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height in the rear of Early's pol, crowned by a fort, still held but Crook's column quickly ned and carried both. And now avalry—which had been fightnd routing the enemy's—came n our right, and charged superbthe rear of the flying foe, ta700 prisoners and 2 guns at the onset; following till dark close he heels of the fugitives, and ring up prisoners, &c., as they ed through Winchester in utter and disintegration. or loss in this battle was fully !, including Gen. David A. Ruskilled, with Gens. McIntosh, man, and Upton wounded. The c 19th corps—on which fell the t of the fight—alone lost 1,940 1 and wounded. Among the ls killed were Gens. Rhodes and }. Godwin. Pollard admits a of 3,000 on their side; but, as we 3,000 prisoners, with 5 guns, it robably much greater. rly fell back to FISHER's HILL, es south of Winchester, between North and Massanutten moun—regarded as the very strongest ion in the Valley. Sheridan wed sharply, allowing but two to intervene between his first his second victory. Advancing th corps against the front and 19th on the left of the Rebel ghold, he again sent the 8th by g circuit around on the right, ng heavily in flank and rear, a vigorous attack in front broke nemy's center. The victory here ven more decisive, as well as far cheaply purchased, than that at the Opequan. Though our k 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 Walley and take to the mountains, where cavalry
could with difficulty operate. Sheri
dan followed with infantry and artillery to Port Republic,” 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 instruc. tions to Gen. Hunter,” 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 invite 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 let. ter. Whatever of grain and forage had escaped appropriation or destruction by one or another of the ar. mies which had so frequently chased each other up and down this narrow 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.
* Sept. 25.
The excuse, of 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. “I.t.-Gen. U. S. GRANT: “I have the honor to report my command at this point to-night. I commenced moving back from Port Republic, Mount Crawford, Bridgewater, and IIarrisonburg, 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 been made untenable for a Žebel 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 not less than 3,000 sheep. 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 Inow make. “Lt. John R. Meigs, my engineer officer, was murdered beyond Harrisonburg near I)ayton. For this atrocious act, all the houses within an area of five miles were burned. “Since I came into the Valley from IIarper's Ferry, every train, every small party, and every struggler, 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 JPichmond W7 ig thereupon gravely proposed to retaliate by sending incendiaries to fire the 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 :asier. 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
Strasburg, being infested” by Rebel orse under Rosser, he ordered Torrt, commanding his cavalry, to turn on and chastise the presumption. he Rebels broke and fled at the st charge, and were chased back miles; losing 11 guns, 47 wagons, d 330 prisoners. Sheridan's retreat is no further molested; but, having lted near Fisher's hill, Early atmpted" to steal upon him unaware, t found him ready, and, after a ort struggle, the Rebel chief drew , badly worsted. Sheridan now left” on a flying visit Washington, supposing his advery had had fighting enough for the lson. IIe miscalculated. Early, are of our commander's absence, ing by his repeated defeats, and nsiderably réenforced, resolved on rieving his ragged fortunes by a ring enterprise—nothing less than surprise and rout of a veteran my. Having strengthened himself the utmost, and thoroughly organd his forces in his forest-screened mp near Fisher's hill, he silently ved out at nightfall,” resolved to nk our position across CEDAR CREER, miles distant, and fall on our sleepcamps at daybreak next morning. Dur forces were encamped on three sts or ridges: the Army of West 'ginia (Crook's) in front; the 19th ps (Emory’s) half a mile behind it; 6th corps (Wright's) to the right I rear of the 19th. Kitching's proional division lay behind Crook's ; the cavalry, under Torbert, on right of the 6th. It is a fact, ugh no excuse, that they had no re apprehension of an attack from ‘ly than from Canada. larly 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 Northfork 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 Gordon, 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 underbrush 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 lookout 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 as: signed them, and stood shivering in the chill mist, awaiting the order to attack. No sound of alarm, no hum
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 col
umn 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 had 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, with but occasional shots at long range from their artillery. We had lost, beside our killed and wounded, the battle, our camps, defenses, equipage, 24 guns, and 1,200 prisOllel’S. 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 the front at 10 A.M.; just as Wright had alted and the enemy had ceased to ress him. The current notion that our army nstantly faced to the front, charged, ind routed the exultant foe, does ustice neither to Sheridan nor to acts. The defeated are not thus asily converted into conquerors. heridan met his crest-fallen, shatared battalions without a word of eproach, but joyously, inspiringly, winging his cap and shoutiñg to the tragglers as he rode rapidly past hem—“Face the other way, boys! We are going back to our camps! We are going to lick them out of heir boots!” Most of them obeyed, s the weaker will submits to the tronger. Then, having ordered each ommand to face to the front, form ne, and advance, he rode for two ours along that line, gathering in}rmation, and studying the ground, hile he rapidly and cheeringly ilked to his soldiers. “Boys, if I ad been here, this would not have appened l’ he assured them, and ley believed it. And so their spirits radually rose, and they became coninced that their defeat was an awk'ard accident—unpleasant, of course, ut such as might happen to any "my so self-confident as to be easily aught napping. Finally, they bean to doubt that they had actually een beaten at all. Emory's 19th corps was strongly osted in a dense wood on the left, ld had thrown up a rude breastork of rocks and rails along its front. [ere he was attacked at 1 P.M., but St in great force nor desperately; ld, after a spirited fusillade, he sent ord that the enemy had been reulsed. Sheridan accepted and rerted the tidings as very natural and
'my upon the pike.”
indicative of more such to come. And now, at 8 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 eneSteadily, 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, chargingfiercely upon their disordered ranks, and running them through Strasburg. Our weary, fam: ished infantry—whose rations and cooks had long since paid tribute to the enemy, or found shelter in Win: chester—sank down in their recovered quarters to shiver through the night as they could.