Lieutenant-Colonel Douty halted our column, and after some minutes' delay informed me that this force had been sent out upon the road which we were about to take; that they had reached a point some 3 or 4 miles distant; had then been fired upon by carbineers, whereupon they immediately returned, without having seen anything further of the enemy.
Lieutenant-Colonel Douty asked me what course in my opinion was best to pursue. I replied that I considered our orders imperative; that whenever I had been intrusted with duties of a character similar to the present I always made it a rule to at least see me foe, and, if possible, ascertain their number and purpose before retiring from them. The lieutenant-colonel (Douty) remarked that he agreed with me, and ordered the column forward. We had proceeded to a point within 3 or 4 miles of the Front Royal and Winchester pike when a halt was made. Here Lieutenant-Colonel Douty sent his compliments, requesting me to come to front of column, which I immediately responded to, and found the lieutenant-colonel in front of a house interrogating a lady. He told me that he had learned from her that the enemy was seen (by the lady) some two hours before in considerable force, principally cavalry, and were occupying the road between us and the pike, their cavalry pickets extending to within 1 1/2 miles of her house, at the door of which she was standing, and, further, that a very large force was moving down the pike from Front Royal to Winchester-using her own words, "Wagons and all, reaching some 4 miles long." I turned to the lady, and was making more critical inquiry respecting the enemy and the topography of the road over which we must have passed had we advanced, when our advance guard was fired upon by the enemy's advanced pickets, who instantly retired after discharging their pieces.
It was then proposed by an officer present that he, with the lieutenant-colonel (Douty) and a small escort, should advance. Lieutenant-Colonel Douty again asked me what I thought was best to do. I remarked that I had some delicacy in attempting to dictate to my superiors, but would cheerfully obey any order which he should direct me to execute. Whereupon he remarked that "We are volunteers; have not had very large experience in the field, and would receive with thanks any suggestion or opinion which I should be pleased to give." In reply to which I said that I did not consider it prudent to attempt to press our advance any farther in the direction of the enemy, for the to press our advance any farther in the direction of the enemy, for the following reasons: First, those deduced from the information obtained following reasons: First, those deduced from the information obtained from the lady, as above stated; second, the bold attack of Ashby's vedettes upon our advance guard, in my experience with them in the field, was a sure indication to me of the near presence of a superior force. I then proposed that as our flanks were skirted on either side by dense woods, which would enable the enemy by an extended flank movement to surround us unobserved, we should fall back to the vicinity of the chapel, a point where several roads formed junction with the one which we then occupied, and where there was an extended open are, stationing pickets in our rear as we retired,and there await the issue of events; and, further, I suggested the propriety of sending by courier a dispatch to the signal station notifying you of the information received, the attack of the enemy's pickets, that we were falling back to the vicinity of the chapel, and to ask for further instructions. Lieutenant-Colonel Douty; concurring, immediately ordered the column about, stationing pickets at proper intervals until the main body of our force had reached the point designated, when the column, which had moved at a walk, was halted.