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The last conflicts in the Shenandoah

The capitol in war time


War's wreckage in the Shenandoah valley Ruins of the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington, after Hunter's raid in 1864. The picture shows the blackened walls of the leading Virginia military institution after General Hunter's raid through the valley in the early summer of 1864. The “V. M. I.” meant much to the people of Virginia. It was in this well-known school that “StonewallJackson had served for ten years as a professor before the outbreak of the war. The cadets of the “V. M. I.” had fought like veterans in a body under Breckinridge in the battle with Sigel at New Market. Possibly it was because of the school's contributions to the Confederate cause that General Hunter ordered it to be burned. At any rate, he seems to have acted solely on his own responsibility in the matter. General Grant never approved of the unnecessary destruction of schools, churches, and private property. Retaliatory movements had an important part in the operations of General Early during the remainder of the summer. Such scenes undoubtedly spurred his footsore soldiers in their march.


A Confederate reprisal on Pennsylvania soil Chambersburg as McCausland left it. As a reprisal for Hunter's raid in the Shenandoah Valley, the Confederate General McCausland burned the town of Chambersburg, in the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania. One high-minded and courageous officer in McCausland's command--Colonel William E. Peters, of Virginia--refused to obey the order to apply the torch. A year before, on the march to Gettysburg, General Lee had issued in the very town of Chambersburg his famous “General order no. 73,” in which he exhorted his troops to abstain from “any unnecessary or wanton injury to private property,” and General Gordon is authority for the statement that the burning of Chambersburg by his subordinate was a great shock to General Lee's sensibilities. It seems inevitable that war should leave in its train such tottering walls and roofless homes.

Sheridan's operations were characterized not so much, as has been supposed, by any originality of method, as by a just appreciation of the proper manner of combining the two arms of infantry and cavalry. He constantly used his powerful body of horse, which under his disciplined hand attained a high degree of perfection, as an impenetrable mask behind which he screened the execution of maneuvers of infantry columns hurled with a mighty momentum on one of the enemy's flanks. --William Swinton, in Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac.

On July 12, 1864, in the streets of Washington, there could be distinctly heard the boom of cannon and the sharp firing of musketry. The excitement in the city was intense. The old specter “threaten Washington,” that for three years had been a standing menace to the Federal authorities and a “very present help” to the Confederates, now seemed to have come in the flesh. The hopes of the South and the fears of the North were apparently about to be realized.

The occasion of this demonstration before the very gates of the city was the result of General Lee's project to relieve the pressure on his own army, by an invasion of the border States and a threatening attitude toward the Union capital. The plan had worked well before, and Lee believed it again would be effective. Grant was pushing him hard in front of Petersburg. Accordingly, Lee despatched the daring soldier, General Jubal A. Early, to carry the war again to the northward. He was to go by the beautiful and fertile Shenandoah valley, that highway of the Confederates along which the legions of the South had marched and countermarched until it had become almost a beaten track.

With that celerity of movement characteristic of Confederate [143]

The capitol at Washington in 1863 When the Capitol at Washington was threatened by the Confederate armies, it was still an unfinished structure, betraying its incompleteness to every beholder. This picture shows the derrick on the dome. It is a view of the east front of the building and was taken on July 11, 1863. Washington society had not been wholly free from occasional “war scares” since the withdrawal of most of the troops whose duty it had been to guard the city. Early's approach in July, 1864, found the Nation's capital entirely unprotected. Naturally there was a flutter throughout the peaceable groups of non-combatants that made up the population of Washington at that time, as well as in official circles. There were less than seventy thousand people living in the city in 1864, a large proportion of whom were in some way connected with the Government.

[144] marches, General Early prepared to sweep from the valley the fragmentary bodies of Union troops there collected. Less than a week after receiving his commission, he encountered the forces of General Hunter at Lynchburg, Virginia. There was some skirmishing, but Hunter, who did not have enough ammunition to sustain a real battle, returned westward. For three days Early's barefoot, half-clad soldiers followed the retreating columns of Hunter until the latter had safely filed his men through the passes of the Blue Ridge Mountains and into the Kanawha valley.

The Shenandoah valley was now uncovered, but not as Lee had expected. Believing that if Hunter were defeated he would retreat down the Valley, Early had been instructed to follow him into Maryland. But the Federal general had gone in the other direction, and southwestern Virginia had thereby been placed in great danger. The question was, how to draw Hunter from his new position. To pursue him further would have been a difficult task for Early. So it was decided to carry out the plans for a march into Maryland, in the hope of luring Hunter from his lair. So Early turned to the north with his seventeen thousand troops, and marching under the steady glare of a July sun, two weeks later, his approach was the signal for the Union troops at Martinsburg, under Sigel, to fall back across the Potomac to Maryland Heights. The road to Washington was thus blocked at Harper's Ferry, where Early intended to cross. He therefore was compelled to get over at Shepherdstown, while Breckenridge engaged Sigel at Harper's Ferry. Once across the river, Early's scouting parties quickly destroyed miles of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, cut the embankments and locks of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, levied contributions upon the citizens of Hagerstown and Frederick, and pushed their tattered ranks of gray in the direction of the Federal capital. On the 9th of July, the advance lines of the Confederate force came to the banks of the Monocacy, where they [145]

Protecting locomotives from the Confederate raider The United States railroad photographer, Captain A. J. Russell, labeled this picture of 1864: “Engines stored in Washington to prevent their falling into Rebel hands in case of a raid on Alexandria.” Here they are, almost under the shadow of the Capitol dome (which had just been completed). This was one of the precautions taken by the authorities at Washington, of which the general public knew little or nothing at the time. These photographs are only now revealing official secrets recorded fifty years ago.

One of Washington's defenders Heavy artillery like this was of comparatively little use in repulsing such an attack as Early might be expected to make. Not only were these guns hard to move to points of danger, but in the summer of 1864 there were no trained artillerists to man them. Big as they were, they gave Early no occasion for alarm.

[146] found General Lew Wallace posted, with eight thousand men, half of Early's numbers, on the eastern side of that stream, to contest the approach of the Southern troops.

The battle was brief but bloody; the Confederates, crossing the stream and climbing its slippery banks, hurled their lines of gray against the compact ranks of blue. The attack was impetuous; the repulse was stubborn. A wail of musketry rent the air and the Northern soldiers fell back to their second position. Between the opposing forces was a narrow ravine through which flowed a small brook. Across this stream the tide of battle rose and fell. Its limpid current was soon crimsoned by the blood of the dead and wounded. Wallace's columns, as did those of Early, bled, but they stood. The result of the battle for a time hung in the balance. Then the Federal lines began to crumble. The retreat began, some of the troops in order but the greater portion in confusion, and the victorious Confederates found again an open way to Washington.

Now within half a dozen miles of the city, with the dome of the Capitol in full view, the Southern general pushed his lines so close to Fort Stevens that he was ready to train his forty pieces of artillery upon its walls.

General Augur, in command of the capital's defenses, hastily collected what strength in men and guns he could. Heavy artillery, militia, sailors from the navy yard, convalescents, Government employees of all kinds were rushed to the forts around the city. General Wright, with two divisions of the Sixth Corps, arrived from the Camp at Petersburg, and Emory's division of the Nineteenth Corps came just in time from New Orleans. This was on July 11th, the very day on which Early appeared in front of Fort Stevens. The Confederate had determined to make an assault, but the knowledge of the arrival of Wright and Emory caused him to change his mind. He realized that, if unsuccessful, his whole force would be lost, and he concluded to return. Nevertheless, he spent the 12th of July in threatening the city. In the middle of [147]

Bridges into Washington.

The sentry and vedette guarding the approach to Washington suggest one reason why Early did not make his approach to the capital from the Virginia side of the Potomac. A chain of more than twenty forts protected the roads to Long Bridge (shown below), and there was no way of marching troops into the city from the south, excepting over such exposed passages. Most of the troops left for the defense of the city were on the Virginia side. Therefore Early wisely picked out the northern outposts as the more vulnerable. Long Bridge was closely guarded at all times, like Chain Bridge and the other approaches, and at night the planks of its floor were removed.

Entrance to Washington from the South--the famous “chain bridge”

Long bridge and the capitol across the broad Potomac

[148] the afternoon General Wright sent out General Wheaton with Bidwell's brigade of Getty's division, and Early's pickets and skirmishers were driven back a mile.

This small engagement had many distinguished spectators. Pond in “The Shenandoah Valley” thus describes the scene: “On the parapet of Fort Stevens stood the tall form of Abraham Lincoln by the side of General Wright, who in vain warned the eager President that his position was swept by the bullets of sharpshooters, until an officer was shot down within three feet of him, when he reluctantly stepped below. Sheltered from the line of fire, Cabinet officers and a group of citizens and ladies, breathless with excitement, watched the fortunes of the fight.”

Under cover of night the Confederates began to retrace their steps and made their way to the Shenandoah, with General Wright in pursuit. As the Confederate army was crossing that stream, at Snicker's Ferry, on the 18th, the pursuing Federals came upon them. Early turned, repulsed them, and continued on his way to Winchester, where General Averell, from Hunter's forces, now at Harper's Ferry, attacked them with his cavalry and took several hundred prisoners, two days later. The Union troops under Wright returned to the defenses of Washington.

The Confederate army now became a shuttlecock in the game of war, marching and countermarching up and down, in and across, the valley of the Shenandoah, in military maneuvers, with scarcely a day of rest. This fruitful valley was to be the granary for its supplies. From it, as a base of operations, Early would make his frequent forays — a constant menace to the peace of the authorities at Washington.

General Crook was sent up the Valley after him, but at Kernstown, near Winchester, on July 24th, he met a disastrous defeat and made his way to the north side of the Potomac. Early, now in undisputed possession of the Valley, followed him to Martinsburg and sent his cavalry across the [149]

General Jubal A. Early, the Confederate raider who threatened Washington “My bad old man,” as General Lee playfully called him, was forty-eight years of age when he made the brilliant Valley Campaign of the summer of 1864, which was halted only by the superior forces of Sheridan. A West Point graduate and a veteran of the Mexican War, Early became, after the death of Jackson, one of Lee's most efficient subordinates. He was alert, aggressive, resourceful. His very eccentricities, perhaps, made him all the more successful as a commander of troops in the field. “Old Jube's” caustic wit and austere ways made him a terror to stragglers, and who shall say that his fluent, forcible profanity did not endear him to men who were accustomed to like roughness of speech?

[150] border river. With a bold movement General McCausland swept into Chambersburg and demanded a ransom of war. Compliance was out of the question and the torch was applied to the town, which in a short time was reduced to ashes. General Averell dashed in pursuit of McCausland and forced him to recross the Potomac.

The Federal authorities were looking for a “man of the hour” --one whom they might pit against the able and strategic Early. Such a one was found in General Philip Henry Sheridan, whom some have called the “Marshal Ney of America.” He was selected by General Grant, and his instructions were to drive the Confederates out of the Valley and to make it untenable for any future military operations.

It was a magnificent setting for military genius. The men, the armies, and the beautiful valley combined to make it one of the great strategic campaigns of the war. The Union forces comprising the Army of the Shenandoah, as it was afterward called, amounted to about twenty-seven thousand men; the Confederates, to about twenty thousand. There was over a month of preliminary skirmishing and fighting. Cavalry raiders from both armies were darting hither and thither. Sheridan pushed up the Valley and fell back again toward the Potomac. Early followed him, only to retreat in turn toward Winchester, Sheridan now being pursuer. Both generals were watching an opportunity to strike. Both seemed anxious for battle, but both were sparring for the time and place to deliver an effective blow.

The middle of September found the Confederate forces centered about Winchester, and the Union army was ten miles distant, with the Opequon between them. At two o'clock on the morning of September 19th, the Union Camp was in motion, preparing for marching orders. At three o'clock the forward movement was begun, and by daylight the Federal advance had driven in the Confederate pickets. Emptying into the Opequon from the west are two converging streams, [151]

A house near Washington struck by one of Early's shells The arrival of Grant's trained veterans in July, 1864, restored security to the capital city after a week of fright. The fact that shells had been thrown into the outskirts of the city gave the inhabitants for the first time a realizing sense of immediate danger. This scene is the neighborhood of Fort Stevens, on the Seventh Street road, not far from the Soldiers' Home, where President Lincoln was spending the summer. The campaign for his reelection had begun and the outlook for his success and that of his party seemed at this moment as dubious as that for the conclusion of the war. Grant had weakened his lines about Richmond in order to protect Washington, while Lee had been able to detach Early's Corps for the brilliant Valley Campaign, which saved his Shenandoah supplies.

[152] forming a triangle with the Winchester and Martinsburg pike as a base.

The town of Winchester is situated on this road, and was therefore at the bottom of the triangle. Before the town, the Confederate army stretched its lines between the two streams. The Union army would have to advance from the apex of the triangle, through a narrow ravine, shut in by thickly wooded hills and gradually emerging into an undulating valley. At the end of the gorge was a Confederate outwork, guarding the approach to Winchester. Both generals had the same plan of battle in mind. Sheridan would strike the Confederate center and right. Early was willing he should do this, for he planned to strike the Union right, double it back, get between Sheridan's army and the gorge, and thus cut off its retreat.

It took time for the Union troops to pass through the ravine, and it was late in the forenoon before the line of battle was formed. The attack and defense were alike obstinate. Upon the Sixth Corps and Grover's division of the Nineteenth Corps fell the brunt of the battle, since they were to hold the center while the Army of West Virginia, under General Crook, would sweep around them and turn the position of the opposing forces. The Confederate General Ramseur, with his troops, drove back the Federal center, held his ground for two hours, while the opposing lines were swept by musketry and artillery from the front, and enfiladed by artillery. Many Federal prisoners were taken.

By this time, Russell's division of the Sixth Corps emerged from the ravine. Forming in two lines, it marched quickly to the front. About the same time the Confederates were also being reenforced. General Rodes plunged into the fight, making a gallant attack and losing his life. General Gordon, with his columns of gray, swept across the summit of the hills and through the murky clouds of smoke saw the steady advance of the lines of blue. One of Russell's brigades struck the Confederate flank, and the Federal line was reestablished. As the [153]

The first Connecticut heavy artillery, assigned to the defense of Washington When Early approached Washington from the north, in 1864, the crack artillery companies, like that represented in the photograph (the First Connecticut Heavy), had all left the city to its fate. In the spring of 1862, as this picture was taken, just before the beginning of McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, Colonel Tyler was in the act of examining a despatch at the sally-port of Fort Richardson, Arlington Heights, Virginia. During the first two years of the war the Government devoted a great part of its energies to the development of a strong line of fortifications around the capital city, on both sides of the Potomac. Washington's nearness to the Confederate lines made such precautions necessary. The political significance of a possible capture of the national capital by the Confederates was fully appreciated. The retaining of large bodies of troops for the protection of Washington was a fixed policy during 1861 and 1862, as the first commander of the Army of the Potomac knew to his sorrow. As the war wore on, the increasing need of troops for the investment of Richmond, coupled with the apparent security of the capital, led to a reversal of that policy. Washington was practically abandoned, in a military sense, save for the retention of a few regiments of infantry, including a very small proportion of men who had seen actual fighting, and the forts were garrisoned chiefly by raw recruits.

[154] division moved forward to do this General Russell fell, pierced through the heart by a piece of shell.

The Fifth Maine battery, galloping into the field, unlimbered and with an enfilading storm of canister aided in turning the tide. Piece by piece the shattered Union line was picked up and reunited. Early sent the last of his reserves into the conflict to turn the Union right. Now ensued the fiercest fighting of the day. Regiment after regiment advanced to the wood only to be hurled back again. Here it was that the One hundred and fourteenth New York left its dreadful toll of men. Its position after the battle could be told by the long, straight line of one hundred and eighty-five of its dead and wounded.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon; the hour of Early's repulse had struck. To the right of the Union lines could be heard a mighty yell. The Confederates seemed to redouble their fire. The shivering lightning bolts shot through the air and the volleys of musketry increased in intensity. Then, across the shell-plowed field, came the reserves under General Crook. Breasting the Confederate torrent of lead, which cut down nine hundred of the reserves while crossing the open space, they rushed toward the embattled lines of the South.

At the same moment, coming out of the woods in the rear of the Federals, were seen the men of the Nineteenth Corps under General Emory, who had for three hours been lying in the grass awaiting their opportunity. The Confederate bullets had been falling thick in their midst with fatal certainty. They were eager for action. Rushing into the contest like madmen, they stopped at nothing. From two sides of the wood the men of Emory and Crook charged simultaneously. The Union line overlapped the Confederate at every point and doubled around the unprotected flanks. The day for the Southerners was irretrievably lost. They fell back toward Winchester in confusion. As they did so, a great uproar was heard on the pike road. It was the Federal cavalry under [155]

Where Lincoln was under fire This is Fort Stevens (originally known as Fort Massachusetts), north of Washington, near the Soldiers' Home, where President Lincoln had his summer residence. It was to this outpost that Early's troops advanced on July 12, 1864. In the fighting of that day Lincoln himself stood on the ramparts, and a surgeon who stood by his side was wounded. These works were feebly garrisoned, and General Gordon declared in his memoirs that when the Confederate troops reached Fort Stevens they found it untenanted. This photograph was taken after the occupation of the Fort by Company F of the Third Massachusetts Artillery.


General Torbert sweeping up the road, driving the Confederate troopers before them. The surprised mass was pressed into its own lines. The infantry was charged and many prisoners and battle-flags captured.

The sun was now sinking upon the horizon, and on the ascending slopes in the direction of the town could be seen the long, dark lines of men following at the heels of the routed army. Along the crest of the embattled summit galloped a force of cavalrymen, which, falling upon the disorganized regiments of Early, aided, in the language of Sheridan, “to send them whirling through Winchester.” The Union pursuit continued until the twilight had come and the shadows of night screened the scattered forces of Early from the pursuing cavalrymen. The battle of Winchester, or the Opequon, had been a bloody one--a loss of five thousand on the Federal side, and about four thousand on the Confederate.

By daylight of the following morning the victorious army was again in pursuit. On the afternoon of that day, it caught up with the Confederates, who now turned at bay at Fisher's Hill to resist the further approach of their pursuers. The position selected by General Early was a strong one, and his antagonist at once recognized it as such. The valley of the Shenandoah at this point is about four miles wide, lying between Fisher's Hill and Little North Mountain. General Early's line extended across the entire valley, and he had greatly increased his already naturally strong position. His army seemed safe from attack. From the summit of Three Top Mountain, his Signal Corps informed him of every movement of the Union army in the valley below. General Sheridan's actions indicated a purpose to assault the center of the Confederate line. For two days he continued massing his regiments in that direction, at times even skirmishing for position. General Wright pushed his men to within seven hundred yards of the Southern battle-line. While this was going on in full view of the Confederate general and his army, another movement was being executed [157]

War department officials and clerks in war-time Non-combatants of this type formed the main reliance of the authorities against Early's veterans in July, 1864. The forces available, prior to the arrival of the Sixth and Nineteenth Corps from Grant's army, are summarized by General Barnard thus: “The effective forces were 1,819 infantry, 1,834 artillery, and 63 cavalry north of the Potomac, and 4,064 infantry, 1,772 artillery, and 51 cavalry south thereof. There were besides, in Washington and Alexandria, about 3,900 effectives and about 4,400 (six regiments) of Veteran Reserves. The foregoing constitute a total of about 20,400 men. Of that number, however, but 9,600, mostly perfectly raw troops, constituted the garrison of the defenses. Of the other troops, a considerable portion were unavailable, and the whole would form but an inefficient force for service on the lines.”

[158] which even the vigilant signal officers on Three Top Mountain had not observed.

On the night of September 20th, the troops of General Crook were moved into the timber on the north bank of Cedar Creek. All during the next day, they lay concealed. That night they crossed the stream and the next morning were again hidden by the woods and ravines. At five o'clock on the morning of the 22d, Crook's men were nearly opposite the Confederate center. Marching his men in perfect silence, by one o'clock he had arrived at the left and front of the unsuspecting Early. By four o'clock he had reached the east face of Little North Mountain, to the left and rear of the Confederates. While the movement was being made, the main body of the Federal army was engaging the attention of the Confederates in front. Just before sundown, Crook's men plunged down the mountain side, from out of the timbered cover. The Confederates were quick to see that they had been trapped. They had been caught in a pocket and there was nothing for them to do except to retreat or surrender. They preferred the former, which was, according to General Gordon, “first stubborn and slow, then rapid, then — a rout.”

After the battle of Fisher's Hill the pursuit still continued. The Confederate regiments re-formed, and at times would stop and contest the approach of the advancing cavalrymen. By the time the Union infantry would reach the place, the retreating army would have vanished. Torbert had been sent down Luray Valley in pursuit of the Confederate cavalry, with the hope of scattering it and seizing New Market in time to cut off the Confederate retreat from Fisher's Hill. But at Milford, in a narrow gorge, General Wickham held Torbert and prevented the fulfilment of his plan; and General Early's whole force was able to escape. Day after day this continued until Early had taken refuge in the Blue Ridge in front of Brown's Gap. Here he received reenforcements. Sheridan in the mean time had gone into Camp at Harrisonburg, and for [159]

A Maryland village on the line of Early's retreat This is a winter scene in Poolesville, a typical village in this part of Maryland, overrun for the last time by Confederate armies in the summer of 1864. Early passed through the place on his second day's march from Washington, closely pursued by General Wright's force of Federals. After Early had made good his escape and threatened to levy heavy toll on the defenseless communities of Maryland and Pennsylvania if he were not vigorously opposed, Grant selected Sheridan for the task of clearing the Valley of Confederates and finally destroying its value as a source of supplies for Lee's army. Sheridan waited until Early had been seriously weakened before he assaulted him; but when he struck, the blows were delivered with tremendous energy. The battles of the Opequon, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek (the latter made memorable by Read's famous poem, “Sheridan's ride” ), drove Early back to New Market and wholly broke the Confederate power in that part of Virginia. This photograph (loaned by Mr. George A. Brackett, of Annapolis), was taken when the Eighth Minnesota held it, in the winter of 1862.

[160] some time the two armies lay watching each other. The Federals were having difficulty in holding their lines of supply.

With the Valley practically given up by Early, Sheridan was anxious to stop here. He wrote to Grant, “I think the best policy will be to let the burning of the crops in the Valley be the end of the campaign, and let some of this army go somewhere else.” He had the Petersburg line in mind. Grant's consent to this plan reached him on October 5th, and the following day he started on his return march down the Shenandoah. His cavalry extended across the entire valley. With the unsparing severity of war, his men began to make a barren waste of the region. The October sky was overcast with clouds of smoke and sheets of flame from the burning barns and mills.

As the army of Sheridan proceeded down the Valley, the undaunted cavaliers of Early came in pursuit. His horsemen kept close to the rear of the Union columns. On the morning of October 9th, the cavalry leader, Rosser, who had succeeded Wickham, found himself confronted by General Custer's division, at Tom's Brook. At the same time the Federal general, Wesley Merritt, fell upon the cavalry of Lomax and Johnson on an adjacent road. The two Union forces were soon united and a mounted battle ensued. The fight continued for two hours. There were charges and countercharges. The ground being level, the maneuvering of the squadrons was easy. The clink of the sabers rang out in the morning air. Both sides fought with tenacity. The Confederate center held together, but its flanks gave way. The Federals charged along the whole front, with a momentum that forced the Southern cavalrymen to flee from the field. They left in the hands of the Federal troopers over three hundred prisoners, all their artillery, except one piece, and nearly every wagon the Confederate cavalry had with them.

The Northern army continued its retrograde movement, and on the 10th crossed to the north side of Cedar Creek. Early's army in the mean time had taken a position at the [161]

One of Chambersburg's quiet streets The invasion of Pennsylvania had only a minor part in the plan of Early's campaign, which in a month's time had accomplished two important results: It had restored to Lee free access to the rich supplies which the Shenandoah Valley could furnish, and it had caused Grant to withdraw from his operations at Petersburg a strong force for the protection of Washington. The cavalry raid in Pennsylvania was planned as retaliation for Hunter's operations in the Shenandoah. Early succeeded in holding the “Valley of Virginia” (Shenandoah) until the concentration of Sheridan's forces compelled his retirement. Then the “Valley” finally became eliminated as an avenue of danger to Washington.

[162] wooded base of Fisher's Hill, four miles away. The Sixth Corps started for Washington, but the news of Early at Fisher's Hill led to its recall. The Union forces occupied ground that was considered practically unassailable, especially on the left, where the deep gorge of the Shenandoah, along whose front rose the bold Massanutten Mountain, gave it natural protection.

The movements of the Confederate army were screened by the wooded ravines in front of Fisher's Hill, while, from the summit of the neighboring Three Top Mountain, its officers could view, as in a panorama, the entire Union camp. Seemingly secure, the corps of Crook on the left of the Union line was not well protected. The keen-eyed Gordon saw the weak point in the Union position. Ingenious plans to break it down were quickly made.

Meanwhile, Sheridan was summoned to Washington to consult with Secretary Stanton. He did not believe that Early proposed an immediate attack, and started on the 15th, escorted by the cavalry, and leaving General Wright in command. At Front Royal the next day word came from Wright enclosing a message taken for the Confederate signal-flag on Three Top Mountain. It was from Longstreet, advising Early that he would join him and crush Sheridan. The latter sent the cavalry back to Wright, and continued on to Washington, whence he returned at once by special train, reaching Winchester on the evening of the 18th.

Just after dark on October 18th, a part of Early's army under the command of General John B. Gordon, with noiseless steps, moved out from their camp, through the misty, autumn night. The men had been stripped of their canteens, in fear that the striking of them against some object might reveal their movements. Orders were given in low whispers. Their path followed along the base of the mountain — a dim and narrow trail, upon which but one man might pass at a time. For seven miles this sinuous line made its way through the dark [163]

Chambersburg — a landmark in Early's invasion of the North After withdrawing from Washington, in July, 1864, Early sent a cavalry expedition under General McCausland to invade Pennsylvania. Chambersburg, in the Cumberland Valley, which was burned by McCausland's orders, marked the limit of the northward advance in this remarkable campaign. Early's force of ten thousand men had been detached from Lee's army of defense around Richmond on June 12th, had driven Hunter out of the Shenandoah, and (after marching the length of that valley) had crossed the Potomac, forced back Lew Wallace with his six thousand Federals at the Monocacy, and camped within sight of the capitol's dome at Washington. Much of this marching had been at the rate of twenty miles a day, and at one time half of the command had been shoeless. The dash and endurance of the troops shone as bright as the leadership displayed by Early.

[164] gorge, crossing the Shenandoah, and at times passing within four hundred yards of the Union pickets.

It arrived at the appointed place, opposite Crook's Camp on the Federal right, an hour before the attack was to be made. In the shivering air of the early morning, the men crouched on the river bank, waiting for the coming of the order to move forward. At last, at five o'clock, it came. They plunged into the frosty water of the river, emerged on the other side, marched in “double quick,” and were soon sounding a reveille to the sleeping troops of Sheridan. The minie balls whizzed and sang through the tents. In the gray mists of the dawn the legions of the South looked like phantom warriors, as they poured through the unmanned gaps. The Northerners sprang to arms. There was a bloody struggle in the trenches. Their eyes saw the flames from the Southern muskets; the men felt the breath of the hot muzzles in their faces, while the Confederate bayonets were at their breasts. There was a brief struggle, then panic and disorganization. Only a quarter of an hour of this yelling and struggling, and two-thirds of the Union army broke like a mill-dam and poured across the fields, leaving their accouterments of war and the stiffening bodies of their comrades. Rosser, with the cavalry, attacked Custer and assisted Gordon.

Meanwhile, during these same early morning hours, General Early had himself advanced to Cedar Creek by a more direct route. At half-past 3 o'clock his men had come in sight of the Union camp-fires. They waited under cover for the approach of day. At the first blush of dawn and before the charge of Gordon, Early hurled his men across the stream, swept over the breastworks, captured the batteries and turned them upon the unsuspecting Northerners. The Federal generals tried to stem the impending disaster. From the east of the battlefield the solid lines of Gordon were now driving the fugitives of Crook's corps by the mere force of momentum. Aides were darting hither and thither, trying to reassemble the [165]

General Philip H. Sheridan in the Shenandoah campaign Two generations of schoolboys in the Northern States have learned the lines beginning, “Up from the south at break of day.” This picture represents Sheridan in 1864, wearing the same hat that he waved to rally his soldiers on that famous ride from “Winchester, twenty miles away.” As he reined up his panting horse on the turnpike at Cedar Creek, he received salutes from two future Presidents of the United States. The position on the left of the road was held by Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, who had succeeded, after the rout of the Eighth Corps in the darkness of the early morning, in rallying some fighting groups of his own brigade; while on the right stood Major William McKinley, gallantly commanding the remnant of his fighting regiment — the Twenty-sixth Ohio.

[166] crumbling lines. The Nineteenth Corps, under Emory, tried to hold its ground; for a time it fought alone, but after a desperate effort to hold its own, it, too, melted away under the scorching fire. The fields to the rear of the army were covered with wagons, ambulances, stragglers, and fleeing soldiers.

The Sixth Corps now came to the rescue. As it slowly fell to the rear it would, at times, turn to fight. At last it found a place where it again stood at bay. The men hastily gathered rails and constructed rude field-works. At the same time the Confederates paused in their advance. The rattle of musketry ceased. There was scarcely any firing except for the occasional roar of a long-range artillery gun. The Southerners seemed willing to rest on their well-earned laurels of the morning. In the language of the successful commander, it was “glory enough for one day.”

But the brilliant morning victory was about to be changed to a singular afternoon defeat. During the morning's fight, when the Union troops were being rapidly overwhelmed with panic, Rienzi, the beautiful jet-black war-charger, was bearing his master, the commander of the Federal army, to the field of disaster. Along the broad valley highway that leads from Winchester, General Sheridan had galloped to where his embattled lines had been reduced to a flying mob. While riding leisurely away from Winchester about nine o'clock he had heard unmistakable thunder-peals of artillery. Realizing that a battle was on in the front, he hastened forward, soon to be met, as he crossed Mill Creek, by the trains and men of his routed army, coming to the rear with appalling rapidity.

News from the field told him of the crushing defeat of his hitherto invincible regiments. The road was blocked by the retreating crowds as they pressed toward the rear. The commander was forced to take to the fields, and as his steed, flecked with foam, bore him onward, the disheartened refugees greeted him with cheers. Taking off his hat as he rode, he cried, “We will go back and recover our camps.” The words [167]

Sheridan's cavalry in the Shenandoah--General Torbert and his staff Sheridan appointed General Alfred T. A. Torbert Chief of Cavalry of the Army of the Shenandoah in August, 1864. General Torbert had been a regular army officer and was now a major-general of volunteers. This photograph was taken in 1864, on the vinecovered veranda of a Virginia mansion occupied as headquarters. In all the operations in the Valley during September and October, Sheridan made such good use of the cavalry that this branch of the service leaped into prominence, and received a goodly share of the praise for eliminating the Valley of Virginia from the field of war.

[168] seemed to inspire the demoralized soldiers. Stragglers fell into line behind him; men turned to follow their magnetic leader back to the fight.

Vaulting his horse over the low barricade of rails, he dashed to the crest of the field. There was a flutter along the battle-line. The men from behind their protecting wall broke into thunderous cheers. From the rear of the soldiers there suddenly arose, as from the earth, a line of the regimental flags, which waved recognition to their leader. Color-bearers reassembled. The straggling lines re-formed. Early made another assault after one o'clock, but was easily repulsed.

It was nearly four o'clock when the order for the Federal advance was given. General Sheridan, hat in hand, rode in front of his infantry line that his men might see him. The Confederate forces now occupied a series of wooded crests. From out of the shadow of one of these timbered coverts, a column of gray was emerging. The Union lines stood waiting for the impending crash. It came in a devouring succession of volleys that reverberated into a deep and sullen roar. The Union infantry rose as one man and passed in among the trees. Not a shot was heard. Then, suddenly, there came a screaming, humming rush of shell, a roar of musketry mingling with the yells of a successful charge. Again the firing ceased, except for occasional outbursts. The Confederates had taken a new position and reopened with a galling fire. General Sheridan dashed along the front of his lines in personal charge of the attack. Again his men moved toward the lines of Early's fast thinning ranks. It was the final charge. The Union cavalry swept in behind the fleeing troops of Early and sent, again, his veteran army “whirling up the Valley.”

The battle of Cedar Creek was ended; the tumult died away. The Federal loss had been about fifty-seven hundred; the Confederate over three thousand. Fourteen hundred Union prisoners were sent to Richmond. Never again would the gaunt specter of war hover over Washington.

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