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Chapter 22: capture of Winchester.

Very early in the morning of the 13th, the remainder of my division crossed over the Shenandoah, and I received orders from General Ewell to move to the Valley pike at Newtown, and along that road against the enemy then occupying Winchester, while Johnson moved along the direct road from Front Royal to the town, Rodes being sent to the right to Berryville, where there was also a force. Milroy occupied the town of Winchester with a considerable force in strong fortifications, and my orders were to move along the pike to Kernstown, and then to the left, so as to get a position on the northwest of Winchester from which the main work of the enemy could be attacked with advantage.

This main work was on a hill a little outside of the town on the northwest, being an enclosed fort, with embrasures for artillery, and I was informed that there was a high hill on the northwest which commanded it, and of which I was directed to get possession, if I could. Six main roads centre at Winchester, to-wit: the Front Royal road on which we were, coming in from the southeast and uniting with the Millwood road a mile or two before it reaches town; the Valley pike coming in on the south and uniting with the Cedar Creek pike between Kernstown and Winchester, Kernstown being about two miles from the town; the Romney or Northwestern pike coming in on the west side; the Pughtown road coming in on the northwest; the Martinsburg pike coming in on the north, and uniting with the direct Charlestown and Harper's Ferry roads, three or four miles from town; and the Berryville road coming in on the east.

Lieutenant Barton of the 2nd Virginia Regiment, Walker's brigade, Johnson's division, who had been raised in the neighborhood, was furnished me as a guide, [241] and Brown's battalion of reserve artillery, under Captain Dance, was ordered to accompany my division in addition to Jones'.

Having received my orders, and leaving all my wagons, except the regimental ordnance and medical wagons, at Cedarville on the Front Royal road, I diverged from that road at a little place called Ninevah and reached the Valley pike at Newtown. On moving along the latter road past Bartonsville towards Kernstown, I found Lieutenant Colonel Herbert of the Maryland line occupying a ridge between the two places with his battalion of infantry, a battery of artillery and a part of a battalion of Maryland cavalry, and engaged in occasional skirmishing with a body of the enemy's troops which had taken position in and near Kernstown.

This force of the enemy covered the road which I had to take to get to the west of Winchester, and it was therefore necessary to dislodge it to enable me to get into that road, and to drive it back upon the main body in order that my movement should be unobserved. Colonel Herbert could not inform me of the strength of the force in his immediate front, and I therefore halted my division and formed it in line across the pike, and proceeded to reconnoitre. The only force in sight when I arrived was a cavalry force, but I was informed that a strong infantry picket occupied the town, and the supposition was that a stronger force was in the neighborhood. Just beyond Kernstown and Pritchard's Hill and a ridge extending from it to our left, which was covered with trees, being the position occupied by Shields' troops when General Jackson attacked him on the 23rd of March, 1862. It was a position on which a considerable body of troops might be posted out of our view, and I soon discovered a battery of artillery on Pritchard's Hill which opened on us.

I then reconnoitred the ground carefully, and, after doing so, I moved Hays' brigade to the left, through a skirt of woods and a meadow, to a small road coming [242] in from Bartonsville towards the Cedar Creek pike, and then along that to a suitable position for advancing against the artillery on Pritchard's Hill; and ordered it to advance and get possession of the hill. Whilst advancing General Hays sent me word that the enemy had a considerable infantry force on the ridge to his left. I immediately moved Gordon's brigade over the same route Hays' brigade had taken, and ordered him to advance and clear the ridge on Hays' left, sending an order to the latter, who had advanced to Pritchard's Hill, compelling the artillery and the force supporting it to retire, to wait until Gordon had got up and cleared the ridge on his left. Gordon advanced handsomely, as directed, encountering a considerable force of infantry, which, in conjunction with a body of skirmishers sent out by Hays, he drove from behind a stone fence, and then swept over the fields beyond the ridge, inclining, as he moved, to the Valley pike, and forcing the enemy across the Cedar Creek pike and Abraham's Creek, which here crosses the Valley pike, to Bower's Hill on the north of the creek under Burton's Mill, where there were some reserves. Hays, in the meantime, advanced to the front, thus coming up on Gordon's left after the latter had reached the Valley pike. As soon as Hays and Gordon were both in motion, Hoke's and Smith's brigades were advanced to the front on each side of the Valley pike past Kernstown.

The enemy had strong position on Bower's Hill, held by infantry and artillery, and it was difficult of access, from the nature of Abraham's Creek, a boggy stream, running at its base, and the steep ascent to the hill on the other side. Gordon formed his brigade in line across the Valley pike. Hays was posted on his left along a ridge between Cedar Creek pike and Abraham's Creek, and Hoke's and Smith's brigades were brought up and the latter placed on Hays' left, with a view to further operations against the enemy, in order to drive him from Bower's Hill; Hoke's brigade, under Colonel [243] Avery of the 6th North Carolina being held in reserve. During these arrangements the enemy shelled my brigades heavily from his guns on Bower's Hill; and by the time they were made it became too dark to proceed farther. Colonel Avery was then ordered back to Kernstown, with his brigade, where it was placed in position to protect the ambulances, ordnance and medical wagons, and the artillery from any movement around our left, and Colonel Herbert was ordered to take position with his battalion of infantry on Gordon's right, which extended across the Valley pike. The troops then lay down on their arms and spent the night in a drenching rain.

General Ewell had moved with Johnson's division on the Front Royal road to the vicinity of Winchester, and, after I had arranged my troops, I endeavored to reach him by riding across the country, but the storm was so violent and the night so dark that I was compelled to desist and return.

During the night, the enemy withdrew his artillery and the main body of his infantry from Bower's Hill to the town, leaving only a body of skirmishers confronting us. Very early on the morning of the 14th, I ordered Hays and Gordon to advance each a regiment across the creek to drive the enemy's skirmishers from Bower's Hill, which was done after some sharp skirmishing. At the same time Smith's skirmishers were advanced across the creek on the left, and we got possession of the works on the hill. While these operations were going on at Bower's Hill, Major Goldsborough, with the skirmishers of the Maryland battalion, advanced on the right into the outskirts of Winchester, but fearing that the enemy, whose principal force had taken position in and near the main fort, might shell the town, I ordered him to retire.

General Ewell came up immediately after my skirmishers had advanced to Bower's Hill, and together we proceeded to reconnoitre from that point, from which we had a very distinct view of the works about Winchester. [244] We discovered that the hill on the northwest, which I had been ordered to occupy, had been fortified with works facing in the direction from which I would have to approach it, and that they were occupied. It became necessary then to take this hill, which was the key to the position, by assault, and having discovered a ridge back of it from which it might be attacked, I was ordered to leave a brigade and some artillery, where I then was, to amuse the enemy in front, while I moved the rest of my command around by the left to the point from which I could make the assault, taking care to conduct my movement with secrecy so that the enemy would not discover it. I accordingly left Gordon to occupy Bower's Hill, and I left with him besides his own brigade the Maryland battalion and battery, and another battery (Hupp's) of Brown's battalion, and with the other three brigades and the rest of the artillery I moved to the left, following the Cedar Creek pike for a mile or two and then passing through fields and the woods, which latter was here sufficiently open to admit of the passage of the artillery, and crossing the Romney road at Lupton's house, about three miles west of Winchester, and half a mile from a point at which I was informed by Mr. Lupton that the enemy had had a picket the night before, and probably had one then.

Leaving the 54th North Carolina Regiment of Hoke's brigade at the point where I crossed the Romney road, to watch my rear, I moved on along a small obscure road to the rear of the position from which I wished to assault the enemy's works, and I found it a very favorable one for the purpose. My route had been a very circuitous one, in order to check the enemy's vigilance, and I was conducted over it by a very intelligent and patriotic citizen, Mr. James C. Baker, who had a son in the service, and who had been made to feel the tyranny of Milroy. Mr. Baker thoroughly understood the object in view, and fully appreciated the advantage of the position I was seeking to reach; and it was mainly owing to the intelligent [245] and skilful manner in which he guided me that I was able to get there without attracting the slightest attention from the enemy.

Having conducted me to the desired point, he thought it prudent to retire, as he was of no further use as a guide, and his residence was in the immediate neighborhood of the town. On the route we had not seen a solitary man from the enemy's force, whether straggler, scout or picket. We had met two very ordinary looking men in the roads, and from prudential motives they were carried with us and left at Lupton's with injunctions to keep them.

After that the only person we saw was a young girl of about thirteen years of age whom we met on horseback with her young brother behind her. She was carrying before her a large bundle of clothes tied up in a sheet, and when she unexpectedly came upon us she was at first very much frightened, but soon discovering that we were Confederates, she pulled off her bonnet, waved it over her head and “hurrahed,” and then burst into tears. She told us that the enemy had been shelling the woods all around, firing occasionally into her father's house, and that she had been sent from home by her father and mother to get out of the way. She said that they had not been able to imagine what the shelling meant, as they did not know that any of “our soldiers,” as she called us, were anywhere in the neighborhood. It was not necessary to use any precaution as to her, and she was permitted to pass on, feeling much happier for the encounter.

To return from this digression:--the position which I reached proved to be a long ridge bordering, at the further end, on the Pughtown road and immediately confronting the fortified hill which I wished to carry, and within easy range of it for our pieces. Where it immediately confronted the enemy's work it was wooded, the trees having been partially cut down, and we found posted at different points notices to the following [246] effect: “General Milroy orders all of the timber east of this point to be cleared off.” Enough, however, remained to conceal our movements and enabled me to push forward a brigade under cover to within a short distance of the base of the hill on which was the enemy's work.

On the left of this woods, near the Pughtown road, was a cornfield on Mr. Brinly's land, facing towards the enemy's position and affording an excellent position for posting artillery in the edge of the woods bearing on the enemy. On the right of the woods, on the crest of the ridge, was an old orchard and the remains of an old house, called “Folk's old house,” with the slope in front cleared, which furnished another good position for artillery to bear on the other flank of the enemy. I reached this position about four o'clock P. M., and as the day was exceedingly hot, and the men had marched a circuit of eight or ten miles without meeting with water to drink, and were very much exhausted, I massed them in the woods in the rear of the position and gave them time to rest.

In the meantime I proceeded to reconnoitre the enemy's position and the ground over which I would have to move. The enemy had no pickets thrown out in the direction where I was, and did not seem to be keeping any lookout that way. The main work on the hill presented a bastion front towards us, and appeared as if it might be an enclosed work. It was on the south of the Pughtown road, and there was a line of works running across that road from the flank of the main one along a ridge, a small redoubt which, about 150 yards from the main work, was occupied by two guns supported by infantry. On the other flank were rifle pits on the slope of the hill. The men constituting the force occupying the works in our front did not seem to apprehend any danger in their immediate neighborhood, but were looking intently in the direction of Gordon's position, against which a gradual advance was [247] being made with skirmishers supported by a body of infantry and some pieces of artillery, which were firing in that direction.

Colonel Jones, who had been entrusted with the command of all the artillery, had been quietly getting it into position out of sight, so as to be pushed by hand rapidly to the front when the time arrived to open on the enemy. When the men had become sufficiently refreshed, Hays' brigade, which was selected to make the assault, was moved to the front near to the edge of the woods next the enemy's position, with directions to General Hays to keep his men under cover until the artillery opened, and then to advance to the assault across the field and up the hill to the enemy's works, as soon as he should discover that the force occupying them was demoralized by the artillery fire. The artillery under Jones had been posted, with twelve pieces on the right of the woods, near Folk's old house, and right on the left in rear of the cornfield the 57th North Carolina Regiment of Hoke's brigade was posted so as to protect the pieces on the left from an attack in the direction of the Pughtown road. The rest of Hoke's brigade, except the 54th North Carolina Regiment, still on picket on the Romney road, and the whole of Smith's, were placed in line in the woods about a quarter of a mile in rear of Hays', so as to be ready to support him.

About an hour before sunset, everything being ready, Jones caused his pieces to be run by hand to the front, and opened almost simultaneously with the whole twenty pieces upon the enemy, who thus received the first indication of our presence in that quarter. Of course he was taken by surprise and thrown into confusion. Our fire continued for about three-fourths of an hour very rapidly, being replied to, after the first consternation was over, by the enemy's guns, but in a very wild manner. Hays then advanced to the assault as directed, crossing the field in his front, ascending the hill-the slope of which was covered with abattis made by cutting [248] the brush wood growing on it,--and carrying the main work on the crest in handsome style, capturing some prisoners and six pieces of artillery, including those in the small redoubt, two of which were immediately turned on a body of the enemy's infantry seen approaching from the main fort to the assistance of these outer works.

The greater portion of the force occupying the captured works was enabled to make its escape towards the town, as it proved that this main work was open in the rear with wings thrown back from the two flanks of the bastion front presented to us. As soon as I saw Hays' men entering the works, I ordered Smith's brigade forward to their support, and directed Colonel Jones, whose guns had ceased firing when Hays advanced, to move the pieces on the left to the captured hill, those on the right being left under the protection of three regiments of Hoke's brigade. Riding on myself in advance of the supports ordered to Hays I discovered him in secure possession of the captured works, and ascertained that the attempt to advance against him had been abandoned, the force that commenced advancing having been repulsed by the fire from the captured guns which had been turned on it.

The force which had been advancing upon Gordon in the direction of Bower's Hill had retired precipitately, and the enemy's whole force seemed to be in great commotion. He had turned all his guns from the main fort, and from a square redoubt on a ridge north of it, upon the position now occupied by us, and as soon as Jones' guns arrived they replied to the enemy's, firing into both forts, which were completely commanded by the one in our possession, and upon the masses of infantry near them. The enemy's force, occupying the works, and around them, was quite large, and deep and rugged ravines interposed between us and the two occupied works, which rendered an assault upon them from that direction very difficult. [249]

By the time Smith's brigade and the artillery arrived, it was too late to accomplish anything further before night, and the capture of the other works by assault would evidently require the co-operation of the other troops around Winchester. The artillery fire upon the enemy's position and his masses of infantry was continued until a stop was put to it by the approach of darkness. Hays' brigade was formed in line on the crest of the ridge behind the captured works, with Smith's in rear. The 57th North Carolina, Colonel Godwin, was sent for, to occupy a portion of the works on the north of the Pughtown road, Colonel Avery being left with two regiments, to protect the artillery which had not been brought forward and guard against a surprise in our rear, the 54th North Carolina Regiment being still left on picket on the Romney road, and the front and flanks of our main position being watched by pickets thrown out. The men then lay down on their arms to rest from the fatigues of the day.

During my operations on the northwest, Johnson's division had demonstrated and skirmished heavily with the enemy on the east of the town, while Gordon demonstrated and skirmished with him from the direction of Bower's Hill, his attention being thus diverted entirely from the point of real attack, which enabled us to effect a surprise with artillery in open day upon a fortified position. It was very apparent that the enemy's position was now untenable, and that he must either submit to a surrender of his whole force or attempt to escape during the night.

I was of opinion that he would attempt an evacuation during the night, and I sent a courier to General Ewell with information of what I had accomplished, stating my opinion of the probability of the attempt to escape, but also informing him that I would renew the attack at light if the enemy was not gone. I had been given to understand that Johnson's division would be so moved as to cut off the enemy's retreat in the event I succeeded [250] in capturing the position commanding his works, and I took it for granted this would be done.

In order to prepare for any emergency that might exist, I sent my aide, Lieutenant Callaway, with orders to General Gordon, to move direct from Bower's Hill against the main force at light next morning, and I set my pioneer party at work during the night to turn the captured works for my artillery, so that it might have some protection from the enemy's guns, if it should be necessary to open fire in the morning. As soon as it was light enough to see it was discovered that the enemy had evacuated his works and the town of Winchester during the night, taking the Martinsburg road, and some artillery was heard on the road which proved to be Johnson's guns near Stephenson's depot firing on the retiring enemy, whose retreat had been cut off by his division.

The brigades with me, including the detached regiments of Hoke's, were immediately ordered forward to the Martinsburg road for the purpose of taking up the pursuit. Gordon had advanced at light, as ordered, and finding the main fort unoccupied had pulled down the large garrison flag still left floating over that work. The 13th Virginia Regiment under Colonel Terrill was immediately detailed by me as a guard for a large number of loaded wagons found standing outside of the town, and a considerable amount of stores left in the town by the enemy, and the rest of my command, as soon as Avery came up with Hoke's brigade, advanced in pursuit along the Martinsburg road, Gordon's brigade having preceded the others. On getting near Stephenson's depot, five or six miles from Winchester, I found that General Johnson's division had captured the greater part of Milroy's force, Milroy himself having made his escape with a small fraction of his command, principally mounted on the mules and horses taken from the wagons and artillery that had been left behind, and I therefore desisted from further pursuit. [251]

An enemy flying for safety cannot be overtaken by a force on foot moving with arms in their hands, and as we had but a very small battalion of cavalry (that belonging to Herbert's command, which did capture some prisoners), nothing was accomplished by the attempts made at further pursuit of Milroy, and he succeeded in getting in safety to Harper's Ferry.

During the operations against Winchester, Rodes had moved to Berryville, but the enemy fled from that place before him; he then moved on to Martinsburg in conjunction with Jenkins' brigade of cavalry, and there captured several hundred prisoners, several pieces of artillery, and some stores. My division bivouacked near Stephenson's depot, and I was ordered by General Ewell into Winchester to make arrangements for securing the stores and sending off the prisoners.

The enemy had abandoned the whole of his artillery, wagon trains, camp equipage, baggage, and stores, and twenty-five pieces of artillery with all their equipments complete, including those captured by Hays' brigade at the storming of the outer work, a very large number of horses and mules, and a quantity of ammunition, though in a damaged state, which fell into our hands. In the hurry of the movement after Milroy was found to have evacuated, I made such arrangements as I could to secure the abandoned property by detailing a regiment to guard it, but as usual on such occasions the contents of the wagons and the stores in town were considerably plundered by stragglers and followers of our trains, before they could be secured, and even after our quartermasters and commissaries got possession of them, there was great waste, and perhaps misappropriation of much of them, as always seemed unavoidable on such occasions.

On getting into town I endeavored to rectify the abuses as well as I could, but much was lost to the army of what was of real value, because there was no means of holding such agents to a strict responsibility. I sent off to Richmond, under, guard, by the way of Staunton, [252] 108 commissioned officers and 3,250 enlisted men as prisoners, much the larger portion of which had been captured by Johnson's division. Besides these there were left in Winchester several hundred sick and wounded prisoners.

My loss in the operations around Winchester was slight, consisting of 30 killed and 144 wounded, total 174, all but one killed and six wounded being from Hays' and Gordon's brigades.

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