that Shenandoah should no longer be allowed to act as a granary for the armies of the Confederacy. Sheridan and his men had orders ruthlessly to destroy all supplies that could not be carried away. The Confederate cavalry clung desperately to his rear, and gave so much annoyance that on October 8th Sheridan directed Torbert “to give Rosser a drubbing next morning or get whipped himself.” The saber contest that ensued at Tom's Brook was the last attempt of the Confederate cavalry to reestablish their former supremacy. The sight of the devastated valley spurred the Southern troopers to the most valiant attacks, in spite of their inferior equipment. Again and again were charges made and returned on both sides. For two hours the honors were almost even, the Confederates holding the center, while the Federal cavalry pushed back the flanks. Finally Merritt and Custer ordered a charge along the whole line, and at last the Confederates broke.

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