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A Memoir of the Last Year of the War for Independence in the Confederate States of America/Retreat up the Valley and Operations until the Battle of Cedar Creek

< A Memoir of the Last Year of the War for Independence in the Confederate States of America


On the morning of the 23rd, I moved back to Mount Jackson, where I. halted to enable the sick and wounded, and the hospital stores at that place to be carried off. In the afternoon Averill's division of cavalry came up in pursuit, and after some heavy skirmishing was driven back. I then moved to Rude's Hill between Mount Jackson and New Market.

On the morning of the 24th, a body of the enemy's cavalry crossed the North Fork below Mount Jackson, and attempted to get around my right flank, but was held in check. The enemy's infantry soon appeared at Mount Jackson, and commenced moving around my left flank, on the opposite side of the river from that on which my left rested. As the country was entirely open, and Rude's Hill an elevated position, I could see the whole movement of the enemy, and as soon as it was fully developed, I commenced retiring in line of battle, and in that manner retired through New Market to a point at which the road to Port Republic leaves the Valley Pike, nine miles from Rude's Hill. This movement was made through an entirely open country, and at every mile or two a halt was made, and artillery opened on the enemy, who was pursuing, which compelled him to commence deploying into line, when the retreat would be resumed. In this retreat, under fire in line, which is so trying to a retiring force, and tests the best qualities of the soldier, the conduct of my troops was most admirable, and they preserved perfect order and their line intact, notwithstanding their diminished numbers, and the fact that the enemy was pursuing in full force, and, every now and then, dashing up with horse artillery under the support of cavalry, and opening on the retiring lines. At the last halt, which was at a place called "Tenth Legion," near where the Port Republic road leaves the Pike, and was a little before sunset, I determined to resist any further advance, so as to enable, my trains to get on the Port Republic road; and skirmishers were sent out and artillery opened on the advancing enemy, but, after some skirmishing, lie went into camp in our view, and beyond the reach of our guns. At this point, a gallant officer of artillery, Captain Massie, was killed by a shell. As soon as it was dark, we retired live miles on the Port Republic road and bivouacked. In the morning Lomax's cavalry had been posted to our left, on the Middle and Back roads from Mount Jackson to Harrisburg, but it was forced back by a superior force of the enemy's cavalry, and retired to the latter place in considerable disorder. Wickham's brigade had been sent for from the Luray Valley to join me, through the New-Market Gap, but it arrived at that gap just as we were retiring through New-Market, and orders were sent for it to return to the Luray Valley and join me at Port Republic. In the meantime, Payne's small brigade had been driven from Millford by two divisions of cavalry under Torbert, which had moved up the Luray Valley and subsequently joined Sheridan through the New-Market Gap. This cavalry had been detained by Wickham with his and Payne's brigades, at Millford, a sufficient time to enable us to pass New-Market in safety. If, however it had moved up the Luray Valley by Conrad's store, we would have been in a critical condition.

On the morning of the 25th, we moved towards Port Republic, which is in the fork of the South Fork and South River, and where the road through Brown's Gap in the Blue Ridge crosses those rivers, in order to unite with Kershaw's division., which had been ordered to join me from Culpeper C. H. We crossed thee river below the junction, and took position between Port Republic and Brown's Gap. Fitz Lee's and Lomax's cavalry joined us here, and on the 26th, Kershaw's division with Cutshaw's battalion of artillery came up, after having crossed through Swift Run Gap, and encountered and repulsed, below Port Republic, a body of the enemy's cavalry. There was likewise heavy skirmishing on my front on the 26th with the enemy's cavalry, which made two efforts to advance towards Brown's Gap, both of which were repulsed after brisk fighting in which artillery was used. Having ascertained that the enemy's infantry had halted at Harrisonburg, on the morning of the 27th I moved out and drove a division of his cavalry from Port Republic, and then on camped in the fork of the rivers. I here learned that two divisions of cavalry under Torbert had been sent through Staunton to Waynesboro, and were engaged in destroying the railroad bridge at the latter place, and the tunnel through the Blue Ridge at Rockfish Gap, and, on the 28th, I moved for those points. In making this movement I had the whole of the enemy's infantry on my right, while one division of cavalry was in my rear and two in my front, and oh the left was the Blue Ridge. I had therefore to move with great circumspection. Wickham's brigade of cavalry was sent up South River, near the mountain, to get between the enemy and Rockfish Gap, while the infantry moved in two columns, one up South River with the trains guarded in front by Pegram's and Wharton's divisions, and in rear by Ramseur's division, and the other, composed of Kershaw's and Gordon's divisions, with the artillery, on the right through Mount Meridian, Piedmont and New Hope. McCausland's cavalry, under Colonel Ferguson, was left to blockade and hold Brown's Gap, while Lomax, with the rest of his cavalry and Payne's brigade, watched the right flank and rear. Wickham's brigade having got between Rockfish Gap and Waynesboro, drove the enemy's working parties from the latter place, and took position on a ridge in front of it, when a sharp artillery fight ensued. Pegram's division, driving a small body of cavalry before it, arrived just at night and advanced upon the enemy, when he retired in great haste, taking the roads through Staunton and west of the Valley Pike, back to the main body. A company of reserves, composed of boys under 18 years of age, which had been employed on special duty at Staunton, had moved to Rockfish Gap, and another company of reserves from Charlottesville, with two pieces of artillery, had moved to the same point, and when the enemy advanced towards the tunnel and before he got in range of the guns, they were opened, and he retired to Waynesboro.

On the 29th and 30th, we rested at Waynesboro, and an engineer party was put to work repairing the bridge, which had been but partially destroyed.

On the 1st of October, I moved my whole force across the country to Mount Sidney on the Valley Pike, and took position between that place and North River, the enemy's forces having been concentrated around Harrisonburg, and on the north bank of the river. In this position we remained until the 6th, awaiting the arrival of Rossor's brigade of cavalry which was on its way from General Lee's army. In the meantime there waft some skirmishing with the enemy's cavalry on the North River,at the bridge near Mount Crawford and at Bridgewater above.[1]

On the 5th, Rosser's brigade arrived and was temporarily attached to Fitz Lee's division, of which Rosser was given the command, as Brigadier-General Wickham had resigned. The horses of Rosser's brigade had been so much reduced by previous hard service and the long march from Richmond, that the brigade did not exceed six hundred mounted men for duty when it joined me. Kershaw's division numbered 2700 muskets for duty, and he had brought with him Cutshaw's battalion of artillery. These reinforcements About made up my looses at Winchester and Fisher's hill, and I determined to attack the enemy in his position at Harrisonburg, and for that purpose made a reconnoissance the 5th, but on the morning of the 6th, it was discovered that he had retired during the night down the Valley.[2]

When it was discovered that the enemy was retiring, I moved forward at once and arrived at New-Market with my infantry on the 7th. Rosser pushed forward on the Back and Middle Roads in pursuit of the enemy's cavalry, which was engaged in burning houses, mills, barns and stacks of wheat and hay, and had several skirmishes with it, while Lomax also moved forward on the Valley Pike and the roads east of it. I halted at New-Market with the infantry, but Rosser and Lomax moved down the Valley in pursuit, and skirmished successfully with the enemy's cavalry on the 8th; but on the. 9th they encountered his whole cavalry force at Tom's Brook, in rear of Fisher's Hill, and both of their commands were driven back in considerable confusion, with a loss of some pieces of artillery; nine were reported to me as the number lost, but Grant claims eleven. Rosser rallied his command on the Back Road, at Columbia Furnace, opposite Edinburg, but a part of the enemy's cavalry swept along the Pike to Mount Jackson, and then retired on the approach of a part of my infantry. On the 10th, Rosser established his line of pickets across the Valley from Columbia Furnace to Edinburg, and on the 11th Lomax was sent to the Luray Valley to take position at Millford.

  1. Grant says that, after the fight at Fisher's Hill, "Sheridan pursued him with great energy through Harrisonburg, Staunton, and the gaps of the Blue Ridge." With how much energy the pursuit was made, and how much truth there is in
  2. While Sheridan's forces were near Harrisonburg, and mine were watching them, three of our cavalry scouts, in their uniforms and with arms, got around his lines near a little town called Dayton, and encountered Lieutenant Meigs,a federal engineer officer, with two soldiers. These parties came upon each other suddenly, and Lieutenant Meigs was ordered to surrender by one of our scouts, to which he replied by shooting and wounding the scout who in his turn fired and killed the Lieutenant. One of the men with Lieutenant Meigs was captured and the other escaped. For this act Sheridan ordered the town of Dayton to be burned, but for some reason that order was countermanded, and another substituted for burning a large number of private houses in the neighborhood, which was executed, thus inflicting on non-combatants and women and children a most wanton and cruel punishment nor a justifiable act of war.