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[245]

The next engagement of any importance in which Ramseur was concerned was at Winchester, where he was left with his command and a battery of artillery to protect the place from a threatened attack from Averill. While here he was informed by General Vaughan, in command of the cavalry, that Averill, with a small force, was at Stephenson's Depot, and could be surprised and easily captured. Placing too much confidence in these representations, Ramseur advanced against him without the proper precaution of throwing forward a strong skirmish line, and he encountered Averill with a large force of infantry and cavalry, and met with a pretty severe repulse. In a letter to me, General W. G. Lewis, who was wounded in this engagement, says that Ramseur was not altogether responsible for the mistake that occurred, for he had every reason to suppose the information furnished by Vaughan was correct. This matter, while not of importance, is referred to because it is the only instance in which he met with a reverse. The blame properly rests upon General Vaughan, who should have been more careful in his statements.

On the 9th of September information reached us that a large force had been concentrated at Harper's Ferry, which consisted of the Sixth, Nineteenth and Crook's corps, and was under a new commander, who proved to be Sheridan. From this time on constant maneuvering and skirmishing occurred between the two armies, in which Ramseur was more of less prominently engaged. Sheridan proved to be a wary, cautious and prudent commander. In all of these movements it appeared that his purpose was rather to ascertain the strength and character of his adversary than to engage him in battle. Early was disappointed and disgusted by his wary methods, and says in his ‘Last Year of the War’ that ‘the events of the last month had satisfied me that the commander opposing me was without enterprise and possessed an excessive caution which amounted to timidity. If it was his policy to produce the impression that his force was too weak to fight me, he did not succeed; but if it was to convince me that he was not an able and energetic commander, his strategy was a complete success, and subsequent events have not changed my opinion.’ Sheridan had recently been transferred from the Army of the West, where Lee's methods and ‘Stonewall Jackson's way’ were known as towers of strength. For the first time Sheridan was given an independent command he had a wholesome dread of our veterans, and also fully realized the fact that upon the result of his first encounter with his adversary there was involved an important political as well as military element.

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