Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 32.djvu/248

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236 Southern Historical Society Papers.

I will now quote from the report of General Merritt, who com- manded Sheridan's other cavalry division, and who secured position in front of Early's right at 10 A. M.:

" Orders were sent to every brigade to press the enemy warmly. Never did men fight betier. The line advanced nearly to Middle- town. This advance was intended more as an offensive defense. The enemy withdrew from the open country. Sheltered by the woods and houses in our front, Kershaw (Worford's Brigade) and Pegram continued a sharp skirmish, varied by attacks on both sides."

Here we read a complete explanation of why Early's advance halted. The centre, which had its own troubles besides, could not go forward with the right checked by Sheridan's 7,000 mounted men halted. And it was when it had been halted, and a division of the 6th Corps had joined the cavalry, that Custer's division not the whole cavalry force, as stated by General Gordon was "sent back to Sheridan's right."

THE MISTAKE OF GENERAL GORDON IN MOVING HIS DIVISION TO THE LEFT OF THE LINE.

I will record here an opinion: That had General Gordon not shifted his division from our pivotal right, the point of effecting "concentration," where was most needed the momentum of his splendid " firing line " presence, it might never have fallen to his lot to deplore the morning halt in Early's advance; and certainly no evening rout. His attack on his commander must not be permitted to divert attention from General Gordon's morning mistake, and its influence upon his evening mishap. " I am confident the services of the cavalry on the left flank cannot be overestimated." It was this check, duly given, that enabled Sheridan to form his ranks for the evening assault and victory.

The attempted conviction of General Early for the Cedar Creek disaster, which is so unfairly and strenuously argued in Gordon's War Reminiscences, is a renewal of attacks that appeared in Rich- mond papers of the period. Gordon was taxed by Early with in- stigating them, and they quareled. The controversy was camp talk, intensified, as it was, by an order read to the regiments in which General Early bitterly reproached them for the loss of the