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Zzzshould we press forward?

Early now sent Lieutenant Mann Page, of his staff, with orders for Gordon and Kershaw to attack, but he soon returned and informed Early that Kershaw stated his division was scattered and not in condition to do so, and a cavalry force was pressing on his front. He also stated that Gordon's Division was reforming in the rear of Kershaw, and that it was too scattered to attack. The enemy had now formed their line across the Valley 'pike two miles north of Middletown. A heavy force of cavalry was pressing upon our right and Early rode to Middletown to meet this menace, putting Pegram's and Wharton's Divisions and Wofford's Brigade in line and repulsing several cavalry charges. He also sent a message to Lomax, [309] requiring him to move to Middletown, but the message miscarried, and Lomax, hearing the firing so far in the rear, concluded that the enemy was being forced to Winchester, and had moved accordingly in that direction. Early had now gotten Ramseur and Kershaw in line with Pegram's Division, and Gordon coming up, was placed on their left, with orders to advance. Without reserve and with more than half his cavalry absent, it was Early's intention to charge with his whole army and stand the hazard of the die. The advance was made for some distance when Gordon's skirmishers came back reporting a heavy line of battle in front behind breastworks, and Early having given him instructions that if he found the enemy's line too strong not to attack, he did not do so. Did Early err in not urging the assault? Some officers of high character, intelligence and rank, whose opinions are entitled to weight, think so; and it is difficult for one not present to judge. But it is not to be forgotten that his men had been up all the night before and had been fighting over rough ground from the early hours of the morning, and were much jaded; that their ranks had been disordered by their assault, and some of them, alas! had scattered to seize the rich plunder of the enemy's camps. An unavoidable delay in the morning of an hour in Gordon's movements, for which he was not to blame, the miscarriage of the message to Lomax, the strong position which the enemy held, and the fact that he had a cavalry force which hung upon both flanks, quite as large as Early's infantry, while we had but 1,200 under Rosser, to meet them, that we had on our hands 1,600 prisoners, with many wagons and stores, and had gained a great victory, all these considerations induced Early not to press his men farther. Above all, we should not forget that Early was one of the boldest as well as the coolest of men. We had no such opportunity here as we had at Gettysburg when he wanted to advance, and those who exonerate his superiors for not presing forward upon that occasion, should remember his character and be slow to criticise him now.

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Zzzgeneral Early (8)
Charles George Gordon (5)
Kershaw (4)
William Lomax (3)
J. W. Pegram (2)
S. S. Wofford (1)
Wharton (1)
Thomas L. Rosser (1)
Ramseur (1)
Mann Page (1)
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