While these occurrences were in progress General Ashby, who after crossing at McCoy's Ford had moved with his command farther to the west, so as to skirt the base of the Massanutten Mountain, met with a body of the enemy posted as a guard at Buckton in a strong position, protected by the railroad embankment. Ashby drove back and dispersed the enemy, but with the loss of some of the most valuable of his followers, among them Captains Sheetz and Fletcher. The infantry and artillery pursued but a short distance before darkness rendered it necessary to go into camp.
The results of this first day's operations were the capture of about 700 prisoners, among them about 20 officers, a complete section of rifled artillery (10-pounder Parrotts), and a very large amount to quartermaster and commissary stores. The fruits of this movement were not restricted to the stores and prisoners captured; the enemy's flank was turned and the road opened to Winchester.
In the event of Banks leaving Strasburg he might escape toward the Potomac, or if we moved directly to Winchester he might move via Front Royal toward Washington City. In order to watch both directions, and at the same time advance upon him if he remained at Strasburg, I determined, with the main body of the army, to strike the turnpike near Middletown, a village 5 miles north of Strasburg and 13 south of Winchester.
Accordingly the following morning General Ashby advanced from Cedarville toward Middletown, supported by skirmishers from Taylor's brigade, with Chew's battery and two Parrott guns from the Rockbridge Artillery, and followed by the whole command, except the troops left under command of General Ewell near Cedarville. General Ewell, with Trimble's brigade, the First Maryland Regiment, and the batteries of Brockenbrough and Courtney, had instructions to move toward Winchester. Ashby was directed to keep scouts on his left to prevent Banks from passing unobserved by Front Royal. Brigadier General George H. Steuart, who was now temporarily in command of the Second and Sixth Virginia Cavalry, had been previously dispatched to Newtown, a point farther north and 9 miles from Winchester, with instructions to observe the movements of the enemy at that point. He there succeeded in capturing some prisoners and several wagons and ambulances, with arms and medical stores. He also advised me of movements which indicated that Banks was preparing to leave Strasburg.
I accompanied the movement of the main body of the army to Middletown. Upon arriving there we found the Valley turnpike crowded with the retreating Federal cavalry, upon which the batteries of Poague and Chew, with Taylor's infantry, promptly opened, and in a few moments the turnpike, which had just before teemed with life, presented a most appalling spectacle of carnage and destruction. The road was literally obstructed with the mingled and confused mass of struggling and dying horses and riders. The Federal column was pierced, but what proportion of its strength had passed north toward Winchester I had then no means of knowing. Among the surviving cavalry the wildest confusion ensued, and they scattered in disorder in various directions, leaving, however, some 200 prisoners, with their equipments, in our hands. A train of wagons was seen disappearing in the distance toward Winchester, and Ashby, with his cavalry, some artillery, and a supporting infantry force from Taylor's brigade, was sent in pursuit.
But a few moments elapsed before the Federal artillery, which had been cut off with the rear of the column, opened upon us with the evident intention of cutting its way through to Winchester. Our batteries