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[86] March, 1862. The memory of that battle evidently did much to inspire the troops to deeds of valor in the approaching conflict.

Early quickly made his disposition for battle. The divisions of Breckinridge and Rodes were thrown to the right of the turnpike, and those of Ramseur and Gordon were deployed to its left, the artillery being disposed of so as to cover the advance of the infantry, while the cavalry received instructions to close behind the enemy as soon as defeated.

Perceiving that the left flank of the enemy was exposed, Breckinridge, under cover of a wooded hill, gained a position from which he bore down upon it, and in gallant style doubled it upon the centre. This success was so vigorously followed up by the other troops, that the Federals gave way at all points, and were soon in rapid retreat, which was accelerated by a vigorous pursuit. In this battle the losses on the part of the Confederates were insignificant, while those of the Federals in killed, wounded and prisoners were considerable. While on the retreat a large number of their wagons and a considerable quantity of their stores were destroyed to prevent capture.

Finding that the enemy had again sought safety behind his defences, Early determined to re-enter Maryland, for the double purpose of covering a retaliatory expedition into Pennyslvania, and to keep alive the diversion which had already been made in favor of the defence of Richmond. Therefore, about the 6th of August, he crossed the Potomac in two columns—the one at Williamsport, and the other at Shepherdstown—and took a position between Sharpsburg and Hagerstown.

This occupation of Maryland was destined to be of short duration, for since Early's audacity had caused his strength to be so greatly magnified, and the importance of his operations so exaggerated, Grant had considered it necessary to largely increase the army of the Shenandoah, and to supersede Hunter, whose incapacity had long been obvious, by Phil. Sheridan, one of the most energetic and unscrupulous of his lieutenants. Being aware of the great increase of force prepared to be brought against him, Early recrossed the Potomac and returned up the Valley, being slowly followed by Sheridan, who had now taken command of the Middle Department.

On reaching Fisher's Hill, a position three miles west of Strasburg, Early halted and offered battle, which Sheridan made a show of accepting until the morning of the 17th, when he was discovered to be retreating towards Winchester. He was immediately pursued by Early, and being overtaken near Kernstown, a spirited skirmish ensued


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