previous next

An incident of the battle of Winchester, or Opequon.

The following incident of the evening before the battle of Winchester, or Opequon, and of the early morning on which it was fought, is illustrative of the situation:

I was at that time second lieutenant of the Charlotte Cavalry, Company B, Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry, of McCausland's brigade. I had charge of a line of pickets extending from Brucetown, on the banks of the Opequon, to the crossing of the Berryville pike. I had gotten acquainted with some of the officers and men of the Federal army, who picketed the opposite side of the stream, and we exchanged civilities when not firing. One of my acquaintances was a Yankee lieutenant, and we had gotten on as easy terms as were compatible with our hostile relations. On the afternoon of the 18th of September, 1864, this officer hallooed across the Opequon to me: ‘Don't you want some newspapers?’ Of course, I replied that I did. He rolled them around a stone or stick and flung two papers over to me. One was a Baltimore paper, the other of Washington, D. C. In both of them I read the statement of a union man, who had spied out the situation in Winchester, and who reported that Early's force of all arms did not exceed 15,000 en, and that Kershaw's division had left Early and returned eastward across the mountain. As soon as I saw this I said to myself and told my companions we will be speedily driven from here. The next morning the Yankee lieutenant hallooed to me again, and in a good-natured way, said: ‘We don't ,want to kill you fellows, and you had better get away; we are coming after you.’ I immediately ordered my men to mount, for I felt that trouble was on hand. In a few moments I heard the sound of artillery to my left, and in a little while the battle was on. The fact was that Early had been so active and aggressive attacking Sheridan in various directions, by rapid marches playing such a bold [233] hand, and demonstrating under appearance of power that he had completely pulled the wool over Sheridan's eyes, and made him believe that he was far stronger than the reality. I felt at the time that as soon as Sheridan was satisfied of the fact that Kershaw was gone and that Early's display of force had been more seeming than real, he would lead his heavy force against him. Grant was expecting it, and was constantly prodding Sheridan to go forward. The administration at Washington, which had supplied him with an overabundance of men and resources, also expected it, and as soon as Sheridan got intelligence of the true condition he did advance.

His timidity, however, which he himself acknowledged later, was manifested by his plan of battle, and had he not felt misgivings he would have thrown his cavalry corps on Early's right across the Valley Pike and pressed his battle in that direction. Had he done so and sustained his assault with sturdiness, it looks as if he ought to have captured all of Early's army. On the contrary, he felt his way forward with extreme caution, and up to 4 o'clock in the afternoon, notwithstanding his overwhelming force, he was checked and beaten by Early in the battle, which for sturdy valor has no superior in the whole war.

Ramseur, on our right, held his own against Sheridan's assault most gallantly. Rodes came in and drove the enemy's front, a splendid achievement. The battle ‘trembled in the balance,’ as Colonel Thomas H. Carter says, and the artillery, of which he was the chief, rolled back in disaster and dismay the assaults made upon it. The turn of the battle came about the time the Eighth Corps and Torbet's whole corps of cavalry, with the exception of Wilson's division (which had been thrown to our right and held in check by Lomax), advanced, overlapping the small commands of Fitz Lee and Breckenridge a mile in distance and seeming to cover the whole face of the earth with their massive numbers. Just at that juncture Rodes fell, while directing his division with great skill and energy, and but for this deplorable misfortune it is far from certain that the Confederates would not have prevailed. But the two things came at once, the enemy's reinforcements and the fall of Rodes. [234]

I never saw such a sight in my life as that of the tremendous force, the flying banners, sparkling bayonets and flashing sabres, moving from the north and east upon the left flank and rear of our army. It is wonderful to relate that notwithstanding this tremendous force, which over numbered Early fully four to one, and notwithstanding the fall of the gallant and efficient Rodes, Early extricated his army, and the battle closed, with the losses of Early (plus the loss in his cavalry, which for all of September was sixty killed and 288 wounded, supposing that all to have been incurred at Winchester), Sheridan's force would still largely exceed Early's.

From my observation of that command and from my knowledge of the numbers which Early encountered, my opinion has long been fixed that Lee had no lieutenant whose talents for war were more brilliant than those of Early. The records prove his achievements so clearly that they cannot either be rubbed out or diminised by the pretensions of rivals or the carpings of critics.


Marylanders in the Confederate army.

Messrs. Editors:

How many Marylanders served in the Confederate Army is an inquiry that is periodically made.

Maj.Gen. Isaac R. Trimble, in a prepared address, delivered before the Society of the Army and Navy of the Confederate States in Maryland, on February 22, 1883, said:

Gen. S. Cooper, Adjutant-General of our Government, told me in Richmond that over 21,000 Marylanders had entered the Southern armies.’

General Trimble was a man of unquestioned high character and integrity. It must be remembered that the Adjutant-General's office contained the records of all the Confederate armies, including the nativity of all soldiers.

General Cooper was Adjutant-General of the United States Army before the war, and, having resigned early in 1861, was given the same position in the Confederate service. This statement, therefore, may be regarded as official.

General Trimble further said:

General Lee often told me that he had much at heart the separate organization of the Marylanders. They are, he said, unrivaled soldiers, and, if brought together, we may get many other Marylanders to join us.’

This was attempted in 1863, but it was then too late, as the Marylanders who were serving in other organizations were unwilling to leave their present comrades and associations, formed through the ties of many campaigns and battles.

They were found in every army and every organization, and were specially noted for their refusal to desert, although home and comfort awaited them.

Of the First Regiment General Trimble said that they ‘were the dandies of the army, better dressed, better shod, better drilled and in gayer spirits than any in the whole army-and never one deserter.’

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Jubal A. Early (13)
Sheridan (7)
Isaac R. Trimble (4)
R. E. Rodes (4)
Fitz Lee (3)
Kershaw (2)
S. Cooper (2)
William H. Wilson (1)
Torbet (1)
Ramseur (1)
McCausland (1)
L. L. Lomax (1)
Ulysses S. Grant (1)
Editors (1)
Thomas H. Carter (1)
Breckenridge (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
February 22nd, 1883 AD (1)
September 18th, 1864 AD (1)
1863 AD (1)
1861 AD (1)
September (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: