CEDAR CREEK, Battle of. After the battle of Fisher's Hill, 22 Sept. 1864, General Sheridan followed Early as far as Harrison burg, his cavalry going as far as Port Republic, Staunton and Waynesboro. In view of the difficulty of supplying his army so far from its base, and of other operations by which two corps of infantry and a cavalry division of his army were to be sent to the Army of the Poto mac, he holding only the lower valley of the Shenandoah, Sheridan, after ordering the de struction of all mills, barns, grain, forage and provisions of all kinds, began to withdraw down the valley on 5 October, and on the 8th re crossed Tom's Brook. His rear had been so persistently followed and harassed by the Con federate cavalry divisions of Rosser and Lomax that he ordered Torbert, his cavalry com mander, to whip the Confederate cavalry or get whipped. On the morning of the 9th Torbert fell upon Rosser and Lomax, and in a two hours' contest routed them, pursuing many miles and capturing over 300 prisoners, 11 guns and 40 wagons. Sheridan then resumed his march, and on the 10th halted on the north bank of Cedar Creek. Wright's 6th corps continued its march to Front Royal, on the way to Wash ington, where it remained two days, and then marched toward Ashby's Gap, but was recalled to Cedar Creek, where it arrived on the 14th. Early had been reinforced by Kershaw's divi sion and about 600 cavalry, increasing his force to about 18,000 men, and under Lee's order to detain the Union troops in the valley he had followed Sheridan, arriving at Fisher's Hill, six miles from Cedar Creek, on the 13th. On the night of the 15th Sheridan left for Washington to consult with Stanton and Halleck, leaving Gen. H. G. Wright in command of the army. Sheridan's cavalry accompanied him to Front Royal, from which point he intended to push it through Chester Gap to the Virginia Central Railroad at Charlottesville and raid the country east of the Blue Ridge, but upon erroneous in formation that Longstreet was moving to join Early, the raid was abandoned and Torbert moved the cavalry back to Cedar Creek. On the night of the 18th Emory's 19th corps was on the west side of the valley turnpike, on ele vated ground overlooking Cedar Creek. Wright's 6th corps in reserve to the right and rear of the 19th, separated from it by Meadow Brook. Merritt's cavalry division was op the right of the infantry, and Custer's division one and one-half miles beyond Merritt's, watching the crossings of Cedar Creek and the roads on the right. Crooks' 8th corps was on the east side of the pike, one of its two divisions (Thobum's) on a rounded, entrenched hill, one fourth of a mile in advance of the other, near the junction of the creek and river, and both somewhat in advance of the 19th corps on the right. Two cavalry brigades of Powell's divi sion were far to the left, near Front Royal and one at Buckton Station, two miles beyond Crooks' left. The Union army numbered about 31,000 men. Reconnaissances were sent out daily from the flanks to see what Early was doing, and that of the 18th reported that the in dications were that he had retreated from Fisher's Hill. He had not retreated, hut had matured a plan of attack. A reconnaissance by General Gordon had disclosed the fact that the left of the Union line was lightly picketed, with but a small cavalry force on the north fork of the Shenandoah, and that it was practicable to move infantry secretly by night across the creek, which was easily fordable, and through !L the woods to within less than half a mile of Crooks' left and rear. This plan Early adopted, assigning for the movement the divisions of Gordon, Ramseur and Pegram and Payne's cavalry brigade, all under command of Gordon. Early, with the divisions of Kershaw and Wharton and all his artillery, was to co-operate in the effort to crush the Union left and centre. Two brigades of cavalry were to demonstrate on the Union right, and Lomax's cavalry, mov ing by Front Royal, was to strike the valley pike in the Union rear. The movement began after dark of the 18th. Gordon led his column across the north fork of the Shenandoah, down its right bank, and again crossing below the mouth of Cedar Creelc, reached his assigned position before daylight. Early led Kershaw across Cedar Creek, midway between its mouth and the pike, and at the first flush of dawn, covered by darkness and fog, captured or drove in the picket line and rushed over the entrenchments held by Thohurn's division, at a point where they were not manned, surprised the camp, soon swept everything out of it, and captured seven guns, which were turned upon the fugitives. Kershaw then ad
vanced on R. B. Hayes' division and Kitch ing's brigade, and at the same time Gordon charged out of the woods directly upon Hayes' left and rear, the combined attacks breaking his division and Kitching's brigade, and uncov ering the left of the 19th corps, which was now assailed by Kershaw and Gordon, while at the same time Wharton's division, moving swiftly down the pike, followed by 40 pieces of artil lery, attacked in front, and the greatest part of the 19th corps, abandoning 11 guns, was swept from the field. Wright, who had foreseen at the beginning of the attack that his position was untenable, and a change of front necessary, now ordered the 6th corps, under General Ricketts, who was moving with two divisions to support the left, to fall back to some tenable position, and the 19th corps was ordered to rally on the right of the 6th. The Confederates followed up their advantage, taking many prisoners, but were checked by the 6th corps, Wharton being badly repulsed. Early still pressed matters; it was now 9 o'clock, and Wright, losing six guns of his own corps, withdrew to a more favorable position one and a half miles north and west of Middletown, where he was joined by the cavalry brigade from Buckton and by Torbert, with the two cavalry divisions that had been ordered from the right to left of the in fantry line; while the division commanders of the 6th and 19th corps were told the enemy would be attacked about 12, noon, as soon as an ample resupply of ammunition could be issued. Meanwhile Sheridan, who had arrived at Winchester on the afternoon of the 18th, was hastening to the front, meeting on the way a stream of fugitives, whom he ordered to turn back, as he intended to reoccupy the old camp that night. He arrived on the field a little after 11 o'clock, during a lull in the fight, after Wright had reunited the divisions of the 6th corps, which had been fighting by themselves during the morning, and after the 19th corps had been rallied and placed in line, also parts of the 8th corps, the only part of the army seriously engaged being a division of the 6th corps and the cavalry, tenaciously holding the valley pike, the key-point of the battle, Wright's disposition of the infantry was approved, and the only change made in the line was to send Custer's cavalry back to the right of the in fantry. About 1 o'clock Early pushed forward his entire line, but was quickly repulsed, and then busied himself in collecting his stragglers, who were plundering the captured' camps, get ting his prisoners and captured guns and wagons back to Fisher's Hill, and throwing up a defensive line beyond the reach of the Union artillery. At 4 o'clock Sheridan saw a move ment of Early's, which he thought indicated an attack, and ordered a general advance, the 19th corps on the right, the 6th on the left, with the 8th following in reserve, Custer's cavalry on the right, and Merritt's on the left of the infan try. The movement developed into a left half wheel, and after a very severe and obstinate fight, during which parts of the Union line were repulsed, again to go forward, was suc cessful; the Confederate line was broken near its left, other parts of the line gave way, and soon the entire army fled in panic and disorder from the field and across Cedar Creek, Sheri dan's infantry following as far as the creek, the cavalry continuing the pursuit three miles be yond and until after dark, capturing guns, wagons, ambulances and prisoners. Early, with but few of his men, rested at night in his en trenchments at Fisher's Hill, and at 3 o'clock next morning retreated to New Market, fol lowed by Sheridan's .cavalry as far as Wood stock The 24 guns captured by Early were retaken, and he left in Sheridan's hands 23 of his own. The Union loss was 644 killed, 3,430 wounded and 1,591 missing•, of the latter 1,429 were sent as prisoners to Richmond. The Confederate loss was 320 killed, 1,540 wounded and 1,050 missing. Early's offensive movement suspended for a time the transfer of any part of Sheridan's army to the Army of the Poto mac; his defeat ended efforts on the part of the Confederates to invade the North by way of the Shenandoah Valley. Consult 'Official Rec ords' (Vol. XLIII); Pond, 'Shenandoah Val ley in 1864); The Century Company's 'Battles and Leaders of the Civil War' (Vol. IV); Sheridan, 'Personal Memoirs' ; Keifer, `Slavery and Four Years of War' (Vol. II).