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484

HANCOCK'S DEFEAT.

them with deafening shouts, and forced Miles back, capturing several guns.

A part of Gibbon's men, a half a mile distant, were hurried over, to check the disaster, when his own line was attacked in turn by the dismounted rebel cavalry, under Wade Hampton, and his works carried. The enemy now pressed his advantage on all sides. Our troops fought desperately—some regiments being almost annihilated—but could not arrest the onset; and as night came on, Hancock withdrew his Corps, and left Ream's Station in possession of the enemy. In this disastrous conflict, we lost thirty-five hundred men, seven colors, and five guns.

The loss, however, had not been all on one side, as is evi. dent from the two dispatches sent from Meade to Grant. In the first he says that a safeguard left on the battle field until after daylight next morning reported that "at that time the enemy had all disappeared, leaving their dead on the field unburied. This shows how severely they were punished, and doubtless hearing of the arrival of reinforcements, they feared the results of to-day if they remained.' In the second he says, "since sending my last dispatch, I have conversed with the safeguard referred to. He did not leave the field until after sunrise. At that time nearly all the enemy had left, moving toward Petersburg. He says they abandoned not only their dead, but wounded also. He conversed with an officer, who said that their losses were greater than ever before during the war. The safeguard says that he was over the field, and it was covered with the enemy's dead and wounded. He has seen a great many battle fields, but never such a sight. Nearly all the enemy's and all our wounded were brought off, but our dead were unburied. I have instructed General Gregg to make an effort to send a party to the field to bury our dead.” There can be no doubt that the enemy in their desperate

THE BATTLE FIELD.

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charges through the concentrated fire of our batteries, and into the very faces of such veterans as composed Hancock's Corps, must have suffered terribly. Still General Meade's dispatches bear the marks of an effort to put the best possible face on a very bad business. When the results of a desperate battle are made to depend on the statements of a single individual, who has been over the field, they should be received with many grains of allowance. One would infer from these dispatches that the battle field was so entirely ours that a single safeguard could roam over it unmolested, making such observations as he liked. But if this were the fact, it seems rather strange that the Chief of cavalry slould be “instructed to make an effort to send a party to the field and bury our dead." The fact is the battle put the rebels in possession of the Weldon railroad at Ream's Station-which was only ten miles from Petersburg---up to Yellow Tavern, while Warren held some four miles of it further north.

This ended all active operations on the part of Grant for several weeks. In the meantime the country was expecting great things from Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley. He had under him the Sixth, Eighth and part of the Nineteenth Corps of infantry, and the troops that composed the old Army of the Kanawha under Crook, and Torbert's and Averill's divisions of cavalry, with Kelley's command, and Lowell's brigade, to which in a few days was added the second cavalry division of Wilson, from the Army of the Potomac. To meet this force Early had about twenty thousand men, who, previous to Sheridan's assumption of command, seemed to be principally engaged in thrashing out grain.

On the 10th of August, Sheridan moved his forces up the Valley, when the enemy retired toward Strasburg. Oe. casional skirmishing, and once a partial engagement took place, but without any decisive result except to delay our

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486

SHERIDAN'S OPERATIONS.

progress, and inflict on us more or less loss. At Newtown, Early made another stand in order to cover the passage of his trains, and repulsed a charge of our cavalry. Still falling back, he evacuated Winchester, and on the 13th encamped at Cedar Creek, three miles north of Strasburg. Two days after, he withdrew his skirmishers from the place and took position on Fisher's Hill, which completely commanded the town. Sheridan in pushing on, had passed several gaps in the Blue Ridge, which he had not sufficient force to guard. Through one of these, -Snicker's Gap Mosby suddenly rushed, pouncing on the supply train at Berrysville, seized and burned seventy-five wagons, captured two hundred prisoners, two hundred beef cattle, and nearly six hundred horses and mules, besides a large quantity of stores.

This of course, compelled Sheridan to retreat in turn. In doing this, he with his flanking cavalry destroyed every thing that could feed the enemy, except the live stock which he drove before him as he fell back toward the Poto

Houses of suspected persons were burned, in retaliation of Mosby's murderous conduct, by some cavalry-men who in turn were attacked by the rebels and deliberately murdered. Again retaliation was resorted to by Sheridan, and the heavens were darkened by the smoking, burning buildings.

Falling back through Winchester, which had been so often successively occupied by rebel and Union troops, Sheridan took position near Charlestown where he was attacked by Early, who inflicted severe punishment on Wilson's cavalry. The Sixth Corps bore the brunt of the conflict, which lasted from two hours before noon till dark. The Corps then fell back to Bolivar Heights, where Sheridan posted his army, his right on the Potomac, and his left on the Shenandoah, near Harper's Ferry, his head-quarters being at Halltown.

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