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[724] Devins' brigade of cavalry was directed to cross the Shenandoah, work around the base of the Massanutten range, and drive in the cavalry which covered his (the enemy's) right flank; and Powell, who had succeeded Averell, was ordered to move around his left flank via Simberville, whilst the infantry was rushed across the river by the bridge.

The enemy did not wait the full execution of these movements, but withdrew in haste, the cavalry under Devins coming up with him at Newmarket, and made a bold attempt to hold him until I could push up our infantry, but was unable to do so as the open, smooth country allowed him (the enemy) to retreat with great rapidity in line of battle, and the three or four hundred cavalry under Devins was unable to break this line. Our infantry was pushed by heads of columns very hard to overtake, and bring on an engagement, but could not succeed, and encamped about six miles south of Newmarket for the night.

Powell meantime had pushed on through Simberville, and gained the valley pike near Lacy's springs, capturing some prisoners and wagons.

This movement of Powell's probably forced the enemy to abandon the road via Harrisonburg, and move over the Keezeltown road to Port Republic, to which point the retreat was continued through the night of the twenty-fourth, and from thence to Brown's gap in the Blue Ridge.

On the twenth-fifth, the Sixth and Nineteenth corps reached Harrisonburg. Crook was ordered to remain at the junction of the Keezeltown road with the Valley pike until the movements of the enemy were definitely ascertained.

On this day Torbert reached Harrisonburg, having encountered the enemy's cavalry at Luray, defeating it and joining me via Newmarket, and Powell had proceeded to Mount Crawford.

On the twenty-sixth Merritt's division of cavalry was ordered to Port Republic, and Torbert to Staunton and Waynesboro to destroy the bridge at the latter place, and, in retiring, to burn all forage, drive off all cattle, destroy all mills, &c., which would cripple the rebel army or confederacy.

Torbert had with him Wilson's division of cavalry and Lowell's brigade of regulars.

On the twenty-seventh while Torbert was making his advance on Waynesboro, I ordered Merritt to make a demonstration on Brown's gap to cover the movement. This brought out the enemy (who had been re-enforced by Kershaw's division which came through Swift Run gap), against the small force of cavalry employed in this demonstration, which he followed up to Port Republic, and I believe crossed in some force. Merritt's instructions from me were to resist an attack, but, if pressed, to fall back to Cross Keys, in which event I intended to attack with the main force which was at Harrisonburg, and could be rapidly moved to Cross Keys. The enemy, however, advanced with his main force only to Port Republic, after which he fell back. Torbert this day took possession of Waynesboro, and partially destroyed the railroad bridge, but about dark on the twenty-eighth was attacked by infantry and cavalry, returned to Staunton and from thence to Bridgewater via Springhill, executing the order for the destruction of subsistence, forage, &c.

On the morning of the twenty-eighth Merritt was ordered to Port Republic to open communication with General Torbert, but on the same night was directed to leave small forces at Port Republic and Swift-run gap, and proceed with the balance of his command (his own and Custer divisions) to Piedmont, swing around from that point to near Stanton, burning forage, mills, and such other property as might be serviceable to the rebel army or confederacy, and, on his return, to go into camp on the left of the Sixth and Nineteenth corps, which were ordered to proceed on the twenty-ninth to Mount Crawford, in support of this and Torbert's movements.

September twenty-ninth, Torbert reached Bridgewater, and Merritt Mt. Crawford.

On the first of October Merritt reoccupied Port Republic, and the Sixth and Nineteenth corps were moved back to Harrisonburg.

The question that now presented itself was, whether or not I should follow the enemy to Brown's gap, where he still held fast, drive him out and advance on Charlottesville and Gordonsville. This movement on Gordonsville I was opposed to for many reasons, the most important of which was, that it would necessitate the opening of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad from Alexandria, and to protect this road against the numerous guerilla bands, would have required a corps of infantry; besides, I would have been obliged to leave a small force in the valley to give security to the line of the Potomac. This would probably occupy the whole of Crook's command, leaving me but a small number of fighting men. Then there was the additional reason of the uncertainty as to whether the army in front of Petersburg could hold the entire force of General Lee there, and, in case it could not, a sufficient number might be detached and move rapidly by rail and overwhelm me, quickly returning. I was also confident that my transportation could not supply me further than Harrisonburg, and therefore advised that the valley campaign should terminate at Harrisonburg, and that I return, carrying out my original instructions for the destruction of forage, grain, &c., give up the majority of the Army I commanded, and order it to the Petersburg line, a line which I thought the Lieutenant-General believed if a successful movement could be made on, would involve the capture of the Army of Northern Virginia.

I therefore, on the morning of the sixth of October, commenced moving back, stretching the cavalry across the valley from the Blue Ridge to the eastern slope of the Alleghanies,

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A. T. A. Torbert (8)
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