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 On the 15th of May Breckinridge had sharply repulsed Sigel's column at New Market, the cadets of the Virginia Military Institute making a gallant charge, to the admiration of both armies, and capturing guns from veterans, at a loss to themselves of one to every five killed or wounded. Breckinridge had hastened with his slender division to join Lee at Cold Harbor, and after that battle had been fought, wheeled right about to meet the same force which, reinforced, and now commanded by Major-General David Hunter, was marching up the Valley from Harrisonburg, with 8,500 men. On June 5th Hunter had defeated and slain the gallant cavalry general, W. E. Jones, at Piedmont in Augusta. Three days later, June 8th, Crook and Averill had joined him at Staunton with 10,000 men, and now with this united force, 18,500 strong, he was marching on four parallel roads to Lynchburg. Meantime Major-General Sheridan had been sent by Grant with a corps of cavalry on June 7th to destroy the Central (now Chesapeake and Ohio Railway), and Grant, expecting him to meet Hunter at Charlottesville, they were to return together to the Army of the Potomac. Neither of these commanders met at the tryst, for on June 11th Hampton had intercepted Sheridan at Trevilians with Fitz Lee's and Butler's Divisions, and after the bloodiest cavalry battle of the war, Sheridan had retired all the way to the White-House on the York river; Hampton, victorious, had returned to Lee, and Lynchburg, for the time being, had by him been saved. But Hunter was still marching on, and on June 12th was within forty miles of Lynchburg, at Lexington, Va., where he burned the Virginia Military Institute and Governor Letcher's home, and sacked Washington College.
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