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[272]

Meantime Breckinridge had reached Staunton, and was moving rapidly down the Valley to meet Sigel, who was advancing. Learning on the 14th May that Sigel was near New Market, Breckinridge left his camp at Lacy Springs, nine miles south of that town, after midnight, and attacked Sigel early next morning. The advent of Breckinridge was probably unexpected by the Federal General. He accepted battle, however, and was entirely defeated and driven from the field, losing five or six pieces of artillery. He puts his force engaged at 5,500, though General Strother says in his report that Sigel's column numbered 8,500. Mr. Pond puts Breckinridge's numbers at from 4,600 to 5,000. Colonel Stoddard Johnston says that Breckinridge had 3,100 muskets in his infantry, and if so, his force was probably under 4,600, and not over it.

The curtain drops, and the principal actors now change. General Lee, pressed by Grant's overwhelming numbers, as soon as he learns that Sigel is disposed of, orders Breckinridge to Hanover Junction, and leaves the defence of the Valley to W. E. Jones, with some 5,000 or 6,000 men scraped together from every part of it. The result proved that the withdrawal of Breckinridge was unfortunate, but the necessity which prompted it was not less than that which forbade it. General Grant, when he learned of Sigel's defeat, had him removed promptly, and Hunter placed in command, and instructed the latter to renew the advance against Staunton, Charlottesville, and Lynchburg. Hunter ordered Crook to march on Staunton from the west, and moved towards the same point himself from the lower Shenandoah Valley. On June 5th Hunter, at the head of his column of 8,500 men, came up with W. E. Jones at Piedmont, some ten or twelve miles in advance of Staunton. Jones's mixed and not well-organized force of about 5,500 men was completely defeated, and Jones himself killed. Hunter next day entered Staunton, where Crook joined him with 10,000 men. The Federal army now had nothing that could oppose or seriously delay its progress, but Hunter, instead of moving on Charlottesville according to his instructions, marched to Lexington, (where he wasted some days in plundering the country), and thence (June 14) by Buchanan and the Peaks of Otter towards Lynchburg.

Meantime Lee was taking as vigorous steps as his resources permitted, to checkmate this movement in his rear. As soon as the defeat of Jones was known, Breckinridge was sent back to Rockfish Gap to unite with Vaughan (who had succeeded Jones) in opposing Hunter. Hampton, at the same time, was sent to drive back Sheridan's


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John C. Breckinridge (15)
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