Early's Defeat in the Valley.

THE SUN Oct. 29, 1864

October 06, 2002

[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.]

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