Clement Anselm Evans.

Confederate military history; a library of Confederate States history online

. (page 49 of 153)
Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 49 of 153)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Fitz Lee had frustrated, was to Sheridan's rear, between
Berryville and the Shenandoah. Early placed Ramseur's
division on Kershaw's left and then moved, with Whar-
ton's and Rodes' divisions, along the enemy's front toward
his right, to reconnoiter and attack that flank if a favor-
able opportunity offered. Early, in his "Memoirs of the
Last Year of the War for Independence, in the Confed-
erate States of America, ' ' writes of this reconnoissance ;

After moving in this way for two miles, I reached an elevated
position from which the enemy's line was visible, and within artil-
lery range of it. I at first thought that I had reached his right flank,
and was about making arrangements to attack it, when casting my
eye to my left, 1 discovered, as far as the eye could reach with the
aid of glasses, a line extending toward Summit Point. The position
the enemy occupied was a strong one, and he was busily engaged
fortifying it, having already made considerable progress. It was
not until I had had this view that I realized the size of the enemy's
force, and as I discovered that his line was too long for me to get
around his flank, and the position was too strong to attack in front, I
returned and informed General Anderson of the condition of things.
After consultation with him, we thought it not advisable to
attack the enemy in his intrenched lines, and we determined to
move our forces back to the west side of the Opequon, and see if he
would not move out of his works.

After remaining in front of the enemy at Berryville
until 2 p. m. of the 5th, Early returned the divisions of
Rodes, Wharton and Ramseur to Stephenson's, by way
of the burnt factory. Rodes, in front, reached Stephen-
son's just in time to form a brigade on the right of the
Confederate cavalry, which was falling back before
superior numbers, commanded by Averell, and to aid in
driving him back, for several miles, through a hard rain
with considerable loss. On the morning of that day
Anderson retired from the front of Berryville to the west
side of the Opequon, having concluded to remain with
Early, who was now confronted by such a large army of
the enemy. It was quiet on the 6th, but on the 7th the
enemy made demonstrations at the Yellow House, near
Brucetown, and on the Martinsburg road, and also on.
the Millwood and Front Royal roads, not far from Win-
chester. These were all repulsed. There was enforced
quiet on the 8th owing to a hard rain, but on the 9th the
enemy advanced to the Opequon, below Brucetown, and
burned some mills. They retired when met by Wharton.

On the loth Early marched, with Rodes in front, pre-
ceded by some of Lomax's cavalry, through a very hard
rain, and encountered the enemy's cavalry near Darkes-


ville, compelled it to retreat, followed by Lomax, through
and beyond Martinsburg. The infantry returned to Bun-
ker Hill, but the cavalry remained at Darkesville. The
next day, leaving the cavalry at Darkesville, the infantry
marched back to Stephenson's. It was quiet along the
lines on the 12th, but on the 13th the enemy again ad-
vanced, by the old Charlestown road, and an artillery
duel took place, across the Opequon, lasting most of the
day, the Federals withdrawing at night. On the 14th of
September General Anderson again marched away, unmo-
lested, from Early's command, with Kershaw's infantry
division and Cutshaw's artillery, by way of Front Royal.
Early's army remained in camp, near Stephenson's, on
the isth and i6th.

On the afternoon of the 17th, the divisions of Gordon
and Rodes, preceded by Jackson's brigade of cavalry,
marched to Bunker Hill. On the i8th Gordon advanced
to Martinsburg, meeting the enemy's pickets at Big
Spring and driving them through the town, making some
captures and burning Baltimore & Ohio railroad bridges,
and afterward returning to Bunker Hill, Rodes continuing
to Stephenson's.

Capt. L. W. V. Kennon, U. S. A., in a paper criticis-
ing Sheridan's campaign, states that while Early was at
Martinsburg, at this time :

He learned at the telegraph ofBce that Grant was with Sheridan at
Charlestown. Early's movements up to this time had been con-
ducted with conspicuous skill and judgment, although with audacity
that bordered on rashness. He states, however, that the events of
the last month had satisfied him that the commander opposed to him
was "without enterprise, and possessed of an excessive caution which
amounted to timidity." Otherwise he would not have volunteered
to make so perilous a move as this one |to Martinsburg. It is evi-
dent that he held a different opinion of Grant, for on learning of his
presence in the Valley he "expected an early move," and at once
sent Gordon back to Bunker Hill, with orders to march to Stephen-
son's depot by sunrise the next morning. Rodes' division was
moved the same night to Stephenson's, where, also, Early himself

The appearance of Grant in this part of the theater of war was,
in truth, mdicative of his tirgent desire for speedy action. Early's
continued presence in the lower valley was not merely annoymg
and humiliating, but it was retarding the progress of the campaign
in front of Richmond, and was a hindrance of which Grant was very
anxious to rid himself.

The battle of Winchester, of September 19th, was
opened by an advance of the enemy along the Berryville


road toward Winchester, and across, the Opequon, at 3
a. m. Ramseur, on the west bank of the Opequon, with
Johnson's and Jackson's cavalry on his right, opposed
and delayed this advance. Rodes came up from Ste-
phenson's at 10 o'clock and formed on Ramseur's left,
and Gordon, arriving about noon from Bunker Hill,
, formed on Rodes' left. These dispositions placed Early's
.army facing in a semi-circle to the south, southeast and
(east of Winchester, along the Opequon and its Red Bud
I branch, across and in advance of the Winchester and
I Berryville road. Wharton was formed to the rear and
, left of Gordon, extending the line northward across the
Martinsburg road, on which he drove back several
advances of the enemy's cavalry. The Federal infantry,
about midday, made a furious attack all along the line ;
but its advances were all repulsed, with great slaughter,
by the Confederate infantry and artillery. At i p. m.
Sheridan massed his large body of cavalry and attempted
to turn the Confederate left, but this attack was also
repulsed. At 4 p. m. this attempt was renewed, and this
great force, consisting of two divisions of cavalry backed
by a fresh corps of infantry, turned and got in the rear of
Early's left, when the whole line gave way and the army
retreated, near sundown, some of it in confusion and
disorder, but most of it in an orderly way, followed by
the enemy's cavalry to Kerhstown, where they were gal-
lantly repulsed by Ramseur, who brought up the rear.
The Confederates fell back to Newtown, with Gordon in
advance, where they encamped about midnight, the
enemy having been too roughly handled to follow up
with vigor the advantages it had gained, mainly through

the efforts of its great cavalry corps, of more than
0,000 well mounted and ably led men, which Early had
to corresponding force to meet.

On the 20th, at daylight. Early continued his retreat,
falling back through Strasburg to Fisher's hill, and there
taking the position he had previously occupied. The
brave Maj.-Gen. Robert E. Rodes having been killed at
Winchester, Ramseur was put in command of his division,
and Brig. -Gen. John Pegram took command of Early's
old division, which he had hitherto commanded. Fitz
Lee's cavalry retired to Front Royal, and one division of
the enemy's cavalry came on to near Strasburg. Early
spent the 21st in his works on Fisher's hill, the enemy

Va S2


making some demonstrations, in the forenoon, with
infantry on his right and center and cavalry on his left.
Late in the afternoon the enemy drove in the Confederate
skirmish line on the middle road and gained possession
of the end of a ridge, the summit of which was cleared,
but which was screened in front from Early's view by a
skirt of forest occupying the slope to Tumbling run.
Upon this point, which commanded Early's position,
Sheridan massed his artillery, protecting it with earth-
works. Wickham, in command of Fitz Lee's cavalry,
fell back from Front Royal, up the South Fork of the
Shenandoah, to Milford.

The battle of Fisher's Hill, on the 22d of September,
was opened by an advance of Sheridan's infantry, in line
of battle, all along the Confederate front, at an early
hour, and an engagement of skirmishers. At 9 130 a. m.
the infantry contention was hot in front of the center -,
at I p.m. Sheridan advanced several lines of battle, close
to the front of Ramseur, the left of Early's infantry line,
but only succeeded in driving in his skirmishers; at 4:30-
p. m. the enemy drove in Gordon's skirmishers, on Ear-
ly's center, between the Manassas Gap railway and the
Valley turnpike, and at the same time opened a heavy
and most destructive fire from the commanding ridge on
the bluff between the railway and the North Fork of the.
Shenandoah. At the same time Crook's corps of Federal
infantry, having made a concealed detour, through the
woods, westward, to the foot of the Little North mount-
ain beyond the back road, formed in line of battle, and
advancing, fell upon Early's left flank, which was ex-
tended beyond Ramseur's division by a weak body of
cavalry, compelling that to retreat in confusion, and
then pushing forward in attack on the left and rear of
Early's infantry. About 5 :3o p. m. Early attempted to
withdraw his whole line, especially retiring his left to
meet this flank movement of the enemy; but Sheridan's
attack was so rapid and vigorous, on both flank and front,
that the left of the Confederates gave way in great
confusion, and admitted Crook's corps to the rear of the
whole line northwest of the railway. Under the over-
whelming pressure of this attack the entire line gave
way, and the whole army of the Valley, at about dark,
retreated in great disorder, except some of Wharton's-
division which formed a rear guard, and some of the


artillery brigade, which continued fighting until Early
ordered them to desist. The success of Sheridan's move-
ment was greatly aided by the plunging fire of his massed
artillery on the commanding ridge in front of Early's

A few infantry and some artillery rallied on the hill
at the Four-mile house, not far back from Fisher's hill,
and for a time checked the rather feebly sustained pur-
suit of the enemy. The Confederate army retreated rap-

[idly, the enemy following to Tom's brook, some three

'miles in the rear of Early's position at Fisher's hill,
where they were again checked by Smith's brigade, of
Wharton's division, and gave up the pursuit. The re-
treat continued all night, the army reaching Mt. Jackson
at an early hour on the morning of the 23d, where it
remained in line of battle during the day, skirmishing
some with the enemy's cavalry, which came up and
threw a few shells, but made no earnest attempt to
advance. The trains were sent across the North Fork
of the Shenandoah, by a bridge that the engineering
company of Captain Hart had completed the day before.
After dark Early retired across the river and encamped
at Rude's hill.

I Forming a line of battle on Ru3e^s hill on the morn-
ing of the 24th, Early remained there until noon, Aver-
ell's division of cavalry advancing to the river and throw-
ing a few shells at Early's front, at the same time moving
a large cavalry force up the opposite side of the river to
turn Early's flank, his largely superior numbers enabling
him to drive Early's cavalry rapidly back on the middle
road. Early then withdrew in line and in column, and

\ formed again in the rear of New Market, to meet this
flank movement. In the same way, skirnlishing and
using his artillery, he took position as the enemy ad-
vanced, and fell back to Tenth Legion, where he formed a
line of battle late in the afternoon, which he held until
after dark, when, leaving Jackson's cavalry on picket, he
followed his trains by the Keezletown road, Ramseur in
front, five miles to Flook's, where he arrived and went
into camp about midnight. The Federals pursued his
cavalry to near Harrisonburg.

September 2Sth the trains moved on at an early hour,
by way of Peale's cross roads and Port Republic, to
Brown's gap, and at daylight the troops followed, with


Pegram in advance, and occupied Jackson's old camp
within the western entrance to Brown's gap, the cavalry
encamping between the South and the Middle rivers,
covering the infantry position. The enemy advanced to

On the 26th, Kershaw's division, which had been ordered
back to Early from Culpeper Court House, on its way
back to Lee, and had crossed the Blue ridge at Swift
Run gap, came up the South Fork of the Shenandoah,
and turning off from the River road to Lewiston, joined
the rest of the army, in Brown's gap, after having had
an encounter with the enemy's cavalry and artillery, on
the old battlefield of Port Republic, as he was about to
turn off from the river road. This attack was from
Fremont's old position, across the river, but was repulsed
by Kershaw's artillery. In the early morning of the
same day, the Federal cavalry came on from Harrison-
burg and drove the Confederate cavalry across South
river. Pegram 's division, with artillery, was advanced
into the plain in front and east of Weyer's cave, and
engaged the enemy, repulsing several charges of cavalry.
Ramseur, with his skirmishers, repelled an advance of the
enemy on the Port Republic and Brown's Gap turnpike
at about the same time that Kershaw's line of march was
attacked at Lewiston. Wharton and Gordon were moved
out and put in position to support the other divisions, if
necessary. Wickham's cavalry brigade (which had come
up the Luray valley and joined Early at Port Republic)
was moved to the left, to Patterson's ford, or South river,
in the afternoon, to meet a reported move of the enemy.
The Federal cavalry went into camp between Weyer's
cave and Mt. Meridian, and also between the South and
the North rivers, with skirmishers on the eastern side of
South river.

The Weyer's cave attack was made on information by
Engineer Hotchkiss in reference to the position of the ene-
my's camp, and that it could be readily reached by roads
concealed by forests, by way of Patterson's ford. Wick-
ham's cavalry led the advance, followed by Gordon with
artillery, and by Ramseur, Wharton guarding the right
flank of the movement while Pegram engaged the
enemy's attention in front, and Kershaw guarded, on
the right, the approaches to Brown's gap from the north-
east. The movement was a success and the troops were


in position for a surprise, when the artillery, without
orders from Early, opened prematurely upon the enemy's
camp. Thus warned, they fled precipitately, pursued by
the cavalry, with which their rear skirmished, toward
Mt. Meridian. A portion of the enemy fled across North
river toward Cross Keys, followed by Pegram, who
crossed that river and joined with Gordon and Ramseur
in the pursuit, damaging the enemy considerably with
artillery from the hill above Port Republic, as they fled
across North river. Returning, the army took Jackson's
old camp between the rivers, except Kershaw, who re-
mained in Brown's gap.

On the morning of the 28th, after some delay from a
misunderstanding of orders. Early marched for Waynes-
boro, the enemy having gone thither by way of Staunton.
The trains crossed South river at Patterson's ford and
went up the east side of that stream, with Ramseur in
front, followed by Gordon. Pegram marched on the
right flank by the Waynesboro road, from Mt. Meridian,
turning by the Dogtown road, five miles from Waynes-
boro. Early, with Kershaw's division, followed by Gor-
don, marched by the way of New Hope and Hermitage,
striking the outpost of the Federal cavalry at the latter
place and driving it in toward Dogtown. Pegram also
encountered the enemy, about four miles from Dogtown,
and drove them to that place, then formed a line, after
dark, and pursued them to the Waynesboro and Staunton
road and toward Fishersville, the Confederate cavalry
having previously gone, by a byroad, to near the tunnel
of the Virginia Central railroad through the Blue ridge,
which the Federal cavalry was seeking to destroy, and
driven it back across South river and through Waynes-
boro to where Pegram struck its camp. The army en-
camped, after dark, in the vicinity of Waynesboro, where
it remained on the 29th and 30th, while the engineer
troops and pioneers were rebuilding the Central railroad
bridges across South river and Christian's creek, which
the enemy had destroyed. The Federal cavalry, which
had been routed near Wa3mesboro, retreatpd through
Staunton, Spring Hill and Mossy creek near Mt. Craw-
ford, wantonly burning barns, mills, factories, grain and
hay ricks, and driving all the live stock they could find
before them, as they went, in obedience to Sheridan's
orders to destroy the Valley "so that even a crow travers-


ing it would have to carry a haversack." Early's
cavalry, on the 30th, followed the enemy as far as Middle

On the ist of October the Confederate forces moved
to the \'icinity of Mt. Sidney: Gordon, Kershaw and
Pegram marching by the direct old Winchester road, to
the Willow Spout, and then down the Valley turnpike to
three miles beyond Mt. Sidney; while Ramseur and
Wharton moved by the Mt. Meridian road and across by
Piedmont to within three miles of Mt. Sidney. The cav-
alry took position along North river. On the 2d, Sheri-
dan's cavalry drove in the Confederate pickets near
Mt. Crawford, but the Stonewall brigade, of Gordon's
division, drove them back and held the turnpike bridge
over North river at that point. The cavalry had an
engagement with the enemy at Bridgewater, forcing
Custer's Federal division of cavalry to retire, by a well-
planned attack on his front and flanks. Quiet reigned on
the 3d and 4th, with the exception of some skirmishing
along the l|ine of North river. On the 5 th, Gordon ad-
vanced to near Naked creek and Brig. -Gen. Thomas L.
Rosser joined the army with his cavalry brigade of some
600 service and toil-worn men and horses, which had come
up from Richmond by way of Lynchburg. This brigade
was attached to Fitz Lee's division, to the command of
which Rosser was assigned, Wickham having resigned.

On the morning of the 6th the enemy left the camps
near Harrisonburg, Mt. Crawford and Bridgewater, after
destroying crops, burning buildings in every direction,
before and during their march, and driving before them all
the live stock, both old and young, they could find. The
Confederate cavalry was soon in pursuit, and the infan-
try, Gordon in front, followed at 11 a. m., and marched
to the vicinity of Harrisonburg; three of the divisions
encamping beyond that town. Lomax's cavalry went by
the Keezletown road to Peale's, while Rosser, with Fitz
Lee's division, took the back road and fell on the enemy's
rear at Brock's gap, with vigor, capturing a portion of
its train and pursuing it to Timberville. Kershaw had
reinforced Early, at Brown's gap, with 2, 700 muskets for
duty and Cutshaw's artillery, about making up for his
losses at Winchester and Fisher's Hill, and he had deter-
mined to attack Sheridan on the 6th if he had not re-
treated down the Valley.


On the 7th the march was continued to New Market,
Pegram and Wharton encamped on the Timberville
road ; Gordon and Ramseur on the Forestville, and Ker-
shaw on the Luray roads. The cavalry pursued the
enemy to the line of Stony creek, the strong position that
Jackson had held against Banks' advance in the spring
of 1862. Early's infantry remained in camp in the vicin-
ity of New Market on the 8th, while Rosser on the back
road drove the enemy to Round hill, having an engage-
ment with them near Tom's brook, while Lomax drove
them to the same stream on the Valley turnpike.

Custer's cavalry turned on Early's on the 9th, and
drove it back, with a loss of artillery ; Lomax to Mt. Jack-
son, on the Valley turnpike, and Rosser to Stony creek,
on the back road, where the latter rallied and turned
upon the pursuing foe and routed them, capturing their
train and eight pieces of artillery. Ramseur and Ker-
shaw were advanced to Rude's hill to meet the enemy,
coming up the Valley turnpike; but they retired to
Edenburg, and at night Early's advance again held the
line of Stony creek. On the loth and nth, the infantry
remained in camp while the pioneers were repairing the
telegraph line from Staunton to New Market. On the
nth, Lomax 's division of cavalry crossed over from New
Market to the Page valley. On the 12th the march was
resumed, Ramseur in front, and the army advanced to
the vicinity of Woodstock, preceded by Payne's cavalry
brigade, which halted at Pugh's run while Rosser marched
from Timberville to Stony creek.

Early continued his advance on the 13th, with Gordon,
preceded by Payne's cavalry, in the lead, and reached
Hupp's hill, beyond Strasburg, by 10 a. m. Conceal-
ing his infantry behind the hill and a screen of woods.
Early put his artillery in position and surprised Sheri-
dan's camp, on the opposite side of Cedar creek, by open-
ing on it with several batteries, and driving the Federals
from their posts and camps, on the left of their position,
in great disorder. Sheridan promptly advanced a bri-
gade across Cedar creek, from his center, and opened
from the batteries on his right, on the Belle Grove ridge.
Early's artillery shelled the advancing column, while his
infantry, still concealed, slowly withdrew. The enemy,
supposing Early was retreating, advanced rapidly, when
Conner's brigade of Kershaw's division and the skirmish-


ers of Gordon and Wharton, suddenly charged on them
from their ambush and handsomely routed them, with
severe loss. Rosser advanced, on the back road, to
Cedar creek, and engaged the cavalry guarding that
approach to Sheridan's rear. Lomax continued down
the Page valley, through Luray and Front Royal, and
drove the Federal pickets from Guard hill, above the
forks of the Shenandoah, on the Front Royal and Win-
chester turnpike. After this bold, well-planned and suc-
cessful attack on Sheridan's camp (one that should have
shown him its vulnerable location), Early's first Cedar
creek battle^ he fell back to Fisher's Hill and went into
camp. The Federal cavalry continued the burning of
crops, barns, etc. , in the vicinity of Front Royal, until
driven away by Lomax.

Early remained at Fisher's hill during the 15th, hav-
ing some skirmishing with the enemy on Hupp's hill, as
he reconnoitered, and found them busily fortifying the
north bank of Cedar creek and the camp which they had
reoccupied, with so little judgment and in apparent
ignorance of the weakness of that position, as they
learned to their cost a little later, when the famous bat-
tle of Cedar Creek was joined.

All was quiet during the day of the i6th, but at night
Rosser's brigade of cavalry, each cavalryman taking an
infantryman of Grimes' brigade of Ramseur's division,
mounted behind him, marched to surprise the cavalry
camp of the enemy on the back road, near Cedar creek ;
but he found only a picket, which he captured, the camp
having been moved. On the 17th of October, Early's
troops were advanced a mile or more, to between Tum-
bling run and Strasburg, to cover Rosser's movement, and
reconnoissances were made in front of Strasburg, while
General Gordon and Captain Hotchkiss of the engineers
went to the signal station, on the end of Three- top mount-
ain, to reconnoiter the enemy's position with reference
to an attack; Captain Hotchkiss, from this lofty point
of observation, which overlooked all of Sheridan's camps,
making a map showing the position of Sheridan's
army and its defensive works, and locating all its guards
and pickets. Pegram advanced to Cedar creek, on the,
back road, to ascertain the feasibility of an attack from
that direction.

From the reports of General Gordon and Captain


Hotchkiss, and the remarkable location of Sheridan's

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 49 of 153)