The Battle of Cedar Creek - Sherman drives Confederate fro...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionThe Battle of Cedar Creek - Sherman drives Confederate from the Shenandoah Valley: Letter written by Charles M. Figgatt, 1st Va. Cavalry.
In this eight-page letter Charles Figgatt writes home to his wife in Fincastle, Va.
Charles was a member of one of the most famous Confederate Cavalry Units and served as General Jackson's and later General Early's Head Quarters Clerk.
The letter is headed "New Market, Hd. Qrs. V. D. (Valley District) Oct. 21st, 1864." Reads in part:
"No doubt you will have heard before this reaches you of another serious disaster to our arms here, this time it was terrible, not so much in loss of men, but of material and morale, and what is worse without any cause whatever and was certainly the most shameful and disgraceful thing that ever happened to any set of cowardly men."
"On the night of the 18th (Oct. /64) all things being in readiness, the whole Army moved early to take position so that at dawn next morning they might make a simultaneous attack on the enemy's flanks."
"All moved off in the best of spirits and ready for anything, the plan of attack being as it proved perfect and understood by each commander, who for the first time had been called in consultation, and as ordered at the same time, as if it had been clock work."
"Every part of the Army had reached its appointed place, and the guns opened all round the enemy, and with a yell and one volley of musketry, & only receiving one discharge of artillery from them, they were surprised, their works carried and 20 or more pieces of artillery with thousands of small arms, and some 1500 prisoners, with the camps of two Corps, fell into our hands."
"Nothing could have been better planned or more splendidly executed than was this whole move, and reflects great credit upon General Early and his Div. commanders."
"Just as the first guns opened, General Early in an humble tone, remarked as he knew that in the next five minutes he would know the fate of his Army, that he "could pray as Jackson prayed, and ask God's blessing," but without his prayers that God who he dishonors in those few minutes gave him a victory than besides there has been nothing more brilliant during this or probably any other war."
"Had the day ended here, the country's heart would have been gladdened with a victory unsurpassed, for there was much gained and our loss comparatively nothing."
"The enemy were pressed back three or 4 miles to beyond Middletown where they met the 6th Corps, which had not been engaged and they made a stand. Our troops had to some extent become scattered and some gone to plundering the camps, which had been deserted just as the men went to bed. Some were leaving their shoes, and of course, the camps were rich in everything and were a great temptation, but I do not think our men were enough scattered to cause a halt, and if pursuit had been kept up, the enemy would not have been able to save anything and our success would have complete, and would have camped that night in Winchester."
"But O how uncertain is everything in war. Everything and everybody was cheerful, and General Early seemed so much delighted, in that he had accomplished something which would have given back as much and more than we had lost, and Sheridan's Army would have been broken up."
"But here was the fault I think, and it is the general impression that our Army should have pressed on and thus prevented the enemy from forming and thus saving himself, but for five hours we remained comparatively quiet, and about 4 o'clock they made an advance, but not in much force, most think for the purpose of feeling our lines and to enable them to save their trains and withdraw from being pursued."
"Anyway as they came the most of our men who no doubt out numbered them, fought and steadily resisted for sometime, but at length Gordon's Div. without cause gave way and all efforts to rally were in vain, and soon other portions gave way, and finally all fell back in disorder, and though not pressed by the enemy and not even followed to the creek by the infantry, and only a few Cavalry, they became utterly and shamefully disorganized and everything became a complete rout, and as there was a narrow bridge to pass, every wheeled thing got into a jam, and we lost not only the artillery which had been captured, but 23 pieces besides and 75 ambulances, and as many wagons, all being medical & ordnance, and all this done by a handful of Cavalry, who had the boldness to come this far and who could have been whipped back by 20 men, but actually the whole Army was so shamefully demoralized that not one man could be found to fire upon them and thus save the train - a shame, everlasting disgrace."
"Well, it is all done, and as it cannot be helped now, it is useless to murmur or criminate, but it is enough to and it does make me heart sick to think of that day, at first so bright, and for which with an humble heart I must, having prayed and continued to pray, I thanked God for it, and afterwards, to know that without cause that which would have been so much benefit to the country was thrown away, and we shamefully to take up our march to this place, where without being of any benefit to the country, we must wait and try to reorganize our shattered Army, and really I begin to fear that it cannot be again be depended upon, unless in an attack, after we shall have reorganized & gotten some officers appointed to fill the vacancies, of which there are many, and this is the main fault, as there is no discipline here."
"Our loss we have not yet ascertained and cannot as the men are much scattered & have not yet reached their camp. We had 6 or 800 killed and wounded, I judge & not many prisoners. The enemy's loss was terrible as we drove them from their beds, some being wounded in bed & captured and turned their guns on them as they saw, and their loss is estimated at not less than 5,000, their killed being very many indeed, more than usual for the amount of fighting."
"...I could not help shuddering at the thought of death in the way we see some die or situated when wounded and feel glad that if it shall be my fate, that you will not know how awful and shocking are these scenes of dear ones giving up life, with none to care or shed a tear or offer comfort or prayer for them."
"O that God may spare you this sad blow and give you back the loved one, but if not, prepare O our Father, you and me for separation and for thy judgment bar and save us together with the little darling and all dear to us in that home where no sorrow is."
"I cannot see how they will get along here with an inexperienced A.A.G. & now new clerks, for I have been here over two years and don't know now as much as I should to be efficient, and have something to learn every day, and I pity the concern when all new hands get at it."
"Gen. E. may have us to remain for a time, but no telling. We may have to go in a few days; if so, I will try & get leave to run home to get some clothes and fix for the camp, but even of this I am not certain as the men are needed now, and I am willing to do anything that will advance the interest of the cause, and will commit soul and body into the hands of Him who knoweth what is well for us, knowing that if in Him is our trust, no harm can come to us, tho the body may fall, the soul shall be with Him in glory, and to this end I pray for grace and faith that I may be accepted with Him and be counted worthy through Christ our blessed Redeemer, Amen."
Condition is fine with normal toning, a very desirable and descriptive Confederate letter. From the Calvin Packard Civil War Battlefield Letter Collection
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