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[94] pass by Front Royal, cross the Shenandoah river, and seize the road to Winchester, in the rear of the national army. It was one of the best concerted schemes of the war.

Soon after dark the rebels moved silently from Strasburg and Fisher's Hill. Favored by night and a heavy fog, Gordon crossed the river, crept unobserved under the guns of Crook, re-crossed the North Fork at Bowman's ford, and before daybreak had struck the rear of Wright's command. Kershaw's attack on the national left was simultaneous, and the outposts were driven in, the camps invaded, the position was turned. This was followed by a direct attack along the entire front, and the whole national left was driven back in confusion. Eighteen pieces of cannon were captured, and nearly a thousand prisoners; a very large part of the infantry not preserving even a company organization. The Sixth corps on the right, however, had not been surprised; the firing on the left gave it warning, and there was time for Getty1 to form and move out of camp to a ridge west of the main road, where considerable resistance was offered. But the rebel artillery was now brought up and opened fire, and Getty fell back to the north of Middletown, where he again made a stand. Custer and Merritt were at this time transferred to the left of the line, to protect the road to Winchester, which Lomax had not seized; and a general retreat was ordered. The condition of the troops was still deplorable, and the whole army fell back to a point six or seven miles in rear of its first position in the morning.

1 Ricketts commanded the Sixth corps at daybreak, but was wounded early in the battle, when Getty took his place.

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