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[18] into the Valley of Virginia, meeting at Winchester: one passing through Frederick, and crossing the Potomac at Harper's Ferry; the other leading through Chambersburg, Williamsport (where it crosses the Potomac), and Martinsburg. These roads are met at Winchester by the principal one from Northwestern Virginia into “the Valley,” and also by a good and direct one from Manassas Junction, through Ashby's Gap, which, east of the Blue Ridge, had the advantage of easy communication with the Manassas Gap Railroad. This road is, perhaps, little shorter than that from Manassas Junction to Harper's Ferry; but there were insuperable objections to the latter. Near Harper's Ferry it follows the course of the Potomac, and could be completely swept by artillery on the north bank of the river, so that it might have been closed to us by a few Federal batteries; and, even if our troops following it escaped that danger, they might have been intercepted near Centreville by the Federal army.

The United States had, at that time, three armies threatening Virginia. The principal one at Washington, commanded by Major-General McDowell; the second at Chambersburg, under Major-General Patterson's command; and the third in Northwestern Virginia, under that of Major-General MoClellan.

We supposed that these armies would cooperate with each other, and that the Federal general-in-chief would direct their combined forces against Richmond. This supposition was partially sustained by our scouts and friends in Maryland, who reported that the armies of Generals Patterson and McClellan

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