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[234] at Winchester a month before, it is treated by Early's Cedar Creek censors as a negligible quantity. It really decided the day that begun in triumph and ended in gloom. It embraced about 7,000 men, equipped with horses and arms of the best. In numbers our cavalry was no more than a half, and was made inefficient and timid by poor mounts and frequent defeat fighting against vast odds. In his report of a previous engagement Major-General Lomax says:

‘I lost four pieces of artillery on account of the miserable condition of the horses. . . . I will state that this division has been wanting in organization, in discipline, in arms. It is composed of good material.’

In his report of this affair General Early said: ‘The enemy's cavalry is so superior to ours in numbers and equipment that it is impossible for ours to compete with his; . . . besides, the command is demoralized. It would be better if they could be put into infantry. But if that were tried I am afraid they would all run off.’

To show the strength and importance of the Union cavalry on this field, I will quote from Annals of the War, an account by Major Nettleton, of the Second Ohio cavalry:

‘The divisions of Merritt and Custer, aggregating nearly 8,000 of the finest mounted troops in the world, were on the right of the infantry. . . . It was no longer a matter of indifference where cavalry was placed. For the first time during the war the Federal cavalry was really raised to the dignity of a third arm of the service and given its full share in the hard fighting. With their Spencer repeating carbines, their experience in transferring themselves into foot soldiers, Sheridan's mounted force was at once the eye and the right arm of his fighting column. . . . “Custer, advance to the centre,” was the laconic command from General Wright. And as the sun was rising four thousand troopers, with accompanying batteries, marched into the fight.’

Both Custer and Merritt were marched from Sheridan's right and interposed across the advance of Early's right. Says General Merritt's report:

‘About 10 o'clock the First division was moved to the left and disposed so as to cover the Valley pike and the country to the left.’

Custer's report reads:

‘An order received to move all my command except three regiments to the extreme left.’

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Custer (4)
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