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Sheridan's Victory of Middletown.

SHERIDAN'S battle-fields of Strasburg and Middletown are near neighbors. A regiment of infantry can march from one to another in two hours; and both are overlooked, almost overhung, by the bold brow of the Massanutten Mountain. Indeed, if Early, on the 18th of October, the day previous to his brilliant attack and singular defeat, wished to view the length and breadth of the Union position, he had only to ascend the conical height which rises like a citadel close in rear of the gigantic natural parapets of Fisher's Hill, where his own army lay intrenched. Along the base of this cone I had seen his musketry flashing in a spiteful semicircle during half an hour of the evening of the 22d of September, making a desperate and vain struggle to secure, not victory, but undisturbed retreat. That headlong, night-long flight and pursuit did not cease until Sheridan was south of Mount Crawford. Then he returned at his leisure, sweeping the fertile Shenandoah Valley from mountain to mountain with his cavalry, destroying every barn and every stack of forage, and turning once to wrest from Lomax his headquarter wagons, eleven of his twelve pieces of artillery, and two hundred prisoners. Fisher's Hill was abandoned because it presents no good defensible line on its southern slope. But four or five miles to the north of it Sheridan halted, and here was fought the extraordinary battle of the 19th of October.

The Union position was an echelon of three lines, posted on three separate crests of moderate height. The left and most advanced crest was held by the Army of Western Virginia; the central one, half a mile to the rear of the first, by the Nineteenth Corps; the right and rear-most by the Sixth Corps. Crook commanded first step of the echelon, Emory the second, Wright the third. Behind Crook's left and at right angles to it, guarding against a turning movement from that quarter, lay a force about equivaent to a brigade, known as Kitching's Provisional Division. The fronts, and to some extent the flanks, of the Army of Western Virginia and of the Nineteenth Corps were strengthened by breast-works of logs and earth, with batteries in position. Between these two commands the Strasburg and Winchester pike, the great highway of this part of the valley. The entire echelon occupied by the infantry and artillery was at least three miles in length, in addition to which the rolling country on the right of the Sixth Corps was occupied by Torbert's superb cavalry. In front the position was impregnable except by a surprise, and to turn it was an enterprise so dangerous that it was hardly dreaded.

But it seems that it was not safe to rely on the timidity of Early. It is impossible not to accord admiration to this misguided man and unlucky General for his elasticity under misfortune. Undismayed by three severe defeats, or possibly goaded by them to an act, of sublime desperation, he planned and performed the most audacious, most difficult, and best-executed nocturnal flank movement of the war. He had just received a reinforcement of twelve thousand men, which increased his strength to twenty-seven thousand. Eight thousand, it is reported, were unarmed; but they were organized and officered, and were thus ready for service the moment they could get muskets; they needed only a successful attack to fit them out with the spoils of dead, wounded, and prisoners. Of this reinforcement, which arrived the day before the battle, we knew nothing. Indeed I suspect that we were very imperfectly aware of the condition of Early's army all the time that it lay in this position. Of course we had repeatedly pushed out strong reconnoitring columns; but to reconnoitre Fisher's Hill, with its bluffs and precipices and forests, was much like reconnoitring a first-class regular fortress; unless you stormed and took it you could not find out what was in it. Accordingly we no more knew the strength than we knew the designs of the army whose noiseless steps, like the footfalls of stealing panthers, were creeping upon us through that moonless, misty night of October. Early was equally uninformed, he was even misinformed, with regard to us. He attacked in the belief that the Sixth Corps was at Front Royal, whereas it was with us, and that Sheridan was in Washington, whereas he had come as far on his return as Winchester.

Before midnight Early's entire army was in motion. His cavalry and light artillery had orders to advance upon our right so as to occupy the attention of Torbert and of the Sixth Corps. His infantry marched in five columns, of which Gordon's, Ramseur's, and Pegram's were to place themselves by daybreak on the left-rear of the whole Union position, while Kershaw's and Wharton's should at the same hour be close under the intrenched crest held by the army of Western Virginia. To turn our left it was necessary to descend into the gorge at the base of the Massanntten Mountain, ford the north fork of the Shenandoah, and skirt Crook's position for miles, passing in some places within four hundred yards of his pickets. Three days previous the movement would have been impossible, as a brigade of our cavalry then held the road along which the rebels now filed without opposition. As it was, Early's enterprise was hazardous almost beyond parallel. Had we caught him in the midst of it we should have ruined him: our infantry would have cut his in two, while our cavalry would have prevented retreat to Fisher's Hill: he would have lost half his army, and we should not have lost a thousand men. But the management of the advance was admirable: the canteens had been left in camp lest they should clatter against the shanks of the bayonets: the men conducted themselves with the usual intelligence of the American soldier, whether Northern or Southern; and this fearfully perilous


night march under the-nose of a powerful enemy was accomplished with a success little less than miraculous. There was a moment, indeed, when the audacious column trod on the brink of destruction. About two o'clock in the morning the pickets of the Fifth New York Heavy Artillery, serving as infantry in Kitching's Division, heard a rustling of underbrush and a muffled, multitudinous trampling. Two posts were relieved and sent into camp with the information. General Crook ordered his command to be upon the alert, and most of the front line went into the trenches. But there was not a private in the army, and hardly an officer, who believed that the often-beaten and badly-beaten Early would venture an attack. No reconnoissance was sent out to see if the alarm were well-founded; the gaps in the front line caused by the detachment of regiments on picket were not filled up from the reserve; and when the assault took place it found many muskets unloaded. An hour before daybreak the rebel infantry, shivering with cold, but formed and ready for battle, lay within six hundred yards of Union camps, which were either sleeping or only half awake with suspicion. On the extreme right was Gordon, diagonally in rear of the Nineteenth Corps; on the left of Crook, facing Kitching's provisional division, was Ramseur supported by Pegram; in front of Crook was Kershaw supported by Wharton. There is even an incredible story that Kershaw's men regularly relieved a portion of the pickets of the Army of Western Virginia.

That morning I was in my saddle before daybreak. The Second Division, Nineteenth Corps, was to make at early dawn a reconnoissance on Fisher's Hill; and General Emory had ordered that an aid should report to him the exact minute of the departure of the column. I mention this circumstance as an example, probably curious to civilians, of the careful supervision which a veteran officer maintains over his command. Accordingly I was with General Grover, the commander of the Second Division, waiting for the troops to move. The "awful rose of dawn," softened and sombred in color by thick morning mist, had just faintly blossomed over a low eastern crest, and dark lines of infantry were dimly visible in the gray light, when, far away on our left, a terrific rattle of musketry burst forth with amazing suddenness, followed by scream on scream of the well-known rebel battle-yell, the savage clamor revealing to us in an instant that Early, in great force, had assaulted Crook's position. Grover listened to the appalling outburst of battle without even a gesture of surprise, and said to an aid in his usual tranquil tone, "Tell the brigade commanders to move their men into the trenches."

I galloped back to corps head-quarters to inform General Emory of what he knew as well as I.

"Go and report to the General commanding," he replied, "that the enemy have attacked Crook's left in force."

As I rode away I heard him remark, "I said so. I knew that if we were attacked it would be there."

I must be permitted here to do justice to the prevision of my corps commander. Two days previous to this he had visited Crook's position, and had asserted that it did not command the valley in its front, and that we could be turned from that quarter. "They can march thirty thousand men through there," he said, "and we not know it till we have them on our flank.

I found General Wright, surrounded by his staff, preparing to mount.

"Have you any knowledge how the assault has succeeded?" he asked, when I had delivered my message.

"None. I can only guess. I suppose it has failed. I infer it from the sudden cessation of the firing and yelling."

It was a bad guess. Under cover of the top Kershaw's column swept through Crook's pickets without responding to their scattering musketry, and took most of them prisoners. The men in the trenches, unable to see what was going on, and receiving no timely notice from the outposts, fired too late, or, caught with unloaded rifles, did not fire at all. There was a bloody struggle over the breast-works, but it did not last five minutes. Through the unmanned gaps in the lines poured the rebels in a roaring torrent; and then came a brief massacre, followed by lasting panic and disorganization. Less than a quarter of an hour of that infernal musketry and yelling, which we heard so plainly and understood so imperfectly, changed the gallant Army of Western Virginia — that army which had charged with such magnificent success at Winchester and Strasburg — into a mass of fugitives hurrying back upon the position of the Nineteenth Corps. There were regiments, indeed, which fought with a steadiness worthy of their ancient reputation; but no considerable nor continuing line of resistance was established any where after the first break, and the rebel advance was only checked to re-form. No day break rush of moccasined savages was ever more silently, rapidly, and dextrously executed than this charge of Kershaw. The second battalion of the Fifth New York Heavy Artillery was taken on the picket line almost entire; and the resistance of the whole command was so momentary that, while it lost seven hundred prisoners, it had hardly a hundred killed and wounded.

Now came the turn of the Nineteenth Corps to fight alone. The Army of Western Virginia had temporarily disappeared as an organization, and the Sixth Corps was menaced by cavalry and light artillery, covering no one knew what force of infantry. When I reached our headquarters on my return from General Wright's I was amazed by hearing on our left-rear a lively rattle of picket musketry. I thought of riding up to the misty crest, a quarter of a mile distant, which stopped the view in that direction; but no heavy firing ensued, and I concluded that it was only a trifling affair between our


outposts and some scouting party of cavalry. Had I put my first thought into execution I should have seen Gordon's column, solidly massed, coming swiftly up the slope, disdaining to repy to the pickets, and driving them with the mere weight of its advance. Here, as every where throughout the battle, the enemy knew our ground perfectly, and in consequence moved over it without wasting their time in reconnoitring or their troops in skirmishing. It was this amazing rapidity of manoeuvre, this audacity which could not be foreseen nor guarded against, that beat us. To fight with any chance of success we must change our whole front; and yet we did not know it, nor had we the time to effect it. The position which Gordon was now on the point of seizing was a broad, bare hill, of which the southwestern declivity sloped gently toward the camp of the Nineteenth Corps, and commanded it. From the moment that he held it we were sure to go: ten thousand men there would easily drive out fifteen thousand here; all the more easily, of course, if they could take them, as we were taken, in reverse. The rebel force on this side, including the now not distant divisions of Ramseur and Pegram, was as strong as Emory's, and it was supported by another column, almost as numerous, coming up through the woods on our left and along the pike in our front. The Nineteenth Corps was not only attacked in rear, but it was outnumbered. It might hold on for an hour; and so it did hold on for a hopeless, sanguinary hour, but that was all that mortals could do.

General Emory had already been joined by Generals Wright and Crook when I found him near the breast-works. He knew consequently that a great disaster had happened, but he said nothing of it in my hearing, and I was far from guessing it. I saw, indeed, a ceaseless flow of stragglers pouring out of the wood on our left, and passing us toward the rear; but I supposed that they were the cooks, etc., of Crook's command getting out of the range of fire, according to the prudent custom of non-combatants. It seems that M'Millan's Brigade had already been pushed out in that direction to arrest the progress of the enemy, and to enable the West Virginian Army to rally. Fearing that this brigade had broken, General Emory sent me to find out who the stragglers were. As I approached the wood the stream of fugitives increased in volume until it was like a division in column of march, except that there were no files, no ranks, no organization. They were not breathless, not running, but they were going to the rear in utter confusion.

"To the Eighth Corps,"

"To the Eighth Corps," man after man responded when I asked what command they belonged to. "Captain, what does this mean?" I said to the first officer whom I met.

"Why, I suppose it means that we are retreating," he replied, with a bitter smile.

"What! has Crook been driven from his position?" I exclaimed, realizing at last the all but incredible calamity.

"His men have," he said, with the same hopeless smile, glancing around at the horde of retreating soldiers.

In going back to the General I rode along the line of M'Millan's Brigade, and warned such regimental commanders as I could see that their fiery trial was at hand. I had scarcely left it when another aid came up with orders for it to advance, and, breasting the current of fugitives, it pushed into the tangled wood which was soon to be its slaughter-pen. About the same time General Emory ordered two other brigades across the pike, with instructions to face toward the crest on which Gordon was beginning to show himself. The remaining three brigades of the corps continued at the breast-works. It was evident that to hold our position we needed the "help of the Sixth Corps, and it was almost equally evident that it would not arrive in time.

A roar of musketry from the wood told us that M'Millan's Brigade had opened its struggle, but did not tell us how hopelessly it was overmatched, flanked on the left as it was by Ramseur, and charged in front and on the right by Kershaw. "Within a space of ten minutes a sanguinary drama was enacted in that tangled thicket of trees and undergrowth. My own old regiment, the Twelfth Connecticut, fired three volleys at close quarters before it was forced into the first retreat that it ever made under the assault of an enemy. The resistance of the other regiments was similarly desperate, bloody, brief, and hopeless. In the haste of slaughter men could not reload, but fought with their bayonets and clubbed rifles. After the battle was over we found corpses here with their skulls crushed by the blows of musket-buts, and with their life-blood clotted around the triangular wounds made by bayonets. The opposing troops were so intermingled that they could not in all cases distinguish each other as enemies. "What the devil are you firing this way for?" said Lieutenant Mullen, of the Twelfth Connecticut, to a squad which he supposed from its position to belong to the Eighth Vermont, but which was shooting down the men of his company. The answer was half a dozen rifle shots, fortunately ill-aimed, and an equally inefficacious summons of, "Surrender, you damned Yankee!" Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis, of the same regiment, was saluted by cries of, "Shoot that officer!" followed by a scattering volley of harmless bullets. As the shattered ranks came out upon the open ground they were raked by the fire of a line drawn up across the very hollow through which they had entered the wood not twenty minutes previous. During that day the brigade lost more than one-third of its fighting men, the greater part of them on this horrible hill of sacrifice, where it offered itself up for the salvation of the army. Among those who died here was Corporal William Putnam, of Company C, Twelfth Connecticut, a lineal descendant of the revolutionary general and patriot, and a brave, noble young soldier.

Not a regimental color was lost, and the


brigade rallied two hundred yards from the scene of its defeat. But this second stand was feeble and momentary, effecting nothing but a little more useless bloodshed. As a rule, troops can not be rallied for good under the same fire that has already broken them, unless they are supported by a reinforcement strong enough to take the brunt of the contest off their hands at least for a few minutes. A semicircle of dropping musketry converged on the new position, coming up the pike on the right, out of the wood in front, and down the slope on the left. The men seemed bewildered, and could not be brought to fire; indeed, it was difficult for them to judge which way they ought to fire. As I rode along the rear, begging them to stand fast and use their rifles, I was amazed to observe how these veterans of many fights differed from their former selves as I had seen them on fields of victory. To get another desperate struggle out of them here was evidently impossible; and some one wiser than I, and possessed of more authority, ordered a retreat.

About this time our other two advanced brigades were pushed back, partially by the fire which came up the pike, but chiefly by that of Gordon, whose division was now deployed on the crest, stretching far behind us and even holding a wood in rear of the private grounds where both Sheridan and Emory had pitched their head-quarters. Our tents had been struck, loaded, and driven away under a shower of bullets. The ambulance, ammunition, and provision trains were in full retreat along a miserable country road, which crossed Cedar Creek by a single narrow ford and led in a circuitous direction toward Winchester. To carry off this immense mass of clumsy vehicles with a loss of only four or five was a wonderful feat under the circumstances, and greatly to the credit of our quarter-masters and commissaries. Several of the drivers and animals were brought down by Gordon's musketry. The ammunition wagons had scarcely begun to file out of park when a bold rebel trooper dashed up and said, "Here, move that train out this way." One of the infantry guard, a recruit of the One Hundred and Seventy-sixth New York, answered, "What the hell have you got to do with this train?" and knocked the fellow over with a bullet.

As is usual in battles the comic was mingled with the tragic. Patrick, one of our negro waiters, made a gallant attempt to lead off the cow of our mess, but the creature was slow, and the pair were overtaken by half a dozen bullets and a shout of, "Come here, you black son of a gun!" Patrick dropped the leading rope and showed his heels, leaving the cow on the field with a ball in her comely round abdomen. At the little stone-house near our head-quarters a reporter of the New York Herald was yelling for his blanket-roll, and getting it through the half-opened door-way, which was immediately closed in his face to keep out the bullets. The poor woman and children who occupied this house remained shut up in it all day, cowering below the level of the windows for safety the appearance of the country northward from this point was both curious and doleful. All who did not fight, and many whose business it was to fight, together with many whose bloody clothing showed that their fighting for that day was over, were moving to the rear confusedly, and yet with extraordinary deliberation. Over a space of a mile square the fields were dotted with wagons, ambulances, pack-mules, army followers, and soldiers, the latter chiefly from Crook's command, none of them running, but all unquestionably taking the directest safe route to Winhester.

About the time that our people on the pike gave way General Emory's white horse, a conspicuous mark on account of his color, was killed by a rifle bullet; but he remounted immediately, and rode to the right of the position to see what could be done with the brigades which still occupied the trenches and had not been brought into action. A few moments afterward, all show of resistance on this line having ceased, I followed in search of him. Looking rearward I saw a brigade, I do not know what brigade, or it might have been only a large regiment, retreat at double-quick until it fell into confusion, when I saw the officers spring out with drawn swords, struggle with the panic and overcome it, after which the retreat continued, but at the ordinary marching step and in good order. Another brigade, equally unknown to me, I saw come toward the pike, also at a double-quick, go into line, and make a momentary attempt to face the long, victorious front of Gordon. I did not see the noble death of Lieutenant Morton, of the First Maine Battery, although it must have happened at about this period of the battle. Ordered by Major Bradbury to check the rebels with grape, as they had been checked by the same battery during a dangerous crisis of the fight at Winchester, he galloped to the pike with two pieces, unlimbered and opened fire, without the support of infantry and within two hundred paces of the rebel line, losing his horses, his guns, half his men, and his life in the heroic, hopeless effort. With these temporary exceptions every thing that lived was drifting steadily toward the right of our position, swept thither by the steady tide of hostile musketry, through which the boom of Early's artillery began to thunder. The last belated stragglers were hurrying from our camps and parades, leaving behind them only the helpless wounded and the dead who needed no succor. The hard-trodden earth was flecked with little whiffs of dust raised by bullets, and their sharp, angry whit-whit sang perpetually through an atmosphere acrid with the smoke of gunpowder. Here and there were splashes of blood, and trailing zigzags of blood, and great clotting pools of blood, and stiffening bodies of men and horses. I never on any other battle-field saw so much blood as on this of Middletown. The firm limestone soil would not receive it, and there was no pitying summer grass to hide it.


When I rejoined General Emory he had just made his last possible disposition for further resistence on his original ground; he had formed Birge's Brigade on the reverse side of its own breast-works, while M'Millan had posted Davis's Brigade in a similar manner. This shallow ditch on the outside of a redoubt was the final hold at the Nineteenth Corps had on its position was in the case of a man who has been pushed out of a window, and who desperately clings to the sill with the ends of his fingers. Behind the troops was a steep and rocky hill-side, gnarled with stunted trees, affording no chance of rallying, and a miserable chance of orderly retreat. To me the condition of things seemed utterly forlorn and hopeless. But; the General was bent upon fighting his ship, so to speak, till even her quarter-deck was under water.

"What has Bradbury stopped firing for?" he asked, "Captain, ride over to that hill, and tell the Chief of Artillery to reopen with those pieces."

Descending a rough gully, and mounting a stony height, I found Bradbury sitting on his horse behind Taft's Battery, and gave him the message.

"Our infantry is in the way," he said. Moreover, we ought to move. The black-guards are between us and Winchester already, and we shall lose these guns if we stop any longer."

A broad view of the field was to be had from this elevated point; and I could clearly, see that the battle on our present line was lost beyond redemption; was indeed already roaring and smoking half a mile to the rear of us. The Sixth Corps was pushing toward the wood behind the late site of our head-quarters, and endeavorring to regain possession of the pike, but with doubtful prospects of success. Gordon, extending constantly by the right, and supported now by the full force of Ramseur and Pegram, seemed to be outflanking them as he had previously outflanked us. Except the two brigades of Birge and Davis, all our Nineteenth Corps, unable to rally on an uncovered slope, was retreating across the front and toward the right of the Sixth Corps position. I had scarcely taken in this fact when Taft was ordered to withdraw in the same direction. The only road left him was natural face of the steep and rocky hill. The attempt was coolly and carefully made:

New Hampshire stage-driver could be more deliberately sagacious over a nasty piece of road than were these artillerymen; but three of the four brass Napoleons were left bottom up in the rugged gullies.

And now the struggle to retain possession of ramp was over. Birge's and Davis's brigades filed in good order down a stony slope overgrown with thickets, forded Cedar Creek, and mounted the irregular height on the right the Sixth Corps. Here they formed line of battle along a low crest over which Kershaw's bullets were singing. Other troops were there; but what they were I can not say — I was too busy to ask. One line had four regimental colors in it, and must have been a brigade, but could not have contained more than two hundred men. In front of us, firing from the undulating plateau which we had just quitted, we could see the rebel infantry. For a few minutes the battle was sharp here; and then it slowly swept rearward again. It was Early's continually extending right which turned us out of this, as it had turned us out of every other line that we had attempted to hold. The Sixth Corps could no more outfront it or resist it than we. All our fighting that morning was fragmentary, and consequently feeble in effect, however gallant in purpose and bloody in character. We never could get men enough into action at once; the enemy forever overlapped our front and doubled back our left. As a group of camp-followers passed me I heard one of them say loudly and cheerfully, "The bloody Sixth is going in. They'll stop these blasted cusses. They say that, by Jesus, they'll hold em!"

But the "bloody Sixth" was forced to go, like the Army of Western Virginia and the Nineteenth Corps before it, only perhaps with rather more deliberation and unity, just in proportion as it had more time to prepare for the struggle, and to learn the course of the hostile advance. I was beside Birge and close in rear of his brigade, when I saw him look anxiously toward the pike and then order a retreat. The Sixth Corps was retiring, and we were in danger of being enfiladed. A thousand yards further to the rear, on another crest, the line again halted, fronted, and opened fire, while strenuous efforts were made to bring up and reorganize the mass of stragglers who were sauntering across the fields toward Winchester. Chase's Battery and what remained of Tart's went into position; and for perhaps half ah hour the battle raged with fury, our men standing up to their work with the persevering courage of veterans; and then, once more, we went slowly to the rear, the movement commencing inevitably on the left, where the Sixth Corps was anew outflanked by that indefatigable Gordon. Fifteen hundred yards further back we again turned at bay. The men hastily gathered rails and threw up rude field-works under a long-range fire of the enemy's artillery. A regiment of cavalry commanded by a jolly, red-faced colonel, whose name I did not learn, deployed in line with drawn sabres, and turned back some hundreds of stragglers, who were immediately clapped into whatsoever regiment came handiest. The Nineteenth and Sixth Corps were united. We had succeeded at last in dragging our left flank out of the grasp of Gordon. We were in fair condition to fight a defensive battle. Whether the rebels perceived this, or whether they were simply wearied and disorganized with pursuing, I can not say; but their advance was now slow and cautious. There was no musketry, only a little long-range artillery. I supposed that we should make a final stand in this position. But we had been driven clean off the pike; and, as


it was necessary to recover it before we could consider our communications secure, General Wright again ordered the whole army to retreat. No longer disturbed by the fire of the enemy the line filed into columns of march by regiments, and moved deliberately in the direction of Winchester, inclining diagonally toward the pike.

Allow me here a digression on fugitives. The non-combatant public must not be permitted to believe that defeated and retreating soldiers run at full speed for any considerable distance. When a regiment breaks it usually goes at first like one man, with a movement as simultaneous as if it were in obedience to an order, and for one or two hundred yards it keeps on a run, which of course shatters the organization in proportion to the speed of the fugitives and the nature of the country. But presently, one after another, even while the bullets are whizzing about them, the men drop into a walk. Once out of the immediate presence of the foe, they seem to be satisfied. They walk quietly toward the rear, not crazed with terror, but intelligently choosing the best cover, slipping through hollows and woods, stopping to rest in little knots behind buildings, and taking care of themselves with an admirable though provoking intelligence. But although they are so cool, you need not suppose that you will find it an easy task to rally them. Try it; they will stare at you and walk on; they seem to say by their looks, "We have already done our best, and done it uselessly; we have stood up with a better chance than you can show us, and been whipped; now let somebody else face the music." Draw your sword on them, and they will halt; but turn away, and they are again sidling rearward. The greatest trouble with them seems to be that they have got out of their places in the military machine, if one of them sees his own company he will generally rejoin it; he will even join another company of the same regiment, but not another regiment. An officer who loses his command appears similarly bewildered. He rarely attempts to rally any but his own men, and wanders about in seareh of them, letting the battle go. But if you are a superior officer, or even a staff officer, you can seize upon this lost being and put him in command of a squad of rallied men, and he will lead them gallantly back into the battle, his morale restored by the authority which he feels has been delegated to him, and the responsibility which has been thrust upon him.

This is about the kind of talk that I heard used in rallying fugitives: "Halt, men! Where the — are you going to? You will be no safer at the rear than here. You can't retreat forever. This is the best cover you will find; and you must fight it out somewhere. Halt, and lie down and form a line. Don't be discouraged, boys. It's all right. I tell you, boys, it's all right. We were surprised this morning; it wasn't a fair fight. But we are wide awake now; we are all in shape now. We are ready to turn the joke on them."

"Bully for you!" replies one soldier. Another smiles incredulously, and says, "All right? It doesn't look much like it." But both fall into line, lie down behind the rough field-work which is being built, and recap their pieces.

Let us return to the retreating army. Its columns were three miles from the point where the fight had commenced, and the van of its multitudinous stragglers was already entering Winchester. I wish it to be distinctly understood that at this period of the day we had suffered a clear defeat; that we were in the condition under which most generals are satisfied withdraw their troops from the scene of contest! in decent order. We had completely lost one battle; we had lost camps, lines of earth-works, twenty-four guns, and twelve hundred prisoners; we had not been routed, but we had been undeniably and badly beaten. The battle of the morning and the battle of the afternoon were two different combats, in the first we were flanked and driven, in the second we flanked and pursued.

At this time, at the close of this unfortunate struggle of five hours, we were joined by Sheridan, who had passed the night in Winchester on his way back from Washington, and who must have heard of Early's attack about the time that its success became decisive. It was near ten o'clock when he came up the pike at a three-minute trot, swinging his cap and shouting to the stragglers, "Face the other way, boys. We are going back to our camps. We are going to lick them out of their boots."

The wounded by the roadside raised their hoarse voices to shout; the great army of fugitives turned about at sight of him, and followed him back to the front; they followed him back to the slaughter as hounds follow their master. The moment he reached the army he ordered, it to face about, form line, and advance to the position which it had last quitted. Then for two hours he rode along the front, studying the ground and encouraging the men. "Boys, if I had been here this never should have happened," he said in his animated, earnest war. "I tell you it never should have happened. And now we are going back to our camps. We are going to get a twist on them. We are going to lick them out of their boots."

The Sixth Corps held the pike and its vicinity. On its right the Nineteenth Corps was formed in double line, under cover of a dense wood, the first division on the right, the second on the left. The rearmost line threw up a rude breast-work of stones, rails, and trees, covered by the advanced line standing to arms, and by a strong force of skirmishers stationed two hundred yards to the front but still within the forest. For two hours all was silence, preparation, reorganization, and suspense. Then came a message from Sheridan to Emory that the enemy in column were advancing against the Nineteenth Corps; and shortly afterward the column appeared among the lights and shadows of the autumnal woods, making for the centre of our


second division. There was an awful rattle of musketry, which the forest re-echoed into a deep roar, and when the firing stopped and the smoke cleared away no enemy was visible. Emory immediately sent word to Sheridan that the attack had been repulsed.

"That's good, that's good!" Sheridan answered, gayly. "Thank God for that! Now then, tell General Emory if they attack him again to go after them, and to follow them up, and to sock it to them, and to give them the devil. We'll get the tightest twist on them yet that ever you saw. We'll have all those camps and cannon back again." All this with the nervous animation characteristic of the man, the eager and confident smile, and the energetic gesture of the right hand down into the palm of the left at every repetition of the idea of attack.

At half past three came more explicit orders. "The entire line will advance. The Nineteenth Corps will move in connection with the Sixth Corps. The right of the Nineteenth will swing toward the left so as to drive the enemy upon the pike."

One of our staff officers exclaimed, "By Jove, if we beat them now it will be magnificent!"

"And we are very likely to do it," said General Emory. "They will be so far from expecting us."

It must be understood that the enemy's left was now his strong point, being supported by successive wooded crests; while his right ran out to the pike across undulating open fields which presented no natural line of resistance. Sherridan's plan was to push them off the crests by a turning movement of our right, and then, when they were doubled up on the pike, sling his cavalry at them across the Middletown meadows. With a solemn tranquillity of demeanor our infantry rose from the position where it had been lying, and advanced through the forest into the open ground beyond. There was a silence of suspense; then came a screaming, cracking, humming rush of shell; then a prolonged roar of musketry, mingled with the long-drawn yell of our charge; then the artillery ceased, the musketry died into spattering bursts, and over all the yell rose triumphant. Every thing on the first line, the stone-walls, the advanced crest, the tangled wood, the half-finished breast-works had been carried. The first body of rebel troops to break and fly was Gordon's Division, the same which had so perseveringly flanked us in the morning, and which was now flanked by our own first division of the Nineteenth Corps.

After this there was a lull in the assault, though not in the battle. The rebel artillery reopened spitefully from a new position, and our musketry responded from the crest and wood which we had gained. Sheridan dashed along the front, reorganizing the line for a second charge, cheering the men with his confident smile and emphatic assurances of success, and giving his orders in person to brigade, division, and corps commanders. He took special pains with the direction of our First Division, wheeling it in such a manner as to face square toward the pike, and form nearly a right angle to the enemy's front. Now came a second charge upon a second line of stone-walls, crests, and thickets, executed with as much enthusiasm and rapidity as if the army had just come into action. Remember that our gallant fellows had eaten nothing since the previous evening; that they had lost their canteens, and were tormented with thirst; that they had been fighting and manoeuvring, frequently at double-quick, for nearly twelve hours; and that they were sadly diminished in numbers by the slaughter and confusion of the morning. Remember, too, that this lost battle was retrieved without a reinforcement. Only veterans, and only veterans of the best quality, disciplined, intelligent, and brave, could put forth such a supreme effort at the close of a long, bloody, and disastrous conflict. As one of Sheridan's staff officers followed up our First Division, and watched the yelling, running, panting soldiers, not firing a shot, but simply dashing along with parched, open mouths, he said, "Those men are doing all that flesh and blood can."

"Your fellows on the right went in mighty pretty this afternoon," I heard Custer say that evening to Emory. "I had to sing out to my men, Are you going to let the infantry beat you?"

Every body now knows by reputation this brilliant officer, and can understand that we have a right to be proud of his praise.

The battle was over. Cavalry on the flanks and infantry in the centre, we carried the second line with the same rush and with even greater ease than the first. Again Early's army was "whirling up the Valley," in more hopeless confusion this time than after Winchester or Strasburg, no exertions of the rebel officers being sufficient to establish another line of resistance, or to check, even momentarily, the flow and spread of the panic. Colonel Love of the One Hundred and Sixteenth New York dashed his horse into the broken ranks of the Second South Carolina and captured its battle-flag, escaping unhurt from the bullets of the color-guard. But the fighting soon swept far ahead of the tired infantry, which followed in perfect peace over the ground that during the morning it had stained with the blood of its retreat. Dead and wounded men, dead and wounded horses, dismounted guns, broken-down caissons, muskets with their stocks shivered and their barrels bent double by shot, splinters of shell, battered bullets, and blood over all, like a delirium of Lady Macbeth or the Chourineur, bore testimony to the desperate nature of the long, wide-spread conflict. The number of slaughtered horses was truly extraordinary, showing how largely the cavalry had been used, and how obstinately the artillery had been fought. I noticed that almost every dead soldier was covered by an over-coat or blanket, placed over him by some friend or perhaps brother. Of the wounded a few lay quiet and silent; here and there one uttered


wild, quavering cries expressive of intense agony or despair; others, and these the majority, groaned from time to time gently and with a pitiful, patient courage. One man, whose light-blue trowsers were clotted with that dull crimson so sickeningly common, and whose breath was short and voice hoarse, called feebly as we passed, "Hurrah for General Emory!"

"Are you badly hurt, my lad?" asked Emory, stopping his horse.

My leg is broken by a rifle-ball, General. I suppose I shall lose it. But I still feel — as if I could say — Hurrah for General Emory. I fought under you — at Sabine Cross Roads — and Pleasant Hill."

The General dismounted to give the sufferer a glass of whisky, and left a guard to see that he was put into an ambulance.

It was nearly dark when our corps reached its camps. No new arrangement of the line was attempted; in the twilight of evening the regiments filed into the same positions that they had quilted in the twilight of dawn; and the tired soldiers lay down to rest among dead comrades and dead enemies. They had lost every thing but what they bore on their hacks or in their hand; their shelter-tents, knapsacks, canteens, and haversacks had been plundered by the rebels; and they slept that night, as they had fought that day, without food.

But there was no rest for the enemy or for our cavalry. All the way from our camps to Strasburg, a distance of four miles, the pike was strewn with the debris of a beaten army; and the scene in Strasburg itself was such a flood of confused flight and chase, such a chaos of wreck and bedlam of panic, as no other defeat of the war can parallel. Guns, caissons, ammunition wagons, baggage wagons, and ambulances by the hundred, with dead or entangled and struggling horses, were jammed in the streets of the little town, impeding alike fugitives and pursuers. Our troopers dodged through the press as they best could, pistoling, sabring, and taking prisoners. A private of the Fifth New York Cavalry, riding up to a wagon, ordered the five rebels who were in it to surrender; and when they only lashed their horses into a wilder gallop he shot two with his revolver and brought in the three others. The usually gallant and clastic Southern infantry was so stupefied by fatigue and cowed by defeat that it seemed like a flock of animals, actually taking no notice of mounted men and officers from our army who wandered into the wide confusion of its retreat. Lieutenant Gray, Company D, First Rhode Island Artillery, galloped up to a retreating battery and ordered it to face about. "I was told to go to the rear as rapidly as possible," remonstrated the sergeant in command. "You don't seem to know who I am," answered Gray. "I am one of those d—d Yanks. Countermarch immediately!" The battery was countermarched, and Gray was leading it off alone, when a squadron of our cavalry came up and made the capture a certainty.

The victory was pushed, as Sheridan has pushed all his victories, to the utmost possible limit of success, the cavalry halting that night at Fisher's Hill, but starting again at dawn and continuing the chase to Woodstock, sixteen miles from Middletown.

It was a gay evening at our head-quarters, although we were worn-out with fatigue, and as chilled, starved, and shelterless as the soldiers, our tents, baggage, rations, and cooks having all gone to Winchester. Notwithstanding these discomforts, notwithstanding the thought of slain and wounded comrades, it was delightful to talk the whole day over, even of our defeat of the morning, because we could say, "All's well that ends well." It was laughable to think of the fugitives who had fled beyond the hearing of out victory, and who wore now on their way to Martinsburg, spreading the news that Sheridan's army had been totally defeated, and that they (of course) were the only survivors. Then every half hour or so somebody galloped in from the advance witli such a tale of continuing success that we could hardly grant our credence to it before a fresh messenger arrived, not so much to confirm the story as to exaggerate it.

It was "Hurrah! twenty cannon taken at Strasburg. That makes twenty-six so far."

"Glorious! — Don't believe it. — Isn't it splendid? — Impossible! — All our own back again," answered the contradictory chorus.

Then came another plunge of hoofs reining up with another "Hurrah! forty-six guns! More wagons and ambulances than you can count!"

In truth the amount of material captured in this victory was extraordinary. Two days after the battle I saw near Sheridan's head-quarters a row of forty-nine pieces of artillery, of which twenty-four had been lost by us and retaken, while the others were Early's own. In addition the rebels lost fifty wagons, sixty-five ambulances (some of them marked "Stonewall Brigade"), sixteen hundred small-arms, several battle-flags, fifteen hundred prisoners, and probably two thousand killed and wounded. Our own losses were: Crook's command, one hundred killed and wounded, and seven hundred prisoners; the Nineteenth Corps, sixteen hundred killed and wounded, and one hundred prisoners; the Sixth Corps, thirteen hundred killed and wounded; total, three thousand eight hundred.

Of all retrieved battles, in all history that I can remember, this one, it seems to me, is the most remarkable. It is more wonderful than Shiloh or Marengo in this respect, that the abandoned arena was regained by the very men who had lost it, without other aid than their own unwearied courage guided by a master spirit. There was here no Buell with twenty thousand fresh soldiers; no Desaix with six thousand veteran grenadiers. The only reinforcement which the Army of the Shenandoah received or needed to recover its lost field of battle, camps, intrenchments, and cannon was one man — Sheridan.