on the defensive until movements here force them to this — to send this way. Early's force, with this increase, cannot exceed forty thousand men, but this is too much for General Sheridan to attack. Send General Sheridan the remaining brigade of the Nineteenth corps. I have ordered to Washington all the one hundred day men. Their time will soon be out, but, for the present, they will do to serve in the defense.
U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General.
The receipt of this despatch was very important to me, as I possibly would have remained in uncertainty as to the character of the force coming in on my flank and rear, until it attacked the cavalry, as it did on the sixteenth. I at once looked over the map of the valley for a defensive line (that is, where a smaller number of troops could hold a greater number) and could see but one such. I refer to that at Halltown, in front of Harper's Ferry. Subsequent experience has convinced me that no other really defensive line exists in the Shenandoah valley. I therefore determined to move back to Halltown, carry out my instructions to destroy forage and subsistence, and increase my strength by Grover's division of the Nineteenth corps, and Wilson's division of cavalry, both of which were marching to join me, via Snicker's gap. Emory was ordered to move to Winchester on the night of the fifteenth, and, on the night of the sixteenth, the Sixth corps and Crook's command were ordered to Clifton, via Winchester. In the movement to the rear to Halltown, the following orders were given to the cavalry and were executed:
On the afternoon of the sixteenth I moved my headquarters back to Winchester; while moving back (at Newtown) I heard cannonading at or near Front Royal, and on reaching Winchester, Merritt's couriers brought despatches from him, stating that he had been attacked at the crossing of the Shenandoah by Kershaw's division of Longstreet's corps, and two brigades of rebel cavalry, and that he had handsomely repulsed the attack, capturing two battle flags and three hundred prisoners. During the night of the sixteenth, and early on the morning of the seventeenth, Emory moved from Winchester to Berryville, and, on the morning of the seventeenth, Crook and Wright reached Winchester and resumed the march toward Clifton; Wright, who had the rear guard, getting only as far as the Berryville crossing of the Opequan, where he was ordered to remain; Crook getting to the vicinity of Berryville. Lowell reached Winchester with his two regiments of cavalry on the afternoon of the seventeenth, where he was joined by General Wilson's division of cavalry. Merritt, after his handsome engagement near Front Royal, was ordered back to the vicinity of White Post, and General Grover's division joined Emory at Berryville. The enemy having a signal station on Three-top mountain, almost overhanging Strasburg, and from which every movement made by our troops could be seen, was notified early in the morning of the seventeenth as to this condition of affairs, and without delay followed after us, getting into Winchester about sundown, and driving out General Torbert, who was left there with Wilson and Lowell, and the Jersey brigade of the Sixth corps. Wilson and Lowell fell back to Summit Point, and the Jersey brigade joined its corps at the crossing of the Opequan. Kershaw's division, and two brigades of Fitz Lee's cavalry division, which was the force at Front Royal, joined Early at Winchester, I think, on the evening of the seventeenth. On the eighteenth the Sixth corps moved, via Clifton, to Flowing Spring, two miles and a half west of Charlestown, on the Smithfield pike; Emory about two miles and a half south of Charlestown, on the Berryville pike; Merritt came back to Berryville; Wilson remained at Summit Point, covering the crossing of Opequan creek as far north as the bridge at Smithfield; Merritt covering the crossing of the Berryville pike; Crook remained near Clifton, and the next day moved to the left of Emory. This position was maintained until the twenty-first, when the enemy moved a heavy force across the Opequan at the bridge at Smithfield, driving in the cavalry pickets which fell back to Summit Point, and advanced rapidly on the position of the Sixth corps, near Flowing Springs, when a very sharp and obstinate skirmish took place with the heavy picket line of that corps, resulting very much in its favor. The enemy appeared to have thought that I had taken position near Summit Point, and that by moving around rapidly through Smithfield he would get into my rear. In this, however, he was mistaken. During the day Merritt (who had been attacked and held his ground) was recalled from Berryville. Wilson had also been attackedheadquarters Middle military division, Cedar Creek, Va., August 16, 1864.General — In compliance with instructions of the Lieutenant-General commanding, you will make the necessary arrangements and give the necessary orders for the destruction of the wheat and hay south of a line from Millwood to Winchester, and Petticoat gap. You will seize all mules, horses, and cattle that may be useful to our army. Loyal citizens can bring in their claims against the Government for this necessary destruction. No houses will be burned, and officers in charge of this delicate but necessary duty must inform the people that the object is to make this valley untenable for the raiding parties of the rebel army. Very respectfully,
To Brigadier-General A. T. A. Torbert, Chief of Cavalry, Middle Military Division.P. H. Sheridan, Major-General Commanding.