Clement Anselm Evans.

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camps, as shown by the map that was exhibited, General
Early became convinced that, notwithstanding the great
disparity of the opposing forces (knowing that his own
numbered but about 10,000 of all arms, while those
of the enemy numbered 50,000 effective men), an
unexpected and successful attack could be made on Sher-
idan's camps. Accordingly he summoned his division
commanders to headquarters, and after the situation had
been explained by General Gordon and Captain Hotch-
kiss, it was decided, with but one dissenting voic^ that
the attack should be made, and the plan proposed by Gen-
eral Early should be carried into effect that night and
the following day.

Early's plan assigned to each division its place and
time of attack, almost precisely as it was subsequently
carried into execution. Gordon, with the Second corps,
composed of Gordon's, Ramseur's and Pegram's divi-
sions, was to march, after dark, from the Fisher's hill en-
.campment to a crossing of the North Fork of the Shenan-
doah, near its right, which the pioneer corps was to
bridge for it, then along and around the base of the
Three-top mountain, by a blind and concealed pathway,
to its northeastern end, and then, by fording the North
Fork of the Shenandoah at Bowman's ford, with a squad-
ron of Pajme's cavalry in advance, to capture the enemy's
picket and turn his left flank. Kershaw was to march to
Strasburg at a later hour, then by a country road to Bow-
man's mill, on Cedar creek, and attack the enemy; Whar-
ton, at a still later hour, was to move along the Valley
turnpike, followed by the artillery of the army, past
Strasburg to Hupp's hill, and remain there and be ready
to second the other attacks. Rosser's cavalry was to
advance by the back road and engage the enemy's cav-
alry, which had its extensive camp on its right and not
far from the back road. The marches were so arranged
that each of the attacking forces should be in position
and ready to begin the assault at precisely 5 o'clock,
about daylight of the morning of the 19th; Rosser to
attack first, on the left, then Gordon on the right, and
lastly, Kershaw in the center. The precise time of
Wharton's attack was to depend on circumstances. Dur-
ing the day the materials were secretly collected for the
foot bridge across the North Fork of the Shenandoah,


■and about dark that stream, and other small ones on Gor-
don's route, were bridged, and the path along and around
the mountain was cleared out by the pioneers under Cap-
tain Hart, and Gordon commenced his march, across the
river and around to a place in the woods near the end of
the mountain, at 8 in the evening.

At midnight following October i8th, Kershaw and
Wharton marched from Fisher's hill along the turnpike
to Strasburg, where Kershaw turned to the right along
the byroad leading to Bowman's mill, while Wharton
continued along the turnpike to near the crest of Hupp's
hill. Before 5 a. m. of the 1 9th, Kershaw and Wharton were
resting in their assigned positions, and Gordon had been
waiting for some time, not far from Bowman's ford on
the south bank of the North Fork of the Shenandoah,
opposite the Federal cavalry picket guarding the road
leading to the Belle Grove farm and around to the flank
and rear of the Federal encampment, especially that of
the Eighth corps, along which this byroad led, on to the
«ast. Rosser, with his cavalry, was also in position on
the Back road, and ready to attack.

As the hour appointed for the assault drew near. Gen-
eral Early, who had accompanied Kershaw's division, the
head of which was resting on the bluif above the south
bank of Cedar creek, was considerably disturbed by a
movement in the Federal camp (the moving of a wagon
train, as was afterward learned), which, unconscious of
impending danger, lay before him, slightly concealed by
the fog that was rising from Cedar creek and from the
Tiver. This stir in the camps led him to suspect that his
movement had been discovered. Fortunately, the ap-
pointed hour came at about this time, when, practically
•without further orders and with remarkable precision,
the three prearranged simultaneous attacks began.
Payne's cavalry dashed across the river, in front of Gor-
don, and captured the outer pickets; Gordon followed
with the bold rush characteristic of the famous Stonewall
brigade, which was in his advance, and soon fell on the rear
•of the encampment of the Nineteenth corps, with a line
of battle having Ramseur's division on the right and
-Gordon's division on the left, supported by Pegram's.
At the same time Kershaw's division fairly sprang down
the steep slope of the south bank of Cedar creek, rushed
-across that stream, and deploying, with Wofford on the


Tight, Humphreys in the center and Bryan, with Conner
in echelon, on the left, charged rapidly up the long slope
north of the creek, captured the battery that crowned its
summit, turned its guns upon the as yet profoundly
sleeping Eighth corps, rushed upon its flank, then bore
to the left, and crossing the Valley turnpike fell upon the
flank of the Nineteenth corps, there encamped on the
Belle Grove farm. By these rapid and nearly simultane-
ous advances Kershaw's command and that of Gordon
were, practically, brought into line of battle, with Gordon
on the right and Kershaw on the left, that swept like
wildfire through the camps of the Eighth and Nineteenth
corps, routed the sleeping soldiers from their tents, and
drove them, some half-dressed and all dazed, to retreat
in wild confusion or to promptly surrender, and giving
little opportunity for any rally except by some of those in
the more distant ' parts of the encampment, who were
quickly aroused and formed by their ofiicers, and who,
with desperate courage, vainly strove to check the on-
rushing tide of the victorious Confederates.

When the sun rose and tempered the sharp air of that
frosty October morning, it beheld Kershaw and Gordon
in full possession of the camps and earthworks of the
Eighth and Nineteenth corps of Sheridan's army and the
captors of a large number of prisoners, many pieces of
artillery, most of the camp equipage and the trains
belonging to these two large bodies of infantry, and pre-
paring to attack the Sixth corps, which was encamped far-
thest to the enemy's right and on high ground beyond
Meadow branch, a tributary of Cedar creek, that, run-
ning from the northeast and on the western side of the
Valley turnpike, enters the former stream at Hottle's
mill, where several roads converge to a ford across Cedar

As soon as the Valley turnpike was uncovered by the
movements of Kershaw and Gordon, and the way was
clear, Wharton's division moved forward, and the artil-
lery galloped rapidly across Cedar creek and along the
turnpike, and was soon ready to join in, on the right, in
the attack on the Sixth corps, which had already been
begun by Kershaw, Ramseur and Pegram in that order
from the left. The gallant and indomitable Col. Tom
Carter soon had his own and some of the captured artil-
lery playing on the Sixth corps and its batteries, that


brave body of Federal soldiery having had time to rally
and deploy before the Confederates had reached its posi-
tion. The infantry attack on the Sixth corps, especially
that by Wharton's division on the right, was but partially
successful, as the swampy character of the ground along
Meadow run prevented it from getting across, and the
furious fire of the enemy drove it back ; but the Confed-
erate artillery, fonriidable in the number and character
of its guns and in the magnificent handling of these by
its officers and men, soon forced the Sixth corps from its
position, so that before noon the entire infantry com-
mand of the Federal army had been routed and driven
nearly two miles beyond Middletown, and Early had
halted in the pursuit, apprehensive that the 10,000 Fed-
eral cavalry, which Rosser had merely routed from their
camps on Sheridan's right, might cross over and fall
upon his little army which he had drawn up in line of
battle on a road having stone fences along it, leading
northwestward from the Valley turnpike, from near the
northeastern end of Middletown ; with Gordon on the left
extending into a body of woods along the Middle road,
followed on the right by Kershaw, Ramseur and Pegram
up to the turnpike, and with Wharton on the right of that
great highway, in the very position that Stonewall
Jackson had taken, but for a brief interval only, when
preparing to advance against Banks' retreating army on
the 24th of May, 1862.

As soon as the Federal cavalry was apprised of the dis-
aster that had fallen upon Sheridan's infantry, it broke
camp, started its trains for the rear, sent a portion of its
force to meet Rosser's attack, and at once moved its main
body to the eastward into deployment covering the
retreating and demoralized infantry and artillery, bring-
ing its numerous batteries into position, especially occu-
P3dng the commanding ridge, or high rising ground to
the north of Middletown, in front of the position that
Early had taken, thus giving opportunity to the Federal
officers to rally and reorganize their discomfited forces,
which they speedily did ; the panic that had taken posses-
sion of them having subsided when they found they were
not being pursued, and that their well-mounted and well-
trained cavalry force was on hand to protect them from
further molestation.

Unfortunately for the Confederate cause, General


Early, though an able strategist, a most skillful com-
mander, and one of the bravest of the brave, as all know,
and as had been well attested — literally on scores of bat-
tlefields — did not possess the sublime confidence that
characterized Stonewall Jackson in periods of emer-
gency, and at this critical moment, intoxicated with suc-
cess (but not with liquor, as some have falsely asserted),
hesitated ; unwilling to believe, although informed to the
contrary lay some of his officers who had reconnoitered its
new position, that the Sixth corps was still intact, con-
cealed in the forest in front of his left. Therefore he did
not advance, although repeatedly warned of the danger-
ous character of the position he had taken if the
Federal forces should be concentrated, for a counter-
stroke, on the commanding ground in his front.
The handful of thinly-clad men who had cheerfully
waited during the long chilly night for the hour
of attack to come — part of whom had unhesitatingly
waded through a cold and deep river, and won a
magnificent victory over nearly five times their num-
ber — had been held in battle array, with only cold
rations to warm them, in the biting north winds of a late
October day, ready and eager to advance again upon the
foe, and do again what they had done for Stonewall Jack-
son upon the same ground. This inexcusable delay,
although abundant excuses have been offered for it, ena-
bled the commanders of the Federal regiments, brigades
and corps to rally and reform their men, so that when
Sheridan, who had been absent, readied them from Win-
chester not long before noon, after a ride, not of 20 miles
at a headlong speed, but of 10 miles in about two hours, he
found his army reformed by Crook and ready to advance,
with all arms of the service, overlapping, on either flank,
the little band of Confederate heroes that, from his posi-
tion, he could plainly see stretched out in a thin line not
far in front. When all was ready, at about 4 p. m. , with
a great mass of cavalry upon his flanks, and especially
upon his right, Sheridan ordered an advance and attacked
Early's line, turning his left; and the mere weight of
numbers, especially of cavalry, forced the whole line to
give way and retreat just before dark, throwing most of
it into confusion, although several bodies of its well-
trained and tried soldiers, especially Ramseur's men, in
whose front, bravely fighting, he fell mortally wounded.


effectually held in check, in position after position, and
seriously damaged, with well-directed volleys of both
musketry and artillery, the overwhelming force that
pressed upon them. Most of the Confederates made
good their retreat, and the Federal infantry did not pur-
sue them beyond Belle Grove house, near the middle of
their old encampment, but was quite content to go into
camp not far from where they had been so unceremoni-
ously and badly routed in the early morning.

When the sun set, the Confederates, although discom-
fited and retreating, were still in possession of the fruits
of victory, having sent to the rear the 1,500 prisoners
they had taken, a long line of captured wagons and stores,
and many pieces of artillery, with their caissons and other
equipments, when a small body of Federal cavalry, cross-
ing Cedar creek at Hottle's mill, came by a blind way to
the top of Stickley's hill, on the Valley turnpike to the
west of Cedar creek, and following along the crowding
and retreating, but unguarded trains, drove off the drivers
with their sabers and turned wagons and guns across the
road. The trains had been checked after dark at Span-
gler's mill, just west of Strasburg, where a short bridge,
not more than 20 feet long, across the high banks of a small
creek, had broken down under the weight of a heavy gun,
and so cut off further retreat for all of the train of wagons
and artillery, including a large portion of the captured
guns, that had not yet crossed the bridge. The Confed-
erate infantry, in its retreat, had avoided the main road,
giving that up to the trains, and was falling back on
roads more to the west, so that none of them were in
position, in the gathering darkness, to defend these
trains, and even if they had been, nothing could have
been done toward replacing the bridge.

These accidental captures enabled Sheridan to claim
that he had turned the disgraceful rout of his great army,
in the morning, into a grand victory in the evening ; when,
in truth, but for this easy and unpreventable capture, by
an insignificant body of cavalry. Early could have made
the substantial claim that he had not only won an almost
unexampled victory in the morning, but that he had
brought away the fruits of it, even though driven by
superior numbers from an untenable position that he had
unwisely and too long held, when he should have either
promptly followed the retreating foe, when on the run in


the morning, or quickly retired with the grand honors he
had won.

Early's men retreated up the Valley, in and by ways
that no man can describe, during the whole night, but
they nearly all answered to roll calls the next day in their
old camps at New Market. Rosser brought up the rear
with his cavalry, which the enemy's cavalry slowly fol-
lowed to Edenburg and the line of Stony creek, where
Rosser had halted. Sheridan was quite content to rest,
the next day, and reorganize his demoralized army, in
his old Cedar creek camps. His pursuit of the retreat-
ing Confederates was without vigor or results.

Having learned, by sad experience, the weakness of
his former position, Sheridan, on the 21st, brought his
infantry across Cedar creek and took and fortified, with
great care, a new position on Hupp's and the adjoining
hills, between Strasburg and Cedar creek, so slowly had
he learned the lesson of the important part that the topo-
graphical element plays in war, and which Early so well
understood and had made such good use of in the two
attacks he had made on Sheridan's Cedar creek camp.
Lomax's division of cavalry, which came from Front
Royal to the vicinity of Middletown on the 19th, but too
late to be of any value in Early's attack on Sheridan,
fell back by the way it advanced to Milford, in the Page
valley, where it took and fortified a position which the
Federal cavalry, following, attacked on the 26th, but was
repulsed. All was quiet in the infantry camps up to
that date, when Rosser 's brigade marched from its camp
near Timberville across, by New Market, to Luray.

The army remained undisturbed in its camps in the
vicinity of New Market, holding the line of Stony creek
with its cavalry, as well as its position at Milford in the
Page valley, and at points along the Rappahannock, east of
the Blue ridge, until the loth of November, on which day
Early again marched down the valley, with Kershaw's-
division in front, and bivouacked in the Ancinity of Wood-
stock, Rosser's cavalry advancing to Fairview on the
back road, and Lomax's to Front Royal in the Page valley.
Marching again at 6 a. m. of the nth, Pegramin advance,
preceded by Payne's brigade of cavalry. Early drove the
eaemy's pickets from Middletown and up to a line of
fortifications that Sheridan was holding beyond New-
town. He then formed a line of battle between Middle-


town and Newtown and had some skirmishing with the
enemy, Rosser coming in by the back and middle roads,
to the north of Newtown, and joining in the skirmishing
on the left, came up on the right and extended the line
toward Cedarville. The 12 th was spent in line of battle
at the same place, "Rosser having an engagement with
the enemy's cavalry, which drove part of his force back
for some distance along the back road, but bringing up
the rest of his division, he, in turn, drove Custer back
and resumed his former position. The enemy also
attacked McCausland's brigade, of Lomax's division, near
Cedarville, and was several times repulsed, but finally
made a successful attack and drove him back, toward
Front Royal, with the loss of two pieces of artillery."
While Early was holding this advance, Captain Hotch-
kiss, his topographical engineer, was enabled to go over
and sketch the battlefield of Cedar Creek, or Belle Grove,
and gather the data for the map that is published
in the War Records Atlas. After dark, on the 12 th, the
army fell back to and encamped on Fisher's hill. On
the 13th, Grimes' brigade in front, it marched to camps
between Edenburg and Hawkinstown; and on the 14th,
Gordon in front, it returned to its old camps in the vicin-
ity of New Market, headquarters having been established
the da}' before at that place.

Kershaw's division started up the Valley, en route
for Richmond, on the 15th. Up to that date. General
Early's command had marched, since the opening of the
campaign, on the 13th of June, 1,670 miles, and had
engaged in seventy-five battles and skirmishes.

On the 17th, Pegram's division marched up the Valley
to Big Spring. On the 2 2d, two divisions of the enemy's
cavalry came as far as Rude's hill. To meet these.
Early marched three divisions of infantry, Gordon's,
Wharton's and Grimes', from their camps near New
Market, and took position on Rude's hill to meet them.
The enemy came boldly across the broad expanse of
Meem's bottoms to make attack, but there met with
such a hot fire of infantry and artillery that they went
back, in great disorder, considerably damaged by the
reception they had met. They were followed, by
Early's infantry skirmishers, to Hawkinstown, and by
a brigade of cavalry to below Edenburg. The army
returned to its New Market camps that night, after hav-


ing marched 25 miles and had an engagement during
the day.

On the 29th, Rosser, after a long march, surprised, by-
able strategy, the enemy's camp at New Creek, on the
Baltimore & Ohio railroad, capturing 800 prisoners and
eight pieces of artillery. The army remained in its New
Market camps until December 6th, taking the . cars at
Staunton on the night of the 7th. Wickham's brigade
retired that day from Mt. Jackson to Timberville. This
movement of the Second corps from the Valley was
brought about by a report that the Sixth corps of Sheri-
dan's army had already gone to Richmond to join Grant,
and that more of the same army were moving in that
direction. Grimes' division of Early's army left for
Richmond on the 14th of December.

The famous Second corps of the army of Northern
Virginia, Jackson's old command, embracing the rem-
nants of his old division and his old brigade, now left the
Shenandoah valley for the last time, under the com-
mand of Maj.-Gen. John B. Gordon, one of the ablest,
bravest and boldest of the surviving brigade and division
commanders of the immortal Stonewall Jackson, Gen-
eral Evans, of Georgia, succeeding to the command of
Gordon's division. This remarkable body of veterans, a
mere fragment of its former self when, in the meridian
of its strength of numbers and efficiency, Jackson led it
against Pope at Cedar run, had, in four successive cam-
paigns, played a most important part in the great mil-
itary operations in the Shenandoah valley, that have not
only made that region famous in the annals of history,
but have made its movements and conflicts with superior
forces opposed to them, the subjects of admiration and
study of the military men of all the civilized fighting
nations of the world. Thenceforward the small remnant
of the Second corps, the few surviving veterans who had
passed through so many memorable conflicts, became a
portion of the army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg,
participating, with unflinching manliness, in the remark-
able defense of that beleaguered city, until the fall of
Richmond and General Lee's retreat to Appomattox
Court House, where it was actually repulsing an attack
of a portion of the Federal army, and successfully driv-
ing it back when the truce was called that led to the sur-
render, when, with the intrepid Gordon at its head, it

Va 33


laid down its arms and left its memory, without a stain,
embalmed in the undying history of Virginia and of the

General Early remained at New Market until Decem-
ber i6th, when Wharton's division fell back to near Mt.
Crawford, Rosser's cavalry toward Swoope's, near BufiEalo
gap, west of Staunton, and Lomax's cavalry to Swift Run
gap. Wharton's division, a mere regiment in numbers,
the only infantry now left with Early, went into winter
quarters near Fishersville, between Staunton and
Waynesboro, on the 19th; on which day two divisions of
Federal cavalry crossed the Blue ridge, at Chester gap,
near Front Royal, and made demonstrations toward
Gordonsville. The same day the signal stations reported
an advance of the enemy up the valley to Woodstock.
On the 20th, Early again started down the valley, with
Rosser in advance, followed by Wharton, the former
marching to Harrisonburg, and the latter to Naked creek
beyond Mt. Sidney. The Federal cavalry came to
Lacey's Springs. On the 21st, through a blinding snow-
storm. Early moved forward to attack the enemy. Ros-
ser, marching at dawn, fell on Custer's division, consist-
ing of Pennington's and Chapman's brigades, at Lacey's,
or Big Spring, on the Valley turnpike, having, in crossing
over from the middle road, struck the Federals in flank,
with Payne's brigade in front, followed by Morgan's,
just as they were saddling their horses to advance on
Wharton. Rosser routed their First and Second bri-
gades, capturing 35 prisoners and their wagons and am-
bulances ; but they rallied on their Third brigade, com-
pelled him to fall back, and recaptured their wagons,
when they at once retreated down the valley. Rosser
was unable to get his whole command together for this
attack, and so had joined issue at a disadvantage. Whar-
ton was halted at the Big Spring, some two miles south-
west of Harrisonburg.

On the 2 2d, Wharton marched back to near Staunton,
as did also Payne's and Wickham's brigades. On the
23d, two brigades of Wharton's division took cars at
Staunton for Gordonsville, to assist in repulsing the
movement of cavalry that had crossed the Blue ridge at
Chester gap, on the 19th. One of Wharton's brigades
went into its former camp at Fishersville.

On the 24th, the brigades of Jackson, Imboden and


McCausland met the advance of the Federal cavalry on
the Liberty Mills road, northwest of Gordonsville, destroy-
ing the stores there collected, and breaking General Lee's
line of supply over the Virginia Central railroad. This
engagement closed the contentions of General Early with
the Federals for the year 1864. He then established his
headquarters at Staunton, put Wharton's division in
winter cantonment near Fishersville ; Long's artillery
battalion went into camps near Waynesboro, the rest of

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 50 of 153)