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[173] Johnston was ordered to face about and hold the enemy in check. He formed a line of battle, threw out his skirmishers, and had one of the hottest fights in which the brigade was engaged on the skirmish line. The enemy was defeated and driven back.

It was on the 19th day of September, 1864, when Colonel Blacknall, of the 23rd, got his death wound, that Johnston's brigade won distinguished notice. General Bradley T. Johnson, a brilliant soldier and writer of Maryland, gave a graphic account of that day's battle through the newspapers. We give an extract from his report of Sheridan's advance on that day:

By daylight, the 19th of September, a scared cavalryman of my own command, nearly rode over me as I lay asleep on the grass, and reported that the Yankees were advancing with a heavy force of infantry, artillery and cavalry up the Berryville road. * * * Johnston and I were responsible for keeping Sheridan out of Winchester, and protecting the Confederate line of retreat, and communication up the valley. In two minutes the command was mounted and moving at a trot across the open fields to the Berryville road and to Johnston's assistance. There was not a fence nor a tree nor a bush to obscure the view. We could see the crest of a hill, covered with a cloud of cavalry, and in front of them—500 yards in front—was a thin grey line moving off in retreat solidly and in perfect coolness and self-possession. * * * A regiment of cavalry would deploy into line and their bugles would sound the “charge” and they'd swoop down on the “thin grey line of North Carolina.” The instant the Yankee bugles sounded, North Carolina (Johnston's Brigade) would halt, face by the rear rank, wait until the horse got within 100 yards and then fire as deliberately and coolly as if firing volleys on brigade drill. The cavalry would break and scamper back, and North Carolina would “about face” and continue her march in retreat as solemnly and with as much dignity as marching in review. But we got there just in time, that is to engage cavalry with cavalry, and hold Sheridan in check until Johnston had got back to the rest of the infantry and formed line at right angles to the pike west of Winchester.

Being an entirely open country, everything that was going on could be seen for miles around; and Bradley Johnston says, in conclusion:

There were 45,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry in the open fields

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