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The two armies lay confronting each other here for several days, when Early once more fell back up the Valley. As soon as Sheridan was informed of this he again started in pursuit. On the morning of the 28th he advanced in line of battle toward Charlestown, the cavalry leading the advance. Passing through this place, the army moved forward to its old battle ground of the week before, and halted. The next morning Merritt made a vigorous attack on the rebel cavalry, driving it through the town of Smithfield, and beyond Opequan Creek, where he was brought to a halt by the rebel infantry. Some skirmishing followed, when Sheridan fell back upon Charlestown. But on the 3d of September he again put his army in motion, and near Berrysville was attacked by the rebels, whom he repulsed. He then commenced throwing up breastworks, and, having secured his position, remained quietly in it for two weeks, doing nothing except to make reconnoissances with his cavalry.
After nearly a mouth's operations, to leave off where he begun, was a sorry summing up of the campaign for Sheridan, and a sad disappointment to the country, which had expected so much from the well-known enterprise and daring of the man. It seemed very evident, either that Sheridan was incompetent to fill the place he occupied, or that Grant refused to give him the men he needed to carry out his orders. This indecision and apparent fear of risking a battle were wholly unaccountable to the public, and much to the chagrin of those who were tired of seeing Early roaming up and down the Shenandoah Valley at his leisure. It turns out, however, that Grant, not Sheridan was in fault for this state of things, and the former in his report gives the reasons that governed him. He
"His operations during the month of August and the fore part of September were both of an offensive and de
A SHORT ORDER.
fensive character, resulting in many severe skirmishes, principally by the cavalry, in which we were generally successful; but no general engagement took place. The two armies lay in such a position—the enemy on the west bank of the Opequan Creek, covering Winchester, and our forces in front of Berrysville—that either could bring on a battle at any time. Defeat to us would lay open to the enemy the States of Maryland and Pennsylvania for long distances, before another army could be interposed to check him. Under these circumstances, I hesitated about allowing the initiative to be taken. Finally the use of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, which were both obstructed by the enemy, became so indispensably necessary to us, and the importance of relieving Pennsylvania and Maryland from continuously-threatened invasion so great, that I determined the risk should be taken. But fearing to telegraph the order for an attack without knowing more than I did of General Sheridan's feelings as to what would be the probable result, I left City Point on the 15th of September to visit him at his head-quarters, to decide, after conference with him, what should be done. I met him at Charlestown, and he pointed out so distinctly how each army lay; what he could do the moment he was authorized, and expressed such confidence of success, that I saw there were but two words of instructions necessaryGo in!".
This permission was all that Sheridan wanted. The Fabian policy under which he had been compelled to act irritated him, and he constantly felt like a caged lion. Now he was a free man once more, and it needed no spirit of prophecy in one who knew him, to foretell that bloody work was at hand.
Grant after hearing Sheridan's plans and approving them, asked if he could get ready to move by the following Tues
À GREAT VICTORY.
day. “Yes," replied the latter, " by Monday;" and before daylight that morning the army was in motion. By three o'clock in the afternoon it was drawn up in line of battle in front of the rebel position, at Opequan Creek, and as soon as the cavalry, under Torbert, arrived at the desired point on the extreme rebel right, Sheridan ordered a general ad
The artillery opened along the whole line--the colamas moved steadily forward, and Early soon discovered that Sheridan was at last in earnest. His position, however, was a strong one, and he stubbornly held it until Averill's and Merritt's bugles were heard on his right, as the fir i-set squadrons bore fiercely down. Rolled up before the impetuous charge, the rebel line at length crumbled into fragments, and the whole army broke in utter confusion, and streamed on toward Winchester and through it, halting only when it reached Fisher's Hill thirty miles beyond.
Early left his wounded and dead in our hands, and nearly three thousand prisoners, together with five pieces of artillery, and nine battle flags. Several rebel Generals were killed, while on our side, we had to lament the death of the gallant Russell, commanding 2 division of the Sixth Corps. The dispatch announcing this glorious victory, closed thus: “We have just sent them whirling through Winchester, and we are after them to-morrow. This army behaved splendidly. I am sending forward all the medical supplies, subsistence stores, and ambulances."
Following up Early vigorously, Sheridan, on the 21st, found himself in front of his strong position, at Fisher's Hill. Skillfully disposing his forces, he closed so suddenly, and with such fury on the enemy, that they broke, and fled in disorder toward Woodstock. Eleven hundred prisoners and sixteen pieces of artillery fell into our hands here, while the road, for miles, was strewed with abandoned wagons, knapsacks, muskets, and everything that impeded the head.
long flight. · Sheridan pushed on to Woodstock, where he halted to get his supplies up.
Averill, however, kept up the pursuit to Mount Jackson, twenty-five miles south of Strasburg. Here Early rallied his disordered battalions, and once more turned at bay. But, on Sheridan's arrival, he again retreated, though stubbornlycontesting every inch of ground, and, at last, made a determined stand in Brown's Gap, on the Blue Ridge, eight miles south-east of Port Republic. Sheridan pursued as far as this place and halted. In the meantime, Torbert, with his cavalry, moved on Staunton and Waynesboro', destroying bridges, Government property, and everything that could be of benefit to the enemy.
Early's position, at Brown's Gap, was too strong to he carried by assault, while it seriously threatened Sheridan's flank, should he attempt to march on Lynchburg—the goal of all the expeditions up the Shenandoah Valley. It was hard to abandon this coveted prize; but he saw that, unless Early could be driven from Brown's Gap, it would be madness to advance farther. Besides, his supplies in the rear were in danger of being cut off by Mosby, and he, therefore, resolved to fall back.
In killed, wounded, prisoners, and missing, Early must have lost, in those two battles and the retreat, nearly half of
. While Sheridan was thus sweeping the enemy from his path in the Valley of the Shenandoah, Grant, who, under the most adverse circumstances, still always found some means of assailing the enemy, made a sudden movement north of the James—the object and result of which he thus sums up:
* By the 12th of September, a branch railroad was completed from the City Point and Petersburg railroad to the
A SUDDEN MOVEMENT.
Weldon railroad, enabling us to supply, without difficulty, in all weather, the army in front of Petersburg.
"The extension of our lines across the Weldon railroad, compelled the enemy to so extend his that it seemed he could have but few troops north of the James for the defense of Richmond. On the night of the 28th, the Tenth Corps, Major-General Birney, and the Eighteenth Corps, Major General Ord commanding, of General Butler's army, were crossed to the north side of the James, and advanced on the morning of the 29th, carrying the very strong fortifications and intrenchments below Chapin's Farm, known as Fort Harrison, capturing fifteen pieces of artillery, and the New Market road and intrenchments. This success was followed up by a gallant assault upon Fort Gillmore, immediately in front of the Chapin Farm fortifications, in which we were repulsed with heavy loss. Kautz's cavalry was pushed forward on the road to the right of this, supported by infantry, and reached the enemy's inner line, but was unable to get further. The position captured from the enemy, was so threatening to Richmond that I determined to hold it. The enemy made several desperate attempts to dislodge us, all of which were unsuccessful, and for which he paid dearly. On the morning of the 30th, General Meade sent out a reconnoissance, with a view to attacking the enemy's line, if it was found sufficiently weakened by withdrawal of troops to the north side. In this reconnoissance we captured and held the enemy's works, near Poplar Spring Church. In the afternoon, troops moving to get to the left of the point gained, were attacked by the enemy in heavy force, and compelled to fall back until supported by the forces holding the captured works.
Our cavalry under Gregg was also attacked, but repulsed the enemy with great loss."
The en my made a raid during this month, (on the 19th,) which, from its daring and success, caused some mortifica