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[445] At this time Lee was engaged with the vastly superior force of Grant, which had crossed the Rapidan, and Sigel's was a movement to get upon our flank, and thus cooperate with Grant in his attempt to capture Richmond. Breckinridge had an infantry force not much exceeding three thousand. The hazard of an attack was great, but the necessity of the case justified it. Breckinridge's force was only enough to form one line of battle in two ranks, the cadets holding the center between the two brigades. There were no reserves, and Colonel Harmon's command formed the guard for the trains. Skirmish lines were promptly engaged, and soon thereafter the enemy fell back beyond New Market, where Sigel, assuming the defensive, took a strong position, in which to wait for an attack. Our artillery was moved forward, and opened with effect upon the enemy's position; then our infantry advanced ‘with the steadiness of troops on dress parade, the precision of the cadets serving well as a color-guide for the brigades on either side to dress by. . . . The Federal line had the advantage of a stone wall which served as a breastwork.’1 Sigel's cavalry attempted to turn our right flank, but was repulsed disastrously, and in a few moments the enemy was in full retreat, crossing the Shenandoah and burning the bridge behind him.

Breckinridge captured five pieces of artillery and over five hundred prisoners, exclusive of the wounded left on the field. Our loss was several hundred killed and wounded. General Lee, after receiving notice of this, ordered Breckinridge to transfer his command as rapidly as possible to Hanover Junction. The battle was fought on the 15th, and the command reached Hanover Junction on May 20th.

Before General Breckinridge left the Valley he issued an order thanking his troops, ‘particularly the cadets, who, though mere youths, had fought with the steadiness of veterans.’

Brigadier General W. E. Jones had, with a small cavalry force, come from southwestern Virginia to the Valley after Breckinridge's departure, and this, with the command of Imboden only sufficient for observation, was all that remained in the Valley when the Federal General David Hunter, with a larger force than Sigel's, succeeded the latter. Jones, with his cavalry and a few infantry, encountered this force at Piedmont, was defeated and killed. Upon the receipt of this information Breckinridge with his command was sent back to the Valley.

On June 13th Major General Early, with the Second Corps of Lee's army, numbering a little over eight thousand muskets and two battalions of artillery, commenced a march to strike Hunter's force in the rear

1 I. Stoddard Johnston, Southern Historical Society Papers, June, 1879, p. 258 et seq.

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