Page images
PDF
EPUB

492

A DARING RAID.

tion and excitement. Two thousand cattle, which had been brought on for the use of the Army of the Potomac, were feeding near Coggin's Point, on the James River, guarded by two regiments of cavalry, on which Wade Hampton, with W. F. H. Lee's cavalry division and two other brigades, suddenly pounced and carried off the whole, together with several prisoners.

Starting from Ream's Station, this force had passed around our extreme left, and got in the rear of the army, and yet with such secrecy and celerity did it move, that though hotly pursued, it succeeded in reaching the rebel lines again with

all its booty

CHAPTER X X XV.

SEPTEMBER. 1864.

RAVAGING OF THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY-SHERIDAN'S DISPATCH-HIS NEW

[blocks in formation]

OF WESTERN VIRGINIA AND OF THE NINETEENTH CORPS-RETREAT OF THE

WHOLE ARMY-SHERIDAN AT WINCHESTER-HIS APPROACH TO THE FIELD

HIS SUDDEN ARRIVAL AND STIRRING APPEALS-FORMS A NEW LINE OF

BATTLE-REPULSE OF THE ENEMY-ADVANCE OF HIS LINE--THE ENEMY'S

[blocks in formation]

THE GENERALSIIIP AND PERSONAL POWER OF SHERIDAN-THE REBELS ABANDON THE VALLEY-HATCHER'S RUN-GRANT FAILS TO TURN THE KEBEL RIGHT-BUTLER'S DEMONSTRATION NORTH OF THE JAMES-DESTRUCTION OF THE RAM ALBEMARLE BY LIEUTENANT CUSHINGTHE REBELS IN CANADA RAID ON ST. ALBANS, VERMONT.

[ocr errors]

YHERIDAN when he fell back from the pursuit of Early

took position on the north side of Cedar Creek, near Strasburg. But in his advance and retreat he had ravaged the country with a ruthlessness that reminds one of the old, barbaric wars.

How much of this destruction of private property is chargeable to the Secretary of War, from whom 'he received his orders, and how much to himself, we are unable to say, but it is a lasting disgrace to its authors whoever they were. The following is his own account of what he did, and the reasons which actuated him:

“ WOODSTOCK, VIRGINIA, October 7, 1864-9 P. M. Lieutenant-General U. S. Grant:

I have the honor to report my command at this point to-night. I commienced moving back from Port Republic, Mount Crawford, Bridgewater, and Harrisonburg yesterday morning. The grain and forage in advance of those points had previously been destroyed. In moving back to this point 494

WHOLESALE DESTRUOTION.

the whole country from the Blue Ridge to the North Mountain has been made entirely untenable for a rebel arnıy. I have destroyed over two thousand barns filled with wheat, and hay, and farming implements, over seventy mills filled with flour and wheat; have driven in frout of the army over four thousand head of stock, and bare killed and issued to the troops not less than three thousand sheep. This destruction embraces the Luray Valley and Little Fort Valley, as well as the main Valley. A large number of horses have been

obtained, a proper estimate of which I cannot now make. Lieutenant John R. Meigs, my engineer officer, was murdered beyond Harrisonburg, near Dayton. For this atrocious act all the houses within an area of five iniles were burned. Siuce I came into the Valley from Ilarper's Ferry, every train, every small party, and every straggler lias been bushwhacked by the people, many of whom have protection.passes from commanders who have been hitherto in that Valley. The people here are getting sick of the war. Heretofort they have bad no reason to complain, because they have been living in great abundance. I have not been followed by the enemy to this point, with the exception of a small force of the rebel cavalry that showed themselres some distance behind my rear-guard to-day, A party of one hundred of tlic Eighth Ohio cavalry, which I had stationed at the bridge over the North Shenandoah, near Mount Jackson, was attacked by McNeil with seventeen men, while they were asleep, and the whole party dispersed or captured. I think they will all turn up. I learn that fifty-six of them had reached Winchester. McNeil was mortally wounded, and fell into our hands. This was fortunate, as he was the most daring and danger ous of all the bush whackers in this section of the country. (Signed)

P. H. SHERIDAN, Major General.”

נו

This is a sad record for one to make of himself, in this age of civilized warfare. The burning by wholesale, of barns and mills, because the hay and grain in them might be seized by the rebels, would by the same logic justify an invading army at all times for “razing every house, and burning every blade of grass” on the line of its march. " War," Sherman said, "is necessarily cruel;" but to mitigate its severity as much as possible, it has been established as a rule of civilized warfare, that private property shall be respected, except when it is needed for the sustenance of the army, or where the owners are convicted of

open hostility. For a General to justify such wholesale destruction of property, and thereby inflict suffering and want on women and children, on the ground that the enemy would rob them if he did not, is not only a violation of the rules of civilized warfare, but very miserable logic.

BARBARIC LOGIO.

495

This mode of reasoning was far better carried out by the ancient barbarians, who killed the children of their enemies, lest they should grow up to be warriors, and the mothers, lest they should give birth to heroes. The ravages of war have their limit without reference to consequences, and civ. ilized nations have fixed that limit. “To make a solitude and call it peace," was in the old dark, rude times the motto, but it does not belong to this age. The massacre of all the young men just entering the age that would render them subject to military duty, would injure an enemy far more than the burning of barns, and mills, and houses, but we suspect that but few would justify it. Because some wretch murdered a man, to burn all the houses-many of them containing helpless widows, "within an area of five miles" is a wilder sort of justice than any man of sound judgment, or an educated conscience will approve. That punishment was deserved and severity needed in many cases, no one will doubt, but if they could not be meted out with some discrimination, they had better have been let alone. England did nothing half so bad as this in our Revolution.

During his retreat, Sheridan was attacked on the 9th of October, by the rebel General Rosser with a large body or cavalry, but defeated him, taking three hundred and fifty prisoners, and eleven pieces of artillery-keeping him, as the former said, “on the jump" for twenty-six miles.

Sheridan, now thinking that the enemy was too severely punished to molest him for the present, left the army for a short visit to Washington.

BATTLE OF CEDAR CREEK, OR MIDDLETOWN.

The army at this time was posted on three moderate hills, extending for three miles across the country, each one a little back of the other.

The first and foremost one, some four or five miles north 498

. NIGHT MARCH.

of Fisher's Hill, was held by the army of West Virginia under Crook; the second, half a mile to the rear of this, by the Nineteenth Corps, under Emory, the turnpike running between them. The third and last, still farther back was occupied by the Sixth Corps, with Torbert's superb cavalry covering its right flank. Early, who had been reinforced by twelve thousand men, heard that Sheridan was in Washington, and at once resolved to attack the army before his return. On the night of the 18th, he crossed the mountains which separate the branches of the Shenandoah, and forded the north fork, marching in five columns. There was a dense fog at the time, wrapping everything in impenetrable darkness; but Early knew the ground thoroughly, and with frusty guides was in no danger of being misled. He ordered all the men to leave their canteens behind, l'est their clanking against the shanks of the bayonets should be heard by our pickets and give the alarm. His march was to be noiseless, and he directed that all the orders should be given in a low tone, for although the movement was to be made with an army of between twenty and thirty thousand men, it must be with the utmost secrecy. Discovery would be fatal.

The whole enterprise was hazardous beyond expression. He, however, moved off toward our left, unperceived, though about two o'clock in the morning, some of the pickets on duty reported that they heard a heavy, muffled tramp and rustling through the underbrush, as though a multitude was marching along the front. This information caused some precautions to be taken, but no reconnoissance was sent out. The truth is, a serious' attack by Early was not dreamed of, and the main armý slumbered on wholly unsuspicious of danger.

All this time, the steady columns were sweeping on ihrough the gloom, now pushing through the dripping trees,

« PreviousContinue »