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[278] his heels. Sheridan availed himself, however, of the opportunity to plunder and ravage the country. He says, ‘I destroyed all the wheat, hay and provisions south of Winchester and Berryville, and drove off all the cattle.’ The Federal rear-guard, under Torbert, was overhauled at Winchester and severely handled, when Sheridan fell back behind the Opequan, and subsequently withdrew towards Charlestown. Here Early and Anderson made an attack upon him on August 21. After a sharp encounter Early drove his advance, and again Sheridan fell back, this time to Halltown. At last he had reached a position he deemed himself strong enough to hold against Early's 21,000 men. Early finding it impossible to get at the Federal army in its last position, moved on the 25th towards the Potomac, and ran against and severely defeated Sheridan's cavalry. Once more it seemed as if the North was to be invaded. Sheridan telegraphed that Early had marched with the intention of crossing the Potomac; that two of Longstreet's divisions were with him; that his own army might have to cross to the north side; that he hardly thought they would attempt to go to Washington. He hurried troops to hold the South Mountain gaps, near Boonsboro. But Early did not cross; he had already gone to the utmost verge of prudence in the presence of a foe, whose strength was between two and three times as great as his own, and he therefore fell back next day to Bunker Hill and Stephenson's.

Mr. Pond attempts a defence of these operations of Sheridan's, and would shelter him under some instructions of Grant's, which ordered him to be cautious, and not ‘attack’ Early, while the latter's force amounted to 40,000 men. The facts above are the best reply. The cause of Sheridan's feeble policy at this time was his absurd over-estimate of the Confederate forces, which was itself a high tribute to the vigor and skill with which they were handled.

Grant now informed Sheridan that his own progress at Petersburg would compel the recall of the reinforcements Lee had sent to Early, and that he (Sheridan) must ‘watch closely,’ and ‘push with all vigor.’ He also reiterated his orders to convert the Valley into a ‘barren waste.’ Lee did order the return of Anderson, but the latter did not finally leave until the 14th September, and meantime Early held his position in front of Winchester, constantly breaking up the Baltimore and Ohio railroad at Martinsburg and threatening Maryland. Sheridan remained strictly on the defensive, and exhibited great caution in all his movements. The incessant and aggressive activity of the Confederates imposed upon him still, and it was not until

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