been forced to retreat by General McClellan
, and had then met defeat and death at Carrick's ford, on Cheat river
, July 13th.
This gave the Federals
the control of the greater part of Virginia
, west of the Alleghenies
, and the subsequent efforts of Generals Floyd
, and still later, of General Lee
, availed only to prevent further encroachments of the enemy — not to regain the lost territory.
When, therefore, General Jackson
assumed command of the Valley of Virginia
, the enemy had possession of all the State
north of the Great Kanawha
, and west of the Alleghenies
, and had pushed their outposts into that mountain region itself, and in some cases eastward of the main range.
Thus General Kelly
had captured Romney
, the county-seat of Hampshire county
, forty miles west of Winchester
, and now occupied it with a force of five thousand men. This movement gave the Federals
control of the fertile valley of the south branch of the Potomac
Another, though much smaller force, occupied Bath
, the county-seat of Morgan county
, forty miles due north of Winchester
, while the north bank of the Potomac
was everywhere guarded by Union troops.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was open and available for the supply of the Federal
troops from Baltimore
to Harper's Ferry
, and again from a point opposite (Hancock
The section of about forty miles from Harper's Ferry
, lying for the most part some distance within the Virginia
border, had been interrupted and rendered useless by the Confederates
, but this gap was now supplied by the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
, which was open all the way from Cumberland, Maryland
, to Georgetown
, in the District of Columbia.
The plan of operations that Jackson
had conceived for regaining West Virginia
was to move along the Baltimore Railroad and the turnpikes parallel to it, and thus enter West Virginia
at the northeastern end. In this way he could turn the left flank of the enemy's forces, place himself on their communications and force them to evacuate, or fight under circumstances of his own selection.
Having seen how his predecessors had been hampered, in trying to operate from Staunton
westward, by the difficult and inaccessible nature of the country, composed almost entirely of mountains destitute of supplies, and penetrated by nothing but indifferent wagon roads, he was anxious to try a mode of approach, which, if more exposed to the enemy, had the advantage of being easier, by lying through a much more populous and cultivated region, of affording to some extent the use of a railroad for supplies, and which would soon place him in the midst of some of the most fertile parts of West Virginia
In order to carry out this scheme, he asked for his old brigade, which