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[253] commenced moving early after dark. The night was consumed in a fatiguing and exhausting march, which was conducted with the greatest secrecy. We reached the point at which we were to cross the creek and make the attack at early dawn. Here we were joined by Payne's cavalry, who at full speed dashed upon and captured Sheridan's headquarter's, and, but for his absence, would have captured him. While Crook's corps was enjoying its undisturbed quiet, and possibly dreaming of to-morrow, we descended like a wolf on the fold and aroused them by ‘Rebel yells’ and peals of musketry, and they hastily fled in garments more suited to a camp than a ball-room.

After our great reverses the sensation of pursuit was delightful. As Ramseur hurried from point to point to hasten forward his troops where resistance was offered, his presence and manner was electrical. Notified of our attack by the firing, the Federals in other parts of the field formed and offered some resistance, but they were so much demoralized that my little brigade drove hack a division ten times its number after but slight resistance. By 8 o'clock we had captured nearly all their artillery and from fifteen hundred to two thousand prisoners, and the Federals were in retreat. Early, in the mean time, with two divisions which had scarcely been engaged, came upon the field. Gordon informed me that he then advised him to seize all his wagon, artillery and ambulance horses—indeed, every one he could get—mount his men upon them, and hotly pursue the Federals before they could recover from their panic. But we were very deliberate. While this was occurring Sheridan was at Winchester, on his return from Washington. He gives this graphic account of his meeting with his fleeing troops: ‘At Mill Creek my escort fell behind and we were going ahead at a regular pace when, just as we made the crest of the rise beyond the stream, there burst upon our view the appalling spectacle of a panic-stricken army—hundreds of slightly wounded men, throngs of others unhurt, but utterly demoralized, and baggage wagons by the score, all pressing to the rear in hopeless confusion, telling only too plainly that a disaster had occurred at the front. On accosting some of the fugitives, they assured me that the army was broken up, in full retreat, and that all was lost; all this with a manner true to that peculiar indifference that takes possession of panic-stricken men.’ In the mean time General Wright, with one division and some cavalry, had the only organized force in our presence. The return of Sheridan and the lack of a vigorous pursuit had the effect to allay the panic with which his army

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Philip Sheridan (3)
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