Page:A Memoir of the Last Year of the War for Independence in the Confederate States of America.djvu/123

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119
CLOSE OF THE VALLEY CAMPAIGN.

Shortly after Rosser's return from the New Creek expedition, Colonel Munford was sent with Wickham's brigade to the counties of Hardy and Pendleton, to procure forage for his horses, and, cold weather having now set in so as to prevent material operations in the field, the three divisions of the 2nd Corps were sent, in succession, to General Lee,—Wharton's division, the cavalry, and most of the artillery being retained with me.

On the 16th of December, I broke up the camp at New-Market, and moved back towards Staunton, for the purpose of establishing my troops on or near the Central railroad—Lomax's cavalry, except one brigade left to watch the Luray Valley, having previously moved across the Blue Ridge, so as to be able to procure forage. Cavalry pickets were left in front of New-Market, and telegraphic communications kept up with that place, from which there was communication with the lower Valley, by means of signal stations on the northern end of Massanutten Mountain, and at Ashby's Gap in the Blue Ridge, which overlooked the enemy's camps and the surrounding country.

The troops had barely arrived at their new camps, when information was received that, the enemy's cavalry was in motion. On the 19th, Custer's division moved from Winchester towards Staunton, and, at the same time, two other divisions of cavalry, under Torbert or Merrit, moved across by Front Royal and Chester Gap towards Gordonsville. This information having been sent me by signal and telegraph, Wharton's division was moved, on the 20th, through a hail--


paign, was teeming with provisions and forage from one end to the other; while my Command had very great difficulty in obtaining provisions for the men, and had to rely almost entirely on the grass in the open fields for forage. 4th. When General Jackson was pressed find had to retire. as well when he fell back before Banks in the spring of 1802, as, later, when he retired before Fremont to prevent Shields from getting in his rear, the condition of the water courses was such as to enable him to stop the advance of one column, by burning the bridges, and then fall upon and defeat another column; and, when hard pressed, place his troops in a position of security, until a favorable, opportunity offered for attacking the enemy: while all the water courses were low and fordable, and the whole country was open in my front, on my flanks, and in my rear, during my entire campaign. These facts do not detract from the merits of General Jackson's campaign in the slightest degree, and far be it from me to attempt to obscure his well earned and richly deserved fame. They only show that I ought not to be condemned for not doing what he did.