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 took up their march for Staunton, at which place General Breckinridge arrived on the 9th--the last of the troops reaching there on the 11th. Immediately on his arrival he proceeded to organize to meet Siegel. The reserves of Augusta were called out, under Colonel John H. Harmon, numbering several hundred men, and the cadets of the military institute at Lexington, two hundred strong. These reported promptly; and General Breckinridge, learning that Siegel was proceeding up the Valley, determined to march to attack him, instead of standing on the defensive. Accordingly on the morning of the 13th he left Staunton with the forces named, camping that night twenty miles from Staunton. Next day he advanced to Lacy's spring; about thirty-five miles from Staunton, and went into camp, heavy rains falling almost continually both days. General Imboden, who was in front with a cavalry force of several hundred, reported the enemy in the neighborhood of New Market, ten miles off. After dark he visited General Breckinridge in person, and informed him that Siegel had occupied New Market. General Breckinridge then determined to attack him early in the morning before information of his advance could be received. Accordingly he put his troops in motion at one o'clock that night, and by day-light was in line of battle two miles south of New Market, his front being covered by Imboden's cavalry; Harmon's command being left as rear guard to the trains, a mile further in the rear. Siegel was apparently unconscious of the presence of infantry in his front, and was advancing confident of the capture of Staunton, with no obstruction except a small cavalry force. The situation will be taken in at a glance. Lee was being pressed at Spotsylvania; Crook was moving on the extreme left of the line from the Kanawha, apparently occupying Breckinridge with the defence of the important country of Southwest Virginia, where lay the salt works, the lead mines and the chief source of commissary supplies for Richmond; while Siegel was moving upon Staunton, the center of the line, the key to the Valley — which was apparently hopelessly indefensible. Besides its strategic importance, as the immediate left flank of General Lee's line, it was at that time the location of large hospitals for the Army of Northern Virginia and depots of commissary, quartermaster and ordnance stores. The importance, therefore, of success by Breckinridge will be appreciated. To accomplish the defeat of Siegel's advance he had but a meagre force — the aggregate of infantry muskets being but thirty-one hundred. With this command, as the morning opened, he advanced
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