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[393]

The retreating troops found very little time for rest. The Confederates, composed entirely of Ewell's corps, were closing around them in vast numbers compared to their own. Banks's force was less than seven thousand effective men, with ten Parrott guns and a battery of 6-pounders, smooth-bore cannon. The Confederate force was full twenty thousand in number. The leaders of the latter felt confident that on the morrow they would see the capture or destruction of their opponents. Yet they did not idly revel in these pleasing anticipations. Like a vigilant soldier, as he was, Ewell, who bivouacked within a mile and a half of Winchester, began operations to that end before the dawn. The equally vigilant Banks

Richard S. Ewell.

was on the alert, and at daylight his troops were in battle order. Colonel Gordon, commanding the right, was strongly posted on a ridge, a little south of the city, and Colonel Donnelly was in charge of the left. Near the center, the troops were well sheltered from their foes by stone walls. General Hatch (who was cut off at Middletown), with Tompkins's cavalry, had rejoined the army just in time to participate in the battle.

The battle opened furiously in front of Winchester.

May 25, 1862.
Ewell had placed a heavy body of troops on the Berryville road, to prevent re-enforcements reaching Banks from Harper's Ferry, and regiments were heavily massed on the National right, with the evident intention of turning it. This danger was so boldly and bravely met, that the Confederates were kept in check for five hours by a steady and most destructive fire.1

In the mean time Jackson's whole force had been ordered up,2 and Banks's signal officers reported the apparition of regimental standards in sight that indicated a strength equal to twenty-five thousand men. The Union commander perceived that further resistance would be only a prelude to destruction. In anticipation of this contingency, his trains had been sent toward the Potomac, and now an order for retreat was given. Under a most galling fire of musketry the army broke into a column of march, and, covered by a rear-guard composed of the Second Massachusetts and Third Wisconsin, passed rapidly through Winchester, assailed in the streets by the secessionists

1 , “One regiment,” says Banks in his report, “is represented, by persons present during the action, and after the field was evacuated, as nearly destroyed.”

2 The battle thus far had been fought by Ewell without the aid of Jackson, and even without his knowledge of what was occurring in front of Winchester, for he was seven miles in the rear. So ignorant was he of the situation of affairs at the front, that at the moment when Banks was about to retreat, Colonel Crutchfield came to Ewell with orders from Jackson to fall back to Newton, seven miles distant, for the Nationals were being heavily re-enforced. Jackson supposed Ewell to be four or five miles from Winchester, when, as we have observed, he had encamped within a mile and a half of the city the evening before. it is evident from the manuscript daily record of Ewell's brigade, consulted by the writer, that to Ewell, and not to Jackson, is due the credit of driving Banks from Winchester.

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May 25th, 1862 AD (1)
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