Zzzwaynesboro'and the end.
On the 27th of February Sheridan
started from Winchester
with his cavalry, Early
, with a few hundred men, and Wharton
's two small brigades and Nelson's Artillery, to meet him. Rosser
could only hang on the skirts of this column, ten thousand strong, for he was powerless to check it; and Early
retired to Waynesboroa, where he placed Wharton
, with a thousand muskets, and Nelson
, with six pieces of artillery, on a ridge, some sixteen hundred men, all told.
He did not intend to make this his battleground, but only to cover the getting-off of his equipments; but here he was attacked on the 2d of March.
His orders to post artillery, in anticipation of the attack, miscarried, as did also his message of warning to Wharton
; and, as the event disclosed, most of his command and his artillery were captured, he and General Wharton
now rode rough-shod through Virginia
, destroying as he went, and joining Grant
Early, after several narrow escapes, reached Richmond
, after passing twice between the enemy's camps and his pickets, and, consulting with General Lee
, was sent to Southwest Virginia
to organize with General Echols
what force might be collected in that section.
There, on the 30th of March, he received a telegram from General Lee
relieving him from duty.
Notwithstanding the gloomy close of a great career, it cannot be denied that Early
demonstrated the qualities of a great commander.
No one whose mind is open to light can fail to see in him quick divination of his enemy's plans, prompt and unhesitating decision, indefatigable energy and industry, cool, discerning judgment — the quickness of the eagle's flight in movement, the fearlessness of the lion's heart in action.
He assumed the gravest responsibilities when he might have easily
He was never dilatory or belated in execution of an order.
He never clamored for reinforcements when he knew there were none to send.
He detached troops obediently, without complaint, when he knew the peril to which it subjected him. He was never chided, reproved or blamed by his superiors.
No better fighing was ever done than that of Early
; no more brilliant plan was ever conceived than that at Cedar Creek
Nothing could have shown more boldness than Early
's giving battle at Winchester
, nor more cool deliberation than his steady retirement.
‘He deserves,’ says Pond
, the Federal
historian, ‘the credit of great vigor and skill in fighting the battle forced upon him, and in moving his trains and his army out of the ruin his opponent had prepared for him.’
That he rallied so speedily after Fisher's Hill
, and struck so splendidly at Cedar Creek
, and that he always came back with unrelenting and elastic courage is as true a picture of a great man struggling with the storms of fate as the heroic tragedy of human nature has ever presented.