or rear. General Hatch sent a detachment of cavalry to intercept this movement, when it was apparently abandoned.
The enemy suffered very serious loss from the fire of our infantry on the left. One regiment is represented by persons present during the action and after the field was evacuated as nearly destroyed.
The main body of the enemy was hidden during the early part of the action by the crest of the hill and the woods in the rear. Their force was massed apparently upon our right, and their maneuvers indicated a purpose to turn us upon the Berryville road, where, it appeared subsequently, they had placed a considerable force, with a view of preventing re-enforcements from Harper's Ferry; but the steady fire of our lines held them in check until a small portion of the troops on the right of our line made a movement to the rear. It is but just to add that this was done under the erroneous impression that an order to withdraw had been given. No sooner was this observed by the enemy than its regiments swarmed upon the crest of the hill, advancing from the woods upon our right, which, still continuing its fire, steadily withdrew toward the town. The overwhelming force of the enemy now suddenly showing itself, making further resistance unwise, orders were sent to the left by Captain d'Hauteville to withdraw, which was done reluctantly, but in order, the enemy having greatly suffered on that wing. A portion of the troops passed through the town in some confusion, but the column was soon reformed, and continued this march in order.
This engagement held the enemy in check nearly five hours. The forces engaged were greatly unequal. Indisposed to accept the early rumors concerning the enemy's strength, I reported to the Department that it was about 15,000.
It is now conclusively shown that not less than 25,000 men were in position and could have been brought into action. On the right and left their great superiority of numbers was plainly felt and seen, and the signal officers from elevated position were enabled to count the regimental standards, indicating a strength equal to that I have stated.
My own command consisted of two brigades, of less than 4,000 men all told, with 900 cavalry, ten Parrott guns, and one battery of 6-pounder smooth-bore cannon. To this should be added the Tenth maine Regiment of infantry and five companies of Maryland Cavalry, stationed at Winchester, which were engaged in the action. In all, about 5,000 men.
The loss of the enemy was treble that of ours in killed and wounded. In prisoners ours greatly exceeds theirs. Officers whose word I cannot doubt have stated as the result of their own observation that our men were fired upon from private dwellings in passing through Winchester, but I am credibly informed and gladly believe that the atrocities said to have been perpetrated upon our wounded soldiers by the rebels are greatly exaggerated or entirely untrue.
Our march was turned in the direction of Martinsburg, hoping there to meet re-enforcements, the troops moving in three parallel columns, each protected by an efficient rear guard. The pursuit of the enemy was prompt and vigorous, but our movements rapid and without loss. A few miles from Winchester the sound of the Steam-whistle heard in the direction of Martinsburg strengthened the hope of re-enforcements and stirred the blood of the men like a trumpet. Soon after two squadrons of cavalry came dashing down the road with wild hurrahs. They were thought to be the advance of the anticipated supports, and were received with deafening cheers. Every men felt like turning back