The command consisted of the First and Third Divisions of Cavalry of the Army of the Shenandoah, under the immediate command of Bvt. Major General Wesley Merritt - Bvt. Major General George A. Custer, commanding Third Division, and Brigadier General T. C. Devin the First, The following was thee effective force:
Effective force First and Third Cavalry Divisions, Army of the Shenandoah, February 28, 1865, Major General Wesley Merritt, Chief of Cavalry.
Officers. Men. Total.
First Cavalry Division, 260 4,787 5,047
Brigadier General T.
C. Devin commanding
One section Companies C 2 52 54
and E, Fourth U. S.
Third Cavalry Division, 240 4,600 4,840
Bvt. Major General G.
A. Custer commanding
One section Company M, 1 45 46
Second U. S. Artillery
Total 503 9,484 9,987
On the morning of February 27, 1865, we marched from Winchester up the Valley pike, with five days' rations in haversacks, and fifteen days' rations of coffee, sugar, and salt in wagons, thirty pounds of forage on each horse, one wagon for division headquarters, eight ambulances, and our ammunition train; no other wagons, except a pontoon train of eight boats, were permitted to accompany the command.
My orders were to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad, the James River Canal, capture Lynchburg if practicable, and then join Major-General Sherman wherever he might be found in North Carolina, or return to Winchester; but in joining General Sherman I must be governed by the position of affairs after the capture of Lynchburg.
The command was in fine condition, but the weather was very bad, as the spring thaw, with heavy rains, had already come on. The valley and surrounding mountains were covered with snow which was fast disappearing, putting all the streams nearly past fording.
On our first day's march we crossed Cedar Creek, Tumbling Run, and Tom's Brook, and went into camp at Woodstock, having marched thirty miles.
At 6 o'clock on the morning of the 28th instant the march was resumed through Edenburg, across the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, and through New Market, going into camp at Lacey's Spring, nine miles north of Harrisonburg; the crossing of the North Fork of the Shenandoah was by a pontoon bridge.
Small bands of guerrillas hovered on our flanks during the day, but no effort was made to drive them off, and no damage was done by them; distance marched, twenty-nine miles.
The march was resumed at 6 o'clock on the morning of the 29th [March 1], through Harrisonburg and Mount Crawford, and camp pitched on Middle River at Cline's Mills. Guerrillas hovered around us during the march, and at Mount Crawford General Rosser, with 200 or 300 cavalry, attempted to burn the bridge over the Middle Fork of the Shenandoah, but did not succeed; two of Capehart's regiments swam the river above the bridge, charged Rosser and routed him, driving him rapidly to Cline's Mills, the advance pushing almost to Staunton; but few of the enemy were killed, 30 taken prisoners, and 20 ambulances and wagons, with their contents, were captured and destroyed; our loss was 5 men wounded. Cline's Mills are seven miles from Staunton, where the headquarters of General Early were said to be. Not knowing but that he would fight at Staunton, Colonel Stagg's brigade, of General Devin's division, was ordered to destroy the railroad bridge