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Zzzhis Army in flight.

As it happened, Sheridan was in Winchester when Early's attack was delivered, on his return from a visit to Washington. As he rode out of town that morning towards his army he heard the firing, and, galloping towards the field, nearly twenty miles distant, was met by its fugitives. As he arrived on the field he found Getty's Divison and the cavalry resisting Early's army. He at [310] once ordered all his troops in line, and late that afternoon, knowing Early's weakness of numbers, he ordered an advance. An interval between Payne's Brigade on our extreme left and the rest of Kershaw's line having been penetrated, the troops there gave away, and presently the whole line followed. Vainly did Gordon try to stay the steps of his thin and weary but now receding lines. Vainly did Ramseur, with a few hundred men, and Major Goggin, of Conner's staff, with as many more of his brigade and Cutshaw's artillery, try to stem the tide. For an hour and a half they held it in check, but Ramseur fell mortally wounded fighting like a lion, the artillery ammunition was exhausted, and they, too, fell back. Pegram and Wharton and Wofford, on our right, had successfully checked the enemy, but as they now attempted to retire, the disorder spread and the last organized force dissolved into general rout. Vainly did Early try to rally his men on the south bank of Cedar creek and at Hupp's Hill, and he declares that if 500 men had stood by him all his artillery and guns would have been saved, as the enemy's pursuit was feeble, but the bridge broke down at Strausburg, blocking all passage, and they were lost, and Early's army was in disastrous flight from the field of battle.

Thus are we left with the reflection that so often arises, that ‘war, however crowned by splendid strokes, is commonly a series of errors and accidents’; and thus was illustrated what Napier says that ‘without fortune, which is only another name for the unknown combinations of infinite power, the designs of men are as bubbles on a troubled ocean.’

And so ‘the sun of Middletown’ that had risen so gloriously went down behind the storm clouds that had spent their wrath upon the field of its illumination.

The enemy was terribly shattered, and his footsteps weary, his pursuit feeble, Sheridan complains of his cavalry, and that they did not get the full fruits of victory. Terrible as was the shock to Early—wonder 'tis it did not crush him—he was quick upon his feet again, and November 11th; lo! his tattered banners flew again in front of Sheridan north of Cedar creek, near Newtown, the latter retiring to Winchester. At this time Sheridan had 60,000 and Early 14,000 men.

November 27th Rosser suddenly swept down on New Creek, a fortified port on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and captured 800 prisoners, eight pieces of artillery, several hundred cattle, and many stores. In December Sheridan sent back the Sixth Corps to Grant, [311] and Early soon sent Kershaw's Division and the Second Corps back to Lee; and then made his headquarters at Staunton, with Wharton's infantry and Rosser's cavalry, which he alone retained.

Thus ended 1864, Early having some 3,000 men at Staunton, and Sheridan at Winchester, with 43,000, the enemy holding, as President Davis says in his history, ‘precisely the same position in the Valley which he had before the beginning of the campaign in the spring.’ Meantime, Sherman had marched through Georgia, and was at Savannah.

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