over Christian's Creek, between Staunton and Waynesborough, to prevent his getting re-enforcements by rail, or, in case he would not stand, to prevent him carrying off supplies and ordnance stores; the bridge was burned, but General Early, learning of our approach, made a hasty retreat to Waynesborough, leaving word in Staunton that he intended to fight at that place.
The next morning we entered Staunton. The question then arose in my mind whether I should pursue my course on to Lynchburg, leaving General Early in my rear, or go out and fight him with my cavalry against his infantry and what cavalry he could collect, defeat him, and open a way through Rockfish Gap, and have everything in my own hands for the accomplishment of that portion of my instructions which directed the destruction of the Central Railroad and James River Canal. I decided upon the latter course, and General Custer's division (Third), composed of Colonel Wells', Pennington's, and Capehart's brigades, was directed to take up the pursuit, followed closely by General Devin's division, composed of General Gibbs' and Colonels Fitzhugh's and Stagg's brigades. The rain had been pouring in torrents for two days, and the roads were bad beyond description; nevertheless, the men pushed boldly on, although horses and men could scarcely be recognized for the mud which covered them.
General Custer found General Early as he had promised, at Waynesborough, in a well chosen position, with two brigades of infantry and some cavalry under General Rosser, the infantry occupying breast-works. Custer, without waiting for the enemy to get up his courage over the delay of a careful reconnaissance, made his dispositions for attack at once, sending three regiments around the left flank of the enemy, which was somewhat exposed by being advanced from, instead of resting upon, the bank of the river in his immediate rear. He, with the other two brigade, partly mounted and partly dismounted, at a given signal boldly attacked and impetuously carried the enemy's works, while the Eighth New York and the First Connecticut Cavalry, which were formed in column of fours, charged over the breast-works, and continued the charge through the little town of Waynesborough, sobering a few men as they went along, and did not stop until they had crossed the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, which was immediately in General Early's rear, where they formed as foragers, and with drawn sabers held the east bank of the stream. The enemy threw down their arms and surrendered, with cheers at the suddenness with which they were captured.
The general officers present at this engagement were General Early, Long, Wharton, Lilley, and Rosser, and it has always been a wonder to me how they escaped, unless they hid in obscure places in the houses of the town.
Colonel Capehart, with his brigade, continued the pursuit of the enemy's train, which was stretched for miles over the mountains, and the other two brigades pushed rapidly after him, with orders to encamp on the east side of the Blue Ridge.
The substantial results of this brilliant fight were 11 pieces of artillery, with horses and caissons complete; about 200 wagons and teams, all loaded with subsistence, camp and garrison equipage, ammunition, and officer's baggage; 17 battle-flags, and 1,600 officers and enlisted men. The results, in a military point of view, were very great, as the crossing of the Blue Ridge, covered with snow as it was, at any other point would have been difficult.