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[505] Hotchkiss, and the remarkable location of Sheridan's camps, as shown by the map that was exhibited, General Early became convinced that, notwithstanding the great disparity of the opposing forces (knowing that his own numbered but about 10,000 of all arms, while those of the enemy numbered 50,000 effective men), an unexpected and successful attack could be made on Sheridan's camps. Accordingly he summoned his division commanders to headquarters, and after the situation had been explained by General Gordon and Captain Hotchkiss, it was decided, with but one dissenting voice, that the attack should be made, and the plan proposed by General Early should be carried into effect that night and the following day.

Early's plan assigned to each division its place and time of attack, almost precisely as it was subsequently carried into execution. Gordon, with the Second corps, composed of Gordon's, Ramseur's and Pegram's divisions, was to march, after dark, from the Fisher's hill encampment to a crossing of the North Fork of the Shenandoah, near its right, which the pioneer corps was to bridge for it, then along and around the base of the Three-top mountain, by a blind and concealed pathway, to its northeastern end, and then by fording the North Fork of the Shenandoah at Bowman's ford, with a squadron of Payne's cavalry in advance, to capture the enemy's picket and turn his left flank. Kershaw was to march to Strasburg at a later hour, then by a country road to Bowman's mill, on Cedar creek, and attack the enemy; Wharton, at a still later hour, was to move along the Valley turnpike, followed by the artillery of the army, past Strasburg to Hupp's hill, and remain there and be ready to second the other attacks. Rosser's cavalry was to advance by the back road and engage the enemy's cavalry, which had its extensive camp on its right and not far from the back road. The marches were so arranged that each of the attacking forces should be in position and ready to begin the assault at precisely 5 o'clock, about daylight of the morning of the 19th; Rosser to attack first, on the left, then Gordon on the right, and lastly, Kershaw in the center. The precise time of Wharton's attack was to depend on circumstances. During the day the materials were secretly collected for the foot bridge across the North Fork of the Shenandoah,

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