Rebel Account of the Battle of Cedar Creek -- A Victory Spoiled by a Defeat -- The Capture of Rebel Guns -- Condition of the Valley -- Longstreet Again in the Field.
The following extracts are from Richmond papers of Saturday last:
[From the Richmond Enquirer, Oct. 22.]
The Battle of Cedar Creek
A remarkable battle has been fought in the Shenandoah Valley. On Wednesday morning, at an early hour, our army attacked the Eighth and Nineteenth Army Corps of the enemy, on Cedar Creek, about three miles out from Strasburg, carried their positions by storm, inflicted heavy loss in killed and wounded, captured thirteen hundred prisoners, eighteen pieces of artillery, all their camp equipage, wagons, &c.;, and drove the remnants of the two demoralized commands to Middletown, about two miles beyond. Here the Sixth Corps of the enemy was entrenched, and Early determined to complete, if possible, his victorious work now that the tide of battle seemed turned in his favor. Such glorious results of the complete and unequivocal defeat of the main body of the enemy, and the capture, literally, of almost everything they had, might well have been dazzling, after the season of defeat in which our arms had well nigh begun to droop. But there is work in a victory, and in this it was crowded heavily upon the energies of our men to render the first triumph of the day quite decisive.
When our troops came before the breastworks of the enemy, near Middletown, they went forward with all the eagerness and enthusiasm with which it is possible for victory to inspire man; but they had done enough for the day; enough physically and morally, but neither they nor their officers knew it, and however much they may have been inspired by their triumph they lacked, unfortunately, the inspiration that would warn them to go no farther. They charged the enemy's works, but were repulsed. Nothing daunted, they charged again, but were once more turned back. A third time they went full tilt against the foe, and again they were repelled. They began to find out, too late, that they had been carried too far; it was evidently impossible for their jaded columns to push through that fresh and unexcited line. And when they withdrew, it was with that sort of despair that makes the heart sick. The enemy made a demonstration in pursuit, and they retreated from the field they had so gloriously won. The enemy's cavalry alone pursued over Cedar Creek, their infantry remaining behind.
All of the camp equipage captured on the creek in the morning was retaken by the enemy, and at Strasburg, the captured artillery becoming, by the demoralization of the drivers, mixed up in the street with some ten or twelve pieces of our own, the whole of it was abandoned. The prisoners we had taken, the most useless and unacceptable of our captures, were alone left to us as trophies of the morning. By night our army was in New Market, worn with fatigue, and perplexed and mortified with the results of the day's operations, but growing cheerful by degrees, and sanguine of "better luck the next time."
Our loss in men was not heavy. In this respect there is some consolation in knowing that the enemy suffered by far the heavier. -- In the morning's operations the slaughter of the enemy is represented as having been very great.
Another Account of Early's Defeat
[From the Richmond Examiner, Oct. 22]
Yesterday morning it was rumored that the cannonading which occurred the previous evening along the whole length of Grant's lines was nothing more than a shotted salute in honor of another victory of Sheridan over Early. The rumor grew as the day advanced, and by noon assumed startling proportions. It was stated that a well-known citizen who happened to be in Fort Gilmor when the cannonading commenced, had reached the city with the following statement: That when the firing was at its height Gen. Lee rode in haste to Fort Gilmor, dismounted and ascended the parapet, (a very unwise thing for Gen. Lee to do, and very unlike him,) to discover, if possible, the meaning of a bombardment so sudden and unheralded. He could make nothing of it. When the cannonading ceased and the pickets of the opposing armies resumed their accustomed colloquies, Grant's pickets stated, in substance, that Sheridan had whipped Early, and taken all his cannon, some thirty pieces.
Such was the story on the streets. The authorities professed to have no information whatever on the subject, and the firing on Grant's lines was attributed to the opening of batteries which enfiladed our works in front of Fort Harrison. Still the rumor grew and gained credence by expression, until at last the evidence from many sources was too strong to admit a doubt that Grant's pickets had told the truth, in part, at least. Early had been defeated, but the disaster is not so great as the public, unenlightened by correct information from proper sources, has been led to believe.
It appears, from all that we can gather, that on Wednesday morning Early attacked Sheridan, drove him two or three miles to a second and stronger line of works, which we assaulted, and would have carried, had not the enemy's well-trained and superior force of cavalry again repeated one of those flank movements from which we have already suffered so much. Early was compelled to retire, with the loss of most of his artillery and artillery horses, but with comparatively small loss of prisoners. He fell back to Fishers Hill, it is said, in good order; but there is little hope of his holding it if it be true that the position is in itself so untenable that Jackson always avoided it, and all his artillery is gone.
One scout represents that Early, previous to the flank movement of the enemy's cavalry, captured eighteen guns, but subsequently lost these and twelve additional pieces. It is also said that he captured twelve hundred prisoners.
Early's Defeat in the Valley
[From the Richmond Enquirer]
What humiliation has attended our cause in that Valley made gloriously historical by the lamented Jackson! From Lynchburg to Harper's Ferry, from the Ridge to the Alleghanies, where victory, and honor and glory once shed their charming blessings over our cause, there now hangs the gloomy cloud of defeat, disgrace and demoralization. It is often said, with a sigh, "The news from the Valley is not so bad as we expected." What was expected that could have been worse than the shameful defeat into which a victory was turned, not by the generalship of Sheridan, not by the valor of his infantry, not by the charge of his cavalry, but by the unaccountable but not less shameful and disgraceful panic of our own troops.
The well known bravery of these troops forbids the suspicion that fear caused this disgraceful flight and abandonment of artillery. Such a supposition is refuted by the fact that they had but a few hours before won a great and splendid victory. It will not do to say that the cavalry gave way, for all accounts agree that the infantry abandoned the artillery. What caused this panic? Our men went into action well enough; they fought bravely and gallantly; victory attended their efforts and encouraged them to push on; all went well, because the enemy was flying before them. But the moment they saw a new disposition on the part of the foe, the first check received, they halted, hesitated, turned, fled; from a victorious army, in the twinkling of an eye, they were routed, demoralized.
There is no propriety in making excuses and plastering over with soft and honeyed phrases this most infamous defeat. To say that our men lost their victory by stopping to plunder the captured camp, is an excuse more disgraceful than the defeat.
After four years of war the discipline that cannot prevent plundering stragglers from throwing away the gathered fruits of a hard fought battle, is criminally defective. The officers that cannot restrain their men from plundering and keep them in the ranks are not fit to command.
A change of commanders is demanded in the Valley. General Early has done the best he could, we have no doubt, but his mode of fighting is too expensive, in artillery at least. A friend, writing of the grand cavalry fight in the Valley, speaks of it as a fight wherein there were less men killed than there were pieces of artillery taken by the enemy. [The Enquirer goes on to urge that General Joe Johnston be put in command in the Valley.]
Longstreet in the Field Again
The Richmond Enquirer says:
It has been known for some days past that Lieut. Gen. Longstreet has returned to Virginia, after absence of some months in the south, whither he had repaired to recruit his health and favor the convalescence of his wound, received near Fredericksburg in May last. The soldiers of his old command will gladly welcome him back among them, and the country will be rejoiced to learn that he is once more in the field again. [Here the Enquirer inserts the general order of Lieut. General Anderson, taking leave of the First Army Corps of Northern Virginia, and the general order of Lieut. Gen. Longstreet on again assuming command.]