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[487] been enabled to detach a large force of veteran troops, under Lieutenant-General Early, to operate against us; that a portion of this force was engaged in the battle then going on, and the remaining divisions were coming in rapidly, by rail, from Charlottesville.

It was now evident that the Army of West Virginia was in a critical position. Two hundred and fifty miles from its base, with ammunition nearly exhausted and commissariat entirely so, with little more than sixteen thousand effective men, it was now actually engaged with a largely superior force — a force which in the course of the afternoon would be swelled to over thirty thousand men. The greatest apprehension was felt lest the enemy would renew his attack in the course of the afternoon, as our ammunition was so nearly spent that such an attack must have proved fatal. He had been so roughly handled, however, that he determined to wait until the following morning, when, with his whole force rested and refreshed, he could fall upon us more effectively.

That night our army, with its trains and material, was quietly withdrawn, retiring by the Bedford turnpike, through Liberty and Buford's Gap to Salem, on the Virginia and Tennessee railroad. This retrogade from our hazardous position was accomplished without loss and with but little annoyance from the enemy. From Liberty to Salem, our route lay along the line of the railroad, which we destroyed as we moved, arriving at Salem about sunrise on the morning of the twenty-first of June. After a short halt, we took the road across the mountains to the Greenbrier White Sulphur Springs, via New Castle and Sweet Springs, arriving at the White Sulphur on the afternoon of the twenty-fourth.

This move into the mountains was necessary to disembarrass ourselves of the enemy's cavalry, which had overtaken and followed us from Liberty, hanging upon our rear and harassing our flanks; without doing us much actual damage, however. After we entered the mountains, they disappeared entirely, and we found ourselves at the White Sulphur with no enemy to contend with, except the natural difficulties of the country and the scarcity of provisions.

The result of the campaign, thus far, had been eminently satisfactory; and everything that had been ordered or expected had been thoroughly accomplished, with but comparatively little loss.

About fifty miles of the Virginia Central railroad had been effectually destroyed; the Virginia and Tennessee road had been destroyed to some extent for the same distance; an incredible amount of public property had been burned, including canal-boats and railroad trains loaded with ordnance and commissary stores, numerous extensive iron-works, manufactories of saltpetre, musket-stocks, shoes, saddles, and artillery-harness, woollen cloths and grain mills; about three thousand muskets and twenty pieces of cannon, with quantities of shells and gunpowder, fell into our hands, while immense quantities of provisions, cattle and horses were captured and used by the army. We had beaten the enemy in every engagement, killing and wounding about two thousand of his men, including officers of high rank, and capturing over two thousand prisoners. We had, by a movement of unparalleled audacity, menaced the vitals of the rebellion and forced the leaders at Richmond to detach a formidable corps for their defence and security.

The vast importance of this diversion, as proved by subsequent events, will be satisfactorily established presently.

These great results had been accomplished with but little loss of men or material on our part. About fifteen hundred men killed, wounded and missing, and eight guns disabled by a stealthy attack, while they were on the march, and inadvertently left unguarded.

Considering its orders successfully carried out, the question now was to return the Army of West Virginia to its base by the speediest route and in the best condition for further active operations. At the council held at the White Sulphur on the morning of June twenty-fifth three routes were proposed: one by the Warm Springs valley, by a road running parallel with the valley of the Shenandoah. It was foreseen that Early would, in all probability, make a counter raid against the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, overthrow General Sigel's force and do much mischief. It was urged that by marching down the parallel valley, via Warm Springs, Franklin and Moorfield, we might arrive in time to form a junction with Sigel, and prevent the anticipated raid. By way of objection to this route, it was argued that the distance to be marched was two hundred and fifty miles, by bad roads, and through a region sparsely populated and much wasted by war; the enemy having the advantage of shorter lines, better roads, and a considerable use of railroads, could throw his force ahead of us, block up our route by felled timber, attack us in flank through the gaps in the mountains, and thus drive us still deeper into the rugged and inhospitable regions of the Alleghanies. The army, already fatigued with long marches and suffering from irregular and limited supplies, must necessarily become more disorganized at every move, while the deficiency of ammunition made it essential that we should avoid every possibility of a serious collision with the enemy. These arguments were accepted as conclusive against the proposed route. The acknowledged impossibility of obtaining supplies and the long march were equally conclusive against the Beverley route. The route by Kanawha offered an open and safe road; a million of rations within three days march; a shorter march to Charleston, from whence, by steamboats and railways, the troops could be transported to any point on our line where they might be needed. It was shown that these advantages, the time required to reach

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