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[283]

Hitherto our marches had been by easy stages, twenty miles per day, and had taken special care of our horses; but now we were in the enemy's country and the great object of the expedition before us, and our movements must of necessity be rapid. At two o'clock A. M., started for Sweet Springs, in Monroe, where, we arrived at ten o'clock, and halted for two hours for refreshment and to groom our horses. At the Springs captured a large quantity of manufactured tobacco, that was divided amongst the men, furnishing an abundant supply for a long time. Began the ascent of the mountain at noon, and in the gap captured a wagon-load of salt. The day was fine, and from the top of the mountain had a grand view of the mountains far off in Dixie, as well as the Alleghanies in our rear. These mountains correspond with the North-Shenandoah range. After crossing this mountain and the valley, we ascended the Eleven Mile or Peter's Mountain; and in the gap an amusing incident occurred. Our advance captured, not a rebel picket, but a wedding party, bride, groom, preacher, and guests. They, together with the whole country through which we had passed, were taken by surprise; but the scamp of a preacher made his escape in the confusion caused by the tears and distress of the women, who had so unexpectedly become acquainted with the Yankees. We descended the mountain and halted for two hours at Mrs. Scott's tavern, on Barbour's Creek. We started up the valley, and the advance captured a company of Georgia troops, with ninety horses. We then crossed Patt's Mountain, and dashed into New-Castle, the county-seat of Craig. Here we captured a portion of the home guard, with their arms, and without halting kept on for Roanoke. Our march was up the Craig Creek valley, and during the morning captured a rebel patrol party, and a rebel Colonel Chapman, who attempted to escape, and was killed. We also burned another saltpetre works, and after crossing two mountains, at about half-past 10 o'clock reached Salem. After we entered, a train containing a rebel brigade came up the track from Lynchburgh, but three shots from one of our Parrotts caused the engineer to reverse his engine, and, with a snort from the whistle, the train took the back track.

The citizens had been apprised that we were in the country, but had not expected us so soon, and to our utter surprise, both along the road and in the town, we were received with a kind and cordial greeting, and the waving of white handkerchiefs. Now that we had arrived, we were invited to their houses, and treated with kindness and hospitality; and our healthy appearance, our clothing, and especially our boots, as well as our gentlemanly deportment, were all subjects of wonder and admiration.

The destruction on the railroad and depots began immediately; the government buildings and depots were fired, and the Third Virginia and the Fourteenth Pennsylvania were sent out each way to tear up and destroy; and most effectually they did the work; fine bridges were destroyed, and fifteen miles of the road torn up, and the rails heated, water-station and turn-table burned, together with the materials that were on the ground for repairs. This was a heavy blow to the rebels, considering their facilities for repairing a damaged road, and the absolute necessity for keeping open communications with Longstreet.

According to their own accounts, it has taken twelve days to put the road in running order again. We did that work in six hours; while Lee, with his army of seventy-five thousand men, had the control of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for fourteen days, and, after all the damage that was inflicted, the Company repaired the road in four weeks. In addition to the destruction of the railroad, was the immense amount of stores destroyed in the three depots, mill, and warehouse; two thousand barrels flour, ten thousand bushels wheat, one hundred thousand bushels shelled corn, fifty thousand bushels oats, two thousand barrels meat, several cords leather, one thousand sacks salt, thirty-one boxes clothing, twenty bales cotton, a large amount of harness, shoes, saddles, and equipments, tools, oil, tar, and various other stores, and one hundred wagons, and, in addition, three hundred boxes tobacco. The amount of property destroyed was immense, and we can form some idea of its value from the prices of the above articles in Dixie. The citizens stated to us that the value was five millions of dollars. This, including the damage to the railroad, is not far from the mark. It must be borne in mind that Salem is the depot for Western Virginia, as well as for Longstreet's corps, and that the stores had been removed from other points to Salem, for safety. After we had performed this work, we began the retreat, and fell back six miles to the foot of Poverty Mountain, where we camped for the night. We had two good days in succession; but after night it began to rain, and toward morning began to freeze, and a high, blinding wind with it. Our blankets and clothing became saturated with water, and at day light we began the retrograde movement. The march over the mountain was very fatiguing, and the road so icy, that we had to dismount and lead our horses. We found the Catawba very much swollen, and across the mountain, and after we reached the Craig Creek valley, the rain poured down in torrents, and it was a work of great labor for the artillery and the trains to move. Every small stream had become a foaming torrent, carrying rocks and drift before it; the pine-trees forming a crystal forest, with beautiful festoons and arches bending over the road.

When we came to Craig's Creek, the water was so deep, and the current so strong, and besides, the drift was running, it was supposed that our way was completely blockaded; but our General was equal to the emergency, and we were ordered to attempt the ford — the General directing and encouraging in person — the men riding into the cold icy water cheerfully, and by using caution, and obeying the directions


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A. B. Longstreet (2)
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