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Chapter 49: close of the Valley campaign.

After the return from Cedar Creek, the main body of my troops remained in their camp for the rest of the month without disturbance, but on the 26th of October the enemy's cavalry attacked Lomax at Millford and after sharp fighting was repulsed. Having heard that Sheridan was preparing to send troops to Grant, and that the Manassas Gap Railroad was being repaired, I moved down the Valley again on the 10th of November. I had received no reinforcements except about 250 cavalry under General Cosby from Breckenridge's department in Southwestern Virginia, some returned convalescents and several hundred conscripts who had been on details which had been revoked.

On the 11th, on our approach to Cedar Creek, it was found that the enemy had fallen back towards Winchester, after having fortified and occupied a position on Hupp's Hill subsequently to the battle of Cedar Creek. Colonel Payne drove a small body of cavalry through Middletown to Newtown and I followed him and took position south of the latter place and in view of it. Sheridan's main force was found posted north of Newtown in a position which he was engaged in fortifying.

I remained in front of him during the 11th and 12th, Rosser being on my left flank on the Back Road, and Lomax on my right between the Valley Pike and the Front Royal road, with one brigade (McCausland's) at Cedarville on the latter road. Rosser had some skirmishing with the enemy's cavalry on the 11th, and on the 12th two divisions advanced against him, and after a heavy fight the enemy was repulsed and some prisoners captured. Colonel Payne, who was operating immediately in my front, likewise had a sharp engagement with a portion of the enemy's cavalry and defended it. When [454] Rosser was heavily engaged, Lomax was ordered to his assistance, with a part of his command, and during his absence, late in the afternoon, Powell's division of the enemy's cavalry attacked McCausland at Cedarville, and after a severe fight drove him back across the river with the loss of two pieces of artillery.

At the time of this affair, a blustering wind was blowing and the firing could not be heard; and nothing was known of McCausland's misfortune until after we commenced retiring that night. In these cavalry fights, three valuable officers were killed, namely: Lieutenant Colonel Marshall of Rosser's brigade, Colonel Radford of McCausland's brigade, and Captain Harvie of McCausland's staff.

Discovering that the enemy continued to fortify his position, and showed no disposition to come out of his lines with his infantry, and not being willing to attack him in his entrenchments, after the reverses I had met with, I determined to retire, as we were beyond the reach of supplies. After dark on the 12th, we moved to Fisher's Hill, and next day returned in the direction of New Market, where we arrived on the 14th, no effort at pursuit being made. I discovered by this movement that no troops had been sent to Grant, and that the project of repairing the Manassas Gap Railroad had been abandoned.

Shortly after our return to New Market, Kershaw's division was returned to General Lee, and Cosby's cavalry to Breckenridge. On the 22nd of November two divisions of the enemy's cavalry advanced to Mount Jackson, after having driven in our cavalry pickets. A part of it crossed over the river into Meem's Bottom at the foot of Rude's Hill, but was driven back by a portion of my infantry, and the whole retreated, being pursued by Wickham's brigade, under Colonel Munford, to Woodstock.

On the 27th, Rosser crossed Great North Mountain into Hardy County, with his own and Payne's brigade, [455] and, about the 29th, surprised and captured the fortified post at New Creek, on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. At this place, two regiments of cavalry with their arms and colors were captured and eight pieces of artillery and a very large amount of ordnance, quartermaster and commissary stores fell into our hands. The prisoners, numbering 800, four pieces of artillery, and some wagons and horses, were brought off, the other guns, which were heavy siege pieces, being spiked, and their carriages and a greater part of the stores destroyed. Rosser also brought off several hundred cattle and a large number of sheep from Hampshire and Hardy counties.

This expedition closed the material operations of the campaign of 1864 in the Shenandoah Valley, and, at that time, the enemy held precisely the same portion of that valley which he held before the opening of the campaign in the spring, and no more, and the headquarters of his troops were at the same place, to wit: Winchester. There was this difference, however: at the beginning of the campaign, he held it with comparatively a small force, and, at the close, he was compelled to employ three corps of infantry, and one of cavalry, for that purpose, and to guard the approaches to Washington, Maryland and Pennsylvania. When I was detached from General Lee's army, Hunter was advancing on Lynchburg, 170 miles south of Winchester, with a very considerable force, and threatening all of General Lee's communications with a very serious danger.

By a rapid movement, my force had been thrown to Lynchburg, just in time to arrest Hunter's march into that place, and he had been driven back and forced to escape into the mountains of Western Virginia, with a loss of ten pieces of artillery and subsequent terrible suffering to his troops. Maryland and Pennsylvania had been invaded, Washington threatened and thrown into a state of frantic alarm, and Grant had been compelled to detach two corps of infantry and two divisions of cavalry from his army. Five or six thousand prisoners had been [456] captured from the enemy and sent to Richmond, and according to a published statement by Sheridan, his army had lost 13,831, in killed and wounded, after he took command of it. Heavy losses had been inflicted on that army by my command, before Sheridan went to the Valley, and the whole loss could not have been far from double my entire force. The enemy moreover had been deprived of the use of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, for three months.

It is true that I had lost many valuable officers and men, and about 60 pieces of artillery, counting those lost by Ramseur and McCausland, and not deducting the 19 pieces captured from the enemy; but I think I may safely state that the fall of Lynchburg with its foundries and factories, and the consequent destruction of General Lee's communications, would have rendered necessary the evacuation of Richmond, and that, therefore, the fall of the latter place had been prevented; and by my subsequent operations, Grant's operations against General Lee's army had been materially impeded, and for some time substantially suspended.

My loss in killed, wounded and prisoners, at Winchester and Fisher's Hill, had been less than 4,000, and at Cedar Creek, about 3,000, but the enemy has claimed as prisoners several thousand more than my entire loss. I know that a number of prisoners fell into the enemy's hands who did not belong to my command: such as cavalrymen on details to get fresh horses, soldiers on leave of absence, conscripts on special details, citizens not in the service, men employed in getting supplies for the departments, and stragglers and deserters from other commands. My army during the entire campaign had been self-sustaining so far as provisions and forage were concerned, and a considerable number of beef cattle had been sent to General Lee's army; and when the difficulties under which I labored are considered, I think I may confidently assert that I had done as well as it was possible for me to do. [457]

Shortly after Rosser's return from the New Creek expedition, Colonel Munford was sent with Wickham's brigade to the counties of Hardy and Pendleton, to procure forage for his horses, and, cold weather having now set in so as to prevent material operations in the field, the three divisions of the 2nd corps were sent, in succession, to General Lee,--Wharton's division, the cavalry, and most of the artillery being retained with me.

On the 16th of December, I broke up the camp at New Market, and moved back towards Staunton, for the purpose of establishing my troops on or near Central Railroad-Lomax's cavalry, except one brigade left to watch the Luray Valley, having previously moved across the Blue Ridge so as to be able to procure forage. Cavalry pickets were left in front of New Market, and telegraphic communications kept up with that place, from which there was communication with the lower Valley, by means of signal stations on the northern end of Massanutten Mountain, and at Ashby's Gap in the Blue Ridge, which overlooked the enemy's camps and the surrounding country.

The troops had barely arrived at their new camps when information was received that the enemy's cavalry was in motion. On the 19th, Custer's division moved from Winchester towards Staunton, and, at the same time, two other divisions of cavalry, under Torbert or Merrit, moved across by Front Royal and Chester Gap towards Gordonsville. This information having been sent me by signal and telegraph, Wharton's division was moved on the 20th, through a hailstorm, towards Harrisonburg, and Rosser ordered to the front with all the cavalry he could collect. Custer's division reached Lacy's Spring, nine miles north of Harrisonburg, on the evening of the 20th, and next morning before day, Rosser, with about 600 men of his own and Payne's brigades, attacked it in camp, and drove it back down the Valley in some confusion.

Lomax had been advised of the movement towards [458] Gordonsville, and as soon as Custer was disposed of, Wharton's division was moved back, and on the 23rd a portion of it was run on the railroad to Charlottesville, Munford, who had now returned from across the great North Mountain, being ordered to the same place.

On my arrival at Charlottesville on the 23rd, I found that the enemy's two divisions of cavalry, which had crossed the Blue Ridge, had been held in check near Gordonsville by Lomax, until the arrival of a brigade of infantry from Richmond, when they retired precipitately. I returned to the Valley and established my headquarters at Staunton-Wharton's division and the artillery being encamped east of that place, and Rosser's cavalry west of it; and thus closed the operations of 1864 with me.

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