Reminiscences of the Civil War

By John B. Gordon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIV
CEDAR CREEK -- A VICTORY AND A DEFEAT

Sheridan's dallying for twenty-six days -- Arrival of General Kershaw -- Position of Early's army with reference to Sheridan's -- The outlook from Massanutten Mountain -- Weakness of Sheridan's left revealed -- The plan of battle -- A midnight march -- Complete surprise and rout of Sheridan's army -- Early's decision not to follow up the victory -- Why Sheridan's ride succeeded -- Victory changed into defeat.

NEARLY a month -- twenty-six days, to be exact -- of comparative rest and recuperation ensued after Fisher's Hill. General Sheridan followed our retreat very languidly. The record of one day did not differ widely from the record of every other day of the twenty- six. His cavalry manœuvred before ours, and ours manœuvred before his. His artillery saluted, and ours answered. His infantry made demonstrations, and ours responded by forming lines. This was all very fine for Early's battered little army; and it seemed that Sheridan's victories of the 19th and 22d had been so costly, notwithstanding his great preponderance in numbers, that he sympathized with our desire for a few weeks of dallying. He appeared to be anxious to do just enough to keep us reminded that he was still there. So he decided upon a season of burning, instead of battling; of assaults with matches and torches upon barns and haystacks, instead of upon armed men who were lined up in front of him.

The province of uncomplimentary criticism is a most

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