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[217] hold that lovely country with a small force, ordered Banks to cross the Blue ridge, establish and strongly intrench his command at and near Manassas, and proceed to open the railway from Washington to that point and thence to Strasburg; then intrench a brigade of infantry with two batteries, near Front Royal, where the railway crosses the Shenandoah; intrench another brigade at Strasburg; build and occupy blockhouses at the railway bridges; leave two regiments of cavalry at Winchester, and keep his front covered by constantly employed cavalry well advanced—‘the general object being to cover the line of the Potomac and Washington,’ and, he doubtless mentally added, protect the right of the army moving toward Fredericksburg. Banks hastened to comply with these orders. Shields' division was recalled from Strasburg, and on the 20th, Williams' division took up its line of march for Manassas.

Ashby, who kept up a constant skirmish with the Federal advance between Woodstock and Strasburg, routing its pickets and peering into its camps, reported to Jackson on the evening of March 21st, that the enemy had evacuated Strasburg and he was following them. Jackson, having been instructed by Johnston to hold in the valley the enemy already there, followed after Ashby at dawn of the 22d, Fulkerson's brigade from Woodstock and Garnett's and Burks' from Mt. Jackson, all reaching Strasburg and encamping there that night. Ashby with 200 to 300 cavalry and three cannon, attacked and drove in the Federal pickets, about a mile from Winchester, at 5 p. m. of the 22d. Banks ordered his command under arms and sent a brigade of infantry, two batteries and some artillery to meet this attack. Ashby skirmished for a time and then withdrew, three miles, to Kernstown, for the night, reporting to Jackson that he had learned that all but four regiments of the Federal army had left for the north and that these would follow the next morning. Ashby's information was only partly correct. The last of Williams' division of Banks' command had marched for Manassas the morning of the 22d, but Shields' division, some 7,000 men, had not yet left Winchester.

Shields, whose arm had been broken in the skirmish of the 22d, reported to Banks that he thought the attack was only by a small cavalry force, but during the night, as a precautionary provision, he posted Kimball's brigade

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