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[485] your Chief of Staff, and, in that capacity, kept an accurate journal of movements and events as they occurred, and of the orders, motives, and information on which they were based. I was also, from long residence, travel, and previous miltary campaigns, well acquainted with the whole country over which these operations were conducted, and consequently may be supposed to have an intelligent understanding concerning the propriety of the movements made, and the practicability of those suggested.

I will commence by a brief explanation of the military position in the Department of West Virginia when you took command.

Early in the spring of 1864, the forces heretofore scattered over this extensive department were concentrated at different points, prepared to co-operate in the grand combined movement which had been arranged against the national enemy. Simultaneously with the advance of General Grant on Richmond, and that of General Sherman on Atlanta, the co-operating columns of the Army of West Virginia commenced their movements, charged with the accomplishment of the most arduous and important secondary purposes of the campaign. Their orders were to move upon the enemy's communications, destroy railroads, military depots, stores, supplies, and manufactories, crippling his resources in every way practicable; to distract his attention from the vital centres of operation, and to force him, if possible, to detach troops for the defence of distant points. As the field of operations embraced in these orders was of immense extent, interrupted by chains of rugged and lofty mountains covered to a great extent with impenetrable forests, traversed by deep and rapid rivers, its topography and even its general geography but little understood outside, the General commanding the department was allowed full discretion in arranging the plans for their accomplishment.

The movement commenced under the orders of Major-General Sigel, as follows: Brigadier-General Crook with his division moved from Kanawha, striking the Virginia and Tennessee railroad at New river, and destroying it for some distance. He defeated the enemy's forces that opposed him, capturing many prisoners and valuable stores.

Brigadier-General Averell at the same time moved southward from Beverly, with his division, menacing the salt works near Abingdon, and co-operating with Crook in the destruction of the railroad. These forces then fell back to Lewisburg and Meadow Bluff in Greenbrier county, awaiting further developments.

At the same time General Sigel, in person, took command of the forces collected at Martinsburg, about eight thousand five hundred men of all arms, and advancing southward, was met at New Market, on the Staunton turnpike, and defeated by the rebel forces under Breckinridge. On the following day, May sixteenth, he retired to a position behind Cedar creek, about fifteen miles south of Winchester. On the twenty-first of May General Sigel was relieved by Major-General Hunter, who assumed command of the department and the army in the field at Cedar creek.

General Sigel having been assigned to the command of the reserves stationed on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, made his headquarters at Martinsburg.

It was determined to resume the movement on Staunton immediately, and, with a view to further operations from that point, orders were sent to Generals Crook and Averell, then supposed to be in the vicinity of Meadow Bluff, to join us at Staunton, by forced marches, moving lightly, and depending on the country for subsistence as much as possible.

The column in the Shenandoah valley having been reinforced to the extent of supplying the losses in the New Market campaign, with baggage and transportation reduced to the minimum allowance, cut loose from its communications, and began its advance up the valley on the twenty.sixth of May. The force was about eight thousand five hundred men of all arms, with twenty-one guns. The plan of action proposed was, to fight and overthrow any enemy that stood in the way, to seize upon Staunton, unite with Crook and Averell, and with the combined force occupy Charlottesville, from whence we might easily operate with our cavalry against the James River canal, and by crossing the river cut off the Southside railroad, thus cutting off the enemy from its chief source of supplies. The more extended plan, of moving on Lynchburg by the valley route from Staunton, or through the Piedmont counties of Nelson and Amherst, directly from Charlottesville, was discussed, but left for consideration after the first part of the programme should be accomplished.

The occupation of Harrisonburg, the flank movement on Port Republic, the brilliant and decisive victory at Piedmont, and the junction with the forces under Crook and Averell, at Staunton, have all been described in a former report.

The result of the battle at Piedmont was the virtual annihilation of the enemy's military power in West Virginia and the valley of the Shenandoah. All the country west of the Blue Ridge was at our mercy. As this country was the source from which the enemy drew its principal supplies of meat, grain, forage, salt, lead, and iron, we were well aware that its possession was essential to the maintenance of his army, and that he would make the most desperate efforts to regain it. He could not hope to do so without detaching a considerable force from Lee's army, and to induce General Lee thus to weaken his army was one of our principal objects in the movement. The following letter found on the body of General William E. Jones, killed at Piedmont, indicates the views and expectations of the enemy:

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