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[235]

Lomaxs Cavalry Division about; and Custer's and Merritt's divisions present advance.

Such a force drawn across its front seems a perfect answer in itself to the question ‘should Early's advance have been continuous?’ It is brushed aside in his book of War Reminiscences, by General Gordon, in the following:

‘The brave and steady 6th Corps could not possibly have escaped had the proposed concentration and assault upon it been permitted. . . . In thirty minutes the yelling Confederate infantry would have been rushing relentlessly on its flanks, front and rear. We halted, we hesitated, we dallied, we waited, for what? It is claimed by the confederate commander that we were threatened with cavalry on our right, whereas General Lomax was on that flank.’

This passage is transparently extravagant. Under any circumstances foot soldiers can, in an open country, withdraw and ‘escape’ from foot soldiers. As to Lomax's cavalry, it was miles away, on the Front Royal-Wincester pike, and engaged with another Federal cavalry division. It was designed for him to effect connection with the right, but he never got up. In his report he states he ‘was unable to communicate with General Early through the day. I endeavored to strike the pike at Middletown, but found it occupied by the enemy.’ This was after our rout had set in. The only cavalry ‘on that flank’ was Payne's Brigade, 300 strong.

Of the movement and the use of the Union cavalry Gordon's War Reminiscences says:

‘The Union cavalry was sent back to Sheridan's left, when it was discovered there was no danger of serious assault by Early.’

The two cavalry divisions were shifted from one of the Union flanks to the other to check Early's right, on which his whole advance pivoted. Everything depended on our right—so long as it advanced, Sheridan's base was menaced and his retreat forced. To show this was so, I quote Custer's report more fully:

‘An order was received to move to the extreme left and arrest the enemy at that point, where he had turned our flank and was driving our line before him with every prospect of obtaining possession of the pike to Winchester. But for the cavalry the enemy would have penetrated to the rear of the army.’

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J. Cabell Early (4)
Sheridan (2)
Lomax (2)
John B. Gordon (2)
Custer (2)
J. A. Payne (1)
Merritt (1)
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