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A terrific charge.

These orders were rapidly given and promptly and quickly executed. After passing into the field on the right, our squadron advanced in a gallop, crossing one or two fences, until we reached a post-and-rail and capped fence, enclosing an orchard, where the enemy, quietly watching our advance, was prepared to receive our onslaught. They were posted at Cedarville, about five miles from Front Royal. As soon as the head of the column reached the fence, I leaped from my horse and attempted to pull down one of the fence-posts, but, finding myself unequal to the task, I sprang into my saddle again. However, by some means an opening was quickly made in the fence, and through it we rushed. As we entered the orchard, Captain Baxter gave the command, ‘Left into line,’ which was done in a gallop. Quickly thereafter, being in front of his men, with his pistol over his head, he gave the order to charge, then, pressing our rowels into our horses flanks, with a wild rush we charged upon the enemy like a tempest, and they might as well have tried to stop a tornado. I do not believe they could have checked our onset by any volley they could have given us, without killing our horses, for if the majority of the riders had been shot down the horses would have been carried by their tremendous momentum into the ranks of the enemy. Captain George A. Baxter, Company K, was killed by a musket shot fired at close range. No more generous and heroic man than he fell during the war, and he was idolized by his men. The horse of Lieutenant George F. Means, Company K, being killed with bayonets, fell upon his rider, who was about to be dispatched with clubbed muskets of some of the enemy when Sergeant Fout, Company K, rushed to his rescue. Company A lost one killed and one wounded. But Company B, which charged in the turnpike, was the principal sufferer in this conflict. The enemy, at close range, poured a deadly volley into the ranks of this company, killing nine and wounding fourteen out of thirty-six men, and killing and wounding twenty-one horses, but failed to stop them, for the remainder of this heroic band, led by the gallant Grimsley, dashed into the midst of the enemy and scattered them like chaff before the wind. One man in Company B was pierced with fourteen bullets. I was informed of many interesting and thrilling incidents that occurred during the conflict, but I did [135] not witness them, as, being at the head of the column when we entered the orchard, the command, ‘Left into line’ threw me on the right of the line, and I found matters in my own immediate vicinity so intensely interesting, that I had no time to gaze around to see what was transpiring in other parts of the field.

When we broke their ranks the enemy scattered in every direction, and we scattered in as many directions, also in pursuit. Companies D and I of our regiment, the 6th, came up in time to join in the pursuit. Thus had our small force of about 200 cavalry attacked and routed a vastly superior force of the enemy, numbering about 800, and consisting of cavalry, infantry, and artillery, although that force had formed in battle array to repel our attack. Besides their killed and wounded we captured about 700 prisoners and their artillery and wagon-train. The remainder of our regiment did not get up in time to join in the pursuit. On the following day I heard General Ewell remark to Colonel Flournoy, after expressing his regret at the loss sustained, ‘But you made a glorious charge.’

Among the prisoners was Colonel Kenley, the Federal commander, who was also wounded by a sabre cut, I think, on the head. In the ranks of Co. K, of the 6th Virginia, he had a cousin, a Mr. T. M. C. Paxson. It so happened that on the following day Paxson was among the number detailed to take the prisoners to Winchester. Colonel Kenley, being in the ambulance, recognized Paxson, and called him. After conversing a few minutes he asked Paxson what regiment he belonged to. On being told, the 6th Virginia Cavalry, he replied: ‘Do you know that you men made the greatest cavalry charge yesterday on record?’ and he went on to state that he had formed his men to repel our attack, and they had stood their ground until we were in their midst, yet they had been overcome, and that history nowhere recorded an instance where so small a force of cavalry had charged and overcome so greatly a superior force of infantry, supported by cavalry and artillery. Mr. Paxson is now residing near Peoenia, Va., and will verify the statement just made.


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