Early on Thursday morning, 4th instant, we proceeded cautiously in the direction of Winchester, through Ash Hollow, having heavy bodies of flankers on each side of the dense pine woods surrounding it. Detached parties of the enemy's cavalry posted in it, in fear of being captured, fled precipitately to Winchester. My whole force having gained the rising grounds immediately east of the city, I ordered the parking of wagons and ambulances and the infantry and artillery into order of battle.
A number of persons at this place came to our lines to inform us they had heard that the infantry and artillery of the enemy had evacuated the city on the previous night; but, deeming the information unreliable, I held them as hostages, and sent the following message under flag of truce, borne by Dr. A. M. Ball, medical director of the division, accompanied by Captain R. C. Shannon, assistant adjutant-general of the place:
To the Hon. Mayor or officer of the city of Winchester:
SIR: I am credibly informed by a large number of citizens that your city has been recently evacuated by the military. Unwilling to shed blood or destroy property unnecessarily, I demand an instant and unconditional surrender of the city, pledging you, however, that the persons of non-combatants and private property shall be duly respected. If you decline to accept these terms, I will immediately move upon the city in full force.
I have the honor to be, respectfully,
JNO. W. GEARY.
To this I received the following response from Major Myers, of the Seventh Virginia Calvary, who, with other rebel officers, met the flag:
NEAR WINCHESTER, VA., December 4, 1862.
Commanding Federal Forces:
GENERAL: The city of Winchester will be evacuated in an hour's time by the military forces under my command, which time I would request for you to be pleased to observe, to give non-combatants desirous of leaving the town an opportunity to do so.
I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,
SAML. B. MYERS,
Major Seventh Virginia Cavalry.
I peremptorily refused the demand of an hour's time for non-combatants to depart. Our infantry deployed, and the whole line, with artillery in position, advanced, encircling the town on the north and east, and occupying without resistance the forts on the north of the city, constructed by General White, having taken advantage of the inequalities of the ground, until within about half a mile of the city, where I ascertained a large number of small-pox cases were in the city hospitals, and determining to preclude any possibility of contagion, I occupied the fortifications already alluded to. Immediately after taking possession of these, a body of cavalry was perceived by an active cannonading from our position. The flag again returned, bearing a note from the mayor of the city, embodying an unconditional surrender, and of which the following is a transcript:
WINCHESTER, VA., December 4, 1862.
The military have all withdrawn from the town, and no resistance will be made, upon your assurance of protection to persons and property of the town.
I have the honor to be,
J. B. T. REED,
Mayor of Winchester, Va.
3 R R-VOL XXI