Reminiscences of the Civil War

By John B. Gordon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
WINCHESTER AND PRECEDING EVENTS

The Confederate army within sight of Washington -- The city could have been taken -- Reasons for the retreat -- Abandonment of plan to release Confederate prisoners -- The Winchester campaign -- Assault on Sheridan's front -- Sudden rally -- Retreat of Early's army -- The battle of Fisher's Hill.

ON July 11, 1864, the second day after the battle of Monocacy, we were at the defences of Washington. We were nearer to the national capital than any armed Confederates had ever been, and nearer to it than any Federal army had ever approached to Richmond. It has been claimed that at the time we reached these outer works they were fully manned by troops. This is a mistake. I myself rode to a point on those breastworks at which there was no force whatever. The unprotected space was broad enough for the easy passage of Early's army without resistance. It is true that, as we approached, Rodes's division had driven in some skirmishers, and during the day (July 11th) another small affair had occurred on the Seventh Street road; but all the Federals encountered on this approach could not have manned any considerable portion of the defences. Undoubtedly we could have marched into Washington; but in the council of war called by General Early there was not a dissenting opinion as to the impolicy of entering the city. While General Early and his division commanders were considering in jocular vein the propriety

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