the desired point would be less, and that the troops would arrive well fed and rested, instead of being worn out and exhausted, as they must be at the end of a long march through an impoverished country. The Kanawha route was adopted, and troops moved, arriving at Charleston from the thirtieth of June to the fourth of July. On the afternoon of the fourth the Commanding General and staff arrived at Parkersburg, on the Ohio river, and there were met with the information that Early had driven Sigel out of Martinsburg, and occupied the line of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad in strong force. This intelligence was forwarded with an urgent request from the Secretary of War to hurry the troops forward. All the necessary steps had been already taken to expedite their movement from Charleston, and whatever failure there may have been on the score of promptness was owing to the low stage of water in the river. The continuance of this unprecedented drought produced results against which human foresight could not have provided, and to overcome which human exertion was powerless. The lightest draught boats used on the river and calculated to run at all seasons continually grounded, and the troops were obliged to land and march round the bars. This unfortunate circumstance so impeded the movements that. in the aggregate, four or five days were lost. All the resources of the railroad were used to forward the troops arriving by the boats, and trains were running day and night. On the evening of July fourteen the General and staff arrived at Harper's Ferry. Early meanwhile had crossed into Maryland, fought the battle of Monocacy, and while menacing Baltimore and Washington with his light cavalry; had retired into Virginia by way of Conrad's and Edwards' ferries. Our advanced infantry, a weak division under Sullivan, and some cavalry under Duffie, had already been sent to harass the enemy's flank, as he moved across Loudon county. Generals Crook and Averell, with a portion of their commands, were in Martinsburg. General Wright with the Sixth corps, and General Emory with the Nineteenth corps, were understood to be following the enemy, and moving in the direction of Leesburg. On the fifteenth, by telegram from Major-General Halleck, the troops of the West Virginia army were place under the command of Major-General Wright, then at Poolesville. By this order General Hunter, although still in command of the department, was left without troops. Under this impression he wrote to President Lincoln, asking, respectfully but peremptorily, to be relieved of command. The President replied, explaining that the order transferring the West Virginia troops to the command of Major-General Wright was only intended to be temporary in its effect, and to apply while those troops were necessarily serving outside the department commanded by General Hunter. He concluded by a very pressing and-flattering request that he should retain his position. This request was accepted by General Hunter as a command, Instead of retiring by way of Gordonsville, as was expected, Early moved westward, and crossing the Blue Ridge at Snicker's Gap, took position on the turnpike road leading from Snicker's ferry to Winchester, his main body lying around Berryville. General Wright followed him as far as the gap. On the eighteenth General Crook, then commanding the West Virginia troops, pushed across the Shenandoah, and after a sharp action with the rebel Gordon's division, was driven back with a loss of four hundred men — the enemy losing six hundred. While the sound of cannon indicated an engagement in the vicinity of Snicker's ferry, Colonel Hays was ordered to move his brigade from Halltown by a road on the west side of the Shenandoah and strike the enemy on flank. Averell was ordered to move from Martinsburg upon Winchester. On the twentieth Colonel Hays reported that his advance had been disputed by a strong body of the enemy, and that, after a prolonged skirmish, he had fallen back to Keys' ferry, being short of ammunition. General Averell with his cavalry, and Duvall's infantry, in all twenty-three hundred strong, attacked and routed a greatly superior force of the enemy near Winchester, putting five hundred men hors de combat and capturing four guns. About this time Early retired from Berryville toward Front Royal and Strasburg, and General Wright, with the Sixth and Nineteenth corps, returned to Washington. In the military movements since his arrival at Harper's Ferry, General Hunter had no control or responsibility, except in ordering the minor cooperative moves under Hays and Averell. Our information in regard to Early was, that he was strong and confident, apparently ready for battle when we might seek it, but coolly awaiting his opportunity. His position in the valley of the Shenandoah was maintained for the purpose of protecting the harvest in the fertile region which he covered, and for the still more important object of preventing another advance on Lynchburg. His presence was also a continual menace to Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the federal capital, and was thus calculated to create a diversion in favor of Lee at Richmond. That the enemy would fail to use his advantageous position to the utmost could hardly be supposed; the withdrawal of General Wright's forces without a decisive action was therefore regretted as premature. General Crook reported that the enemy's retreat from Berryville was apparently in compliance with orders from rebel headquarters, and evidently not from weakness or the desire to avoid battle. A rumor of the fall of Atlanta seemed to give color to the former idea. On the twenty-third of July a telegram from the President was received, asking if, since the
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Doc . 16 . operations in Tennessee .
Doc . 19 . the siege of Suffolk, Virginia .
Doc . 36 . General Rousseau 's expedition.
Doc . 59 . battles of Spottsylvania , Va: battle of Sunday , May 8 , 1864 .
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.