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Xxvi. West Virginia and North of the Rapidan in 1864.

the “ anaconda” is a clumsy, sluggish beast; effecting his ends by an enormous, even lavish expenditure of force; but Grant's anaconda differed from that of Scott and McClellan in being thoroughly alive. The simultaneous National advance in 1864 from all points, against the armies and remaining strongholds of the Rebellion, was not merely ordered; it was actually attempted — with many reverses at the outset, and no decidedly encouraging results for some months, but with ultimately overwhelming success.

Before Gen. Grant had been placed in chief command, there had been several collisions in western and northern Virginia. The first occurred1 at Jonesville, in the extreme west of old Virginia, near Cumberland gap, held by Maj. Beers with 300 Illinoisans and 3 guns, who were surrounded, surprised, and captured by Sam. Jones, after a smart contest, in which our loss was 60. The excuse for holding an outpost thus exposed was the necessity of collecting forage for our larger force at Cumberland gap.

A nearly simultaneous raid by Fitz-Hugh Lee's cavalry, on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad west of Cumberland, came to nothing; but a later expedition, sent under Rosser over into West Virginia from the Valley by Early, surprised2 a train [599] moving from New creek to Petersburg, Hardy county; and, after a brief struggle, captured 270 prisoners, 93 six-mule wagons, heavily laden, and brought away 1,200 cattle and 500 sheep, in addition. Of many raids from “ Dixie” into West Virginia, hardly another was so cheaply successful as this.

Rosser next surprised3 the Baltimore and Ohio railroad station at Patterson creek bridge, 8 miles west of Cumberland, capturing a company which held it; but was struck, on his return, at Springfield, near Romney, by Gen. Averill, with a far superior Union force, and chased out of the new State; losing his Patterson creek prisoners and a considerable portion of his own men and horses.

Col. Gallup, commanding on the border of eastern Kentucky, surprised4 Col. Ferguson, a Rebel guerrilla, at the Rock House, Wayne co., West Virginia, killing 15 and taking 50 prisoners, including Ferguson.

Gen. Scammon, commanding at Charlestown, had been surprised and captured, with the steamboat Levi, on the Kanawha, by Lt. Verdigan, one of Ferguson's subordinates, a few days before. Verdigan, with but 10 men, captured a General, 4 other officers, and 25 privates, beside the steamboat and her crew; throwing overboard the captured arms so fast as lie could seize them, so as to preclude the danger of a rescue. Scammon and his two aids were sent prisoners to Richmond; the residue paroled.

Gen. Grant's comprehensive plan of campaign embraced a cooperative movement up the Shenandoah under Gen. Sigel, and up the Kanawha by Gen. Crook, aiming at the Rebel resources in the vicinity of Staunton and Lynchburg. Sigel, with some 10,000 men, moved5 up the Valley accordingly, and was met, near Newmarket, by a Rebel army of at least equal force under Breckinridge; to strengthen whom, the region west of him had very properly been stripped and left nearly defenseless. After some manoeuvering and skirmishing, Breckinridge, at 3 P. M.,6 ordered a determined charge, by which Sigel's badly handled army was routed, and driven back to Cedar creek, near Strasburg, with a loss of 700 men, 6 guns, 1,000 small arms, his hospitals, and part of his train. Breckinridge seems not to have followed up his victory, because his forces were needed to repel the advance of Crook from the west.

Crook had moved from Charlestown simultaneously with Sigel's advance from Winchester; and — as if to preclude the last chance of ultimate success — had divided his command; sending Averill, with 2,000 cavalry, to destroy the lead-mines near Wytheville, while he advanced farther to the left. But when Averill reached7 Wytheville, he found there John Morgan, with a formidable cavalry force dispatched by Gen. W. E. Jones from Saltville; and a stubborn fight came off, wherein Averill was clearly worsted. He tries in his ‘General Order’ to make the result a drawn fight against “overwhelming numbers ;” but, as he does not claim to have destroyed the leadworks, nor taken the town, nor achieved anything in particular, save that “the purposes of the enemy were foiled by the engagement,” there is [600] no room for doubt that he was virtually beaten.

Gen. Crook, with 11 regiments, numbering some 6,000 men, had made directly for the Virginia and Tennessee railroad at Dublin station; 4 miles from which he was met by a far inferior Rebel force under McCausland, which fought bravely, but was beaten off, with a loss on our part of 126 killed and 585 wounded. The railroad here, and for a short distance eastward, was destroyed. And now the appearance of a considerable Rebel reenforcement, dispatched from Wytheville by Morgan before he fought Averill, impelled Crook to retreat to Meadow bridge; so that, when Averill reached Dublin, Crook was gone, which left him no choice but to follow. Thus the concentric movement upon Lee's flank and rear resulted, as usual with such combinations, in general failure, if not positive disaster. A force that, if concentrated, could have beaten all the Rebels in Virginia west of the Blue ridge, had been so dispersed and frittered away as to achieve less than nothing.

Grant at once relieved Sigel, sending Gen. Hunter to succeed him. The old, fatally vicious system of a concentric advance from opposite points on a common focus was still adhered to. Hunter, somewhat strengthened, at once resumed the offensive; the pressure on Lee by Grant's persistent hammering having constrained Breckinridge's withdrawal, with the better part of his force, to the defenses of Richmond; W. E. Jones, with most of the Rebel forces in the western part of old Virginia, including McCausland's, having been hurried forward to confront the new danger. The two armies met8 at Piedmont, near Staunton — Hunter's being somewhat more numerous9--and a spirited and well-fought action resulted in the defeat of Jones, who was shot through the head, and fell dead on the field. Among the fruits of this victory were 1,500 prisoners, 3 guns, and 3,000 small arms. It was, in fact, a rout; leaving the Rebel army incapable of further resistance.

Hunter advanced to Staunton, where Crook and Averill — no considerable force having been left by Jones to oppose them — joined10 him; [601] and moved thence directly to Lexington; disappointing Grant, who had expected him at Gordonsville, and had sent his cavalry under Sheridan to meet him there. His failure to do so subjected Sheridan to like failure in his approach to Gordonsville, as we have seen.

Hunter's force was now increased to about 20,000 men; and he hastened, via Lexington, to Lynchburg — the chief city of western (old) Virginia — intent on its speedy reduction. But Lynchburg, the focus of a rich, populous region, and of extensive manufactures, lies on the James river and canal, in unbroken railroad communication with Richmond and Petersburg on the one side, and with the farther south on the other. Lee — who might as well have lost Richmond — dispatched a very considerable force to its relief; part of which arrived the day before Hunter attacked11 the city from the south, and still more during the following night, wherein several trains arrived from the east filled with men.

Hunter found his ammunition running low, a strong city before him, and the whole Confederacy virtually rallying to overwhelm him. He had no choice but to retreat, sharply pursued; following the railroad westward to Salem — where the pursuit ended — and thence striking, via Newcastle,12 for Meadow bluff,13 in West Virginia; his provisions long since exhausted, and very little to be gleaned in midsummer from that poor, thinly-peopled, war-exhausted region. No rations were obtained till the 27th; and the sufferings of men and loss of horses were deplorable.

The direction of his retreat may have been misjudged; but Hunter, lacking many things, never lacked courage; and he believed that an attempt to regain the Shenandoah directly from Lynchburg would have seriously imperiled his army. But his withdrawal into West Virginia rendered him no longer formidable to the enemy, and involved a circuitous, harassing movement by the Kanawha, the Ohio, Parkersburg, and Grafton, before lie could again be of any service.

The Rebels, aware of this, promptly resolved to make the most of their opportunity. Early, who had headed the corps sent from Richmond to the relief of Lynchburg, collecting all the forces he could muster, moved rapidly northward, and very soon appeared14 on the Potomac: Sigel, commanding at Martinsburg, retreating precipitately by Harper's Ferry, with a heavy loss of stores, and taking post on Maryland Heights, where tlhe enemy did not see fit to assail him, but once more destroyed the Baltimore and Ohio railroad for a considerable distance, levied a contribution of $20,000 on Hagerstown, burned some buildings at Williamsport, and, raiding up into the border of Pennsylvania, scoured the country far and wide for horses, cattle, provisions, and money. The movement was so well masked by cavalry that the strength of the invading force — probably never so much as 20,000--was enormously exaggerated, spreading general panic, and causing the Government to call urgently on Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts, for militia to meet the emergency.

Gen. Couch was commanding in Pennsylvania; Gen. Lew. Wallace [602] in Maryland: the demonstrations against the former were only intended to distract attention from a blow aimed at the latter. Wallace, soon satisfied of this, drew out his scanty forces — for the East had, ere this, been swept nearly bare of troops to fill the chasms made by constant fighting in the armies operating against Richmond — and resolved to confront the invaders on the Monocacy, which afforded a tolerable defensive position. Yet, when his forces were concentrated at Frederick,15 they numbered barely 3,000; and these mainly Home Guards and 100-day volunteers, who had never been in action.

Col. Clendenin, with his cavalry — some 400 in all — was sent out to Middletown to find the enemy; but was soon driven back16 by Gen. Bradley T. Johnson, with 1,000 Rebel horsemen. Clendenin retreated on Frederick, and was there supported by Lt.-Col. Griffin's infantry, raising his force to 1,000; and a brief artillery duel ensued, which resulted in Johnson's falling back.

Wallace now reached Frederick — his forces having hitherto been immediately directed by Gen. Tyler--but could gain no reliable account of the enemy's strength or purposes — the wildest and most conflicting reports being in circulation. He soon learned by telegram from Sigel, on Maryland Heights, that the enemy lately beleaguering him had left, marching northward, as if making for Pennsylvania; while he had assurances from Washington that a corps of veterans were hurrying to his assistance. General Ricketts, with a brigade of good soldiers, belonging to the 19th corps, actually came up. Finding the enemy in his front rapidly growing formidable, and threatening to turn his left, Wallace now withdrew by night17 from Frederick across the Monocacy, and took up the position on its left bank, already held by Gen. Ricketts, which lie resolved to hold so long as he could — since, if the Rebels were in strong force, and intent on a dash at Washington, it was important at least to check them, by compelling them to concentrate and fight; thus gaining time for the arrival of help from Grant.

Early in the morning,18 Wallace's dispositions for battle were completed. His right, under Gen. Tyler, covered the Baltimore pike; his left, under Gen. Ricketts, held the high road to Washington. Each had three guns. The bridges were held ; skirmishers being thrown out beyond them. Col. Clendenin's cavalry watched the lower fords. Only part of Ricketts's division was on hand; but the residue was expected by railroad at 1 P. M. At 8 A. M., the enemy advanced in force from Frederick, throwing out skirmishers and planting behind them his guns, which soon opened the battle. Having not less than 16 Napoleons to our 6 smaller pieces, the superiority of his fire was very decided. The skirmishing grew gradually warmer and more general, and soon there was serious fighting at the stone bridge on the Baltimore pike. A considerable body of Rebel infantry, moving by their right just out of range of our guns, flanked our left, forcing a passage of the Monocacy at a ford nearly two miles below the wooden bridge on the Washington road. And now, at 10 1/2 A. M., the enemy advanced in battle array [603] upon Ricketts, who had changed front to the left, to meet their advance on his flank, his right resting on the river; and, though he had been obliged to form in a single line without reserves, so great was the disparity of numbers that his front was considerably overlapped by theirs. Wallace, perceiving the inequality, sent two of Tyler's guns to Ricketts; and soon — burning the wooden bridge and the block-house across it, so as to preclude an easy advance of the enemy thereby — sent to Ricketts every man who could be spared.

The enemy's first line charged, and was quickly repelled; his second line next advanced, and was likewise repulsed; but after a fiercer, more protracted struggle. And now Wallace might have retreated with honor, having achieved the main purpose of his stand; but 1 o'clock was at hand, when Ricketts's three absent regiments of veterans were promised; and, with their help, he felt able to hold his ground against the enemy's far superior numbers. But 1 P. M. arrived and no regiments; nor could anything be heard of them — both telegrapher and railroad agent having decamped. He waited an hour longer; but there were no reenforcements; while the enemy, in two strong lines, again issued from the woods on our left and advanced deliberately to the charge; and he reluctantly ordered Ricketts to prepare for a retreat by the Baltimore pike, which commenced at 4 P. M.

The stone bridge on that road was held by Col. Brown; and it was of vital importance that it should still be held firmly. Gen. Tyler had already sent his reserve to Brown; he now galloped thither himself, and took command; Wallace soon arriving to reiterate the order that it must be held at whatever cost until Ricketts should have crossed to the Baltimore pike and commenced his retreat thereon. Tyler held on, fighting, till 5 P. M.; by which time his remaining force was nearly enveloped by the overwhelming numbers of the enemy; so that he, with his staff, was compelled to dash into the woods on the right, and thus barely escaped capture. Brown had just retreated down the pike; losing some of his men, but holding the most of them steadily in their ranks. The enemy made no effective pursuit; Bradley T. Johnson's cavalry being absent, marching on Baltimore by the Liberty road. Ricketts's three missing regiments had been halted at Monrovia, 8 miles distant; whence they had ample time to reach the field in time to save the day. They joined Wallace at Newmarket, and thence covered the retreat: which terminated twelve miles from the Monocacy.

Our loss in this action was 98 killed, 579 wounded, 1,282 missing: total, 1,959. Many of the missing probably only straggled in the retreat, as the enemy took but 700 prisoners. They admitted only a total loss of 600; but 400 of their severely wounded were found in hospital at Frederick, when we reoccupied that city two or three days afterward.

Johnson's cavalry next day approached Baltimore, when that city was filled with reports that Wallace's little army had been annihilated at the Monocacy. The Baltimore Secessionists, less numerous than in April or July, 1861, were no whit less bitter; and they reasonably hoped, for [604]

Defenses of Washington. Explanations.

[605] some hours, to welcome a “ liberating” army. But Early, after a brief halt on the battle-field, was now marching on Washington; and Baltimore, though weakly held, was not to be taken on a gallop. Brig.-Gens. Lockwood and Morris were there; and they soon rallied thousands of loyal citizens, by whom every approach was guarded, and earthworks thrown up in the suburbs which could not be carried without difficulty and delay. Johnson declined the attempt; but a detachment of his horsemen, under Harry Gilmor, made a dash at the Philadelphia railroad near Magnolia station, next morning; burning the long trestle over the inlet known as Gunpowder, stopping there the morning train northward, and robbing passengers and mails.

Early's cavalry advance reached Rockville on the evening of the 10th; his infantry was next day within 6 or 7 miles of Washington; which they actually menaced on the 12th. Gen. Augur, commanding the defenses, pushed out, toward evening, a strong reconnoissance to develop their strength; and a smart skirmish ensued, wherein we had 230 killed and wounded, and the enemy at least as many. If Early had rushed upon Washington by forced marches from the Monocacy, and at once assaulted with desperate energy, he might have taken the city, and might have lost half his army: he must have lost all his army if he had carried the city and attempted to hold it.

Whatever his purpose, it was now too late to do any thing but what he did — retreat across the Potomac, with his cavalry, batteries and trains freshly horsed, 2,500 spare horses, and 5,000 cattle. For the 19th corps (Emory's), ordered from New Orleans by sea, had reached Fortress Monroe a few days previous, and had been sent by Grant to Washington; as had the 6th (Wright's) from before Petersburg, with directions that Gen. Wright should assume command. Had Early waited, his force, now reduced to 15,000, would have been confronted and crushed by one of at least 40,000.

Wright's pursuit was not made in such force as lie should have had, and was timid and feeble. Crossing the Potomac at Edwards's ferry, he moved through Leesburg and Snicker's gap to the Shenandoah ; which he had partially crossed when Early turned19 upon him suddenly and fiercely, driving back his advance with a loss of fully 500. Wright recrossed after the enemy had moved off, but soon returned to Leesburg, and, turning over the command to Crook, repaired to Washington.

Averill, moving from Martinsburg on Winchester, was fought20 near that city, for three hours, by a Rebel force, which he finally worsted; taking 200 prisoners and 4 guns; with a loss of 150 or 200 killed and wounded on either side. The approach of Early from Snicker's gap now compelled him to draw off.

Grant, deceived by advices that Early was returning to Lynchburg and Richmond, ordered the 6th and 19th corps by water to Petersburg, intending to strike a blow with his thus augmented forces before Early could arrive. Hunter was still on his weary way from his miscarriage at Lynchburg — dry rivers, broken railroads, &c., impeding his progress. [606] Crook, left in command of the depleted force on the Potomac, now moved up to Harper's Ferry, and thence pushed out once more to Winchester, supposing that there was nothing there that could stop his progress.

He was grievously mistaken. Early had not gone south, but was close at hand; and soon our advance was annoyed21 by smart skirmishing, which pushed back our cavalry on our infantry, and next day routed them, driving Crook's entire command pell-mell to Martinsburg with a loss of 1;200, including Gen. Mulligan22 killed. Early's loss was trifling. There was an artillery duel next day at Martinsburg; but Crook, having gained time to save his trains, crossed over into Maryland, leaving Early undisturbed master of the south side of the Potomac from Shepherdstown to Williamsport.

He made an unwise use of his advantage. Maryland and southern Pennsylvania being in utter panic — many running off their stock to places of safety, while thousands openly exulted at the brightened prospects of the Rebellion — he sent B. T. Johnson, McCausland, and others, with perhaps 3,000 cavalry, on a sweeping raid northward. McCausland took a considerable circuit, threatening some points in order to distract attention from others; dispersing a small body of recruits at Carlisle barracks, and finally striking Chambersburg,23 then totally defenseless and in good part deserted, and demanding $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in currency, under penalty of conflagration. The money not being instantly produced, the place was fired, and about two-thirds of it destroyed.

The excuse alleged for this act of Vandalism was The burning of ex-Gov. Letcher's house at Lexington by Hunter, six weeks before. That was held to be justified — and, at all events, was solely incited — by finding in a Lexington printing-office the type and proof of a handbill issued and signed by Letcher, calling on the people of that region to “bushwhack” Hunter's men — that is, fire at them from every covert, )while not embodied as a military force and seeming to be peaceful farmers or artisans. If this burning violated the laws of war, it had already been twice avenged by burning Gov. Bradford's country residence near Baltimore, and ex-P. M. General Blair's, near Washington. It was not in accordance with Lee's orders nor his practice in either of his invasions; for, though he burned Thaddeus Stevens's iron-works near Gettysburg (as we burned manufactories of warlike material, clothing, &c., throughout the South), he sternly forbad wanton devastation; and he was obeyed.

Averill, with 2,600 cavalry, perplexed by the enemy's bewildering demonstrations, had fallen back from Hagerstown to Greencastle, and was but 9 miles from Chambersburg while Johnson and McCausland, with but part of the Rebel cavalry north of the Potomac, sacked and burned that town. He arrived that day but they had left; moving westward to McConnellstown, whither he followed; arriving in time to save it from a similar fate. He promptly charged; but there was not much of a fight; the enemy hurrying southward to Hancock, and thence across the Potomac. [607]

The panic throughout southern Pennsylvania had ere this become intensified. Gen. Couch, commanding there, was assured that a great Rebel army of invasion was marching on Pittsburg; and that city renewed the defensive efforts of the year before. The guerrilla John S. Moseby, with 50 men, dashed across the Potomac at Cheat ferry, surprising and capturing at Adamstown nearly his own number of horsemen, and robbed a few stores; and, though he ran back instantly, his trifling raid was magnified into a vague and gloomy significance.

Neither the 6th nor the 19th corps had proceeded farther than Georgetown, D. C., when Crook's defeat and its consequences impelled them in quite another direction than that of Petersburg. Moving24 by Rockville and Frederick, they had reached Harper's Ferry, and there met Crook, with part of Hunter's long expected infantry, on the day Chambersburg was burned; and now, with an immense train, the whole force was started on a wild-goose-chase after Early, who was supposed to be laying waste southern Pennsylvania.

Gen. Kelley, commanding at Cumberland, had undertaken to stop Johnson's raiders as they passed him on their retreat, and had a smart skirmish with them at Falck's mill, in which he claimed the advantage; but Col. Stough, with 500 men, sent to Oldtown to intercept them, had there been routed, after a short skirmish; himself and 90 men being captured. The enemy retreated up the south branch of the Potomac, pursued by Averill, who struck25 them near Moorefield, routing them, with a loss of but 50 on our side; Averill capturing their guns, wagons, and 500 prisoners.

Gen. Grant had already sent26 Sheridan to Washington, with intent to have him placed in charge of our distracted operations on the Potomac and Shenandoah; and he now came up27 himself, to obtain, if possible, a better understanding of what was going on. In his conference with Hunter, that officer expressed a willingness to be relieved, if that were deemed desirable; and Grant at once telegraphed to Washington to have Sheridan sent up to Harper's Ferry; himself awaiting there that officer's arrival. An order soon appeared28 appointing Maj.-Gen. Philip H. Sheridan commander of the new “ Middle Department,” composed of the late Departments of West Virginia, Washington, and Susquehanna; and two divisions of cavalry (Torbert's and Wilson's) were soon sent him by Grant; raising his force to nearly 30,000 men; while Early's, confronting him, can hardly have exceeded 20,000.29

It was no fault of Sheridan's that his accession to command was not immediately followed by a vigorous offensive. Doubtless, his motley forces needed to be better compacted and fitted together; but, under skillful and capable leadership, they would attain this most rapidly in the field. Yet there had been so much failure and disappointment in this quarter, while the [608] consequences of a defeat, opening the North to a fresh invasion, and perhaps compelling — what Lee most desired and Grant most dreaded — a withdrawal of our army from the James — were so grave, that Grant hesitated to authorize a determined advance until he had made him a second visit,30 and become convinced that he had a lieutenant on the Potomac who thoroughly comprehended his position, is work, his strength, and that of his antagonist, and needed but liberty of action and a trust which his achievements would abundantly justify. “I saw,” says Grant, in his report, “that but two words of instruction were necessary--‘ Go in!’ ” So he gave them, and Sheridan went in.

Early held the west bank of Opequan creek, covering Winchester, Sheridan was in his front and to his right, holding Berryville. In a skillful and spirited reconnoissance, Gen. Wilson had struck31 the flank of Kershaw's division, capturing without loss Col. Hennegan and 171 of the 8th S. C. The principal value of such a stroke inheres in its effect on the spirits of an army; and Sheridan, believing his in the mood for battle, drew out, at 2 A. M.,32 his entire force, resolved to carry the enemy's position by assault.

That position was naturally strong, and had been thoroughly fortified. To assail it, our army had to advance through a narrow ravine, shut in by steep, thickly wooded hills, form in an irregular, undulating valley in the enemy's front, advance through a wood, and attack desperately his center, while flanking and crushing in his left. His right, too strongly posted to be turned, was to be menaced and kept strong and idle, if possible; he striving in turn to thrust that wing through our left and seize the mouth of the ravine, so as at once to sever our army and deprive its right of any line of retreat.

It was 10 A. M. when the 6th corps emerged from the ravine, and took ground on our left; Ricketts's division pushing forward, through thick woods and over steep hills, where musketry only could be used, right against the enemy's front; for here ground must be gained and held to enable the 8th corps to debouch behind our front from the pass, turn the enemy's left, and charge him in flank and rear. When our impetuous advance had cleared the woods and heights, a broad, open valley was before them, with the Rebel army sheltered by the woods and rocks beyond ; whence a terrific shelling already told upon our ranks. Yet so vehement and resolute was the charge of Grover's division of the 19th corps that Early's first line was carried--Gen. Rhodes being killed and three Rebel colonels sent to our rear as prisoners.

Early, seeing that no moment was to be lost, promptly hurled two fresh divisions upon Grover and Ricketts, pushing them back in disorder and with fearful loss; a heavy fire opening on their flank as they surged toward the pass — many regiments utterly broken, their officers fallen, and the battle seemingly lost beyond hope. The 156th N. York had barely 40 men grouped around its colors; Capt. Rigby, 24th Iowa, was seen retreating firmly, deliberately, followed by a sergeant and 12 men who, reaching the assigned rallying-point, [609]

Gen,. Sheridan's movements in the Shen Andoah Valley.

halted, faced to the front, and gave three hearty cheers. Five minutes later, that platoon had been swelled by other such to a battalion ; while Capt. Bradbury, 1st Maine battery, had, by Grover's order, posted two guns in a gap and opened on the exultant Rebels; who, charging to seize them, received a volley in the rear from the 131st N. York, which Gen. Emory had rallied and posted in a projection of wood, with orders not to fire till the enemy should have passed them. As they staggered under this unexpected salute, a volley from the newly formed line in their front sent them pell-mell back across the fields to their original cover. And now our shattered front, closing in from right and left, was reformed and advanced over most of the ground it had lost; the 1st division of the 19th corps--still glorying in its achievements at Port Hudson and Pleasant Hill — instead of following the 8th corps in the flank movement, as had been intended, was brought back and used to piece out and brace up the center; where desperate fighting, with little advantage to either side, and heavy loss at least to ours, was maintained till 3 P. M.

And now a shout from the far right, shut out from view by woods and hills, announced that the turning movement was effected — that our cavalry under Torbert, and Crook with his 8th corps (the “ Army of West Virginia” that was), have struck the enemy's left in flank, and are charging it under a terrible fire. Instantly, a redoubled fire breaks out along our central front, in spite of the general scarcity of cartridges; and, these being soon exhausted, Col. Thomas, 8th Vermont, ordered his men to charge at double quick with the bayonet. In vain general officers shouted “ Halt ” “ Lie down!” “Wait for supports!” &c.; for, while some were still confused and vacillating, a staff officer from the right galloped in front, and pointed with his saber to the woods which sheltered the enemy. At once, all dissent was silenced, all hesitation at an end; the whole center, as one man, swept forward, cheering, and plunged into the woods, meeting there Crook's corps, charging from the flank. All the Rebels who could still travel were by this time going or gone. [610]

A height in the rear of Early's position, crowned by a fort, still held out; but Crook's column quickly stormed and carried both. And now our cavalry — which had been fighting and routing the enemy's — came up on our right, and charged superbly on the rear of the flying foe, taking 700 prisoners and 2 guns at the first onset; following till dark close on the heels of the fugitives, and gathering up prisoners, &c., as they hurried through Winchester in utter rout and disintegration.

Our loss in this battle was fully 3,000, including Gen. David A. Russell, killed, with Gens. McIntosh, Chapman, and Upton wounded. The heroic 19th corps--on which fell the brunt of the fight — alone lost 1,940 killed and wounded. Among the Rebels killed were Gens. Rhodes and A. C. Godwin. Pollard admits a loss of 3,000 on their side ; but, as we took 3,000 prisoners, will 5 guns, it was probably much greater.

Early fell back to Fisher's Hill, 8 miles south of Winchester, between the North and Massanutten mountains — regarded as the very strongest position in the Valley. Sheridan followed sharply, allowing but two days to intervene between his first and his second victory. Advancing the 6th corps against the front and the 19th on the left of the Rebel stronghold, he again sent the a long circuit around on the right, striking heavily in flank and rear, while a vigorous attack in front broke the enemy's center. The victory here was even more decisive, as well as far more cheaply purchased, than that won at the Opequan. Though our attack could not be made till 4 P. M., there was still time enough to take 1,100 prisoners, 16 guns, &c., &c. The pursuit hence was so sharp that Early had to abandon the Valley and take to the mountains, where cavalry could with difficulty operate. Sheridan followed with infantry and artillery to Port Republic,33 where he captured and destroyed 75 wagons; sending his cavalry, under Torbert, to Staunton, where they destroyed large quantities of army supplies, and thence to Waynesborough, where the Virginia Central railroad was broken up, the bridge burned, and a large Confederate tannery destroyed.

Gen. Grant, in his letter of instructions to Gen. Hunter,34 had directed that--

In pushing up the Shenandoah valley, where it is expected you will have to go first or last, it is desirable that nothing should be left to i<*>te the enemy to return. Take all provisions, forage, and stock, wanted for the use of your command; such as can not be consumed, destroy. It is not desirable that the buildings should be destroyed — they should rather be protected — but the people should be informed that, so long as an army can subsist among them, recurrences of these raids must be expected; and we are determined to stop them at all hazards.

This order, Sheridan, in returning down the Valley, executed to the letter. Whatever of grain and forage had escaped appropriation or destruction by one or another of the armies which had so frequently chased each other up and down this uarrow but fertile and productive vale, was now given to the torch. Some of it was the property of men who not only adhered to the Union, but were fighting to uphold it; more belonged to Quakers, Tunkers, &c., who abhorred bloodshed, and had taken no part in the strife, unless under absolute constraint. The excuse, of [611] course, was the certainty that whatever was left would be used to feed the Rebel armies and to facilitate raids and incursions on our posts below. The recent foolish as well as culpable burning of Chambersburg — to say nothing of the unauthorized but openly justified arson and butchery at Lawrence — furnished ample precedents; but it is not obvious that the National cause was advanced or the National prestige exalted by this resort to one of the very harshest and most questionable expedients not absolutely forbidden by the laws of civilized warfare.

Sheridan reports this devastation, in a dispatch to Grant, as follows:

Woodstock Va, Oct. 7, 1864--9 P. M.
Lt.-Gen. U. S. Grant:
I have the honor to report my command a this point to-night. I commenced moving back from Port Republic, Mount Crawford, Bridgewater, and Harrisonburg, yesterday morning.

The grain and forage in advance of these points had previously been destroyed.

In moving back to this point, the whole country from the Blue ridge to the North mountain has teen made untenable for a Rebel army. I have destroyed over 2,000 barns filled with wheat and hay and farming implements, over 70 mills filled with flour and wheat; have driven in front of the army over 4,000 head of stock, and have killed and issued to the troops nit less than 3,000 sleep. This destruction embraces the Luray valley and Little Fort valley as well as the main valley.

A large number of horses have been obtained, a proper estimate of which I can not now make.

Lt. John R. Meigs, my engineer officer, was murdered beyond Harrisonburg near Dayton. For this atrocious act, all the houses within an area of five miles were burned.

Since I came into the Valley from Harper's Ferry, every train, every small party, and every straggler, has been bushwhacked by the people; many of whom have protection papers from commanders who have been hitherto in that valley.

The people here are getting sick of the war. Heretofore, they have had no reason to complain, because they have been living in great abundance.

I have not been followed by the enemy to this point, with the exception of a small force of Rebel cavalry that showed themselves some distance behind my rear-guard to-day.

The Richmond Whig thereupon gravely proposed to retaliate by sending incendiaries to fire tile cities of the loyal States, saying:

There is one effectual way, and only one we know of, to arrest and prevent this and every other sort of atrocity — and that is, to burn one of the chief cities of the enemy, say Boston, Philadelphia, or Cincinnati, and let its fate hang over the others as a warning of what may be done, and what will be done to them if the present system of war on the part of the enemy is continued. If we are asked how such a thing can be done, we answer, nothing would be easier. A million of dollars would lay the proudest city of the enemy in ashes. The men to execute the work are already there. There would be no difficulty in finding there, here, or in Canada, suitable persons to take charge of the enterprise and arrange its details. Twenty men, with plans all preconcerted and means provided, selecting some dry, windy night, might fire Boston in a hundred places and wrap it in flames from center to suburb. They might retaliate on Richmond, Charleston, &c. Let them do so if they dare! It is a game at which we can beat them. New York is worth twenty Richmonds. They have a dozen towns to our one; and in their towns is centered nearly all their wealth. It would not be immoral and barbarous. It is not immoral nor barbarous to defend yourself by any means or with any weapon the enemy may employ for your destruction. They choose to substitute the torch for the sword. We may so use their own weapon as to make them repent, literally in sackcloth and ashes, that they ever adopted it. If the Executive is not ready for this, we commend the matter to the secret deliberation of the Congress about to meet.

The atrocity here recommended was actually attempted in New York, a few weeks afterward — several of the great hotels being simultaneously fired by emissaries who had taken lodgings therein for that purpose. Each was quickly extinguished, when little damage had been done.

Sheridan's rear, as he moved down [612] to Strasburg, being infested35 by Rebel horse under Rosser, he ordered Torbert, commanding his cavalry, to turn upon and chastise the presumption. The Rebels broke and fled at the first charge, and were chased back 26 miles; losing 11 guns, 47 wagons, and 330 prisoners. Sheridan's retreat was no further molested; but, having halted near Fisher's hill, Early attempted36 to steal upon him unaware, but found him ready, and, after a short struggle, the Rebel chief drew off, badly worsted.

Sheridan now left37 on a flying visit to Washington, supposing, his adversary had had fighting enough for the season. He miscalculated. Early, aware of our commander's absence, stung by his repeated defeats, and considerably reenforced, resolved on retrieving his ragged fortunes by a daring enterprise — nothing less than the surprise and rout of a veteran army. Having strengthened himself to the utmost, and thoroughly organized his forces in his forest-screened camp near Fisher's hill, he silently moved out at nightfall,38 resolved to flank our position across Cedar creek, 6 miles distant, and fall on our sleeping camps at daybreak next morning.

Our forces were encamped on three crests or ridges: the Army of West Virginia (Crook's) in front; the 19th corps (Emory's) half a mile behind it; the 6th corps (Wright's) to the right and rear of the 19th. Kitching's provisional division lay behind Crook's left ; the cavalry, under Torbert, on the right of the 6th. It is a fact, though no excuse, that they had no more apprehension of an attack from Early than from Canada.

Early had arranged his army in two columns, in order to strike ours at once on both flanks. He had of course to leave the turnpike and move over rugged paths along the mountain-side, climbing up and down steep hills, holding on by bushes, where horses could hardly keep their feet, and twice fording the North fork of the Shenandoah — the second time in the very face of our pickets. For miles, his right column skirted the left of Crook's position, where an alarm would have exposed him to utter destruction. So imperative was the requirement of silence that his men had been made to leave their canteens in camp, lest they should clatter against their muskets. The divisions of Cordon, Ramseur, and Pegram thus stole by our left; those of Kershaw and Wharton simultaneously flanking our right.

At 2 A. M., the pickets of the 5th N. Y. heavy artillery (Kitching's division) heard a rustling of under-brush and a sound as of stealthy, multitudinous trampling ; and two posts were relieved and sent into camp with the report. Gen. Crook thereupon ordered that a good look-out be kept, but sent out no reconnoitering party ; even the gaps in his front line caused by detailing regiments for picket duty were not filled; and, when the crash came, the muskets of many of our men were not loaded. There was some suspicion and uneasiness, in Crook's command, but no serious preparation.

An hour before dawn, the Rebels had all reached, without obstruction or mishap, the positions severally assigned them, and stood shivering in the chill mist, awaiting the order to attack. No sound of alarm, no hum [613] of preparation, disquieted them. At length, as the gray light of dawn disclosed the eastern hill-tops, a tremendous volley of musketry, on either flank and away to the rear, startled the sleepers into bewildered consciousness; and the next moment, with their well known battle-yell, the charging lines came on.

“ Tell the brigade commanders to move their men into the trenches,” said Gen. Grover, calmly; and the order was given; but it was already too late. The Rebels, disdaining to notice the picket-fire, were themselves in the trenches on both flanks before our astonished soldiers could occupy them in effective force. On our side, all was amazement and confusion; on theirs, thorough wakefulness and perfect comprehension. In fifteen minutes, the Army of West Virginia was a flying mob ; one battalion of its picket-line had lost 100 killed and wounded, and seven hundred prisoners. The enemy, knowing every foot of the ground as familiarly as their own door-yards, never stopped to reconnoiter or consider, but rushed on with incredible celerity.

Emory tried, of course, to stop them, but with no chance of success. Assailed in overwhelming force in front, on both flanks, and well to the rear, he pushed forward McMillen's brigade to breast the Rebel torrent, and give time for the 6th corps to come up. One-third of it was killed and wounded in the effort; but to no purpose, though two other brigades were sent up to its support. But Early's three divisions on our left, led by Gordon, continued their flanking advance, turning us out of every position whereon a stand had been made; while Kershaw led the column pressing fiercely on our right and front. The resistance of the 19th corps was brief and bloody; and, when it had melted away, the 6th, assailed in turn, gave ground — slowly, in good order, but as if consciously unable to resist the determined charge of the flushed and eager foe. And when at length it had gained a position where it seemed able and willing to stand, Wright saw that it had been crowded clear off the turnpike, while our forces lad no other line of concentration or retreat; so that to hold here was to enable Gordon to interpose between it and the rest of our army: hence he ordered a general retreat; which was made in good order: our columns inclining toward the turnpike so as to recover their communications. The enemy, intent on plundering our captured camps, and doubtless hungry, thirsty, and exhausted with sixteen hours arduous marching and fighting, had halted, or were advancing slowly and cautiously, their muskets silent, will but occasional shots at long, range front their artillery. We had lost;, beside our killed and wounded, time battle, our camps, defenses, equipage, 21 guns, and 1,200 prisoners.

Sheridan had slept unapprehensively at Winchester, on his return from Washington, while the enemy were executing his bold movement; but the morning breeze wafted ominous sounds to his ears; and he was soon riding rapidly southward, and not long in meeting the kind of drift that may be seen in the rear of every fighting army, more especially if that army is being worsted. Putting spurs to his horse, he reached tile front at 10 A. M.; just as Wright had [614] halted and the enemy had ceased to press him.

The current notion that our army instantly faced to the front, charged, and routed tile exultant foe, does justice neither to Sheridan nor to facts. The defeated are not thus easily converted into conquerors. Sheridan met his crest-fallen, shattered battalions without a word of reproach, but joyously, inspiringly, swinging his cap and shouting to the stragglers as he rode rapidly past them--“Face the other way, boys! We are going back to our camps! We are going to lick them out of their boots!” Most of them obeyed, as the weaker will submits to the stronger. Then, leaving ordered each command to face to the front, form line, and advance, he rode for two hours along that line, gathering information, and studying tile ground, while he rapidly and cheeringly talked to his soldiers. “Boys, if I had been here, this would not have happened!” he assured them, and they believed it. And so their spirits gradually rose, and they became convinced that their defeat was an awkward accident — unpleasant, of course, but such as might happen to any army so self-confident as to be easily caught napping. Finally, they began to doubt that they had actually been beaten at all.

Emory's 19th corps was strongly posted in a dense wood on the left, and had thrown up a rude breast-work of rocks and rails along its front. Here he was attacked at 1 P. M. but not in great force nor desperately; and, after a spirited fusillade, he sent word that the enemy had been repulsed. Sheridan accepted and reported the tidings as very natural and indicative of more such to come. And now, at 3 P. M. all being ready, the order was given, “The entire line will advance. The 19th corps will move in connection with the 6th. The right of the 19th will swing toward the left, so as to drive the enemy upon the pike.” Steadily, not eagerly, our infantry rose to their feet, and went forward through the woods to the open ground beyond. The scream of shells, the rattle of musketry, the charging shout, rolled at once from right to left; and soon the Rebels' front line was carried and their left decidedly turned. Gordon's division, which led the charge on our left that morning, had now been flanked and driven, if not broken.

There was a pause in the advance, but not in the fight. The Rebel guns (they had a good part of ours) opened on our new position, and were replied to mainly by musketry. Again Sheridan moved along our front, correcting its formation, giving particular orders to subordinates, and words of cheer and confidence to all. Emory's 1st division was formed nearly at right angles with the Rebels' front, so as to face the turnpike and crowd them, when it charged, toward the way they should go. And now came the second charge, more determined, more confident, more comprehensive than the first; our cavalry advancing on both wings and, as the Rebel front gave way, charging fiercely upon their disordered ranks, and running them through Strasburg. Our weary, famished infantry — whose rations and cooks had long since paid tribute to the enemy, or found shelter in Winchester — sank down in their recovered quarters to shiver through the night as they could. [615]

Our loss in this double battle was nearly 3,000, including Gen. D. D. Bidwell, of N. Y., and Col. Jo. Thoburn , killed, with Gens. Wright (slightly), Grover, Ricketts, and acting Brigadiers J. H. Kitching and R. G. McKinzie, wounded. Many of our men taken prisoners in the morning were rescued toward evening. The Rebel loss was heavier, including Gen. Ramseur (mortally wounded, and died a prisoner next day), 1,500 prisoners, 23 guns (not counting the 24 lost by us in the morning and recovered at night), at least 1,500 small arms, besides most of their caissons, wagons, &c. In fact, Early's army was virtually destroyed; so that, with the exception of two or three cavalry skirmishes, there was no more fighting39 in the Valley, because there was very little left for Sheridan to fight. And this victory, snatched from the jaws of defeat, affords one of the very few instances in which an army, thoroughly beaten in the morning, is even more thoroughly victorious in the evening, though it has meantime been reenforced by but a single man.

1 Jan. 3, 1864.

2 Jan. 30.

3 Feb. 2.

4 Feb. 12.

5 May 1.

6 May 15.

7 May 10.

8 June 5.

9 Col. C. G. Halpine, chief of staff to Hunter, says of this conflict:

The forces actually engaged were about equal: Gen. Hunter having some 9,000 men actually in action, while the enemy had about the same — strongly posted, however, on a range of hills, horse-shoe shaped and heavily timbered, and further protected by rifle-pits and rail-fence barricades, hastily thrown up the night before. The Rebel morning report of the day previous, found on the dead body of Gen. Jones that afternoon, showed that he had then under him 6,800 regular Confederate soldiers; while we knew that he was joined on the morning of the engagement by Vaughan's brigade from East Tennessee, and also by about 1,500 militia — old men and young boys, not worth the powder required to kill them — hurried forward from Staunton and Lynchburg on news of our advance.

The fight, though not large in numbers, was singularly obstinate and fluctuating: the enemy beating back repeated charges of our infantry and cavalry, under Gens. Sullivan and Stahl--for neither the divisions of Crook nor Averill had then joined us; and it was quite late in the afternoon, after a long and sweltering day of battle, when the movement of the gallant Col. Thoburne's division across the narrow valley, and its charge up hill upon the enemy's right flank, decided the contest in our favor. Gel. Wm. E. Jones, their commander, was killed, as also four Colonels; and we had about 1,800 prisoners, including the worthless reserve militia, seventy regular officers, and 2,800 stand of arms, as the spoils attesting our success. But for the coming on of night, and the broken, heavily-timbered nature of the country, the famous feat of “ bagging” that army — so popular with Congressional orators and enthusiastic editors — might have been easily accomplished; for a worse whipped or more utterly demoralized crowd of beaten men never fled from any field.

10 June 8.

11 June 18.

12 June 22.

13 June 25.

14 July 2-3.

15 July 6.

16 July 7.

17 July 8.

18 July 9.

19 July 19.

20 July 20.

21 July 23.

22 The Col. Mulligan who defended Lexington, Mo., in 1861.

23 July 30.

24 July 26.

25 Aug. 4.

26 Aug. 2.

27 Aug. 4.

28 Aug. 7.

29 There was, in 1865, a spicy newspaper controversy between these Generals touching their respective strength in their Valley campaign. Early made his force scarcely half so numerous as Sheridan's. Sheridan rejoined that the prisoners taken by him from Early exceeded the number to which that General limited his entire command.

30 Sept. 16.

31 Sept. 13.

32 Sept. 19.

33 Sept. 25.

34 Aug. 5.

35 Oct. 9.

36 Oct. 12.

37 Oct. 15.

38 Oct. 1<*>.

39 Early came down the Valley in November, crossing Cedar creek; but he was not in force to fight a battle, and, being pressed, retreated; his cavalry (under Lomax) being defeated and chased by Gen. Powell up the Luray valley, with a loss of 2 guns and 150 prisoners. On our side, Col. Hull, 2d, and Capt. Prendergast, 1st N. Y. cavalry, were killed.

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