Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/74
Southern Historical Society Papers
we had whipped the enemy well, and but for that cavalry we might have held our own against succeeding attacks. It is the first time that I have ever seen cavalry very effective in a general engagement. Would that Rosser's Brigade had been with us, and on the left! The day might have been different. It was 5.07 o'clock when I looked at my watch as the Yankees came into Winchester, and we had been fighting from 10 or 1 1 until 2, when there was a cessation until the cavalry attack, about 3, which resulted so disastrously."
It will be seen from this account, written two days after the battle, that there has been much exaggeration in Federal accounts of this battle. The actual facts were bad enough, and there was no need to make them worse. Ramseur retreated on the east side of Winchester, and so preserved his organization better than the troops that passed through the town, but these were re-formed on the south side. It was some time after the posting of our skirmish line, with artillery, on the south side of Winchester, before the enemy showed themselves, and our artillery fired until it was too dark to see anything but the flashes of the guns. I remained near this piece of artillery for some time and watched Ramseur's Division passing, and Lomax's Cavalry beyond, which had kept in check Wilson's Cavalry Division all day on our right, and was only forced to retire after the general retreat. Wilson should have burst through this handful of men and seized the Staunton pike long before. Even so intelligent a writer as General Merritt says (Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume IV, page* 510): "At the time of this last charge the Union infantry advanced along the entire line, and the enemy fled in disorder from the field, and night alone (for it was now dark) saved Early' s army from capture." It was not dark, not even 5 o'clock, as I have shown above from my exact record of the time (5.07) when the Federal troops entered Winchester. Again he says (same page): " Early had not stopped on the night of the battle until he reached the shelter of Fisher's Hill." Now, I myself, with troops all around me in line of battle, spent the night at the headquarters of Rodes' Division, one mile south of Newtown, which is eight miles south of Winchester and twelve miles north of Fisher's Hill, to which place we did not retire until next morning. General Merritt did not come far enough to see for himself. No wonder General Early says in his "Memoir:" "When I look back to this battle, I can but attribute my escape from utter annihilation to the incapacity of my opponent."Moreover, General Sheridan, in his telegram to General Grant on the evening of the battle, "September 19, 1864, 7.30 P. M." (War