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[43] formed the rear-guard; the latter fell back toward Strasburg and precipitated itself among the mountain roads; it was thus enabled to overtake Banks' army on the banks of the Potomac.

Evening came on before Jackson had been able to come into serious contact with his adversary, and the latter, favored by the darkness, reached Winchester in the middle of the night. The Confederates had not yet made their appearance; from this moment his retreat was assured. But the rest which the Federals had found at last, after so painful a march, was not destined to be of long duration. At daybreak the firing of musketry made them aware that Jackson had arrived and was attacking the surrounding heights, which command Winchester from south-east to south-west. While he was driving off without trouble the Federal sharpshooters, General Ewell, following the road to the right from Front Royal, had reached the eastern approaches of Winchester, and was only waiting for the signal of his commander's cannon to engage the battle on that side. Banks' position had again become most critical. In danger of being surrounded with his five thousand men by eighteen or twenty thousand of the enemy, he could not follow the shortest line of retreat, that of Harper's Ferry, which would have exposed his flank to Ewell's attacks. Besides, it was not an easy matter to evacuate a town situated in an entirely open plain in the presence of so numerous an enemy. Without intending to maintain himself there for any length of time, the most important thing for him to do was to retard as long as possible the threatening progress of his foe. The Federal soldiers went into the fight with a great deal of spirit for men who should have been exhausted or discouraged by such a retreat. Banks' small army, deploying outside of Winchester, rushed to the assault of the principal height, situated to the south-west, while his left made head against Ewell's division on the east side. For a moment the hill was swept by the fire of Colonel Gordon's sharpshooters, and the Confederate guns were silenced. But when the Federals attempted to occupy the ground, they were taken in flank and driven back. The same success attended them at first on the left, where they put one of Ewell's regiments to flight. But there also, overwhelmed by numbers, their whole line gave way, and they rushed pell-mell

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