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[439] Captain Hotchkiss returned to my headquarters after dark, and reported the result of his and General Gordon's examination, and he gave me a sketch of the enemy's position and camps. He informed me that the enemy's left flank, which rested near Cedar Creek, a short distance above its mouth, was lightly picketed, and that there was but a small cavalry picket on the North Fork of the Shenandoah, below the mouth of the creek, and he stated that, from information he had received, he thought it was practicable to move a column of infantry between the base of the mountain and the river, to a ford below the mouth of the creek. He also informed me that the main body of the enemy's cavalry was on his right flank on the Back Road to Winchester.

The sketch made by Captain Hotchkiss, which proved to be correct, designated the roads in the enemy's rear, and the house of a Mr. Cooley at a favorable point for forming an attacking column, after it crossed the river, in order to move against the enemy and strike him on the Valley Pike in rear of his works. Upon this information, I determined to attack the enemy by moving over the ground designated by Captain Hotchkiss, if it should prove practicable to move a column between the base of the mountain and the river. Next morning, General Gordon confirmed the report of Captain Hotchkiss, expressing confidence that the attack could be sucessfully made on the enemy's left and rear, and General Pegram reported that a movement on the enemy's right flank would be attended with great difficulty, as the banks of Cedar Creek on that flank were high and precipitous and were well guarded. General Gordon and Captain Hotchkiss were then sent to examine and ascertain the practicability of the route at the base of the mountain, and General Pegram, at his request, was permitted to go to the signal station on the mountain to examine the enemy's position himself from that point. Directions were given, in the meantime, for everything to be in readiness to move that night (the 18th) and the division commanders were requested

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