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Memoirs of Three Civil War Generals, Complete by U. S. Grant, W. T. Sherman, P. H. Sheridan

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about four hundred horses that I received at the White House, no
animals were furnished to supply the deficiencies which had arisen
from the wearing marches of the past two months until I got to this
camp at Light House Point; here my needs were so obvious that they
could no longer be neglected.

I remained at Light House Point from the 2d to the 26th of July,
recuperating the cavalry, the intensely warm weather necessitating
almost an entire suspension of hostilities on the part of the Army of
the Potomac. Meanwhile fifteen hundred horses were sent me here, and
these, with the four hundred already mentioned, were all that my
troops received while I held the personal command of the Cavalry
Corps, from April 6 to August 1, 1864. This was not near enough to
mount the whole command, so I disposed the men who could not be
supplied in a dismounted camp.

By the 26th of July our strength was pretty well restored, and as
General Grant was now contemplating offensive operations for the
purpose of keeping Lee's army occupied around Richmond, and also of
carrying Petersburg by assault if possible, I was directed to move to
the north side of the James River in conjunction with General
Hancock's corps, and, if opportunity offered, to make a second
expedition against the Virginia Central railroad, and again destroy
the bridges on the North Anna, the Little and the South Anna rivers.

I started out on the afternoon of the 26th and crossed the Appomattox
at Broadway landing. At Deep Bottom I was joined by Kautz's small
division from the Army of the James, and here massed the whole
command, to allow Hancock's corps to take the lead, it crossing to
the north bank of the James River by the bridge below the mouth of
Bailey's Creek. I moved late in the afternoon, so as not to come
within the enemy's view before dark, and after night-fall Hancock's
corps passed me and began crossing the pontoon-bridge about 2 o'clock
in the morning.

By daylight Hancock was across, the cavalry following. Soon a
portion of his corps attacked the enemy's works on the east side of
Bailey's Creek, and, aided by the cavalry moving on its right,
captured four pieces of artillery. This opened the way for Hancock
to push out his whole corps, and as he advanced by a wheel, with his
left as a pivot, the cavalry joined in the movement, pressing forward
on the New Market and Central or Charles City roads.

We did not go far before we found the enemy's infantry posted across
these two roads behind a strong line of intrenchments on the west
bank of Bailey's Creek. His videttes in front of Ruffin's house on
the New Market road were soon driven in on their main line, and the
high ground before the house was immediately occupied by Torbert and
Gregg, supported by Kautz's division. By the time the cavalry line
was formed the Confederate General Kershaw, with his own division of
infantry and those of Wilcox and Heath, advanced to attack us.
Directing the most of his troops against the cavalry, which was still
mounted, Kershaw drove it back some distance over the high ground.
When it reached the eastern face of the ridge, however, it was
quickly dismounted, and the men directed to lie down in line of
battle about fifteen yards from the crest, and here the onset of the
enemy was awaited. When Kershaw's men reached the crest such a
severe fire was opened on them, and at such close quarters, that they
could not withstand it, and gave way in disorder. They were followed
across the plain by the cavalry, and lost about two hundred and fifty
prisoners and two battle-flags. The counter attack against the
infantry by Torbert and Gregg re-established our line and gave us the
victory of Darbytown, but it also demonstrated the fact that General
Lee had anticipated the movement around his left flank by
transferring to the north side of the James a large portion of his
infantry and W. H. F. Lee's division of cavalry.

This development rendered useless any further effort on Hancock's
part or mine to carry out the plan of the expedition, for General
Grant did not intend Hancock to assault the enemy's works unless
there should be found in them but a very thin line of infantry which
could be surprised. In such event, Hancock was to operate so that
the cavalry might turn the Confederates on the Central or Charles
City road, but the continually increasing force of the enemy showed
this to be impracticable. The long front presented by Hancock's
corps and the cavalry deceived General Lee, and he undoubtedly
thought that nearly all of Grant's army had been moved to the north
side of the James River; and to meet the danger he transferred the
most of his own strength to the same side to confront his adversary,
thinning the lines around Petersburg to reinforce those opposing us
on the Central and New Market roads. This was what Grant hoped Lee
would do in case the operations of Hancock and myself became
impracticable, for Grant had an alternative plan for carrying
Petersburg by assault in conjunction with the explosion of a mine
that had been driven under the enemy's works from the front of
Burnside's corps.

Now that there was no longer a chance for the cavalry to turn the
enemy's left, our attention was directed to keeping up the deception
of Lee, and on the afternoon of the 28th Hancock's corps withdrew to
a line nearer the head of the bridge, the cavalry drawing back to a
position on his right. From now on, all sorts of devices and
stratagems were practiced--anything that would tend to make the
Confederates believe we were being reinforced, while Hancock was
preparing for a rapid return to Petersburg at the proper time. In
order to delude the enemy still more after night-fall of the 28th I
sent one of my divisions to the south side of the James, first
covering the bridgeway with refuse hay to keep the tramp of the horses
from being heard. After daylight the next morning, I marched this
division back again on foot, in full view of the enemy, to create the
impression of a continuous movement large bodies of infantry to the
north side, while the same time Kautz was made to skirmish with the
enemy on our extreme right. These various artifices had the effect
intended, for by the evening of the 29th Lee had transferred all his
infantry to the north bank of the James, except three divisions, and
all his cavalry save one.

The morning of the 30th had been fixed upon to explode the mine and
assault the enemy's works, so after dark on the evening of the 29th
Hancock hastily but quietly withdrew his corps to the south side to
take part in the engagement which was to succeed the explosion, and I
was directed to follow Hancock. This left me on the north side of
the river confronting two-thirds of Lee's army in a perilous
position, where I could easily be driven into Curl's Neck and my
whole command annihilated. The situation, therefore, was not a
pleasant one to contemplate, but it could not be avoided. Luckily
the enemy did not see fit to attack, and my anxiety was greatly
relieved by getting the whole command safely across the bridge
shortly after daylight, having drawn in the different brigades
successively from my right. By 10 o'clock on the morning of the 3oth
my leading division was well over toward the left of our army in
front of Petersburg, marching with the purpose to get around the
enemy's right flank during the operations that were to succeed the
mine explosion, but when I reached General Meade's headquarters I
found that lamentable failure had attended the assault made when the
enemy's works were blown up in the morning. Blunder after blunder
had rendered the assault abortive, and all the opportunities opened
by our expedition to the north side were irretrievably lost, so
General Meade at once arrested the movement of the cavalry.

In the expedition to Deep Bottom I was under the command of
Major-General Hancock, who, by seniority, was to control my corps as
well as his own until the way was opened for me to get out on the
Virginia Central railroad. If this opportunity was gained, I was to
cut loose and damage Lee's communications with the Shenandoah Valley
in such manner as best suited the conditions, but my return was not to
be jeopardized nor long delayed. This necessitated that Hancock's
line should extend to Bottom's bridge on the Chickahominy. The
enemy's early discovery of the movement and his concentration of
troops on the north side prevented Hancock from accomplishing the
programme laid out for him. Its impracticability was demonstrated
early on the 27th, and Hancock's soldierly instincts told him this the
moment he unexpectedly discovered Kershaw blocking the New Market and
Charles City roads. To Hancock the temptation to assault Kershaw's
position was strong indeed, but if he carried it there would still
remain the dubious problem of holding the line necessary for my safe
return, so with rare judgment he desisted zealously turning to the
alternative proposition--the assault on Petersburg--for more
significant results. This was the only occasion during the war in
which I was associated with Hancock in campaign. Up till then we had
seldom met, and that was the first opportunity I had to observe his
quick apprehension, his physical courage, and the soldierly
personality which had long before established his high reputation.

On the 1st of August, two days after the mine explosion, I was.
relieved from the personal command of the Cavalry Corps, and ordered
to the Shenandoah Valley, where at a later date Torbert's and
Wilson's divisions joined me. Practically, after I went to the
valley, my command of the Cavalry Corps became supervisory merely.
During the period of my immediate control of the corps, I tried to
carry into effect, as far as possible, the views I had advanced
before and during the opening of the Wilderness campaign, i.e., "that
our cavalry ought to fight the enemy's cavalry, and our infantry the
enemy's infantry"; for there was great danger of breaking the spirit
of the corps if it was to be pitted against the enemy's compact
masses of foot-troops posted behind intrenchments, and unless there
was some adequate tactical or strategical advantage to be gained,
such a use of it would not be justified. Immediately succeeding the
battles of the Wilderness, opportunity offered to put this plan into
execution to some extent, and from that time forward--from the battle
of Yellow Tavern--our success was almost continuous, resulting
finally, before the close of the war, in the nearly total
annihilation of the enemy's cavalry.

The constant activity of the corps from May 5 till August 1 gave
little opportunity for the various division and brigade commanders to
record its work in detail; so there exists but meagre accounts of the
numerous skirmishes and graver conflicts in which, in addition to the
fights mentioned in this narrative, it engaged. A detailed history
of its performances is not within the province of a work of this
nature; but in review, it can be said, without trespassing on the
reader's time, that the Cavalry Corps led the advance of the Army of
the Potomac into the Wilderness in the memorable campaign of 1864;
that on the expedition by way of Richmond to Haxall's it marked out
the army's line of march to the North Anna; that it again led the
advance to the Tolopotomy, and also to Cold Harbor, holding that
important strategic point at great hazard; and that by the Trevillian
expedition it drew away the enemy's cavalry from the south side of
the Chickahominy, and thereby assisted General Grant materially in
successfully marching to the James River and Petersburg.
Subsequently, Wilson made his march to Staunton bridge, destroying
railroads and supplies of inestimable value, and though this was
neutralized by his disaster near Ream's Station, the temporary
set-back there to one division was soon redeemed by victory over
the Confederate infantry at the battle of Darbytown.

In the campaign we were almost always on the march, night and day,
often unable to care properly for our wounded, and obliged to bury
our dead where they fell; and innumerable combats attest the part the
cavalry played in Grant's march from the Rapidan to Petersburg. In
nearly all of these our casualties were heavy, particularly so when,
as was often the case, we had to engage the Confederate infantry; but
the enemy returned such a full equivalent in dead and wounded in
every instance, that finally his mounted power, which from the
beginning of the war had been nurtured with a wise appreciation of
its value, was utterly broken.



When the attempt to take Petersburg in conjunction with the mine
explosion resulted in such a dismal failure, all the operations
contemplated in connection with that project came to a standstill,
and there was every prospect that the intensely hot and sultry
weather would prevent further activity in the Army of the Potomac
till a more propitious season. Just now, however, the conditions
existing in the Shenandoah Valley and along the upper Potomac
demanded the special attention of General Grant, for, notwithstanding
the successful march that Major-General David Hunter had made toward
Lynchburg early in the summer, what he had first gained was
subsequently lost by strategical mistakes, that culminated in
disaster during the retreat he was obliged to make from the vicinity
of Lynchburg to the Kanawha Valley. This route of march uncovered
the lower portion of the Valley of the Shenandoah, and with the
exception of a small force of Union troops under General Franz Sigel
posted aft Martinsburg for the purpose of covering the Baltimore and
Ohio railroad, there was nothing at hand to defend the lower valley.

The different bodies of Confederates which compelled Hunter's retreat
were under command of General Jubal A. Early, who had been sent to
Lynchburg with Ewell's corps after the defeat of the Confederate
General W. C. Jones near Staunton on the 5th of June, to take command
of the Valley District. When Early had forced Hunter into the
Kanawha region far enough to feel assured that Lynchburg could not
again be threatened from that direction, he united to his own corps
General John C. Breckenridge's infantry division and the cavalry of
Generals J. H. Vaughn, John McCausland. B. T. Johnson, and J. D.
Imboden, which heretofore had been operating in southwest and western
Virginia under General Robert Ransom, Jr., and with the column thus
formed, was ready to turn his attention to the lower Shenandoah
Valley. At Early's suggestion General Lee authorized him to move
north at an opportune moment, cross the upper Potomac into Maryland
and threaten Washington. Indeed, General Lee had foreshadowed such a
course when Early started toward Lynchburg for the purpose of
relieving the pressure in front of Petersburg, but was in some doubt
as to the practicability of the movement later, till persuaded to it
by the representations of Early after that general had driven Hunter
beyond the mountains and found little or nothing opposing except the
small force of Sigel, which he thought he could readily overcome by
celerity of movement.

By rapid marching Early reached Winchester on the 2d of July, and on
the 4th occupied Martinsburg, driving General Sigel out of that place
the same day that Hunter's troops, after their fatiguing retreat
through the mountains, reached Charlestown, West Virginia. Early was
thus enabled to cross the Potomac without difficulty, when, moving
around Harper's Ferry, through the gaps of the South Mountain, he
found his path unobstructed till he reached the Monocacy, where
Ricketts's division of the Sixth Corps, and some raw troops that had
been collected by General Lew Wallace, met and held the Confederates
till the other reinforcements that had been ordered to the capital
from Petersburg could be brought up. Wallace contested the line of
the Monocacy with obstinacy, but had to retire finally toward
Baltimore. The road was then open to Washington, and Early marched
to the outskirts and began against the capital the demonstrations
which were designed to divert the Army of the Potomac from its main
purpose in front of Petersburg.

Early's audacity in thus threatening Washington had caused some
concern to the officials in the city, but as the movement was looked
upon by General Grant as a mere foray which could have no decisive
issue, the Administration was not much disturbed till the
Confederates came in close proximity. Then was repeated the alarm
and consternation of two years before, fears for the safety of the
capital being magnified by the confusion and discord existing among
the different generals in Washington and Baltimore; and the imaginary
dangers vanished only with the appearance of General Wright, who,
with the Sixth Corps and one division of the Nineteenth Corps, pushed
out to attack Early as soon as he could get his arriving troops in
hand, but under circumstances that precluded celerity of movement;
and as a consequence the Confederates escaped with little injury,
retiring across the Potomac to Leesburg, unharassed save by some
Union cavalry that had been sent out into Loudoun County by Hunter,
who in the meantime had arrived at Harper's Ferry by the Baltimore
and Ohio railroad. From Leesburg Early retired through Winchester
toward Strasburg, but when the head of his column reached this place
he found that he was being followed by General Crook with the
combined troops of Hunter and Sigel only, Wright having returned to
Washington under orders to rejoin Meade at Petersburg. This
reduction of the pursuing force tempting Early to resume the
offensive, he attacked Crook at Kernstown, and succeeded in
administering such a check as to necessitate this general's retreat
to Martinsburg, and finally to Harper's Ferry. Crook's withdrawal
restored to Early the line of the upper Potomac, so, recrossing this
stream, he advanced again into Maryland, and sending McCausland on to
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, laid that town in ashes, leaving three
thousand non-combatants without shelter or food.

When Early fell back from the vicinity of Washington toward
Strasburg, General Grant believed that he would rejoin Lee, but later
manoeuvres of the enemy indicated that Early had given up this idea,
if he ever, entertained it, and intended to remain in the valley,
since it would furnish Lee and himself with subsistence, and also
afford renewed opportunities for threatening Washington. Indeed, the
possession of the Valley of the Shenandoah at this time was of vast
importance to Lee's army, and on every hand there were indications
that the Confederate Government wished to hold it at least until
after the crops could be gathered in to their depots at Lynchburg and
Richmond. Its retention, besides being of great advantage in the
matter of supplies, would also be a menace to the North difficult for
General Grant to explain, and thereby add an element of considerable
benefit to the Confederate cause; so when Early's troops again
appeared at Martinsburg it was necessary for General Grant to
confront them with a force strong enough to put an end to incursions
north of the Potomac, which hitherto had always led to National
discomfiture at some critical juncture, by turning our army in
eastern Virginia from its chief purpose--the destruction of Lee and
the capture of the Confederate capital.

This second irruption of Early, and his ruthless destruction of
Chambersburg led to many recommendations on the part of General Grant
looking to a speedy elimination of the confusion then existing among
the Union forces along the upper Potomac, but for a time the
authorities at Washington would approve none of his propositions.
The President and Secretary Stanton seemed unwilling to adopt his
suggestions, and one measure which he deemed very important--the
consolidation into a single command of the four geographical
districts into which, to relieve political pressure no doubt, the
territory had been divided--met with serious opposition. Despite
Grant's representations, he could not prevail on the Administration
to approve this measure, but finally the manoeuvres of Early and the
raid to Chambersburg compelled a partial compliance, though Grant had
somewhat circumvented the difficulty already by deciding to appoint a
commander for the forces in the field that were to operate against

On the 31st of July General Grant selected me as this commander, and
in obedience to his telegraphic summons I repaired to his
headquarters at City Point. In the interview that followed, he
detailed to me the situation of affairs on the upper Potomac, telling
me that I was to command in the field the troops that were to operate
against Early, but that General Hunter, who was at the head of the
geographical department, would be continued in his position for the
reason that the Administration was reluctant to reconstruct or
consolidate the different districts. After informing me that one
division of the Cavalry Corps would be sent to my new command, he
went on to say that he wanted me to push the enemy as soon as this
division arrived, and if Early retired up the Shenandoah Valley I was
to pursue, but if he crossed the Potomac I was to put myself south of
him and try to compass his destruction. The interview having ended,
I returned to Hancock Station to prepare for my departure, and on the
evening of August 1 I was relieved from immediate duty with the Army
of the Potomac, but not from command of the cavalry as a corps

I arrived at Washington on the 4th of August, and the next day
received instructions from General Halleck to report to General Grant
at Monocacy Junction, whither he had gone direct from City Point, in
consequence of a characteristic despatch from the President
indicating his disgust with the confusion, disorder, and helplessness
prevailing along the upper Potomac, and intimating that Grant's
presence there was necessary.

In company with the Secretary of War I called on the President before
leaving Washington, and during a short conversation Mr. Lincoln
candidly told me that Mr. Stanton had objected to my assignment to
General Hunter's command, because he thought me too young, and that
he himself had concurred with the Secretary; but now, since General
Grant had "ploughed round" the difficulties of the situation by
picking me out to command the "boys in the field," he felt satisfied
with what had been done, and "hoped for the best." Mr. Stanton
remained silent during these remarks, never once indicating whether
he, too, had become reconciled to my selection or not; and although,
after we left the White House, he conversed with me freely in regard
to the campaign I was expected to make, seeking to impress on me the
necessity for success from the political as well as from the military
point of view, yet he utterly ignored the fact that he had taken any
part in disapproving the recommendation of the general-in-chief.

August 6, I reported to General Grant at the Monocacy, and he there
turned over to me the following instructions, which he had previously
prepared for General Hunter in the expectation that general would
continue to command the department:

"Monocacy Bridge, Md., Aug. 5, 1864.

"GENERAL: Concentrate all your available force without delay in the
vicinity of Harper's Ferry, leaving only such railroad guards and
garrisons for public property as may be necessary.

"Use in this concentration the railroad, if by so doing time can be
saved. From Harper's Ferry, if it is found that the enemy has moved
north of the Potomac in large force, push north, following and
attacking him wherever found; following him, if driven south of the
Potomac, as long as it is safe to do so. If it is ascertained that
the enemy has but a small force north of the Potomac, then push south
the main force, detaching, under a competent commander, a sufficient
force to look after the raiders and drive them to their homes. In
detaching such a force, the brigade of cavalry now en route from
Washington via Rockville may be taken into account.

"There are now on the way to join you three other brigades of the
best of cavalry, numbering at least five thousand men and horses.
These will be instructed, in the absence of further orders, to join
you by the south side of the Potomac. One brigade will probably
start to-morrow.

"In pushing up the Shenandoah Valley, as 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 cannot 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

"Bear in mind, the object is to drive the enemy south; and to do this
you want to keep him always in sight. Be guided in your course by
the course he takes.

"Make your own arrangements for supplies of all kinds, giving regular
vouchers for such as may be taken from loyal citizens in the country
through which you march.

"Very respectfully,
"U. S. GRANT, Lieut.-General."

"Major-General D. HUNTER,
"Commanding Department of West Virginia."

When I had read the letter addressed to Hunter, General Grant said I
would be expected to report directly to him, as Hunter had asked that
day to be wholly relieved, not from any chagrin at my assignment to
the control of the active forces of his command, but because he
thought that his fitness for the position he was filling was
distrusted by General Halleck, and he had no wish to cause
embarrassment by remaining where he could but remove me one degree
from the headquarters of the army. The next day Hunter's unselfish
request was complied with, and an order was issued by the President,
consolidating the Middle Department, the Department of Washington,
the Department of the Susquehanna, and the Department of West

Under this order these four geographical districts constituted the
Middle Military Division, and I was temporarily assigned to command
it. Hunter's men had been bivouacking for some days past in the
vicinity of Monocacy Junction and Frederick, but before General
Grant's instructions were written out, Hunter had conformed to them
by directing the concentration at Halltown, about four miles in front
of Harper's Ferry, of all his force available for field service.
Therefore the different bodies of troops, with the exception of
Averell's cavalry, which had followed McCausland toward Moorefield
after the burning of Chambersburg, were all in motion toward Halltown
on August 6.

Affairs at Monocacy kept me but an hour or two, and these disposed
of, I continued on to Harper's Ferry by the special train which had
brought me from Washington, that point being intended as my
headquarters while making preparations to advance. The enemy was
occupying Martinsburg, Williamsport, and Shepherdstown at the time;
sending occasional raiding parties into Maryland as far as
Hagerstown. The concentration of my troops at Halltown being an
indication to Early that we intended to renew the offensive, however,
he immediately began counter preparations by drawing in all his
detached columns from the north side of the Potomac, abandoning a
contemplated raid into Maryland, which his success against Crook at
Kernstown had prompted him to project, and otherwise disposing
himself for defense.

At Harper's Ferry I made my headquarters in the second story of a
small and very dilapidated hotel, and as soon as settled sent for
Lieutenant John R. Meigs, the chief engineer officer of the command,
to study with him the maps of my geographical division. It always
came rather easy to me to learn the geography of a new section, and
its important topographical features as well; therefore I found that,
with the aid of Meigs, who was most intelligent in his profession,
the region in which I was to operate would soon be well fixed in my
mind. Meigs was familiar with every important road and stream, and
with all points worthy of note west of the Blue Ridge, and was
particularly well equipped with knowledge regarding the Shenandoah
Valley, even down to the farmhouses. He imparted with great
readiness what he knew of this, clearly pointing out its
configuration and indicating the strongest points for Confederate
defense, at the same time illustrating scientifically and forcibly
the peculiar disadvantages under which the Union army had hitherto

The section that received my closest attention has its northern limit
along the Potomac between McCoy's ferry at the eastern base of the
North Mountain, and Harper's Ferry at the western base of the Blue
Ridge. The southern limit is south of Staunton, on the divide which
separates the waters flowing into the Potomac from those that run to
the James. The western boundary is the eastern slope of the
Alleghany Mountains, the eastern, the Blue Ridge; these two distinct
mountain ranges trending about southwest inclose a stretch of quite
open, undulating country varying in width from the northern to the
southern extremity, and dotted at frequent intervals with patches of
heavy woods: At Martinsburg the valley is about sixty miles broad,
and on an east and west line drawn through Winchester about
forty-five, while at Strasburg it narrows down to about twenty-five.
Just southeast of Strasburg, which is nearly midway between the
eastern and western walls of the valley, rises an abrupt range of
mountains called Massanutten, consisting of several ridges which
extend southward between the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah
River until, losing their identity, they merge into lower but broken
ground between New Market and Harrisonburg. The Massanutten ranges,
with their spurs and hills, divide the Shenandoah Valley into two
valleys, the one next the Blue Ridge being called the Luray, while
that next the North Mountain retains the name of Shenandoah.

A broad macadamized road, leading south from Williamsport, Maryland,
to Lexington, Virginia, was built at an early day to connect the
interior of the latter State with the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, and
along this road are situated the principal towns and villages of the
Shenandoah Valley, with lateral lines of communication extending to
the mountain ranges on the east and west. The roads running toward
the Blue Ridge are nearly all macadamized, and the principal ones
lead to the railroad system of eastern Virginia through Snicker's,
Ashby's Manassas, Chester, Thornton's Swift Run, Brown's and
Rock-fish gaps, tending to an ultimate centre at Richmond. These gaps
are low and easy, offering little obstruction to the march of an army
coming from eastern Virginia, and thus the Union troops operating west
of the Blue Ridge were always subjected to the perils of a flank
attack; for the Confederates could readily be brought by rail to
Gordonsville and Charlottesville, from which points they could move
with such celerity through the Blue Ridge that, on more than one
occasion, the Shenandoah Valley had been the theatre of Confederate
success, due greatly to the advantage of possessing these interior

Nature had been very kind to the valley, making it rich and
productive to an exceptional degree, and though for three years
contending armies had been marching up and down it, the fertile soil
still yielded ample subsistence for Early's men, with a large surplus
for the army of Lee. The ground had long been well cleared of
timber, and the rolling surface presented so few obstacles to the
movement of armies that they could march over the country in any
direction almost as well as on the roads, the creeks and rivers being
everywhere fordable, with little or no difficulty beyond that of
leveling the approaches.

I had opposing me an army largely composed of troops that had
operated in this region hitherto under "Stonewall" Jackson with
marked success, inflicting defeat on the Union forces almost every
time the two armies had come in contact. These men were now commanded
by a veteran officer of the Confederacy-General Jubal A. Early--whose
past services had so signalized his ability that General Lee
specially selected him to take charge of the Valley District, and,
notwithstanding the misfortunes that befell him later, clung to him
till the end, of the war. The Confederate army at this date was
about twenty thousand strong, and consisted of Early's own corps,
with Generals Rodes, Ramseur, and Gordon commanding its divisions;
the infantry of Breckenridge from southwestern Virginia; three
battalions of artillery; and the cavalry brigades of Vaughn, Johnson,
McCausland, and Imboden. This cavalry was a short time afterward
organized into a division under the command of General Lomax.

After discovering that my troops were massing in front of Harper's
Ferry, Early lost not a moment in concentrating his in the vicinity
of Martinsburg, in positions from which he could continue to obstruct
the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and yet be enabled to retire up the
valley under conditions of safety when I should begin an offensive

When I took command of the Army of the Shenandoah its infantry force
comprised the Sixth Corps, one division of the Nineteenth Corps, and
two divisions from West Virginia. The Sixth Corps was commanded
by Major-General Horatio G. Wright; its three divisions by
Brigadier-Generals David A. Russell, Geo. W. Getty, and James B.
Ricketts. The single division of the Nineteenth Corps had for its
immediate chief Brigadier-General William Dwight, the corps being
commanded by Brigadier-General Wm. H. Emory. The troops from West
Virginia were under Brigadier-General George Crook, with Colonels
Joseph Thoburn and Isaac H. Duval as division commanders, and though
in all not more than one fair-sized division, they had been
designated, on account of the department they belonged to, the Army of
West Virginia. General Torbert's division, then arriving from the
Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac, represented the mounted arm
of the service, and in the expectation that Averell would soon join me
with his troopers, I assigned General Torbert as chief of cavalry, and
General Wesley Merritt succeeded to the command of Torbert's division.

General Wright, the commander of the Sixth Corps, was an officer of
high standing in the Corps of Engineers, and had seen much active
service during the preceding three years. He commanded the
Department of the Ohio throughout the very trying period of the
summer and fall of 1862, and while in that position he, with other
prominent officers, recommended my appointment as a
brigadier-general. In 1863 he rendered valuable service at the battle
of Gettysburg, following which he was assigned to the Sixth Corps, and
commanded it at the capture of the Confederate works at Rappahannock
Station and in the operations at Mine Run. He ranked me as a
major-general of volunteers by nearly a year in date of commission,
but my assignment by the President to the command of the army in the
valley met with Wright's approbation, and, so far as I have ever
known, he never questioned the propriety of the President's action.
The Sixth Corps division commanders, Getty, Russell, and Ricketts,
were all educated soldiers, whose records, beginning with the Mexican
War, had already been illustrated in the war of the rebellion by
distinguished service in the Army of the Potomac.

General Emory was a veteran, having graduated at the Military Academy
in 1831, the year I was born. In early life he had seen much service
in the Artillery, the Topographical Engineers, and the Cavalry, and
in the war of the rebellion had exhibited the most soldierly
characteristics at Port Hudson and on the Red River campaign. At
this time he had but one division of the Nineteenth Corps present,
which division was well commanded by General Dwight, a volunteer
officer who had risen to the grade of brigadier-general through
constant hard work. Crook was a classmate of mine--at least, we
entered the Military Academy the same year, though he graduated a
year ahead of me. We had known each other as boys before we entered
the army, and later as men, and I placed implicit faith in his
experience and qualifications as a general.

The transfer of Torbert to the position of chief of cavalry left
Merritt, as I have already said, in command of the First Cavalry
Division. He had been tried in the place before, and from the day he
was selected as one of a number of young men to be appointed general
officers, with the object of giving life to the Cavalry Corps, he
filled the measure of expectation. Custer was one of these young men
too, and though as yet commanding a brigade under Merritt, his
gallant fight at Trevillian Station, as well as a dozen others during
the summer, indicated that he would be equal to the work that was to
fall to him when in a few weeks he should succeed Wilson. But to go
on down the scale of rank, describing the officers who commanded in
the Army of the Shenandoah, would carry me beyond all limit, so I
refrain from the digression with regret that I cannot pay to each his
well-earned tribute.

The force that I could take with me into the field at this time
numbered about 26,000 men. Within the limits of the geographical
division there was a much greater number of troops than this.
Baltimore, Washington, Harper's Ferry, Hagerstown, Frederick,
Cumberland, and a score of other points; besides the strong
detachments that it took to keep the Baltimore and Ohio railroad open
through the mountains of West Virginia, and escorts for my trains,
absorbed so many men that the column which could be made available
for field operations was small when compared with the showing on
paper. Indeed, it was much less than it ought to have been, but for
me, in the face of the opposition made by different interests
involved, to detach troops from any of the points to which they had
been distributed before I took charge was next to impossible.

In a few days after my arrival preparations were completed, and I was
ready to make the first move for the possession of the Shenandoah
Valley. For the next five weeks the operations on my part consisted
almost wholly of offensive and defensive manoeuvring for certain
advantages, the enemy confining himself meanwhile to measures
intended to counteract my designs. Upon the advent of Torbert, Early
immediately grew suspicious, and fell back twelve miles south of
Martinsburg, to Bunker Hill and vicinity, where his right flank would
be less exposed, but from which position he could continue to
maintain the break in the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and push
reconnoitring parties through Smithfield to Charlestown. These
reconnoitring parties exhibited considerable boldness at times, but
since they had no purpose in view save to discover whether or not we
were moving, I did not contest any ground with them except about our
outposts. Indeed, I desired that Early might remain at some point
well to the north till I was fully prepared to throw my army on his
right and rear and force a battle, and hence I abstained from
disturbing him by premature activity, for I thought that if I could
beat him at Winchester, or north of it, there would be far greater
chances of weighty results. I therefore determined to bring my
troops, if it were at all possible to do so, into such a position
near that town as to oblige Early to fight. The sequel proved,
however, that he was accurately informed of all my movements. To
anticipate them, therefore, he began his retreat up the valley the
day that I moved out from Halltown, and consequently was able to
place himself south of Winchester before I could get there.



For a clear understanding of the operations which preceded the
victories that resulted in almost annihilating General Early's army
in the Shenandoah Valley, it is necessary to describe in considerable
detail the events that took place prior to the 19th of September. My
army marched from Harper's Ferry on the 10th of August, 1864, General
Torbert with Merritt's division of cavalry moving in advance through
Berryville, going into position near White Post. The Sixth Corps,
under General Wright, moved by way of Charlestown and Summit Point to
Clifton; General Emory, with Dwight's division of the Nineteenth
Corps, marched along the Berryville pike through Berryville to the
left of the position of the Sixth Corps at Clifton; General Crook's
command, moving on the Kabletown road, passed through Kabletown to
the vicinity of Berryville, and went into position on the left of
Dwight's division, while Colonel Lowell, with a detached force of two
small regiments of cavalry, marched to Summit Point; so that on the
night of August 10 my infantry occupied a line stretching from
Clifton to Berryville, with Merritt's cavalry at White Post and
Lowell's at Summit Point. The enemy, as stated before, moved at the
same time from Bunker Hill and vicinity, and stretched his line from
where the Winchester and Potomac railroad crosses Opequon Creek to
the point at which the Berryville and Winchester pike crosses the
same stream, thus occupying the west bank to cover Winchester.

On the morning of the 11th the Sixth Corps was ordered to move across
the country toward the junction of the Berryville-Winchester pike and
the Opequon, and to take the crossing and hold it, Dwight's division
being directed to move through Berryville on the White Post road for
a mile, then file to the right by heads of regiments at deploying
distances, and carry the crossing of Opequon Creek at a ford about
three-fourths of a mile from the left of the Sixth Corps, while Crook
was instructed to move out on the White Post road, a mile and a half
beyond Berryville, then head to the right and secure the ford about a
mile to the left of Dwight; Torbert's orders were to push Merritt's
division up the Millwood pike toward Winchester, attack any force he
might run against, and ascertain the movements of the Confederate
army; and lastly, Lowell received instructions to close in from
Summit Point on the right of the Sixth Corps.

My object in securing the fords was to further my march on Winchester
from the southeast, since, from all the information gathered during
the 10th, I still thought Early could be brought to a stand at that
point; but in this I was mistaken, as Torbert's reconnoissance
proved, for on the morning of the 11th, when Merritt had driven the
Confederate cavalry, then covering the Millwood pike west of the
Opequon, off toward Kernstown, he found that their infantry and
artillery were retreating south, up the Valley pike.

As soon as this information was obtained Torbert moved quickly
through the toll-gate on the Front Royal and Winchester road to
Newtown, to strike the enemy's flank and harass him in his retreat,
Lowell following up through Winchester, on the Valley pike; Crook was
turned to the left and ordered to Stony Point, while Emory and
Wright, marching to the left also, were directed to take post on the
night of the 11th between the Millwood and Front Royal roads, within
supporting distance of Crook. Merritt meeting some of the enemy's
cavalry at the tollgate, drove it in the direction of Newtown till it
got inside the line of Gordon's division of infantry, which had been
thrown out and posted behind barricades to cover the flank of the
main force in its retreat. A portion of Merritt's cavalry attacked
this infantry and drove in its skirmish-line, and though not able to
dislodge Gordon, Merritt held the ground gained till night-fall, when
the Confederate infantry moved off under cover of darkness to Hupp's
Hill, between Strasburg and Cedar Creek.

The next morning Crook marched from Stony Point to Cedar Creek, Emory
followed with Dwight, and the cavalry moved to the same point by way
of Newtown and the Valley pike, the Sixth Corps following the
cavalry. That night Crook was in position at Cedar Creek, on the
left of the Valley pike, Emory on the right of the pike, the Sixth
Corps on the right of Emory, and the cavalry on the flanks. In the
afternoon a heavy skirmish-line had been thrown forward to the
heights on the south side of Cedar Creek, and a brisk affair with the
enemy's pickets took place, the Confederates occupying with their
main force the heights north of Strasburg. On the morning of the
13th my cavalry went out to reconnoitre toward Strasburg, on the
middle road, about two and a half miles west of the Valley pike, and
discovered that Early's infantry was at Fisher's Hill, where he had
thrown up behind Tumbling Run earthworks extending clear across the
narrow valley between the Massanutten and North mountains. On the
left of these works he had Vaughan's, McCausland's, and Johnson's
brigades of cavalry under General Lomax, who at this time relieved
General Ramseur from the command of the Confederate mounted forces.

Within the past day or two I had received information that a column
of the enemy was moving up from Culpeper Court House and approaching
Front Royal through Chester Gap, and although the intelligence was
unconfirmed, it caused me much solicitude; for there was strong
probability that such a movement would be made, and any considerable
force advancing through Front Royal toward Winchester could fall upon
my rear and destroy my communication with Harper's Ferry, or, moving
along the base of Massanutten Mountain, could attack my flank in
conjunction with the force at Fisher's Hill without a possibility of
my preventing it.

Neither Wilson's cavalry nor Grower's infantry had yet joined me, and
the necessities, already explained, which obliged me to hold with
string garrisons Winchester and other points heretofore mentioned.
had so depleted my line of battle strength that I knew the enemy
would outnumber me when Anderson's corps should arrive in the valley.
I deemed it advisable, therefore, to act with extreme caution, so,
with the exception of a cavalry reconnoissance on the 13th, I
remained on the defensive, quietly awaiting developments. In the
evening of that day the enemy's skirmishers withdrew to Tumbling Run,
his main force remaining inactive behind the intrenchments at
Fisher's Hill waiting for the arrival of Anderson.

The rumors in regard to the force advancing from Culpeper kept
increasing every hour, so on the morning of the 14th I concluded to
send a brigade of cavalry to Front Royal to ascertain definitely what
was up. At the same time I crossed the Sixth Corps to the south side
of Cedar Creek, and occupied the heights near Strasburg. That day I
received from the hands of Colonel Chipman, of the Adjutant-General's
Department, the following despatch, to deliver which he had ridden in
great haste from Washington through Snicker's Gap, escorted by a
regiment of cavalry:

"CITY POINT, August 12, 1864--9 A. M.


"Inform General Sheridan that it is now certain two (2) divisions of
infantry have gone to Early, and some cavalry and twenty (20) pieces
of artillery. This movement commenced last Saturday night. He must
be cautious, and act now on the defensive until movements here force
them to detach to send this way. Early's force, with this increase,
cannot exceed forty thousand men, but this is too much for General
Sheridan to attack. Send General Sheridan the remaining brigade of
the Nineteenth Corps.

"I have ordered to Washington all the one-hundred-day men. Their
time will soon be out, but for the present they will do to serve in
the defenses.

"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General."

The despatch explained the movement from Culpeper, and on the morning
of the 15th Merritt's two remaining brigades were sent to Front Royal
to oppose Anderson, and the Sixth Corps withdrawn to the north side
of Cedar Creek, where it would be in a position enabling me either to
confront Anderson or to act defensively, as desired by General Grant.

To meet the requirements of his instructions I examined the map of
the valley for a defensive line--a position where a smaller number of
troops could hold a larger number--for this information led me to
suppose that Early's force would greatly exceed mine when Anderson's
two divisions of infantry and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry had joined him.
I could see but one such position, and that was at Halltown, in front
of Harper's Ferry. Subsequent experience convinced me that there was
no other really defensive line in the Shenandoah Valley, for at
almost any other point the open country and its peculiar topography
invites rather than forbids flanking operations.

This retrograde movement would also enable me to strengthen my
command by Grower's division of the Nineteenth Corps and Wilson's
cavalry, both of which divisions were marching from Washington by way
of Snicker's Gap.

After fully considering the matter, I determined to move back to
Halltown, carrying out, as I retired, my instructions to destroy all
the forage and subsistence the country afforded. So Emory was
ordered to retire to Winchester on the night of the 15th, and Wright
and Crook to follow through Winchester to Clifton the next night.

For the cavalry, in this move to the rear, I gave the following

"....In pushing up the Shenandoah Valley, as 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 cannot be
consumed, destroy. It is not desirable that 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...." [Grant's letter of instructions.]

"Cedar Creek, Va., August 16, 1864.

"GENERAL: In compliance with instructions of the Lieutenant-General
commanding, you will make the necessary arrangements and give the
necessary orders for the destruction of the wheat and hay south of a
line from Millwood to Winchester and Petticoat Gap. You will seize
all mules, horses, and cattle that may be useful to our army. Loyal
citizens can bring in their claims against the Government for this
necessary destruction. No houses will be burned, and officers in
charge of this delicate but necessary duty must inform the people
that the object is to make this valley untenable for the raiding
parties of the rebel army.

"Very respectfully,

"Major-General Commanding.

"Chief of Cavalry, Middle Military Division."

During his visit to General Hunter at the Monocacy, General Grant had
not only decided to retain in the Shenandoah Valley a large force
sufficient to defeat Early's army or drive it back to Lee, but he had
furthermore determined to make that sections by the destruction of
its supplies, untenable for continued occupancy by the Confederates.
This would cut off one of Lee's main-stays in the way of subsistence,
and at the same time diminish the number of recruits and conscripts
he received; the valley district while under his control not only
supplying Lee with an abundance of food, but also furnishing him many
men for his regular and irregular forces. Grant's instructions to
destroy the valley began with the letter of August 5 to Hunter, which
was turned over to me, and this was followed at intervals by more
specific directions, all showing the earnestness of his purpose.

"CITY POINT, Va., Aug. 16--3:30 P. M., 1864.

"If you can possibly spare a division of cavalry, send them through
Loudoun County to destroy and carry off the crops, animals, negroes,
and all men under fifty years of age capable of bearing arms. In
this way you will get many of Mosby's men. All male citizens under
fifty can fairly be held as prisoners of war, not as citizen
prisoners. If not already soldiers, they will be made so the moment
the rebel army gets hold of them.

"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General."

"CITY POINT, Aug. 21, 1864.


"In stripping Loudoun County of supplies, etc., impress from all
loyal persons so that they may receive pay for what is taken from
them. I am informed by the Assistant Secretary of War that Loudoun
County has a large population of Quakers, who are all favorably
disposed to the Union. These people may be exempted from arrest.

"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General."

"CITY POINT, Va., Aug. 26,2:30 P. M. 1864.


"Telegraphed you that I had good reason for believing that Fitz Lee
had been ordered back here. I now think it likely that all troops
will be ordered back from the valley except what they believe to be
the minimum number to detain you. My reason for supposing this is
based upon the fact that yielding up the Weldon road seems to be a
blow to the enemy he cannot stand. I think I do not overstate the
loss of the enemy in the last two weeks at 10,000 killed and wounded.
We have lost heavily, mostly in captured when the enemy gained
temporary advantages. Watch closely, and if you find this theory
correct, push with all vigor. Give the enemy no rest, and if it is
possible to follow to the Virginia Central road, follow that far. Do
all the damage to railroads and crops you can. Carry off stock of
all descriptions and negroes, so as to prevent further planting. If
the war is to last another year we want the Shenandoah Valley to
remain a barren waste.

"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

"CITY POINT, Va., Sept. 4,--10 A. M.--1864.


"In cleaning out the arms-bearing community of Loudoun County and the
subsistence for armies, exercise your own judgment as to who should
be exempt from arrest, and as to who should receive pay for their
stock, grain, etc. It is our interest that that county should not be
capable of subsisting a hostile army, and at the same time we want to
inflict as little hardship upon Union men as possible.

"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General."

"CITY POINT, Va., Nov. 9, 1864.

"Do you not think it advisable to notify all citizens living east of
the Blue Ridge to move out north of the Potomac all their stock,
grain, and provisions of every description? There is no doubt about
the necessity of clearing out that country so that it will not
support Mosby's gang. And the question is whether it is not better
that the people should save what they can. So long as the war lasts
they must be prevented from raising another crop, both there and as
high up the valley as we can control.

"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General."

He had rightly concluded that it was time to bring the war home to a
people engaged in raising crops from a prolific soil to feed the
country's enemies, and devoting to the Confederacy its best youth. I
endorsed the programme in all its parts, for the stores of meat and
grain that the valley provided, and the men it furnished for Lee's
depleted regiments, were the strongest auxiliaries he possessed in
the whole insurgent section. In war a territory like this is a
factor of great importance, and whichever adversary controls it
permanently reaps all the advantages of its prosperity. Hence, as I
have said, I endorsed Grant's programme, for I do not hold war to
mean simply that lines of men shall engage each other in battle, and
material interests be ignored. This is but a duel, in which one
combatant seeks the other's life; war means much more, and is far
worse than this. Those who rest at home in peace and plenty see but
little of the horrors attending such a duel, and even grow
indifferent to them as the struggle goes on, contenting themselves
with encouraging all who are able-bodied to enlist in the cause, to
fill up the shattered ranks as death thins them. It is another
matter, however, when deprivation and suffering are brought to their
own doors. Then the case appears much graver, for the loss of
property weighs heavy with the most of mankind; heavier often, than
the sacrifices made on the field of battle. Death is popularly
considered the maximum of punishment in war, but it is not; reduction
to poverty brings prayers for peace more surely and more quickly than
does the destruction of human life, as the selfishness of man has
demonstrated in more than one great conflict.

In the afternoon of the 16th I started back to Winchester, whence I
could better supervise our regressive march. As I was passing
through Newtown, I heard cannonading from the direction of Front
Royal, and on reaching Winchester, Merritt's couriers brought me word
that he had been attacked at the crossing of the Shenandoah by
Kershaw's division of Anderson's corps and two brigades of Fitzhugh
Lee's cavalry, but that the attack had been handsomely repulsed, with
a capture of two battle-flags and three hundred prisoners. This was
an absolute confirmation of the despatch from Grant; and I was now
more than satisfied with the wisdom of my withdrawal.

At daylight of the 17th Emory moved from Winchester to Berryville,
and the same morning Crook and Wright reached Winchester, having
started from Cedar Creek the day before. From Winchester, Crook and
Wright resumed their march toward Clifton, Wright, who had the rear
guard, getting that day as far as the Berryville crossing of the
Opequon, where he was ordered to remain, while Crook went ahead till
he reached the vicinity of Berryville. On the afternoon of the 17th
Lowell with his two regiments of troopers came into Winchester, where
he was joined by Wilson's mounted division, which had come by a rapid
march from Snicker's ferry. In the mean time Merritt, after his
handsome engagement with Kershaw near Front Royal, had been ordered
back to the neighborhood of White Post, so that my cavalry outposts
now extended from this last point around to the west of Winchester.

During all these operations the enemy had a signal-station on Three
Top Mountain, almost overhanging Strasburg, from which every movement
made by our troops could be plainly seen; therefore, early on the
morning of the 17th he became aware of the fact that we were retiring
down the valley, and at once made after us, and about sundown drove
Torbert out of Winchester, he having been left there-with Wilson and
Lowell, and the Jersey brigade of the Sixth Corps, to develop the
character of the enemy's pursuit. After a severe skirmish Wilson and
Lowell fell back to Summit Point, and the Jersey brigade joined its
corps at the crossing of the Opequon. This affair demonstrated that
Early's whole army had followed us from Fisher's Hill, in concert
with Anderson and Fitzhugh Lee from Front Royal, and the two columns
joined near Winchester the morning of the 18th.

That day I moved the Sixth Corps by way of Clifton to Flowing Spring,
two and a half miles west of Charlestown, on the Smithfield pike; and
Emory, with Dwight's and Grower's divisions (Grower's having joined
that morning from Washington), to a position about the same distance
south of Charlestown, on the Berryville pike. Following these
movements, Merritt fell back to Berryville, covering the Berryville
pike crossing of the Opequon, and Wilson was stationed at Summit
Point, whence he held a line along the Opequon as far north as the
bridge at Smithfield. Crook continued to hold on near Clifton until
the next day, and was then moved into place on the left of Emory.

This line was practically maintained till the 21st, when the enemy,
throwing a heavy force across the Opequon by the bridge at
Smithfield, drove in my cavalry pickets to Summit Point, and followed
up with a rapid advance against the position of the Sixth Corps near
Flowing Spring. A sharp and obstinate skirmish with a heavy
picket-line of the Sixth Corps grew out of this manoeuvre, and
resulted very much in our favor, but the quick withdrawal of the
Confederates left no opportunity for a general engagement. It seems
that General Early thought I had taken position near Summit Point, and
that by moving rapidly around through Smithfield he could fall upon my
rear in concert with an attack in front by Anderson, but the warm
reception given him disclosed his error, for he soon discovered that
my line lay in front of Charlestown instead of where he supposed.

In the manoeuvre Merritt had been attacked in front of Berryville and
Wilson at Summit Point, the former by cavalry and the latter by
Anderson's infantry. The exposed positions of Merritt and Wilson
necessitated their withdrawal if I was to continue to act on the
defensive; so, after the army had moved back to Halltown the
preceding night, without loss or inconvenience, I called them in and
posted them on the right of the infantry.

My retrograde move from Strasburg to Halltown caused considerable
alarm in the North, as the public was ignorant of the reasons for it;
and in the excited state of mind then prevailing, it was generally
expected that the reinforced Confederate army would again cross the
Potomac, ravage Maryland and Pennsylvania, and possibly capture
Washington. Mutterings of dissatisfaction reached me from many
sources, and loud calls were made for my removal, but I felt
confident that my course would be justified when the true situation
was understood, for I knew that I was complying with my instructions.
Therefore I paid small heed to the adverse criticisms pouring down
from the North almost every day, being fully convinced that the best
course was to bide my time, and wait till I could get the enemy into
a position from which he could not escape without such serious
misfortune as to have some bearing on the general result of the war.
Indeed, at this time I was hoping that my adversary would renew the
boldness he had exhibited the early part of the month, and strike for
the north side of the Potomac, and wrote to General Grant on the 20th
of August that I had purposely left everything in that direction open
to the enemy.

On the 22d the Confederates moved to Charlestown and pushed well up
to my position at Halltown. Here for the next three days they
skirmished with my videttes and infantry pickets, Emory and Cook
receiving the main attention; but finding that they could make no
impression, and judging it to be an auspicious time to intensify the
scare in the North, on the 25th of August Early despatched Fitzhugh
Lee's cavalry to Williamsport, and moved all the rest of his army but
Anderson's infantry and McCausland's cavalry to Kerneysville. This
same day there was sharp picket firing along the whole front of my
infantry line, arising, as afterward ascertained, from a heavy
demonstration by Anderson. During this firing I sent Torbert, with
Merritt's and Wilson's divisions, to Kerrteysville, whence he was to
proceed toward Leetown and learn what had become of Fitz. Lee.

About a mile from Leetown Torbert met a small force of Confederate
cavalry, and soon after encountering it, stumbled on Breckenridge's
corps of infantry on the march, apparently heading for Shepherdstown.
The surprise was mutual, for Torbert expected to meet only the
enemy's cavalry, while the Confederate infantry column was
anticipating an unobstructed march to the Potomac. Torbert attacked
with such vigor as at first to double up the head of Breckenridge's
corps and throw it into confusion, but when the Confederates realized
that they were confronted only by cavalry, Early brought up the whole
of the four infantry divisions engaged in his manoeuvre, and in a
sharp attack pushed Torbert rapidly back.

All the advantages which Torbert had gained by surprising the enemy
were nullified by this counter-attack, and he was obliged to withdraw
Wilson's division toward my right, to the neighborhood of Duffield's
Station, Merritt drawing back to the same point by way of the
Shepherdstown ford. Custer's brigade becoming isolated after the
fight while assisting the rear guard, was also obliged to retire,
which it did to Shepherdstown and there halted, picketing the river
to Antietam ford.

When Torbert reported to me the nature of his encounter, and that a
part of Early's infantry was marching to the north, while Fitzhugh
Lee's cavalry had gone toward Martinsburg, I thought that the
Confederate general meditated crossing his cavalry into Maryland, so
I sent Wilson by way of Harper's Ferry to watch his movements from
Boonesboro', and at the same time directed Averell, who had reported
from West Virginia some days before, to take post at Williamsport and
hold the crossing there until he was driven away. I also thought it
possible that Early might cross the Potomac with his whole army, but
the doubts of a movement like this outweighed the probabilities
favoring it. Nevertheless, to meet such a contingency I arranged to
throw my army on his rear should the occasion arise, and deeming my
position at Halltown the most advantageous in which to await
developments, my infantry was retained there.

If General Early had ever intended to cross the Potomac, Torbert's
discovery of his manoeuvre put an end to his scheme of invasion, for
he well knew that and success he might derive from such a course
would depend on his moving with celerity, and keeping me in ignorance
of his march till it should be well under way; so he settled all the
present uncertainties by retiring with all his troops about
Kerneysville to his old position at Bunker Hill behind the Opequon,
and on the night of the 26th silently withdrew Anderson and
McCausland from my front at Halltown to Stephenson's depot.

By the 27th all of Early's infantry was in position at Brucetown and
Bunker Hill, his cavalry holding the outposts of Leetown and
Smithfield, and on that day Merritt's division attacked the enemy's
horse at Leetown, and pressed it back through Smithfield to the west
side of the Opequon. This reconnoissance determined definitely that
Early had abandoned the projected movement into Maryland, if he ever
seriously contemplated it; and I marched my infantry out from
Halltown to the front of Charlestown, with the intention of occupying
a line between Clifton and Berryville the moment matters should so
shape themselves that I could do so with advantage. The night of the
28th Wilson joined me near Charlestown from his points of observation
in Maryland, and the next day Averell crossed the Potomac at
Williamsport and advanced to Martinsburg.

Merritt's possession of Smithfield bridge made Early somewhat uneasy,
since it afforded opportunity for interposing a column between his
right and left flanks, so he concluded to retake the crossing, and,
to this end, on the 29th advanced two divisions of infantry. A
severe fight followed, and Merritt was forced to retire, being driven
through the village toward Charlestown with considerable loss. As
Merritt was nearing my infantry line, I ordered. Ricketts's division
of the Sixth Corps to his relief, and this in a few minutes turned
the tide, the Smithfield crossing of the Opequon being regained, and
afterward held by Lowell's brigade, supported by Ricketts. The next
morning I moved Torbert, with Wilson and Merritt, to Berryville, and
succeeding their occupation of that point there occurred along my
whole line a lull, which lasted until the 3d of September, being
undisturbed except by a combat near Bunker Hill between Averell's
cavalry and a part of McCausland's, supported by Rodes's division of
infantry, in which affair the Confederates were defeated with the
loss of about fifty prisoners and considerable property in the shape
of wagons and beef-cattle.

Meanwhile Torbert's movement to Berryville had alarmed Early, and as
a counter move on the 2d of September he marched with the bulk of his
army to Summit Point, but while reconnoitring in that region on the
3d he learned of the havoc that Averell was creating in his rear, and
this compelled him to recross to the west side of the Opequon and
mass his troops in the vicinity of Stephenson's depot, whence he
could extend down to Bunker Hill, continue to threaten the Baltimore
and Ohio railroad, and at the same time cover Winchester.

The same day I was moving my infantry to take up the Clifton-Berryville
line, and that afternoon Wright went into position at Clifton, Crook
occupied Berryville, and Emory's corps came in between them, forming
almost a continuous line. Torbert had moved to White Post meanwhile,
with directions to reconnoitre as far south as the Front Royal Pike.

My infantry had just got fairly into this position about an hour
before sunset, when along Crook's front a combat took place that at
the time caused me to believe it was Early's purpose to throw a
column between Crook and Torbert, with the intention of isolating the
latter; but the fight really arose from the attempt of General
Anderson to return to Petersburg with Kershaw's division in response
to loud calls from General Lee. Anderson started south on the 3d of
September, and possibly this explains Early's reconnoissance that day
to Summit Point as a covering movement, but his rapid withdrawal left
him in ignorance of my advance, and Anderson marched on heedlessly
toward Berryville, expecting to cross the Blue Ridge through Ashby's
Gap. At Berryville however, he blundered into Crook's lines about
sunset, and a bitter little fight ensued, in which the Confederates
got so much the worst of it that they withdrew toward Winchester.
When General Early received word of this encounter he hurried to
Anderson's assistance with three divisions, but soon perceiving what
was hitherto unknown to him, that my whole army was on a new line, he
decided, after some slight skirmishing, that Anderson must remain at
Winchester until a favorable opportunity offered for him to rejoin
Lee by another route.

Succeeding the discomfiture of Anderson, some minor operations took
place on the part of, Averell on the right and McIntosh's brigade of
Wilson's division on the left, but from that time until the 19th of
September no engagement of much importance occurred. The line from
Clifton to Berryville was occupied by the Sixth Corps and Grower's
and Dwight's divisions of the Nineteenth, Crook being transferred to
Summit Point, whence I could use him to protect my right flank and my
communication with Harper's Ferry, while the cavalry threatened the
enemy's right flank and line of retreat up the valley.

The difference of strength between the two armies at this date was
considerably in my favor, but the conditions attending my situation
in a hostile region necessitated so much detached service to protect
trains, and to secure Maryland and Pennsylvania from raids, that my
excess in numbers was almost canceled by these incidental demands
that could not be avoided, and although I knew that I was strong,
yet, in consequence of the injunctions of General Grant, I deemed it
necessary to be very cautious; and the fact that the Presidential
election was impending made me doubly so, the authorities at
Washington having impressed upon me that the defeat of my army might
be followed by the overthrow of the party in power, which event, it
was believed, would at least retard the progress of the war, if,
indeed, it did not lead to the complete abandonment of all coercive
measures. Under circumstances such as these I could not afford to
risk a disaster, to say nothing of the intense disinclination every
soldier has for such results; so, notwithstanding my superior
strength, I determined to take all the time necessary to equip myself
with the fullest information, and then seize an opportunity under
such conditions that I could not well fail of success.


By Philip Henry Sheridan



While occupying the ground between Clifton and Berryville, referred
to in the last chapter of the preceding volume, I felt the need of an
efficient body of scouts to collect information regarding the enemy,
for the defective intelligence-establishment with which I started out
from Harper's Ferry early in August had not proved satisfactory. I
therefore began to organize my scouts on a system which I hoped would
give better results than bad the method hitherto pursued in the
department, which was to employ on this service doubtful citizens and
Confederate deserters. If these should turn out untrustworthy, the
mischief they might do us gave me grave apprehension, and I finally
concluded that those of our own soldiers who should volunteer for the
delicate and hazardous duty would be the most valuable material, and
decided that they should have a battalion organization and be
commanded by an officer, Major H. K. Young, of the First Rhode Island
Infantry. These men were disguised in Confederate uniforms whenever
necessary, were paid from the Secret-Service Fund in proportion to
the value of the intelligence they furnished, which often stood us in
good stead in checking the forays of Gilmore, Mosby, and other
irregulars. Beneficial results came from the plan in many other ways
too, and particularly so when in a few days two of my scouts put me
in the way of getting news conveyed from Winchester. They had
learned that just outside of my lines, near Millwood, there was
living an old colored man, who had a permit from the Confederate
commander to go into Winchester and return three times a week, for
the purpose of selling vegetables to the inhabitants. The scouts had
sounded this man, and, finding him both loyal and shrewd, suggested
that he might be made useful to us within the enemy's lines; and the
proposal struck me as feasible, provided there could be found in
Winchester some reliable person who would be willing to co-operate
and correspond with me. I asked General Crook, who was acquainted
with many of the Union people of Winchester, if he knew of such a
person, and he recommended a Miss Rebecca Wright, a young lady whom
he had met there before the battle of Kernstown, who, he said, was a
member of the Society of Friends and the teacher of a small private
school. He knew she was faithful and loyal to the Government, and
thought she might be willing to render us assistance, but he could
not be certain of this, for on account of her well known loyalty she
was under constant surveillance. I hesitated at first, but finally
deciding to try it, despatched the two scouts to the old negro's
cabin, and they brought him to my headquarters late that night. I
was soon convinced of the negro's fidelity, and asking him if he was
acquainted with Miss Rebecca Wright, of Winchester, he replied that
he knew her well. There upon I told him what I wished to do, and
after a little persuasion he agreed to carry a letter to her on his
next marketing trip. My message was prepared by writing it on tissue
paper, which was then compressed into a small pellet, and protected
by wrapping it in tin-foil so that it could be safely carried in the
man's mouth. The probability, of his being searched when he came to
the Confederate picketline was not remote, and in such event he was
to swallow the pellet. The letter appealed to Miss Wright's loyalty
and patriotism, and requested her to furnish me with information
regarding the strength and condition of Early's army. The night
before the negro started one of the scouts placed the odd-looking
communication in his hands, with renewed injunctions as to secrecy
and promptitude. Early the next morning it was delivered to Miss
Wright, with an intimation that a letter of importance was enclosed
in the tin-foil, the negro telling her at the same time that she
might expect him to call for a message in reply before his return
home. At first Miss Wright began to open the pellet nervously, but
when told to be careful, and to preserve the foil as a wrapping for
her answer, she proceeded slowly and carefully, and when the note
appeared intact the messenger retired, remarking again that in the
evening he would come for an answer.

On reading my communication Miss Wright was much startled by the
perils it involved, and hesitatingly consulted her mother, but her
devoted loyalty soon silenced every other consideration, and the
brave girl resolved to comply with my request, notwithstanding it
might jeopardize her life. The evening before a convalescent
Confederate officer had visited her mother's house, and in
conversation about the war had disclosed the fact that Kershaw's
division of infantry and Cutshaw's battalion of artillery had started
to rejoin General Lee. At the time Miss Wright heard this she
attached little if any importance to it, but now she perceived the
value of the intelligence, and, as her first venture, determined to
send it to me at once, which she did with a promise that in the
future she would with great pleasure continue to transmit information
by the negro messenger.

"SEPTEMBER 15, 1864.

"I learn from Major-General Crook that you are a loyal lady, and
still love the old flag. Can you inform me of the position of
Early's forces, the number of divisions in his army, and the strength
of any or all of them, and his probable or reported intentions? Have
any more troops arrived from Richmond, or are any more coming, or
reported to be coming?

"You can trust the bearer."

"I am, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

"P. H. SHERIDAN, Major-General Commanding."

"SEPTEMBER 16, 1864.

"I have no communication whatever with the rebels, but will tell you
what I know. The division of General Kershaw, and Cutshaw's
artillery, twelve guns and men, General Anderson commanding, have
been sent away, and no more are expected, as they cannot be spared
from Richmond. I do not know how the troops are situated, but the
force is much smaller than represented. I will take pleasure
hereafter in learning all I can of their strength and position, and
the bearer may call again.

"Very respectfully yours,"

Miss Wright's answer proved of more value to me than she anticipated,
for it not only quieted the conflicting reports concerning Anderson's
corps, but was most important in showing positively that Kershaw was
gone, and this circumstance led, three days later, to the battle of
the Opequon, or Winchester as it has been unofficially called. Word
to the effect that some of Early's troops were under orders to return
to Petersburg, and would start back at the first favorable
opportunity, had been communicated to me already from many sources,
but we had not been able to ascertain the date for their departure.
Now that they had actually started, I decided to wait before offering
battle until Kershaw had gone so far as to preclude his return,
feeling confident that my prudence would be justified by the improved
chances of victory; and then, besides, Mr. Stanton kept reminding me
that positive success was necessary to counteract the political
dissatisfaction existing in some of the Northern States. This course
was advised and approved by General Grant, but even with his powerful
backing it was difficult to resist the persistent pressure of those
whose judgment, warped by their interests in the Baltimore and Ohio
railroad, was often confused and misled by stories of scouts (sent
out from Washington), averring that Kershaw and Fitzhugh Lee had
returned to Petersburg, Breckenridge to southwestern Virginia, and at
one time even maintaining that Early's whole army was east of the
Blue Ridge, and its commander himself at Gordonsville.

During the inactivity prevailing in my army for the ten days
preceding Miss Wright's communication the infantry was quiet, with
the exception of Getty's division, which made a reconnoissance to the
Opequon, and developed a heavy force of the enemy at Edwards's
Corners. The cavalry, however, was employed a good deal in this
interval skirmishing heavily at times to maintain a space about six
miles in width between the hostile lines, for I wished to control
this ground so that when I was released from the instructions of
August 12, I could move my men into position for attack without the
knowledge of Early. The most noteworthy of these mounted encounters
was that of McIntosh's brigade, which captured the Eighth South
Carolina at Abraham's Creek September 13.

It was the evening of the 16th of September that I received from Miss
Wright the positive information that Kershaw was in march toward
Front Royal on his way by Chester Gap to Richmond. Concluding that
this was my opportunity, I at once resolved to throw my whole force
into Newtown the next day, but a despatch from General Grant
directing me to meet him at Charlestown, whither he was coming to
consult with me, caused me to defer action until after I should see
him. In our resulting interview at Charlestown, I went over the
situation very thoroughly, and pointed out with so much confidence
the chances of a complete victory should I throw my army across the
Valley pike near Newtown that he fell in with the plan at once,
authorized me to resume the offensive, and to attack Early as soon as
I deemed it most propitious to do so; and although before leaving
City Point he had outlined certain operations for my army, yet he
neither discussed nor disclosed his plans, my knowledge of the
situation striking him as being so much more accurate than his own.

[Extract from "Grant's Memoirs," page 328.]

"....Before starting I had drawn up a plan of campaign for Sheridan,
which I had brought with me; but seeing that he was so clear and so
positive in his views, and so confident of success, I said nothing
about this, and did not take it out of my pocket...."

The interview over, I returned to my army to arrange for its movement
toward Newtown, but while busy with these preparations, a report came
to me from General Averell which showed that Early was moving with
two divisions of infantry toward Martinsburg. This considerably
altered the state of affairs, and I now decided to change my plan and
attack at once the two divisions remaining about Winchester and
Stephenson's depot, and later, the two sent to Martinsburg; the
disjointed state of the enemy giving me an opportunity to take him in
detail, unless the Martinsburg column should be returned by forced

While General Early was in the telegraph office at Martinsburg on the
morning of the 18th, he learned of Grant's visit to me; and
anticipating activity by reason of this circumstance, he promptly
proceeded to withdraw so as to get the two divisions within
supporting distance of Ramseur's, which lay across the Berryville
pike about two miles east of Winchester, between Abraham's Creek and
Red Bud Run, so by the night of the 18th Wharton's division, under
Breckenridge, was at Stephenson's depot, Rodes near there, and
Gordon's at Bunker Hill. At daylight of the 19th these positions of
the Confederate infantry still obtained, with the cavalry of Lomax,
Jackson, and Johnson on the right of Ramseur, while to the left and
rear of the enemy's general line was Fitzhugh Lee, covering from
Stephenson's depot west across the Valley pike to Applepie Ridge.

My army moved at 3 o'clock that morning. The plan was for Torbert to
advance with Merritt's division of cavalry from Summit Point, carry
the crossings of the Opequon at Stevens's and Lock's fords, and form
a junction near Stephenson's depot, with Averell, who was to move
south from Darksville by the Valley pike. Meanwhile, Wilson was to
strike up the Berryville pike, carry the Berryville crossing of the
Opequon, charge through the gorge or canyon on the road west of the
stream, and occupy the open ground at the head of this defile.
Wilson's attack was to be supported by the Sixth and Nineteenth
corps, which were ordered to the Berryville crossing, and as the
cavalry gained the open ground beyond the gorge, the two infantry
corps, under command of General Wright, were expected to press on
after and occupy Wilson's ground, who was then to shift to the south
bank of Abraham's Creek and cover my left; Crook's two divisions,
having to march from Summit Point, were to follow the Sixth and
Nineteenth corps to the Opcquon, and should they arrive before the
action began, they were to be held in reserve till the proper moment
came, and then, as a turning-column, be thrown over toward the Valley
pike, south of Winchester.

McIntosh's brigade of Wilson's division drove the enemy's pickets
away from the Berryville crossing at dawn, and Wilson following
rapidly through the gorge with the rest of the division, debouched
from its western extremity with such suddenness as to capture a
small earthwork in front of General Ramseur's main line; and
not-withstanding the Confederate infantry, on recovering from its
astonishment, tried hard to dislodge them, Wilson's troopers
obstinately held the work till the Sixth Corps came up. I followed
Wilson to select the ground on which to form the infantry. The Sixth
Corps began to arrive about 8 o'clock, and taking up the line Wilson
had been holding, just beyond the head of the narrow ravine, the
cavalry was transferred to the south side of Abraham's Creek.

The Confederate line lay along some elevated ground about two miles
east of Winchester, and extended from Abraham's Creek north across
the Berryville pike, the left being hidden in the heavy timber on Red
Bud Run. Between this line and mine, especially on my right, clumps
of woods and patches of underbrush occurred here and there, but the
undulating ground consisted mainly of open fields, many of which were
covered with standing corn that had already ripened.

Much time was lost in getting all of the Sixth and Nineteenth corps
through the narrow defile, Grover's division being greatly delayed
there by a train of ammunition wagons, and it was not until late in
the forenoon that the troops intended for the attack could be got
into line ready to advance. General Early was not slow to avail
himself of the advantages thus offered him, and my chances of
striking him in detail were growing less every moment, for Gordon and
Rodes were hurrying their divisions from Stephenson's depot
--across-country on a line that would place Gordon in the woods south
of Red Bud Run, and bring Rodes into the interval between Gordon and

When the two corps had all got through the canyon they were formed
with Getty's division of the Sixth to the left of the Berryville
pike, Rickett's division to the right of the pike, and Russell's
division in reserve in rear of the other two. Grover's division of
the Nineteenth Corps came next on the right of Rickett's, with Dwight
to its rear in reserve, while Crook was to begin massing near the
Opequon crossing about the time Wright and Emory were ready to

Just before noon the line of Getty, Ricketts, and Grover moved
forward, and as we advanced, the Confederates, covered by some heavy
woods on their right, slight underbrush and corn-fields along their
Centre, and a large body of timber on their left along the Red Bud,
opened fire from their whole front. We gained considerable ground at
first, especially on our left but the desperate resistance which the
right met with demonstrated that the time we had unavoidably lost in
the morning had been of incalculable value to Early, for it was
evident that he had been enabled already to so far concentrate his
troops as to have the different divisions of his army in a connected
line of battle, in good shape to resist.

Getty and Ricketts made some progress toward Winchester in connection
with Wilson's cavalry, which was beyond the Senseny road on Getty's
left, and as they were pressing back Ramseur's infantry and Lomax's
cavalry Grover attacked from the right with decided effect. Grover
in a few minutes broke up Evans's brigade of Gordon's division, but
his pursuit of Evans destroyed the continuity of my general line, and
increased an interval that had already been made by the deflection of
Ricketts to the left, in obedience to instructions that had been
given him to guide his division on the Berryville pike. As the line
pressed forward, Ricketts observed this widening interval and
endeavored to fill it with the small brigade of Colonel Keifer, but
at this juncture both Gordon and Rodes struck the weak spot where the
right of the Sixth Corps and the left of the Nineteenth should have
been in conjunction, and succeeded in checking my advance by driving
back a part of Ricketts's division, and the most of Grover's. As
these troops were retiring I ordered Russell's reserve division to be
put into action, and just as the flank of the enemy's troops in
pursuit of Grover was presented, Upton's brigade, led in person by
both Russell and Upton, struck it in a charge so vigorous as to drive
the Confederates back in turn to their original ground.

The success of Russell enabled me to re-establish the right of my
line some little distance in advance of the position from which it
started in the morning, and behind Russell's division (now commanded
by Upton) the broken regiments of Ricketts's division were rallied.
Dwight's division was then brought up on the right, and Grover's men
formed behind it.

The charge of Russell was most opportune, but it cost many men in
killed and wounded. Among the former was the courageous Russell
himself; killed by a piece of shell that passed through his heart,
although he had previously been struck by a bullet in the left
breast, which wound, from its nature, must have proved mortal, yet of
which he had not spoken. Russell's death oppressed us all with
sadness, and me particularly. In the early days of my army life he
was my captain and friend, and I was deeply indebted to him, not only
for sound advice and good example, but for the inestimable service he
had just performed, and sealed with his life, so it may be inferred
how keenly I felt his loss.

As my lines were being rearranged, it was suggested to me to put
Crook into the battle, but so strongly had I set my heart on using
him to take possession of the Valley pike and cut off the enemy, that
I resisted this advice, hoping that the necessity for putting him in
would be obviated by the attack near Stephenson's depot that
Torbert's cavalry was to make, and from which I was momentarily
expecting to hear. No news of Torbert's progress came, however, so,
yielding at last, I directed Crook to take post on the right of the
Nineteenth Corps and, when the action was renewed, to push his
command forward as a turning-column in conjunction with Emory. After
some delay in the annoying defile, Crook got his men up, and posting
Colonel Thoburn's division on the prolongation of the Nineteenth
Corps, he formed Colonel Duval's division to the right of Thoburn.
Here I joined Crook, informing him that I had just got word that
Torbert was driving the enemy in confusion along the Martinsburg pike
toward Winchester; at the same time I directed him to attack the
moment all of Duval's men were in line. Wright was instructed to
advance in concert with Crook, by swinging Emory and the right of the
Sixth Corps to the left together in a half-wheel. Then leaving
Crook, I rode along the Sixth and Nineteenth corps, the open ground
over which they were passing affording a rare opportunity to witness
the precision with which the attack was taken up from right to left.
Crook's success began the moment he started to turn the enemy's left;
and assured by the fact that Torbert had stampeded the Confederate
cavalry and thrown Breckenridge's infantry into such disorder that it
could do little to prevent the envelopment of Gordon's left, Crook
pressed forward without even a halt.

Both Emory and Wright took up the fight as ordered, and as they did
so I sent word to Wilson, in the hope that he could partly perform
the work originally laid out for Crook, to push along the Senseny
road and, if possible, gain the valley pike south of Winchester. I
then returned toward my right flank, and as I reached the Nineteenth
Corps the enemy was contesting the ground in its front with great
obstinacy; but Emory's dogged persistence was at length rewarded with
success, just as Crook's command emerged from the morass of Red Bud
Run, and swept around Gordon, toward the right of Breckenridge, who,
with two of Wharton's brigades, was holding a line at right angles
with the Valley pike for the protection of the Confederate rear.
Early had ordered these two brigades back from Stephenson's depot in
the morning, purposing to protect with them his right flank and line
of retreat, but while they were en route to this end, he was obliged
to recall them to his left to meet Crook's attack.

To confront Torbert, Patton's brigade of infantry and some of
Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry had been left back by Breckenridge, but, with
Averell on the west side of the Valley pike and Merritt on the east,
Torbert began to drive this opposing force toward Winchester the
moment he struck it near Stephenson's depot, keeping it on the go
till it reached the position held by Breckenridge, where it
endeavored to make a stand.

The ground which Breckenridge was holding was open, and offered an
opportunity such as seldom had been presented during the war for a,
mounted attack, and Torbert was not slow to take advantage of it.
The instant Merritt's division could be formed for the charge, it
went at Breckenridge's infantry and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry with such
momentum as to break the Confederate left, just as Averell was
passing around it. Merritt's brigades, led by Custer, Lowell, and
Devin, met from the start with pronounced success, and with sabre or
pistol in hand literally rode down a battery of five guns and took
about 1,200 prisoners. Almost simultaneously with this cavalry
charge, Crook struck Breckenridge's right and Gordon's left, forcing
these divisions to give way, and as they retired, Wright, in a
vigorous attack, quickly broke Rodes up and pressed Ramseur so hard
that the whole Confederate army fell back, contracting its lines
within some breastworks which had been thrown up at a former period
of the war, immediately in front of Winchester.

Here Early tried hard to stem the tide, but soon Torbert's cavalry
began passing around his left flank, and as Crook, Emory, and Wright
attacked in front, panic took possession of the enemy, his troops,
now fugitives and stragglers, seeking escape into and through

When this second break occurred, the Sixth and Nineteenth corps were
moved over toward the Millwood pike to help Wilson on the left, but
the day was so far spent that they could render him no assistance,
and Ramseur's division, which had maintained some organization, was
in such tolerable shape as to check him. Meanwhile Torbert passed
around to the west of Winchester to join Wilson, but was unable to do
so till after dark. Crook's command pursued the enemy through the
town to Mill Greek, I going along.

Just after entering the town, Crook and I met, in the main street,
three young girls, who gave us the most hearty reception. One of
these young women was a Miss Griffith, the other two Miss Jennie and
Miss Susie Meredith. During the day they had been watching the
battle from the roof of the Meredith residence, with tears and
lamentations, they said, in the morning when misfortune appeared to
have overtaken the Union troops, but with unbounded exultation when,
later, the, tide set in against the Confederates. Our presence was,
to them, an assurance of victory, and their delight being
irrepressible, they indulged in the most unguarded manifestations and
expressions. When cautioned by Crook, who knew them well, and
reminded that the valley had hitherto been a race-course--one day in
the possession of friends, and the next of enemies--and warned of the
dangers they were incurring by such demonstrations, they assured him
that they had no further fears of that kind now, adding that Early's
army was so demoralized by the defeat it had just sustained that it
would never be in condition to enter Winchester again. As soon as we
had succeeded in calming the excited girls a little I expressed a
desire to find some place where I could write a telegram to General
Grant informing him of the result of the battle, and General Crook
conducted me to the home of Miss Wright, where I met for the first
time the woman who had contributed so much to our success, and on a
desk in her school-room wrote the despatch announcing that we had
sent Early's army whirling up the valley.

My losses in the battle of the Opequon were heavy, amounting to about
4,500 killed, wounded, and missing. Among the killed was General
Russell, commanding a division, and the wounded included Generals
Upton, McIntosh and Chapman, and Colonels Duval and Sharpe. The
Confederate loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners about equaled
mine, General Rodes being of the killed, while Generals Fitzhugh Lee
and York were severely wounded.

We captured five pieces of artillery and nine battle-flags. The
restoration of the lower valley--from the Potomac to Strasburg--to
the control of the Union forces caused great rejoicing in the North,
and relieved the Administration from further solicitude for the
safety of the Maryland and Pennsylvania borders. The President's
appreciation of the victory was expressed in a despatch so like Mr.
Lincoln that I give a facsimile of it to the reader:

[In the handwriting of President Lincoln]
"WASHINGTON, Sep. 20, 1864


"Have just heard of your great victory. God bless you all, officers
and men. Strongly inclined to come up and see you.


This he supplemented by promoting me to the grade of
brigadier-general in the regular army, and assigning me to the
permanent command of the Middle Military Department, and following that
came warm congratulations from Mr. Stanton and from Generals Grant,
Sherman, and Meade.

The battle was not fought out on the plan in accordance with which
marching orders were issued to my troops, for I then hoped to take
Early in detail, and with Crook's force cut off his retreat. I
adhered to this purpose during the early part of the contest, but was
obliged to abandon the idea because of unavoidable delays by which I
was prevented from getting the Sixth and Nineteenth corps through the
narrow defile and into position early enough to destroy Ramseur while
still isolated. So much delay had not been anticipated, and this
loss of time was taken advantage of by the enemy to recall the troops
diverted to Bunker Hill and Martinsburg on the 17th, thus enabling
him to bring them all to the support of Ramseur before I could strike
with effect. My idea was to attack Ramseur and Wharton,
successively, at a very early hour and before they could get succor,
but I was not in condition to do it till nearly noon, by which time
Gordon and Rodes had been enabled to get upon the ground at a point
from which, as I advanced, they enfiladed my right flank, and gave it
such a repulse that to re-form this part of my line I was obliged to
recall the left from some of the ground it had gained. It was during
this reorganization of my lines that I changed my plan as to Crook,
and moved him from my left to my right. This I did with great
reluctance, for I hoped to destroy Early's army entirely if Crook
continued on his original line of march toward the Valley pike, south
of Winchester; and although the ultimate results did, in a measure
vindicate the change, yet I have always thought that by adhering to
the original plan we might have captured the bulk of Early's army.



The night of the 19th of September I gave orders for following Early
up the valley next morning--the pursuit to begin at daybreak--and in
obedience to these directions Torbert moved Averell out on the Back
road leading to Cedar Creek, and Merritt up the Valley pike toward
Strasburg, while Wilson was directed on Front Royal by way of
Stevensburg. Merritt's division was followed by the infantry,
Emory's and Wright's columns marching abreast in the open country to
the right and left of the pike, and Crook's immediately behind them.
The enemy having kept up his retreat at night, presented no
opposition whatever until the cavalry discovered him posted at
Fisher's Hill, on the first defensive line where he could hope to
make any serious resistance. No effort was made to dislodge him, and
later in the day, after Wright and Emory came up, Torbert shifted
Merritt over toward the Back road till he rejoined Averell. As
Merritt moved to the right, the Sixth and Nineteenth corps crossed
Cedar Creek and took up the ground the cavalry was vacating, Wright
posting his own corps to the west of the Valley pike overlooking
Strasburg, and Emory's on his left so as to extend almost to the road
leading from Strasburg to Front Royal. Crook, as he came up the same
evening, went into position in some heavy timber on the north bank of
Cedar Creek.

A reconnoissance made pending these movements convinced me that the
enemy's position at Fisher's Hill was so strong that a direct assault
would entail unnecessary destruction of life, and, besides, be of
doubtful result. At the point where Early's troops were in position,
between the Massanutten range and Little North Mountain, the valley
is only about three and a half miles wide. All along the precipitous
bluff which overhangs Tumbling Run on the south side, a heavy line of
earthworks had been constructed when Early retreated to this point in
August, and these were now being strengthened so as to make them
almost impregnable; in fact, so secure did Early consider himself
that, for convenience, his ammunition chests were taken from the
caissons and placed behind the breastworks. Wharton, now in command
of Breckenridge's division--its late commander having gone to
southwest Virginia--held the right of this line, with Gordon next
him; Pegram, commanding Ramseur's old division, joined Gordon.
Ramseur with Rodes's division, was on Pegram's left, while Lomax's
cavalry, now serving as foot-troops, extended the line to the Back
road. Fitzhugh Lee being wounded, his cavalry, under General
Wickham, was sent to Milford to prevent Fisher's Hill from being
turned through the Luray Valley.

In consequence of the enemy's being so well protected from a direct
assault, I resolved on the night of the 20th to use again a
turning-column against his left, as had been done on the 19th at the
Opequon. To this end I resolved to move Crook, unperceived if possible,
over to the eastern face of Little North Mountain, whence he could
strike the left and rear of the Confederate line, and as he broke it
up, I could support him by a left half-wheel of my whole line of
battle. The execution of this plan would require perfect secrecy,
however, for the enemy from his signal-station on Three Top could
plainly see every movement of our troops in daylight. Hence, to escape
such observation, I marched Crook during the night of the 20th into
some heavy timber north of Cedar Creek, where he lay concealed all day
the 21st. This same day Wright and Emory were moved up closer to the
Confederate works, and the Sixth Corps, after a severe fight, in which
Ricketts's and Getty were engaged, took up some high ground on the
right of the Manassas Gap railroad in plain view of the Confederate
works, and confronting a commanding point where much of Early's
artillery was massed. Soon after General Wright had established this
line I rode with him along it to the westward, and finding that the
enemy was still holding an elevated position further to our right, on
the north side of Tumbling Run, I directed this also to be occupied.
Wright soon carried the point, which gave us an unobstructed view of
the enemy's works and offered good ground for our artillery. It also
enabled me to move the whole of the Sixth Corps to the front till its
line was within about seven hundred yards of the enemy's works; the
Nineteenth Corps, on the morning of the 22d, covering the ground
vacated by the Sixth by moving to the front and extending to the right,
but still keeping its reserves on the railroad.

In the darkness of the night of the gist, Crook was brought across
Cedar Creek and hidden in a clump of timber behind Hupp's Hill till
daylight of the 22d, when, under cover of the intervening woods and
ravines, he was marched beyond the right of the Sixth Corps and again
concealed not far from the Back road. After Crook had got into this
last position, Ricketts's division was pushed out until it confronted
the left of the enemy's infantry, the rest of the Sixth Corps
extending from Ricketts's left to the Manassas Gap railroad, while
the Nineteenth Corps filled in the space between the left of the
Sixth and the North Fork of the Shenandoah.

When Ricketts moved out on this new line, in conjunction with
Averell's cavalry on his right, the enemy surmising, from information
secured from his signal-station, no doubt, that my attack was to be
made from Ricketts's front, prepared for it there, but no such
intention ever existed. Ricketts was pushed forward only that he
might readily join Crook's turning-column as it swung into the
enemy's rear. To ensure success, all that I needed now was enough
daylight to complete my arrangements, the secrecy of movement imposed
by the situation consuming many valuable hours.

While Ricketts was occupying the enemy's attention, Crook, again
moving unobserved into the dense timber on the eastern face of Little
North Mountain, conducted his command south in two parallel columns
until he gained the rear of the enemy's works, when, marching his
divisions by the left flank, he led them in an easterly direction
down the mountain-side. As he emerged from the timber near the base
of the mountain, the Confederates discovered him, of course, and
opened with their batteries, but it was too late--they having few
troops at hand to confront the turning-column. Loudly cheering,
Crook's men quickly crossed the broken stretch in rear of the enemy's
left, producing confusion and consternation at every step.

About a mile from the mountain's base Crook's left was joined by
Ricketts, who in proper time had begun to swing his division into the
action, and the two commands moved along in rear of the works so
rapidly that, with but slight resistance, the Confederates abandoned
the guns massed near the centre. The swinging movement of Ricketts
was taken up successively from right to left throughout my line, and
in a few minutes the enemy was thoroughly routed, the action, though
brief, being none the less decisive. Lomax's dismounted cavalry gave
way first, but was shortly followed by all the Confederate infantry
in an indescribable panic, precipitated doubtless by fears of being
caught and captured in the pocket formed by Tumbling Run and the
North Fork of the Shenandoah River. The stampede was complete, the
enemy leaving the field without semblance of organization, abandoning
nearly all his artillery and such other property as was in the works,
and the rout extending through the fields and over the roads toward
Woodstock, Wright and Emory in hot pursuit.

Midway between Fisher's Hill and Woodstock there is some high ground,
where at night-fall a small squad endeavored to stay us with two
pieces of artillery, but this attempt at resistance proved fruitless,
and, notwithstanding the darkness, the guns were soon captured. The
chase was then taken up by Devin's brigade as soon as it could be
passed to the front, and continued till after daylight the next
morning, but the delays incident to a night pursuit made it
impossible for Devin to do more than pick up stragglers.

Our success was very great, yet I had anticipated results still more
pregnant. Indeed, I had high hopes of capturing almost the whole of
Early's army before it reached New Market, and with this object in
view, during the manoeuvres of the 21st I had sent Torbert up the
Luray Valley with Wilson's division and two of Merritt's brigades, in
the expectation that he would drive Wickham out of the Luray Pass by
Early's right, and by crossing the Massanutten Mountain near New
Market, gain his rear. Torbert started in good season, and after
some slight skirmishing at Gooney Run, got as far as Milford, but
failed to dislodge Wickham. In fact, he made little or no attempt to
force Wickham from his position, and with only a feeble effort
withdrew. I heard nothing at all from Torbert during the 22d, and
supposing that everything was progressing favorably, I was astonished
and chagrined on the morning of the 23d, at Woodstock, to receive the
intelligence that he had fallen back to Front Royal and Buckton ford.
My disappointment was extreme, but there was now no help for the
situation save to renew and emphasize Torbert's orders, and this was
done at once, notwithstanding that I thought, the delay, had so much
diminished the chances of his getting in the rear of Early as to make
such a result a very remote possibility, unless, indeed, far greater
zeal was displayed than had been in the first attempt to penetrate
the Luray Valley.

The battle of Fisher's Hill was, in a measure, a part of the battle
of the Opequon; that is to say, it was an incident of the pursuit
resulting from that action. In many ways, however, it was much more
satisfactory, and particularly so because the plan arranged on the
evening of the 20th was carried out to the very letter by Generals
Wright, Crook, and Emory, not only in all their preliminary
manoeuvres, but also during the fight itself. The only drawback was
with the cavalry, and to this day I have been unable to account
satisfactorily for Torbert's failure. No doubt, Wickham's position
near Milford was a strong one, but Torbert ought to have made a
fight. Had he been defeated in this, his withdrawal then to await
the result at Fisher's Hill would have been justified, but it does
not appear that he made any serious effort of all to dislodge the
Confederate cavalry: his impotent attempt not only chagrined me very
much, but occasioned much unfavorable comment throughout the army.

We reached Woodstock early on the morning of the 23d, and halted
there some little time to let the troops recover their organization,
which had been broken in the night march they had just made. When
the commands had closed up we pushed on toward Edinburg, in the hope
of making more captures at Narrow Passage Creek; but the
Confederates, too fleet for us, got away; so General Wright halted
the infantry not far from Edinburg, till rations could be brought the
men. Meanwhile I, having remained at Woodstock, sent Dedin's brigade
to press the enemy under every favorable opportunity, and if possible
prevent him from halting long enough to reorganize. Notwithstanding
Devin's efforts the Confederates managed to assemble a considerable
force to resist him, and being too weak for the rearguard, he awaited
the arrival of Averell, who, I had informed him, would be hurried to
the front with all possible despatch, for I thought that Averell must
be close at hand. It turned out, however, that he was not near by at
all, and, moreover, that without good reason he had refrained from
taking any part whatever in pursuing the enemy in the flight from
Fisher's Hill; and in fact had gone into camp and left to the
infantry the work of pursuit.

It was nearly noon when Averell came up, and a great deal of precious
time had been lost. We had some hot words, but hoping that he would
retrieve the mistake of the night before, I directed him to proceed
to the front at once, and in conjunction with Devin close with the
enemy. He reached Devin's command about 3 o'clock in the afternoon,
just as this officer was pushing the Confederates so energetically
that they were abandoning Mount Jackson, yet Averell utterly failed
to accomplish anything. Indeed, his indifferent attack was not at
all worthy the excellent soldiers he commanded, and when I learned
that it was his intention to withdraw from the enemy's front, and
this, too, on the indefinite report of a signal-officer that a
"brigade or division" of Confederates was turning his right flank,
and that he had not seriously attempted to verify the information, I
sent him this order:

"Woodstock, Va., Sept. 23, 1864


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