Foreign and Colonial IntelligenceThe Illustrated London News, vol. 45, no. 1281, p. 350-351.
October 8, 1864
We have details of the action fought in the Shenandoah Valley between the Federals under General Sheridan and the Confederates under General Early. The following despatch is from General Sheridan himself, dated the 20th ult., the day after the battle:--
General,--We fought early from daylight till between six and seven o'clock p.m. We drove him from Opequan Creek, through Winchester, and beyond the town. We captured 2500 to 3000 prisoners, five pieces of artillery, nine battle-flags, and all the rebel wounded and dead. Their wounded in Winchester amount to some 3000. We lost, in killed, General David Russell, commanding a division of the 6th Army Corps, and in wounded, Generals Chapman, M'Intosh, and Upton. The rebels lost in killed the following general officers--General Rhodes, General Wharton, General Gordon, and General Ramseur. We have just seen them whirling through Winchester, and we are after them to-morrow. This army behaved splendidly.P. H. Sheridan, Major-General Commanding.
P.S. I am sending forward all the medical supplies, subsistence stores, and ambulances.
A correspondent of a New York journal gives the following outline of this important incident of the war:--
The Federal General formed his infantry forces in four lines of battle, about 300 yards apart, and, everything being in readiness, the advance was sounded about twelve o'clock. The corps advanced in splendid style, and just as composedly as though marching at a review or on parade, drums beating and colours flying. The first line had not advanced more than 200 yards before it became warmly engaged with the enemy, who were posted in line about 600 yards distant. At the same time our artillery opened a furious cannonade, throwing shells and solid shot into the opposite woods, where the enemy could be distinctly seen moving up reinforcements, Our different lines of battle continued to advance steadily until within nearly 200 yards of the enemy's line, when the rebels opened a furious cannonade with grape and canister from two batteries which they had previously kept secreted, and which ploughed through our advancing lines, mowing down large numbers of our men. The first line was obliged to give way under so murderous a fire, and in retreating behind the second line, threw it into momentary confusion, and it also was obliged to fall back behind the third line, which had in the mean time been ordered to lie down, in order to avoid as much as possible the effects of the withering fire from the enemy's batteries. The artillery was now brought up and posted in commanding positions to silence those batteries of the enemy which had caused us so much annoyance, and our line was re-formed and again moved forward, regaining the advanced position. Precisely at three o'clock General Crook formed his division, rode along the lines, and was received with most vociferous cheering, the men promising to go in and wipe out Winchester. General Sheridan, after a consultation as to the part the cavalry were to take, ordered a final charge along the whole line, which was made with an impetuosity which nothing could resist. Our line, extending nearly three miles in length, advanced amid cheers and yells which could be distinctly heard far above the noise caused by the thunder of the artillery and continuous roar of musketry, which, for its impetuosity, has seldom been exceeded in any battle of this war. As our lines advanced closer and closer to those of the enemy the battle became more and more fierce, until, in point of desperate and fierce carnage, it will compare favourably with any similar contest of the war. The slaughter was truly awful. At every discharge men could be distinctly seen dropping all around, and the two contending lines at some points could not have been over 200 yards apart. Just at this critical period, above the roar of artillery, musketry, and cheers, and the fierce yells of the contending armies, could be heard the shrill notes of the cavalry bugle, sounding the charge which was the death-knell to Early's army. There could be seen the gallant Custer and Merritt, each with head-quarters flag in hand, and conspicuous among the advancing squadrons, gallantly leading the charge which, in connection with the desperate charge of our infantry, secured us the victory. The stubborn columns of Early 's command were forced to give way and break before the fierce onslaught which our cavalry made upon them, who, with sabre in hand, rode them down, cutting them right and left, capturing 721 privates and non-commissioned officers, with nine battle-flags and two guns. The broken and disorganised divisions comprising Early's command now fled in confusion, throwing away everything which could in any way impede their flight and strewing the ground with their arms. Some made for the heights of Winchester, but they were speedily dislodged by Averill, and forced to beat a hasty and ignominious retreat up the valley, where such of Early's command as are left him are now scattered.
The President has appointed General Sheridan a Brigadier-General in the regular army, and assigned him to the prominent command of the Middle Military Division.
General Grant ordered the army under his command to fire a salute of 100 guns in honour of Sheridan's victory.
A correspondent from General Sherman's army says that the Whitworth rifle in use by the Southern skirmishers and sharpshooters is a weapon greatly to be feared, as persons nearly a mile and a half from the Confederate skirmish line have been wounded when they thought themselves safe from anything except solid shot and shell. One soldier was standing upon a log crossing a creek, about one mile and a quarter from the nearest Confederate line of rifle-pits, and a comrade was talking with him, when one of these fatal messengers came crashing through both thighs, and with this mortal wound he sank into the water. An officer, speaking of it, says--"They break the bone of a man's limb like a solid shot from a cannon." Deserters say that each division of the Confederate front is furnished with about fifty of these rifles, which are used in their skirmish line.
The M'Clellan ratification meetings at New York, Washington, and throughout the North, have been great successes. Great enthusiasm was manifested.