Numbers 83. Report of Major General Robert E. Rodes, C. S. Army, of engagement at Stephenson's Dept.
Stephenson's Depot, September 12, 1864.
MY DEAR GENERAL: From what I can gather from all sources I am afraid that officers at Richmond, and the Department officers especially, and perhaps you, have taken an incorrect view of Ramseur's affair at Winchester last July. The facts are these, as can be sustained by ample testimony. Ramseur went out to chastise and drive off a small force which Vaughn had reported as one regiment of infantry and one of cavalry (this Ramseur is prepared to sustain by testimony, notwithstanding Vaughn's statements to the contrary). He thought at first he would take only a portion of his command, but concluded to take all as a measure of perfect safety. He formed his army with two brigades in the front line, skirmishers out-brigades deployed; behind this line Pegram's line was deployed. The enemy advanced upon him suddenly, was repulsed by Johnston,and at first by Hoke's brigade; but Ramseur's left being overlapped by Averell, Hoke's two left regiments broke and ran, behaving very badly, as General Lewis himself said. Ramseur was on the right, or near Johnston's brigade; thought everything was going on finely until he saw this panic on the left. He immediately endeavored to restore the line by advancing Pegram's brigade, but it being embarrassed by Hoke's panic-stricken men, became so itself; broke and fled, as did the balance of Hoke's brigade, and finally Johnson's. Now, sir, this result would not occur one time in a hundred with these same troops under the same circumstances, and ought never to have occurred with old troops at all. Ramseur acted most heroically, as usual exposed himself recklessly, but could do nothing with the men; they were under the influence of panic. I do not hesitate to record my belief that the cause of the disaster was the conduct of the men, and the prime cause was the breaking of the two left regiments of Hoke's brigade. Of course if Ramseur had put Pegram's brigade in the front line the disaster might have been averted, but who knows. But would any officer who was under an impression conveyed by General Vaughan, commanding outposts, as to the amount of force in his front, such as that of which Ramseur was possessed, have deployed more? Would he have kept nothing in reserve? Is a battle lost finally because your enemy outflanks you? With their superior opportunities, and urged by a natural desire to shirk the responsibility of this disaster, and the less laudable one inspired by their dislike of Ramseur, to throw the blame upon Ramseur, the men and main officers concerned have succeeded in winning public opinion to their side, and have very nearly ruined Ramseur. He of course is perfectly powerless. He degrades himself to a newspaper controversy, or is driven to ask that when a suitable time comes, a court of inquiry may be called. In the mean time his reputation is ruined, and he is deprived of his permanent promotion. My statements are, I am aware, in conflict with the popular and general version of the occurrences of that day; but they embody in substance the main facts of the case. I feel that it is due Ramseur was my friend, and as an admirable officer, that I should make some effort
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