whole force of cavalry and six pieces of artillery, was charged with the protection of the rear of the column and the destruction of any stores for which transportation was not provided, with instructions to remain in front of the town as long as possible and hold the enemy in check, our expectations of an attack being in that direction. All these orders were executed with incredible celerity, and soon after 9 o'clock the column was on the march, Colonel Donnelly in front, Colonel Gordon in center, and General Hatch in the rear, the whole under direction of Brigadier-General Williams, commanding division.
The column had passed Cedar Creek, about 3 miles from Strasburg, with the exception of the rear guard, still in front of Strasburg, when information was received from the front that the enemy had attacked the train and was in full possession of the road at Middletown. This report was confirmed by the return of fugitives, refugees, and wagons, which came tumbling to the rear in fearful confusion.
It being apparent now that our immediate danger was in front, the troops were ordered to the head of the column and the train to the rear, and in view of a possible necessity of our return to Strasburg, Captain James W. Aber, Topographical Corps, who associated with him the Zouaves d' Afrique, Captain Collis, was ordered to prepare Cedar Creek bridge for the flames, in order to prevent a pursuit in that direction by the enemy. In the execution of this order Captain Aber and the Zouaves were cut off from the column, which they joined again at Williamsport. They had at Strasburg a very sharp conflict with the enemy, in which his cavalry suffered severely. An interesting report of this affair will be found in the reports of Captain Aber and Captain Collis.
THE FIRST COMBAT.
The head of the reorganized column, Colonel Donnelly commanding, encountered the enemy in force at Middletown, about 13 miles from Winchester. Three hundred troops had been seen in town, but it soon appeared that larger forces were in the rear. The brigade halted, and the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, Colonel Knipe, was ordered to penetrate the woods on the right and dislodge the enemy's skirmishers. They were supported by a section of Cothran's New York battery. Five companies of the enemy's cavalry were discovered in an open field in rear of the woods, and our artillery, masked at first by the infantry, opened fire upon them. They stood fire for a while, but at length retreated, pursued by our skirmishers. The Twenty-eighth New York, Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, was now brought up, and under a heavy fire of infantry and artillery the enemy were driven back more than 2 miles from the pike. Colonel Donnelly being informed at this point by a citizen in great alarm that 4,000 men were in the woods beyond, the men were anxious to continue the fight, but as this would have defeated our object by the loss of valuable time, with the exception of a small guard they were ordered to resume the march. This affair occurred under my own observation, and I have great pleasure in vouching for the admirable conduct of officers and men. We lost 1 men killed and some wounded. The loss of the enemy could not be ascertained. This episode, with the change of front, occupied nearly an hour, but it saved our column. Had the enemy vigorously attacked our train while