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[338] two armies lay in such a position — the enemy on the west bank of the Opequan creek covering Winchester, and our forces in front of Berryville — that either could bring on a battle at any time. Defeat to us would lay open to the enemy the States of Maryland and Pennsylvania for long distances before another army could be interposed to check him. Under these circumstances I hesitated about allowing the initiative to be taken. Finally, the use of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, which were both obstructed by the enemy, became so indispensably necessary to us, and the importance of relieving Pennsylvania and Maryland from continuously threatened invasion was so great, that I determined the risk should be taken. But fearing to telegraph the order for an attack without knowing more than I did of General Sheridan's feelings as to what would be the probable result, I left City Point on the fifteenth of September to visit him at his headquarters, to decide, after conference with him, what should be done. I met him at Charleston, and he pointed out so distinctly how each army lay; what he could do the moment he was authorized, and expressed such confidence of success, that I saw there were but two words of instructions necessary — Go in! For the convenience of forage, the teams for supplying the army were kept at Harper's Ferry. I asked him if he could get out his teams and supplies in time to make an attack on the ensuing Tuesday morning. His reply was, that he could before daylight on Monday. He was off promptly to time, and I may here add that the result was such that I have never since deemed it necessary to visit General Sheridan before giving him orders.

Early on the morning of the nineteenth General Sheridan attacked General Early at the crossing of the Opequan creek, and after a most sanguinary and bloody battle, lasting until five o'clock in the evening, defeated him with heavy loss, carrying his entire position from Opequan creek to Winchester, capturing several thousand prisoners and five pieces of artillery. The enemy rallied and made a stand in a strong position at Fisher's Hill, where he was attacked and again defeated with heavy loss on the twentieth. Sheridan pursued him with great energy through Harrisonburg, Staunton, and the gaps of the Blue Ridge. After stripping the Upper Valley of most of the supplies and provisions for the rebel army, he returned to Strasburg, and took position on the north side of Cedar creek.

Having received considerable reinforcements, General Early again returned to the valley, and, on the ninth of October, his cavalry encountered ours near Strasburg, where the rebels were defeated, with the loss of eleven pieces of artillery and three hundred and fifty prisoners. On the night of the eighteenth the enemy crossed the mountains which separated the branches of the Shenandoah, forded the north fork, and early on the morning of the nineteenth, under cover of the darkness and the fog, surprised and turned our left flank and captured the batteries, which enfiladed our whole line. Our troops fell back with heavy loss and in much confusion, but were finally rallied between Middletown and Newtown. At this juncture General Sheridan, who was at Winchester when the battle commenced, arrived on the field, arranged his lines just in time to repulse a heavy attack of the enemy, and immediately assuming the offensive, he attacked in turn with great vigor. The enemy was defeated with great slaughter, and the loss of most of his artillery and trains and the trophies he had captured in the morning. The wreck of his army escaped during the night, and fled in the direction of Staunton and Lynchburg. Pursuit was made to Mount Jackson. Thus ended this, the enemy's last attempt to invade the North via the Shenandoah Valley. I was now enabled to return the Sixth corps to the Army of the Potomac, and to send one division from Sheridan's army to the Army of the James, and another to Savannah, Georgia, to hold Sherman's new acquisitions on the sea-coast, and thus enable him to move without detaching from his force for that purpose.

Reports from various sources led me to believe that the enemy had detached three divisions from Petersburg to reinforce Early in the Shenandoah Valley. I therefore sent the Second corps and Gregg's division of cavalry, of the Army of the Potomac, and a force of General Butler's army, on the night of the thirteenth of August, to threaten Richmond from the north side of the James, to prevent him from sending troops away, and, if possible, to draw back those sent. In this move we captured six pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners, detained troops that were under marching orders, and ascertained that but one division (Kershaw's) of the three reputed detached, had gone.

The enemy having withdrawn heavily from Petersburg to resist this movement, the Fifth corps, General Warren commanding, was moved out on the eighteenth and took possession of the Weldon railroad. During the day he had considerable fighting. To regain possession of the road, the enemy made repeated and desperate assaults, but was each time repulsed with great loss. On the night of the twentieth the troops on the north side of the James were withdrawn, and Hancock and Gregg returned to the front at Petersburg. On the twenty-fifth the Second corps and Gregg's division of cavalry, while at Reams' station destroying the railroad, were attacked, and after desperate fighting, a part of our line gave way, and five pieces of artillery fell into the hands of the enemy.

By the twelfth of September a branch railroad was completed from the City Point and Petersburg railroad to the Weldon railroad, enabling us to supply, without difficulty, in all weather, the army in front of Petersburg.

The extension of our lines across the Weldon


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