About five miles south of town cavalry on Hunter's right engaged McNeill. After some manoeuvering we were about to be involved in some crooked, high-fenced lands by a second force emerging from the woods a little further south. The men became much mixed up, but were speedily brought to order and led out by that cool, brave man in language more forcible than graceful.
Entering Mt. Crawford, McNeill met Imboden on horseback, coming to meet him at the edge of town.
"General," cried McNeill, "you are flanked; you are almost surrounded by Hunter's whole army."
"Where is Hunter?" Imboden asked.
"On the Port Republic road, and yonder," pointing east or southeast, rejoined McNeill. "Did you not receive my message?" "I did, but I could not believe it," was the reply.
The parley was ended. "About face, march!" The Valley 'pike here was strewn with wagons and cavalry, many of them facing towards Harrisonburg. Almost instantly—it seems to me now it was so literally—instantly everybody, everything was turned about and moving quick, and sometimes double-quick, and for a time with much confusion, southward towards Staunton.
GENERAL WILLIAM E. JONES TO THE RESCUE.
Jones, a good fighter, but sometimes severe in his manner, had been ordered to hasten up and oppose Hunter and protect the railroad at Staunton. Unadvised yet of Hunter's route and marching down the Valley pike northward, he met Imboden and McNeill not far from Mt. Sidney at nightfall, and bivouacked there. This was Saturday night, and it rained all night, and Hunter was on ground new to Jones. Jones felt himself without sufficient force; and, more, he was in an ugly humor, as the sequel will show.
About dark or later a courier galloped up to the little chicken-coop of an office in which three telegraph operators lay, two of them trying to sleep: "General Jones's orders are one of you go at once and open an office at Meechum's River Depot, in Albemarle county.'"