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[510] effectually held in check, in position after position, and seriously damaged, with well-directed volleys of both musketry and artillery, the overwhelming force that pressed upon them. Most of the Confederates made good their retreat, and the Federal infantry did not pursue them beyond Belle Grove house, near the middle of their old encampment, but was quite content to go into camp not far from where they had been so unceremoniously and badly routed in the early morning.

When the sun set, the Confederates, although discomfited and retreating, were still in possession of the fruits of victory, having sent to the rear the 1,500 prisoners they had taken, a long line of captured wagons and stores, and many pieces of artillery, with their caissons and other equipments, when a small body of Federal cavalry, crossing Cedar creek at Hottle's mill, came by a blind way to the top of Stickley's hill, on the Valley turnpike to the west of Cedar creek, and following along the crowding and retreating, but unguarded trains, drove off the drivers with their sabers and turned wagons and guns across the road. The trains had been checked after dark at Spangler's mill, just west of Strasburg, where a short bridge, not more than 20 feet long, across the high banks of a small creek, had broken down under the weight of a heavy gun, and so cut off further retreat for all of the train of wagons and artillery, including a large portion of the captured guns, that had not yet crossed the bridge. The Confederate infantry, in its retreat, had avoided the main road, giving that up to the trains, and was falling back on roads more to the west, so that none of them were in position, in the gathering darkness, to defend these trains, and even if they had been, nothing could have been done toward replacing the bridge.

These accidental captures enabled Sheridan to claim that he had turned the disgraceful rout of his great army, in the morning, into a grand victory in the evening; when, in truth, but for this easy and unpreventable capture, by an insignificant body of cavalry. Early could have made the substantial claim that he had not only won an almost unexampled victory in the morning, but that he had brought away the fruits of it, even though driven by superior numbers from an untenable position that he had unwisely and too long held, when he should have either promptly followed the retreating foe, when on the run in

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Philip H. Sheridan (1)
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