As the sequel shows, Sheridan
had concluded that Early
was pretty well used up, and had gone to Washington
General H. G. Wright
, of the Sixth Corps, who commanded in his absence, was informed on the 18th that Early
had retreated, and the Federal
army lay with a feeling of security on the north bank of Cedar creek
; but Early
was only crouching to spring.
Unable to attack the fortified position of the enemy, he determined to take him by flank, and by surprise if possible.
He had sent General Gordon
, with Captain Hotchkiss
, chief engineer
, to the signal station on Massanutton mountain
, to examine the enemy's position, and General
to examine the creek on the enemy's right.
returned with a sketch designating the roads on the enemy's left and rear, and with information that it was practicable to move the infantry between the base of the mountain and the Shenandoah river
, into which the creek there empties to a ford below the mouth of the creek.
Next morning General Gordon
confirmed Captain Hotchkiss
's report, expressing confidence that an attack could be successfully made on the enemy's left and rear, and Early
resolved to move over the ground designated by Hotchkiss
's sketch to the assault.
That afternoon the division commanders met at Early
's headquarters for final instructions, and Early
directed that Gordon
should proceed immediately after dark to the foot of the mountain, crossing the river, and move for a house on the west side of the Valley
'pike called ‘Belle Grove
,’ where Sheridan
had his headquarters, taking with him the Second Corps—namely, Gordon
's and Pegram
Early in person, with Kershaw
and all the artillery, was to move along the Valley
'pike from Strausburg
and attack the enemy's front and left as soon as Gordon
, with his own and Wickham
's Brigades, was to cross Cedar creek
on the enemy's right flank and attack simultaneously with Gordon
, while Lomax
, with his division, was to move to Front Royal
across the river, thence to the Valley
'pike, and strike the enemy wherever the firing might indicate his presence.
Colonel William H. Payne
, with his small brigade of 300 to 400 men, was to go with Gordon
and endeavor to capture Sheridan
, who was supposed to be at ‘Belle Grove