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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/71

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63
Battle of Winchester.

army was most unfortunate for the Confederates. Notwithstanding the presence of Sheridan's immense force at Berryville, ten miles from Winchester, General Early boldly, or rashly, marched to Martinsburg, twenty-two miles from Winchester, to put a stop to the relaying of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, with one division (Gordon's), leaving another (Rodes') at Bunker Hill (twelve miles), a third (Wharton's) near Stephenson's (six miles) and only Ramseur's Division near Winchester, on the Berryville road, to watch Sheridan. This was tempting Providence, and on that very day (Sunday, September 18), Grant was holding his interview with Sheridan at Charlestown.

At last Sheridan determined to attack at daylight next morning, thinking to defeat Early's divisions in detail. This he might have done if he had moved more promptly, although Rodes had returned to Stephenson's and Gordon to Bunker Hill the night before. Ramseur, however, fought Wilson's cavalry division and Wright's leading infantry division with great persistency, retiring very slowly, and thus giving time for Gordon and Rodes to join him, Wharton having moved from Stephenson's out on the Brucetown road as far as the Opequon, to resist the advance of Merritt's Cavalry Division. At this point I may insert some extracts from a diary kept during a part of this campaign, which gives a more vivid account than reminiscences of nearly forty years' standing:

"Wednesday, September 21. 1864.

"After leaving camp day before yesterday I joined General Rodes, whose division was then on the march, following General Gordon's, and received some orders about the brigade ordnance wagons. [My division ordnance train had already been sent through Winchester and halted on the south side of the town to await events.] The troops moved on up to the support of General Ramseur, who was being heavily pressed by the enemy near Winchester on the Berryville pike. Gordon's Division formed and went in to the left of Ramseur's, and ours, three brigades Cook's, Cox's and Grimes' between the two, but before ours got fairly engaged Gordon's left, being outflanked, gave way, and we were only saved from great disaster by Battle's Brigade of our division, which the General (Rodes) had directed me to order to be held in reserve, being ordered straight forward at a charge, which was handsomely executed, carrying everything before it. As soon as I had delivered the order to General Battle, hearing that the rest of our division had become engaged,