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[279] Kershaw's division had left Early that he thought it prudent to move out against him. Grant, impatient, no doubt, at the failure of the campaign so far and staggered by Sheridan's persistent hallucination in regard to the forces opposed to him, came up to the Valley, and finding Sheridan about to assume the offensive, had only to say, ‘Go in.’

Sheridan finally attacked on September 19th. Part of Early's force had gone two days before to Martinsburg, and Sheridan hoped to defeat the part near Winchester and seize that place before the absent troops could return. Early had tempted fortune too far; his campaign up to this time had been brilliantly successful, and the ease with which he had for six weeks baffled Sheridan, no doubt, made him over confident. The withdrawal of Kershaw, left him, even by Mr. Pond's account, but 17,000 men of all arms. His real strength was not over one-third of Sheridan's, and the boldness of his movements now was injudicious. They invited and led to attack in an open country. Had he fallen back to Strasburg after Kershaw left, it would have been far more difficult for the Federals to have attacked him. On September 19, Sheridan's troops were held at bay by Ramseur's division and the cavalry under Lomax and Fitz Lee, until the mass of Early's infantry could get up from Stephenson and Bunker Hill. Then ensued one of the longest and steadiest days of fighting that occurred during the war. Sheridan was repulsed with fearful slaughter in front, and at times it seemed as if his great army was about to yield to the fierce onsets of his antagonist, but the battle was finally decided in his favor by his large and well equipped cavalry, which, after driving in the Confederate horsemen on Early's left, dashed against and broke that wing of the Confederates. The heavy pressure of his numbers could no longer be borne, and late in the afternoon the Confederate lines gave way and their army was forced through Winchester. Early fell back to Fisher's Hill during the night. Sheridan suffered heavily but followed up, and on September 22, at Fisher's Hill, inflicted another defeat upon the Confederates. Here, he, under cover of the forest, outflanked Early's left and stampeded it. This quickly led to the abandonment of his whole line, and the loss of eleven guns. Though Early's loss here was nothing like so heavy as at Winchester, the injury done to the morale of the army was much greater. In both battles the Confederates lost valuable officers. At Winchester fell Rodes, Godwin, and Patton, at Fisher's Hill fell A. S. Pendleton, the Assistant Adjutant General of the army—a costly offering upon their country's altar.


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