Sheridan in Command - The Move up the Valley - The Twelfth Charges Rebel Skirmishers - Sheridan Retreats to Halltown - Early Demonstrates Against Him - Early Withdraws - Sheridan Moves to Charlestown - The Fight at Berryville - Grant's Visit to Sheridan - The Battle of Opeguon - Anecdote of Sheridan - Battle of Fisher's Hill - Pursuit of the Enemy up the Valley - Destruction by Sheridan - He Falls Back to Strasburg - Battle of Tom's Brook - Our Brigade Starts for Martinsburg - Mosby Attacks an Ambulance Guard - The Twelfth Starts for the Front - Early Shells Thoburn's Camp - The Battle of Cedar Creek - The Twelfth on the Way to the Front - Sheridan on His Ride - Col. Thoburn Killed - Capt. Phil Bier Killed - The Twelfth Marches to Cedar Creek - Thence to Newtown.
(498) It had been Grant's intention to make Gen. Sheridan field commander in the campaign now about to begin. But, for reasons not necessary to name, Hunter wishing to be relieved of command, was accordingly relieved, and Sheridan put in command of the Army of the Shenandoah. He arrived at Monocacy on the 6th, and Grant returned to Washington the same day. The next day by an order from the War Department, a Military Division was made of the Departments of Pennsylvania, Washington, Maryland, and West Virginia under Sheridan's command.
(499) Sheridan's army was now August 10th, 30,000 strong. On this day he moved from Halltown up the Valley to give battle to the enemy. Passing through Berryville and Winchester from which latter point the enemy retreated before him our force arrived at Cedar Creek, forty miles from Halltown on the 12th. At this point the enemy was disposed to make a stand. That evening the Twelfth and first charged upon and drove the Rebel skirmishers east of the pike across the creek. Crook's command did not cross, but the next day the Sixth and Nineteenth Corps crossed the creek on the right of the pike driving the enemy before them for a mile or two.
(500) The next day, the 14th, a detail of two officers, Capt. Prichard and Lieut. Hewitt, and 60 men of the Twelfth was sent under command of Capt Prichard to Massanutten Mountain just across Cedar Creek to guard a signal corps there. This guard and signal corps had, however, not been on the mountain more than a few hours until they were attacked by a large force 800 men, a man of our captured, afterward stated, and driven off, with a loss to us of three or four men killed and wounded.
(501) All the next day there was considerable skirmishing between the opposing forces, but Sheridan having received intelligence from Grant on the 14th, that reinforcements were on the way to Early began preparing for a retreat, the Nineteenth Corps starting the night of the 15th. The next day a part of Anderson's force crossing the Shenandoah river on the Front Royal road was met by Devin's and Custer's brigades of cavalry and driven back across the river with a Rebel loss of 300 prisoners. This night, the 16th, the Sixth Corps and the Eighth, the latter Crook's command, retreated down the Valley breakfasting at Winchester, then pushing on to the position taken near Berryville.
(502) The morning of the 17th, Early started in hot pursuit. Our cavalry with our small brigade of infantry of the Sixth Corps having been left at Winchester were attacked by the enemy in the afternoon, but the brigade of infantry and a portion of the cavalry held them in check all afternoon. At length after night our men were forced back with a loss of 350 to us, mainly of the infantry, 200 of the latter being taken prisoners. On the 20th, Sheridan having been enjoined by Grant to be cautious, and not desiring to give battle until he should know more definitely the strength of the enemy, fell back to near Charlestown the lines being formed with the Sixth Corps on the right, the Nineteenth on the left and the Eighth in the centre.
(503) It appears that Early had planned to attack Sheridan the next day. His forces moved on two different roads with that purpose, Anderson on one road and Early on the other. The latter attacked the Sixth Corps which at first gave ground, but afterward regained it at night fall, with a loss on our side of 260 killed and wounded. The other corps were formed in line ready for battle, but Anderson not getting up, the fight was soon over, Early concluding to draw off, for the present at least. That night Sheridan desiring to act on the defensive for the present, also to have a better position and to bide his time which was surely coming when the clouds of disappointment and doubt which had hung over this field too long should be rifted, and the sun of success and bright promise shine through, fell back to Hailtown forming line from the Shenandoah on the left to the Potorpac on the right. We made breast works of fence rails, railroad ties and so forth the next day. In the meantime there was considerable skirmishing and some cannonading between the opposing forces, the enemy having followed us up.
(504) Early demonstrated against us for three days, when the 25th, a large part of his infantry marched to Shepherdstown on the Potomac, and a considerable body of his cavalry to Williamsport. Our forces captured a few prisoners in our front today. The next day the Twelfth went on the skirmish line. And two brigades of the First Division and one of the Second, Crooks, command, Lowell's cavalry co-operating, went to our front to reconnoitre They broke the Rebel skirmish line burnt some stacks from behind which the Rebels had skirmished, and drove two brigades from their breast works, our loss being 141 killed and wounded. That night, Anderson, who had been left in command here, while Early had moved to Shepherdstown and Williamsport, not having sufficient force to hold his ground, fell back to Stephensons Depot, five miles east of Winchester.
(505) Sheridan's force did not move for two days when the 28th, the army marched to Charlestown. The next day from the position of the infantry could he heard cannonading all day. This resulted from the Rebel infantry's drving Merritt's cavalry from Smithfield, some six miles west of Charlestown, which former town was then occupied by the enemy's cavalry and from further fighting when later Ricketts' division of the Sixth Corps drove the enemy's cavalry out and Merritt reoccupied the town. Along about this time the soldiers in camp ate, slept, wrote letters and did whatever else they had to do within the almost constant sound of cannon or musketry.
(506) The main portion of the army remained near Charlestown for the next five days. During this time the Twelfth was paid six months pay. And now our sutter reappeared upon the scene. It was a good time for him to be on hand; for now, was his harvest season. At the end of five days or on the morning of the 3rd of September, Sheridan desiring to extend his lines to Berryville, ordered the Eighth Corps to that place. We arrived there in the evening, and the boys immediately began making coffee but they had hardly more than begun to do so, when there was a few musket shots to our front toward Winchester. Right away the boys of the Twelfth began to discuss the matter of what the probable cause of the firing was. Some saying that they thought the butchers were killing beeves; others were doubtful about it but soon, the shots increasing in frequency, they were about making up their minds that a fight was on hand when Col. Ely commanding the brigade hastily gave the order: "Fall in, fall in!" and soon Crook's command was in line to the right and left of the Berryville pike to meet the enemy which was there in considerable force.
(507) The firing first heard was caused by an attack upon the First Virginia, which had only been put on picket about a half hour before, on the Berryville pike. The fight lasted till after dark. We held our ground on the night, while Duval's division on the left drove the enemy capturing about 60 prisoners. Crook's loss in this affair was 166. While the fighting was going on wagons were heard driving rapidly down the Valley on the road crossing the Berryville pike just to our rear. These belonged to a force of our cavalry that had been on a reconnoisance up the Valley. After dark the Rebels threw some shells over our heads which seemed to fall pretty close to the passing wagon train. The next day some of the cavalry said that we of the infantry had saved them from being cut off in their return down the Valley, for the Rebels would have had to go only a short distance until they would have across the cavalrymen's road. Crook's command held its position till near morning when it drew back toward Charleston about two miles. And Sheridan's whole force began to intrench.
(508) Just why this fight at Berryville took place, so far as the purpose and movement of the enemy brought it on, was not at the time understood among our men. The impression seemed to be that Crook's force was there to hold the Berryville pike, while the cavalry were making a reconnoisance up the Valley and the Rebels moving on that road with the purpose of cutting off their return had encountered us, and that was the reason, it was thought the fight took place. But the fact is the fight resulted, so far as the enemy was responsible, from a part of his force in the Valley having started on that evening on the return to Richmond by way of Berryville. Something over two weeks before this Early received, as before stated, reinforcements from Lee, consisting mainly of Anderson's division of Longstreet's corps, which corps was now commanded by Anderson, who had come into the Valley with the division. Lee being hard pressed by Grant at this time had called for the return of these troops, and it was they whom Crook had encountered that evening. The fight was a mutual surprise. Crooks men were getting supper when the enemy attacked the First Virginia on picket sending them back precipitately, thus bringing on the fight. This unexpected engagement delayed the departure of this Rebel force for some days.
(509) After the Berryville battle there was no general movement of the Union forces for more than two weeks. On the 8th, however, Crooks' corps was moved from its position on the left of the lines to Summit Point on the right. The status of things on our side was maintained in the main, for the next ten days. Maj. Brown, who, was captured about seven weeks before at Winchester, and had escaped from the Rebels at Harrisburg, returned to the Twelfth from home on the 10th.
(510) On the 13th, Gen. McIntosh of Wilson's division of cavalry reconnoitering on the Berryville road in the direction of Winchester, captured a South Carolina regiment of infantry, the whole of it, however, being only a little over 100 men and 30 other prisoners. The news of the capture spread through the camp and had an inspiriting effect, no doubt upon the army; and perhaps was regarded as presaging further victory.
(511) There having been of late great urgency to have the Baltimore and Ohio railroad opened, and a pressure generally to have the people north of the Potomac freed from the menace of Early's army. Gen. Grant paid Sheridan a visit on the 16th to talk over the situation and see what should be done. Just two days before this, Anderson's division had again started to return to Richmond; this time moving through Chester Gap farth south, and thus the condition, the withdrawal of a part of Early's force, that Grant and Sheridan had been waiting for, had come about. So when Grant asked Sheridan on that Friday if he could be ready to attack Early on the next Tuesday he did not want, like McClellan, to delay awaiting reinforcements, or plead lack of means of transportation or supplies, or some other difficulty, but he answered like a man who meant business, that he could be ready the following Monday; thus showing so far as this instance would indicate, not that "There is luck in leisure," but rather that there is a bright promise in promptitude. For by attacking on Monday he took the enemy somewhat at a disadvantage, his forces then being scattered along the Martinsburg pike, thus rendering victory certain for Sheridan, while if the attack had been delayed till Tuesday Early's forces would have been concentrated, they being on the move on Monday for that purpose, and the result of the battle might have been otherwise.
(512) Sheridan having decided to attack Early on the memorable 19th of September, had sent his unnecessary trains and the sutlers to the rear the day before; and accordingly on the eventful Monday he moved to the attack before day. Our brigade consisting at this time of the First, Fourth and Twelfth West Virginia Infantry, then under the command of Lieut. Col. Northcott marched at 5 o'clock P. M., the body of the troops having started earlier. The serious character of the work that the men of the Twelfth believed to be before them had a sobering effect upon them; but they marched bravely forward that morning willing to do their part in the coming struggle. Nearing the Berryville ford of the Opeguon, over which all the infantry had to pass, and between which and Winchester, five miles distant, the battle was fought, we heard heavy skirmishing. The battle was opening. The Twelfth and in fact our whole brigade, was lucky that day, if it may be regarded as fortunate to escape the chance of being killed or wounded. And it may be said, the regiment was rather favored by fortune in this regard from this time to the end of our service.
(513) When we reached the ford to our not very sorrowful surprise for the boys had got over being eager for a fight - it was announced to us that our brigade was detached to guard the wagon train and field hospital to be established at that point. Lieut. Col. Northcott was mortified and vexed that his brigade should be left out of the fight, and he inquired of Col. Thoburn, commanding the division, the reason of it. Thoburn answered that he, Thoburn, had no choice in the matter, his orders being to detach his smallest brigade to be left as a guard at the ford. And thus we were left out of the battle. However, it is not always safe to be in the rear, as is shown by the fact that Sheridan intended to attack Early in the rear that morning, but changed his plan when he learned that the enemy's forces were then strung along the Martinsburg pike. As it was, we had to be on the alert, for there were guerrillas hovering about us ready to pounce on any small squad that might become detached from the command.
(514) It was nearly noon before the battle, because general, and for four or five hours thereafter we could see, from our position at the ford, the smoke of the conflict rolling tip beyond the woods in our front, and hear the roar of the battle. There we stayed and during all this time we were unable to determine from the sound how the battle was going. In the meantime the men and officers were debating as to the probable result. Adjt. Caldwell of the Twelfth saying that Sheridan had about 40,000 men and the enemy presumably not so many, thought that we would win the day. At length toward evening the Eighth Corps (ours) struck the enemy on their left flank and soon their rout became general. They were sent through Winchester on the run. And the news of our victory soon reached us at the ford.
(515) This was a bloody battle. The total Union lost being about 5,000, there being 4,300 killed and wounded. The total Rebel loss from the best obtainable data was about 4,000. Of this number about 2,000 were prisoners. If the data are correct, there was a great disparity in the losses of the two armies in killed and wounded. Early's losses in these lists being less than half of Sheridan's. This fact may be explained by reason of the enemy's having the protection of trees, rocks and other shelter during most of the battle. Besides the prisoners, Sheridan captured five pieces of artillery and seven battle flags.
(516) At the time of this battle of Winchester or the Opeguon, Sheridan had in the Valley an army of 4,300 men in round numbers; while according to Pond's Shenandoah Valley," the Rebel records show Early's force in that battle to be less than half that number. However, there are some facts which point to the conclusion that the Rebel force was under estimated. Grant puts Early's strength at the time Sheridan was put in command of the Union forces in the Valley, August 7th at about 30,000, and he was somewhat stronger at the time of the battle with Anderson's division absent, than he was at the date to which Grant refers. Greely says in his American Conflict that, in a newspaper controversy between Sheridan and Early in 1865, Sheridan stated "that the prisoners taken by him from Early (during the Valley campaign) exceeded the number to which that general limited his entire command."
(517) Sheridan was a dashing, rushing and seemingly reckless kind of man, with no pretense of pomp or polish. So when he sent his dispatch to Washington announcing his victory, he did not say, "Winchester is ours and fairly won," as the illustrious Gen. Sherman would perhaps have said, or that "Victory had perched upon our banners and we have sent the traitor hosts vanquished and vanquishing up the Valley," or anything of the kind; but he simply said: "We have just sent them whirling through Winchester." The following dispatch was received by Sheridan:
(518) "Have just heard of your great victory. God bless you all, officers and men. Strongly inclined to come up and see you. A. LINCOLN."
(519) Here is a characteristic incident showing somewhat the style of man Sheridan was: In his first movement up the Valley in August, when we had reached Cedar Creek where the enemy was, the First and Twelfth, it will be recollected, were ordered to charge some Rebel skirmishers, one company of the Twelfth having previously been put upon our skirmish line. Just as the two regiments were in the act of charging, Sheridan and Crook, passing from the right to the left along the skirmish line to take in the situation, had come opposite the charging troops; when Crook seemed inclined to stop and watch the result. Sheridan, however, appeared to be in a hurry, wanting to pass on; so he said: "Come on Crook, never mind, they'll give them h-ll." Perhaps because of the character of Sheridan as indicated by this incident, and as shown by his dispatch to Washington as given, and the observations in connection therewith, he was popular with the soldiers. But by, more than all else in gaining the victory at the Opeguon he gained their abiding confidence and admiration; which fact gave promise of future victory.
(520) The Twelfth with its brigade remained at the Berryville ford till the 22nd, when we marched, following the army up the Valley. We passed through Winchester. From there we guarded a wagon train of supplies up to Cedar Creek reaching there about sun down, just as our army was driving Early's from Fisher's Hill, in sight from the creek. Sheridan employed the same tactics in this battle that he did in the battle of the Opequon, sending Crooks, (the Eighth) Corps to attack the enemy on the flank. Sheridan's loss in this battle was only about 400; while Early's was between 1,300 and 1,400 mostly prisoners. This time the enemy's loss was much the heavier making the losses in each army in the two battles about 5,400. Sheridan captured 16 cannons at Fisher's Hill.
(521) After Early's rout his army retreated up the Valley, followed by Sheridan's after night for 12 miles to Woodstock. It was perhaps an unprecedented thing in the annals of the war for one army to follow another opposing army after dark on the same road, as was done in this instance. Our men had been dropping out of ranks all along the road to rest or sleep; and as the Twelfth passed along, it looked as though there was a string of those dropped out soldiers all along the 12 miles from Strasburg to Woodstock. When our regiment reached this latter town there was not more than the equal of a company left in the ranks, the most of the Twelfth having fallen out of ranks too. Those of the regiment remaining in ranks, marched 3.5 miles that day and night. The Rebels were followed so sharply, that many of them to escape took to the mountains. It was said also that, in this right pursuit of the enemy, in some instances, a Union soldier becoming tired and sleepy and seeing some one lying by the road side, would stop there for company; and in the morning he would discover a Johnny by his side, who of course, would be made a prisoner.
(522) The Twelfth remained at Woodstock one day with its corps, then pushing on after the bulk of the army to Harrisonburg, about 25 miles from Staunton, arrived there the 25th, the cavalry going as far as Staunton and Waynesboro destroying arms, ammunition and so forth at the latter place, and in accordance with Grant's orders all the mills, barns and stacks of hay and grain were burned, and the stock driven off in the Valley from Staunton down to Harrisonburg. The Sixth Corps and Nineteenth marched up to Mount Crawford on the 29th, and back to Harrisonburg the next day in support of the burning operations.
(523) The army remained at Harrisonburg till October the 6th; when the whole force marched down the Valley, arriving at Strasburg the 8th. All the way down to this place as we marched, the smoke could be seen rolling up behind us from the burning barns, mills and so forth. It was said that in many instances, in burning barns, reports of fire arms hidden in them and discharged by the heat were heard. Early reinforced by Anderson's division and Rosser's cavalry followed us down the Valley to Strasburg. The cavalry styled themselves the Saviors of the Valley, and were particularly aggressive. Sheridan got tired of their annoyance and determined to dispose of these new found "Saviors of the Valley." He directed Torbet accordingly to start out at daylight on the morning of the 9th and "whip the Rebel cavalry or get whipped himself." Our cavalry promptly to time attacked Lomax's cavalry on the pike and Rosser's on the back road and after a fight of about two hours routed them on both roads, capturing about 330 prisoners, 11 guns - all they had but one - and 47 wagons - "everything on wheels." The Rebels were run about 26 miles up the Valley on the jump. After the battle for the rest of the day, about all the saving the Johnnys wanted to do was to "save their bacon." Sheridan was very enthusiastic over this victory offering, it is said, $50 for the other piece of artillery.
(524) The second day after this battle of Tom's Brook, as it is called, the 1lth, our brigade started from Cedar Creek for Martinsburg as a guard, with a wagon train and the captured property. Near Newton, which is about eight miles from Cedar Creek, we met two or three cavalrymen coming at a headlong rate. They belonged to a party of 25 that had been guarding an ambulance conveying some officers and mail matters, which had just been attacked a little farther on by Mosby. This was a very bloody affair with our men nearly half of them being killed or wounded. Lieut. Col. Northcott stopped the command, and scoured the woods nearby, to see if there were any Rebels about; but it was too late. Mosby had got off with nearly all the unwounded and the ambulance. We camped that night at Winchester where we met Col. Curtis returning from a leave of absence, who now took command of the brigade. The next morning we marched for Martinsburg arriving there after dark.
(525) We remained at Martinsburg two days. During this time Mosby captured a train of cars at Kearnyville, a town between former town and Harpers Ferry. On the afternoon of the 15th, we started to the front again with a wagon train arriving at Winchester the next day, at which place we were told to pitch our tents, as we were likely to remain there for a few days. Accordingly the tents were put up.
(526) As before stated Early had followed Sheridan down the Valley from Staunton to Strasburg; but it was only the cavalry that came all the way, his infantry having halted at New Market. Sheridan believed the enemy would not again attempt to come down in force and therefore he had ordered the Sixth Corps to return to the Army of the Potomac in accordance with Grant's desire to have a part of the Valley force sent to him as soon as it could be spared. This corps had started to return about the time we had left Cedar Creek for Martinsburg. But there was all unexpected turn in affairs. Early on the 13th had arrived with his whole army at Fisher's Hill, and without halting sent a reconnoitering force to Cedar Creek, which threw some shells into Thoburn's camp while the men were at dinner. Thoburn's men were almost as much surprised as if the shells had dropped from the clouds; for a reconnoitering party had been up the Valley the day before, ten or twelve miles, and reported that no enemy had been seen. Thoburn's division was soon formed, and he undertook to capture the Rebel artillery, the command crossing the creek to attack it but, the enemy being in strong force he failed. Thoburn's loss in this engagement was 200 or 300. The gallant Col. Wells of the Thirty-fourth Massachusetts was killed in this fight. After Early's demonstration in Sheridan's front, the Sixth Corps on its way to Grant by way of Washington, having got as far as the Shenandoah beyond Front Royal, was ordered back, arriving at Cedar Creek, the 14th.
(527) The next day Sheridan received a message concerning the desired destruction of the Virginia Central railroad from Grant about which he, Grant, had been anxious for some time, and accordingly Merritt's division of cavalry was sent that night as far as Front Royal with the intention of reinforcing it by another division, the design being to employ these troops to break the road just referred to and also the James River Canal or at least to threaten them. Sheridan went with the cavalry to Front Royal, being on his way to Washington, going there at the urgent request of the authorities at the capitol to have a conference with them. But just before leaving Front Royal for Washington he received the following dispatch from Wright, copied from the Rebel signal flag on Massanutten Mountain in sight of our camp:
"To Lieutenant General Early:
Be ready to move as soon, as my forces join you, and we will crush Sheridan.
Longstreet, Lieutenant General."
(528) Sheridan suspected this to be a trick of the enemy, which it was, but in order to be on the safe side, he ordered the cavalry back to Cedar Creek. In this instance the enemy in his strategy over-reached himself, and three days later on account of this trick, he had to fight two more divisions of cavalry than he would otherwise have had to do. Sheridan continued his journey from Front Royal to Washington, stopping on the way some hours at Rectortown to telegraph to and get an answer from Halleck as to whether he had any information that Longstreet was or was not moving as indicated by the Rebel dispatch. Finally Halleck, after communicating with Grant at City Point answered: "General Grant says that Longstreet brought no troops with him from Richmond," adding some less important intelligence. After getting the telegram from Halleck Sheridan again pushed on toward the capitol.
(529) Coming back to our brigade with the wagon train at Winchester, we remained there just two days, when by orders we were to guard the train on up to Cedar Creek, to start on the memorable morning of the 19th of October, 1864. The soldiers generally of Sheridan's army by this time had settled down to the conviction that the campaign of severe fighting was ended in the Valley for that year. And we at Winchester were at that time ignorant of the changed condition of things at the front, so we lay down to sleep the night before we were to start for Cedar Creek, little dreaming of what was in store for our army there, or of the pregnant events of the coming day. But the dawn of another day has come, and hark! what thunderous sound from the south is that? "'Tis the cannons opening roar." The fair Valley is to be the scene of another day of blood and carnage; the last battle for its possession.
(530) Notwithstanding there was fighting going on at the front we started for Cedar Creek some 15 miles distant but we had not gone far when we met at about 9 o'clock some stragglers and wagon trains retreating from Cedar Creek. Col. Curtis then ordered his train to be parked. And now there was about to take place one of the most marked extraordinary and dramatic incidents or events, taken in connection with the outcome of it, in the annals of our country. Indeed it may be said it is imparalleled in the history of American warfare. It was Sheridan's Ride from Winchester to the army in front "to save the day." He rode up the pike past our brigade on his famous black horse at a brisk trot with a small escort following, at or soon after 9 o'clock in the forenoon, and every soldier of the brigade had a chance to witnesses the immortal scene.
(531) When the stragglers were met, Col. Curtis threw a line of men across the road to stop them, and put them under guard. There have been statements saying, or leaving the impression, that the number of stragglers getting back to or near Winchester was quite large, but as well as is remembered, there were not more than 100 or 200 of them. Col. Curtis says that when Sheridan passing to the front came to where our brigade was noticed the demoralized stragglers, he rode up to them, and standing straight in his stirrups and gritting his teeth as he looked at them, shouted at the top of his voice: "Boys if you don't want to fight yourselves, come back and look at others fighting. We will whip them out of their boots before 4 o'clock. " He then ordered Col. Curtis to organize the stragglers into a battalion put officers in command of them and move immediately to the front with his entire force. This the Colonel proceeded to do, bringing up his wagon train. He had gone but a short distance, however, when he received another order from Sheridan to return to Winchester and protect that place from an apprehended attack by Rebel cavalry. Accordingly the command returned with the train to the town.
(532) Our army at Cedar Creek had met with a surprise attack mainly against its left flank. The Eighth Corps (Crook's) being farthest to the front and left, was struck first, just at break of dawn, before the men were all out of their tents, and being attacked almost simultaneously in front, flank and rear it was soon routed losing heavily in killer and wounded and prisoners, the loss in prisoners being quite large. Our army was forced back by the suddeness and vigor of the Rebel attack principally by the necessity of having to give ground, in order to clear its flanks about four miles from Crook's camp by 11 o'clock A. M. It gave no further ground. And it appears that from about 9 o'clock it being that time before all our previously "unengaged infantry had been engaged, the attacks of the enemy were feeble. This fact may be explained by the reason that they had been marching and fighting from near midnight, and because many of them had fallen out of ranks it Teens, to plunder our camps. When Sheridan came up at about half past eleven A. M., the only parts of our force engaged were one division of the Sixth Corps and the cavalry, and they not heavily. There was a lull before the counterstorm.
(533) Sheridan came upon the field about half past eleven o'clock A. M. As he was approaching our army, tremendous cheers were heard in the rear. The cheering came from the stragglers that, though there were not many of them far in the rear, were two or more thousand in number, from all the corps a mile or two in the rear. They were cheering the returning commander. And one of the singular and surprising incidents of this remarkable battle was that the stream of these stragglers now turned toward the front. It is not probable that any other commander in the Union army could have inspired so telling moral effect. When Sheridan reached the line of battle along which he rode swinging his hat. He was hailed by the men with throwing their hats and tempestuous cheering. While his arrival had an encouraging effect on our men, it would ten no doubt to have a discouraging effect on the enemy, causing them to think that our army was getting reinforcements it may be.
(534) Just before Sheridan came upon the field, the Rebel had been repulsed in an attack upon our left made to seize the pike. As soon as he observed the situation he resolved to drive the enemy from the field; and he rode along the lines telling the men that they would sleep in their old quarters that night. He at once set about reforming his lines and strengthening his left. At about 1 o'clock P. M., Early made an attack upon our left, but it was easily repulsed. Three hours later our lines being formed mainly on the northwest side of the pike and at right angle to it, Sheridan ordered an advance upon the enemy by a left half-wheel which was gallantly responded to by the whole line. The left of the enemy gave way first; the rest of their line did not stand long, and soon their whole force was a flying mob. Our army pursued the routed Rebels capturing 1,200 prisoners, 24 guns, and much other property, besides retaking 24 guns lost im the morning. The field was won; the day was saved; our army had retaken its old camps; Sheridan had made good his promise that the men should sleep in their old quarters that night, and thus was made the single instance in our history as a people of an army being thoroughly worsted in the morning, gaining a signal victory in the afternoon. Sheridan will go down to history as a unique and illustrious warrior.
(535) Our loss in men in this battle of Cedar Creek was 5,764 in killed, wounded and prisoners, 1,429 being prisoners. Col. Thoburn of the First Virginia Infantry commanding a division, a gallant and highly esteemed officer, and Capt. Philip G. Bier were among the officers killed in this battle. This latter officer was enlisted by Col. Curtis as a private in Company D, of the Twelfth and appointed Orderly Sergeant of the company, January 17th, 1863, he was promoted to Second Lieutenant and assigned to Company A. On the recommendation of Gen. Sullivan and others he was, in January, 1864 commissioned as a Captain and A. A. G., and assigned to duty on Gen. Hunter's staff. He remained on his staff during the Hunter raid against Lynchburg and until Hunter was relieved; when he was transferred to Gen. Crook's staff. Acting in the discharge of his duty in trying, during the battle to save the wagon and ambulance trains, he was mortally wounded, and died the following night. The officers of the Twelfth, for the high regard which they had for their gallant dead comrade, had his body embalmed and sent to Wheeling where it was buried.
(536) According to Early's account of his loss in this battle was 1,860 in killed and wounded. Our army captured 1,200 prisoners. If his account of his loss in killed and wounded is correct his total loss was 3,060. Assuming that Early's statement of his loss in killed and wounded is correct, our loss in this battle was almost double that of the enemy. This could reasonably be accounted for by the fact that our army had been surprised and taken at great disadvantage.
(537) This battle of Cedar Creek shows, in matter of moment, how important it is that the first step, the initial movement should be sure and right. When Sheridan was put in command in the Valley, he patiently bided his time, when he could, as he did, take the enemy at a disadvantage in the battle of the Opequon, gaining a great victory thereby, and thus paved the way for the strong confidence the unbounded faith in him, on the part of his army, which enabled him to snatch victory from defeat in this latter memorable battle. Sheridan won a major general's commission in the regular army by this victory. In tendering the commission a few weeks later, President Lincoln said in part, that it was "for a brilliant victory achieved over the Rebels for the third time in pitched battle within thirty days."
(538) The next morning after the battle our brigade left Winchester at about 2 o'clock for Cedar Creek arriving there the same morning at about 8 o'clock with the wagon train. When we arrived on the battle field some of the Rebel dead were yet unburied. The following day the 21st, the Twelfth with its brigade marched down the pike about seven miles to Newtown to guard the temporary hospital at that place. We remained at this town for over two weeks. On the 25th, the soldiers here who were citizens of West Virginia voted for President. An old diary written at the time says that there were only four or five votes for McClellan; whether in the brigade or our regiment it does not say. The next day Gen. Duffie was captured between Winchester and Martinsburg.
(539) During the stay at Newtown, Mosby was around in the vicinity twice, one time capturing a forage train within a mile or two of town, and getting off with the mules. Both times the Twelfth went out after him, but saw nothing of him. It was useless to send infantry after mounted men. On the 13th the First Virginia left for Cumberland, Md.