The plan of operations, that Jackson
had conceived for regaining West Virginia
, was to move along the Baltimore and Ohio railroad and the turnpikes parallel to it, and thus enter Western 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, of 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 had been left at Manassas
, and that all the forces operating along the line of the Alleghanies
southwest of Winchester
, and lately commanded by General Lee
, should be concentrated under his command.
This would have given him 15,000 or 16,000 men, the least force with which he thought it possible to undertake so bold an enterprise.
His wishes were complied with in part.
His own brigade was promptly sent to him, and one of the brigades of Loring
's troops (General Loring
had succeeded General Lee
) reached him early in December.
Subsequently two more brigades under General Loring
himself were added, but all these troops only increased the small force of 3,000 State militia which he had assembled in the district itself to about 11,000 men.1
The greater part of General Loring
's force did not arrive at Winchester
, thus preventing any important movements during November and December.
But meantime Jackson
was not idle.
He spent the time in organizing, drilling and equipping the militia and the scattered cavalry commands, which he consolidated into a regiment under Colonel Ashby
; and in sending expeditions against the Chesapeake and Ohio canal
, by breaking which he annoyed the enemy and interrupted an important line of communication.2