The action continued with undiminished fury until 6.30 o'clock, when I received orders to fall back, fighting as skirmishers. Before this order was received the whole line to our right, as far as I could perceive, was falling back in great confusion. The retreat became general. After passing over the ridge next behind us an attempt was made by Captains Thom and Leigh and Lieutenants Coltrane and Overton, and perhaps others, to rally the men, and partially succeeded; but the enemy advancing and pouring a heavy fire upon us, and the crowd of fugitives rushing by us, the attempt proved ineffectual and the movement became a general and complete rout. The fugitives were threatened on their right by a detachment of the enemy's cavalry, and many of them would have been captured but for the interposition of a company of our cavalry, commanded, as I have been informed, by Captain Sheetz. Officers and men pursued their course either singly or in squads.
Night soon came on. Many of the officers and men of the battalion gathered together at a bivouac at a point on the Strasburg road 11 miles from Winchester and about 6 miles from the battle ground, where we found our wagons. Here the battalion was reorganized and resumed its place in the brigade.
In respect to that part of the right wing of the battalion which, as I have stated, was separated from the main body, I learn from Captain Thom, of Company C, that at the time of that separation he proceeded with the men under his command to the right, in pursuance of an order to that effect from General Garnett, and took a position in our line; that the firing on both sides was exceedingly hot; that the enemy's line in front of that portion of our line was twice broken; that soon after reaching that position he received a ball against his left breast, which was prevented from penetrating his body by a small copy of the New Testament in a pocket of his shirt, and one through the fleshy part of the palm of his right hand, and fell; that he then gave orders to Lieutenant Randolph to go forward with the company, and that the men under his command did not fall back until the line was entirely broken.
Captain Thom adds that Lieutenant Randolph behaved in a most gallant manner, as did also Second Lieutenant Howard. I learn from Lieutenant Randolph and others that shortly after the firing commenced Captain Jones was seen to get upon a stump and wave his sword, cheering his men forward, and then fall headlong to the earth.
Captain Jones' fate is not yet ascertained. He was left upon the field, and I trust that he still lives; but if he has fallen, he has died a glorious death, sword in hand.
Second Lieutenant Heth was carried off the field and left at a farm-house in the vicinity. I fear that there is little reason to hope that he will survive his wound.
I cannot close this report without making honorable mention of the active and efficient services rendered during the day by Lieutenant White, acting adjutant of the battalion.
I have the honor to transmit to you along with this report, for the information of Colonel Burks, a detailed statement of our loss. It will be perceived that our battalion went into the action with 11 commissioned officers, 17 non-commissioned officers, and 159 privates. Of these, 6 were killed, 20 wounded, and 21 are missing, making 47 in all.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
D. B. BRIDGFORD,
Captain, Commanding First Va. Batt., Prov. Army Conf. States.
Captain R. N. WILSON,
Assistant Adjutant-General, & c.