War of the Rebellion: Serial 090 Page 0046 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter LV.

Search Civil War Official Records

toward Berryville, with Kershaw's division in advance; but this division, not expecting infantry, blundered onto Crook's lines about dark, and was vigorously attacked and driven, with heavy loss, back toward the Opequon. This engagement, which was after night-fall, was very spirited, and our own and the enemy's casualties severe. From this time until the 19th of September I occupied the line from Clifton to Berryville, transferring Crook to Summit Point on the 8th to use him as a movable column to protect my right flank and line to Harper's Ferry, while the cavalry threatened the enemy's right flank and his line of communications up the Valley. The difference of strength between the two opposing forces at this time was but little. As I had learned beyond doubt from my scouts that Kershaw's division, which consisted of four brigades, was to be ordered back to Richmond, I had for two weeks patiently awaited its withdrawal before attacking, believing the condition of affairs throughout the country required great prudence on my part, that a defeat of the forces of my command could be ill afforded, and knowing that no interests in the Valley, save those of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, were suffering by the delay. In this view I was coinciding with the lieutenant-general commanding.

Although the main force remained without change of position from September 3 to 19, still the cavalry was employed every day in harassing the enemy, its opponents being principally infantry. In these skirmishers the cavalry was becoming educated to attack infantry lines. On the 13th one of these handsome dashes was made by General McIntosh, of Wilson's division, capturing the Eighth South Carolina Regiment at Abraham's Creek. On the same day Getty's division, of the Sixth Corps, made a reconnaissance to the Opequon, developing a heavy force of the enemy at Edwards' [Gilbert's?] Crossing. The position which I had taken at Clifton was six miles from Opequon Creek, on the west bank of which the enemy was in position. This distance of six miles I determined to hold as my territory by scouting parties, and in holding it in this way, without pushing up the main force, I expected to be able to move on the enemy at the proper time without his obtaining the information, which he would immediately get from his pickets if I was in close proximity. On the night of the 15th I received reliable information that Kershaw's division was moving through Winchester and in the direction of Front Royal. Then our time had come, and I almost made up my mind that I would fight at Newtown, on the Valley pike, give up my line to the rear, and take that of the enemy. From my position at Clifton I could throw my force into Newtown before Early could get information and move to that point. I was a little timid about this movement until the arrival of General Averell on the afternoon of the 18th of September, that Early had moved two divisions to Martinsburg, I changed this programme and determined to first catch the two divisions, remaining in vicinity of Stephenson's Depot, and then the two sent to Martinsburg in detail. This information was the Cause of the battle of Opequon, instead of the battle of Newtown.

At 3 o'clock on the morning of the 19th of September the army moved to the attack. Torbert was directed to advance with Merritt's division of cavalry from Summit Point, carry the crossings of Opequon Creek, and form a junction, at some point near Stephenson's Depot, with Averell, who moved from Darkesville. Wilson was ordered to move rapidly up the Berryville. Wilson was ordered to move rapidly up the Berryville pike from Berryville, carry its crossing of the Opequon, and charge through the gorge or canon; the attack to be