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[258] the small force for its protection, had always rendered it a precarious command, and it had proved disastrous to several of his predecessors. With the prospect of a trying ordeal bofore him as soon as the spring and summer campaign should open, General Breckinridge addressed himself at once to the work of placing his troops in an effective condition. To this end he made a tour of inspection to all the posts in Virginia on horseback, going in an inclement season as far as the Warm Springs, in Bath county, and traversing the line as far to the southwest as Abingdon, a trip of nearly four hundred miles. Wherever he went, the officers and men were animated by his presence, and new life was infused into all branches of the service.

About this time, the command of General Longstreet, which had wintered in East Tennessee, was transferred by rail to General Lee's army, thus uncovering his left and leaving it guarded only by cavalry. The scope of this sketch will not admit of a statement of the forces of the Department, further than to say that Vaughan's cavalry was on the East Tennessee front, Morgan's at Abingdon, Jenkins' at or near the Narrows of New River, and W. L. Jackson's on the extreme right at Warm Springs — the largest command not exceeding a good brigade; while the only infantry in the Department was Echols' brigade at Union Draught, in Monroe county, and Wharton's brigade at the Narrows of New River--twenty-six miles north of Dublin. Such was the disposition when information was received that General Crook was advancing in the direction of Dublin, with a strong force, from the Kanawha. General Breckinridge was engaged in preparations to receive him, when, on the evening of the 4th of May, he received a telegram from President Davis, saying that Siegel was advancing up the Shenandoah Valley on Staunton, and that the indications were that he (Breckinridge) would have to go at once to meet him, closing with directions to communicate with General Lee. A dispatch was sent General Lee the same night, informing him of the attitude in the Department and asking instructions. Early on the morning of the 5th of May--the day on which the battle of the Wilderness was fought — an answer was received from General Lee, directing General Breckinridge to march at once with all of his available force to the defence of Staunton. Orders having been previously sent to Generals Echols and Wharton to hold themselves in readiness to march at a moment's warning, General Breckinridge proceeded on the same day with his staff to the Narrows, and on the 6th the brigades of Wharton and Echols

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