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Retreat down Valley.

Retreating down the Valley, he halted at Staunton, Sheridan following to Middle River, five miles north. Here Sheridan ordered a return to Winchester, without attempting a battle. On this countermarch the enemy destroyed over 2,000 barns, 100 mills, and every grain, hay and fodder stack for sixty-five miles, and telegraphed General Grant that a ‘crow flying down the Valley would have to carry his own rations.’ In the light of burning barns, mills and grain stacks, Early followed to Woodstock, and rested his army, his front at Fisher's Hill.

On the morning of the 18th General Gordon and Captain Hotchkiss rode to the signal station on Massanutton Mountain, and they found that Wright's army had been weakened by at least a corps, and that it had been removed to White Post, about [216] twelve miles northeast of Strasburg. General Early was notified, and also viewed the position. Returning to camp, he assembled his major-generals, and a council of war determined upon a daylight attack—Gordon in command of the second corps, composed of Evans', Ramseur's and Pegram's divisions. He was to turn the enemy's left at Buckton, and Kershaw, with Wharton, was to rush the front. These movements were to be made as the first ray of the rising sun pierced the sky. Early and staff were awaiting on the hills overlooking the position.

It was a most trying moment, and General Early fully appreciated it, and turning to his chief of staff, Colonel Moore, said: ‘Colonel, this is the most trying experience of my life; if I could only pray like Stonewall Jackson, what a comfort it would be.’

He had hardly uttered the words when Gordon fired his first gun, which was immediately followed by the entire army, and in a short time the entire force was over the breastworks of the enemy, surprised and routed, in a retreat only equalled by that of Bull Run.

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