had arrived at Washington
on the 17th, and at noon the next day he set out to return.
On the 18th, he slept at Winchester
, twenty miles from his command.
At an early hour on the 19th, an officer on picket reported artillery firing, but a reconnoissance had been ordered for that morning, and no attention was paid to the news.
At nine o'clock Sheridan
rode out of Winchester
, still unconscious of the danger of his army.
But the sounds of heavy battle soon became unmistakable; and half a mile from the town the head of the fugitives came in sight, trains and men, with appalling rapidity.
He immediately gave directions to halt and park the trains, and ordered the brigade at Winchester
to stretch across the country and stop all stragglers.
Then, with an escort of twenty men, he pushed to the front, leaving his staff to do what they could to stem the torrent of fugitives.
His presence had an electrical effect.
He rode hot haste, like a courier, swinging his hat, and shouting as he passed: ‘Face the other way, boys!
we are going back.
Face the other way!’
and hundreds of the men turned at once and followed him with cheers.
It was ten o'clock when he reached the front, where he found Merritt
's cavalry under Torbert
, and Getty
's division of the Sixth corps opposing the enemy.
He at once determined to fight on Getty
's line, transferring Custer
to the right again, and bringing up the remaining divisions of the Sixth corps, which were two miles to the right and rear.
The Nineteenth corps, still further to the right and rear, was also ordered up in line.
At first he sent staff officers to hasten these troops,