stages looked anything but favorable for our success and occasioned a fear of defeat to many a brave hearted soldier, resulted through the admirable courage of our troops, the bravery and good conduct of their officers,a nd the persistence of the commander of the army, in a complete victory.
It may be proper that I should say something in the way of explanation of the causes of the comparatively easy success of the enemy in the early part of the action. To the professional soldier it will be a subject of interest, even if it is lost to others, now that the war is over and this battle is partially forgotten with the many other as hard fought fields, yet in justice to those engaged it may be well to explain some points of which many are of course ignorant. I have already referred to the reported result of the reconnaissance of the preceding day, which was to the effect that the enemy had retreated up the valley. That this was not true is now well known, but how the mistake was made is not easily explained. Probably the force had not advanced so far as it supposed, and had not really reached the enemy's lines, which were some miles in advance of ours. However this may be, I have no question that the belief in the retreat of the enemy was generally entertained throughout the reconnoitering force. Again this force, which, as before remarked, was from the Army of West Virginia, returned to camp through this own lines and must have made known to the troops its received belief in the enemy's retreat. Now it happens that the advance of the enemy was made upon this part of the line. The surprise was complete, for the pickets did not fire a shot, and the first indication of the enemy's presence was a volley into the main line where the men of a part of the regiments were at reveille roll-call without arms. As the entire picket-line over that part crossed by the enemy was captured without a shot being fired, no explanation could be obtained from any of the men composing it, but it is fair to suppose that they were lulled into an unusual security by the report of the previous evening that the enemy had fallen back and that there was consequently no danger to be apprehended. This supposition seems to me likely enough. it certainly goes far toward explaining how an enemy in force passed and captured a strong and well connected picket-line of old soldiers without occasioning alarm, and gave as a first warning of its presence a volley of musketry into the main line of unarmed soldiers. It was reported in camp that he first relieved a part of our lines by his own men dressed in our uniform, but i have never been able to confirm this rumor.
The proceedings up to this point were bad enough for us, as it gave the enemy, almost without a struggle, the entire left of our line with considerable artillery, not a gun of which had fire a shot. But the reserve of this line was posted a considerable distance in its rear, where it could be made available as a movable force, and was well situated to operate upon any force attempting to turn our left. it was in no way involved in the disaster of the first line, which was after all, but a small part of our whole force, being only one weak division, and its loss was in no wise to be taken as deciding the fate of the day. With the other troops brought up, this supporting division was in good position to offer troops brought up, this supporting division was in good position to offer sturdy battle, with every prospect of repulsing the enemy, and aided, as it soon would have been, by the rest of the force, the chances were largely in our favor. Here the battle should have been fought and won, and long before midday the discomfited enemy should have been driven across Cedar Creek stripped of all the captured of his first attack, but