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[224] Creek, fought October 19, 1864. Federal chroniclers have slurred details out of which protruded this central fact: That their army of 30,000 men was forced from a strongly fortified position, leaving their camps and supplies and half their artillery in the hands of an attacking force of no more than half as many Confederates. There was little credit in turning and beating back such an enemy after being driven from successive positions and pursued for some miles. On the other hand, Confederate writers have dismissed Cedar Creek as a victory thrown away in a disgraceful panic. While the battle was all of this, it was more. Held inextricably in Grant's powerful coils in front of the Confederate capital, and realizing that unless he could break the state of siege final defeat was only a question of time, General Lee sent Early with every man he could spare to effect a diversion on Washington, up the Valley. It was an unpromising venture at best, as out of his abundance Grant easily spared an ample force to overwhelm Early. Such as it was the chance was made absolutely desperate after the defeat at Winchester and Fisher's Hill. But circumstanced as he was General Lee could not forego the bare possibility of extrication from a fatal position. Thus he wrote to Early September 27th: ‘I very much regret the reverses that have occurred, but trust they can be remedied. The return of Kershaw will add greatly to your strength. * * * One victory will put all things right. You must do all in your power. Manoeuvre to keep the enemy in check until you can strike with all your strength. * * * The enemy must be defeated and I rely upon you to do it. * * * We are obliged to fight against great odds.’

An earnest, brave, single-minded man, sent to an offensive campaign under such circumstances, and against such odds, should in his ensuing and almost inevitable adversities, have commanded the respect and sincere sympathy of all brave soldiers. Another vital incentive to take big risks was, that it was just before the presidential election, and the most was to be expected from a victory that would be a menace to Washington. Such were the compelling influences that caused Early to assail Sheridan at Cedar Creek. He literally staked his all on the cost of a die. He failed and paid the penalty—from that day until his death he carried the load of defeat, charged up by the unthinking and the personally hostile to his incapacity. And many years after his death one of his subornates has sought to destroy his reputation and merit in history. I allude, of course, to the Reminiscences of the War, by General Gordon.

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