Another Statement of the battle of Strasburg.
Camp near New market,
October 20th, 1864.
To the Editor of the Dispatch:
Since I wrote to you last from this camp, many and important movements have been made by this army.
My last letter was written just after our little fight of last Sunday.
In it I stated that parts of Wofford
's and Terry
's brigades were engaged.
I wish to correct a mistake in so far as Wofford
's brigade is concerned.
It was Conner
's South Carolina brigade, of Kershaw
's division, that was engaged, instead of Wofford
's. General Conner
was severely wounded at the same time.
After that affair of Sunday, we lay in the front of the enemy offering battle for three days; but as they refused to attack us, we the made an attack upon them, as I shall state directly, which proved a perfect success.
I understand that General Early
gives General Gordon
all the credit for the movement, and his action on the field pronounces him one of our first generals, both in planning and in executing.
About sunset of Wednesday, the 18th, orders were issued to all the army to be in readiness to move at twilight — soldiers leaving their cups and canteens, and officers their swords, behind, so that the movement might be as secret as possible.
Early in the night we were on the way, crossing rivers and winding around the foot of the mountains, along unfrequented roads and by-paths, until four o'clock A. M. Thursday morning brought us full views of the enemy's picket fires, a short distance in our front.--Here we halted until our cavalry came up in beautiful order and passed on to the front.
At half-past 4 o'clock we waded the river and pressed on toward the enemy's camp, which was strongly fortified.
No pickets were encountered until within about two miles of camp, when they fired on our cavalry.
It was a complete surprise.
Just at break of day a part of Kershaw
's division charged upon their strongest position and took it at the first onset, capturing sixteen pieces of artillery in the first charge.
We continued to drive them through their whole camp, some two or three miles in extent.
They made three stands to save their camp — at one time behind a stone fence — but were driven from every position they then held into the woods beyond Middletown
As our troops had become much scattered and mixed up in the pursuit, General Early
here ordered a halt, to re-organize and to collect the straggling men.
Their tents were left standing, and in many places their bed-clothing just as they had jumped from bed. Their camps were filled with all kind of plunder from the adjacent country.
Chickens, turkeys and cows were tied to stakes, waiting to add delicacies to their tables.
All kinds of plunder was strewn upon the field.
Coffee and sugar were especially sought for by our men, who felt the need of them after the night's march.
This plunder proved the loss of the day afterward.
Although strict orders were issued that no one should stop to plunder, a great many did so, and did not afterwards join their command; so that when our line of battle was afterwards formed on the road running through Middletown
perpendicular to the pike, about one-third of the army was in the rear.--About half-past 3 or 4 o'clock, the enemy, having received reinforcements from Winchester
, made a simultaneous attack along our lines, at the same time flanking us with a force perpendicular to the left of our lines.
Very soon the left was compelled to give way; and as the enemy continued to advance perpendicular to our line, the whole gave way, and the enemy pressed on and drove us across the river.
In the confusion, the enemy's cavalry dashed upon our train just after it had crossed the creek and captured a number of wagons and some eighteen or twenty pieces of artillery.
It is useless to disguise the fact that our army was completely stampeded.--All attempts to rally the men proved utterly useless, and they crowded down the river like droves of cattle.
Five hundred resolute men, formed on the hill this side of Cedar creek
, could have easily prevented the loss of our train, but, unfortunately, each man was pressing to the rear so fast that he had no time to stop.
Upon the whole, this fight proved much more disastrous to the enemy than to us. We lost many guns and wagons in the evening, but not so many as we had captured in the morning.
The whole field for miles was covered with the enemy's dead.
I suppose, from my own observation, that at least a thousand of the enemy were killed and left on the field, whilst of our men I saw very few. I was across the whole field, and saw certainly not over forty dead Confederates.
Our loss was small compared to that of the enemy.
We captured about two thousand of the enemy in the morning, and I am certain that we did not lose one-half so many in the evening.
Our army was organized again at Fisher's Hill
and moved back to this point last night.
Many deeds of gallantry were, no doubt, performed on different parts of the field.
I will only mention two which have come to my knowledge.--Early
in the morning, General Pegram
, seeing a single Yankee about to carry off a piece of artillery, dashed upon him and cut him down with his sword.
, commanding the First, Second and Third brigades of Jackson
's old division, deserves great praise for the several attempts he made to check the enemy advancing on the flank after Evans
's brigade had broken on his left.
He rallied some two or three hundred men behind a stone fence, some half a mile behind the original line, and fought until the enemy again flanked his left, when he called for a few men from this number and formed a skirmish line in front of their advancing column.
This he did a second time, until the enemy drove them back to the field, and the remnant that he had rallied were compelled to retreat.
The disaster was caused by the lack of troops.--The enemy's line extending some half a mile to the left of ours, we were easily flanked, and compelled to fall back.
It is said that ten thousand fresh troops from Winchester
joined the enemy in the interval between the two fights.
We brought off all our prisoners and many of the wagons in the morning.
was severely wounded through the body, and fell in the hands of the enemy.
Of officers we lost very few; but this loss falls very heavy upon that division, which had so lately lost their beloved General Rhodes
I cannot now give much account of casualties, as I have been able to learn of but few. I suppose I can do so soon.