FIRST REGIMENT VIRGINIA INFANTRY.
GENERAL SHIELDS at this point took command of the division. This was a popular appointment, as nearly all the men were acquainted with his career and knew him to be a gallant soldier, and those who were not predisposed in his favor soon learned to love and respect him for his interest in them. An Irishman by birth, an American by choice, and a patriot because he could not be otherwise. The division had been materially reinforced, and at this time consisted of three brigades, composed as follows:
First Brigade. - Colonel Kimball commanding; Fourteenth Indiana, Seventh Virginia, Fourth Ohio, Eighth Ohio, and Sixty-second Ohio Regiments.
Second Brigade. - Colonel Dunning commanding; Fifth Ohio, Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania, Thirteenth Indiana, and Sixty-sixth Ohio Regiments.
Third Brigade. - Colonel Tyler commanding; Seventh Ohio, Seventh Indiana, Twenty-ninth Ohio, First Virginia, and One Hundred and Tenth Pennsylvania Regiments.
On the 11th the parties in charge of the work having succeeded in building a temporary foot-bridge, the train was sent around by road to cross the stream above and join the command at a point designated. The division was crossed over and marched eastward on the railroad track towards Martinsburg, passing over the North Mountain grade. To the surprise of all, there floated the Union flag from a house at the station named, where was found a Union family, rare in that part of the State. As may be supposed, the column greeted the flag and family with loud hurrahs. Passing on, Martinsburg was reached, and marching through the town to a point two and a half miles beyond on the Winchester road, bivouacked for the night. This is a fine macadamized road, but somewhat cut up by the hauling of locomotives over it, the enemy having used it to transfer Baltimore and Ohio Railroad engines to the Manassas Gap Railroad at Strasburg.
The day's march was over the rough stone ballast of the railroad, the rails having been torn up, ties piled up and the rails placed on top; the pile was then fired, which would make a great heat, the rails becoming so heated that they would bend with their own weight. In this condition a slight twist would effectually destroy them as rails. In some instances they were twisted around trees. Marching through the town of Martinsburg, the people were astonished and greatly delighted at seeing Virginia regiments under the old banners, and their greeting was very cordial, which, it may be remarked, was something unusual, unprecedented, in fact, and warmed the men's hearts towards these people. This is a great change, the country even at this season of the year marking such a contrast to what is seen in the hills and mountains of the trans-Alleghany portion of the State. The command left this point, called Big Spring, the next morning, and took up the line of march for up (south) the Shenandoah Valley, arriving in the afternoon at a point three and three-quarters miles from Winchester, occupying a field just vacated by the enemy's cavalry - Ashby's command, as was afterwards learned. No doubt these fellows were hovering around gaining information for their chief (Jackson), who will not take very kindly to this invasion of his territory. This camp, in honor of the commander, was called Camp Shields. On the 15th the wagons came up with the camp equipage and the men were able to make themselves comfortable. They have not learned yet to do without tents, camp-kettles, mess-pans, and such luxuries, hence feel the absence of the wagons very much. Rations of fresh beef were issued here, - the first fresh meat the men have eaten for some time. This was highly flavored with garlic, the pasture-fields hereabouts producing this fetid plant in abundance. It is said the milk and butter of this part of the State are strongly flavored with it, which would not be a recommendation to some, though some of the men professed to like the beef thus flavored. It is a good substitute for onions, which vegetable all men confined to soldiers' rations naturally crave. On the 18th the command left in light marching order, haversacks filled, blankets rolled, carried over the shoulder and tied at the hip, with canteen, cartridge-boxes filled, and arms, constituting the whole equipment.
The brigade passed through Winchester. Here the people were not slow in showing their rebellious feelings by hooting the Union soldiers. The women, in particular, were noisy and demonstrative. Apparently there were few men at home. The former, however, were equal to the occasion, and their denunciation of the Yankees was hearty, informing the men that Jackson was up the valley, and that they would come back faster than they went up. This was by no means pleasant, but they were permitted to rail on, as it did the command no harm and appeared to do them a great deal of good. Their feelings were particularly stirred when they found that there were two Virginia regiments in the column. The division arrived at Cedar Creek bridge, which the enemy had thought proper to burn down, but did not attempt to move the ford, hence but little delay followed this destruction of their own property. The whole command camped this night within three miles of Strasburg, and the next day advanced to a point one mile beyond the town, artillery in position and infantry supporting, - a battery of artillery was attached to each brigade of the command, mention of which should have been made before, - skirmishers were out, and the command in line of battle. The enemy opened with his artillery, some of the shells bursting in the air. The Union guns replied, whole battery at a time, which appeared to satisfy him, as he retreated up the valley. A few men were wounded of Shields's command; none were killed. No knowledge could be obtained of the casualties among the enemy. This night the regiment lay on the Manassas Gap Railroad, very tired, with the cold rain pouring down on the men, nothing to protect them but a gum and a woollen blanket, fence-rails or the mud to lie on, - a bad night indeed. About half the regiment was on picket duty. This may be considered the beginning of the regiment's hard service.