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[327] such was the report we found at his camp. After I had been at his camp but a very short time, a courier came to me with a telegraphic dispatch from General Lee, who was then in Richmond, stating that Averill had left the Sweet Springs on the morning of the day before on the road towards Salem. I then started back to Buffalo Gap, and on the way I received another telegraphic dispatch from General Lee, informing me that Averill had entered Salem on the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad the morning of that day, and directing me to make arrangements to capture him.

It turned out that Averill with his cavalry had left the front of General Imboden at least two days before I started from Orange, leaving the small infantry force with him, under Colonel Thoburn, to amuse Imboden's pickets, and that Thoburn had also started back to the valley of the South Branch before I arrived. Imboden was ordered to bring his brigade back to Buffalo Gap, that night, for the purpose of being sent after Averill.

The question was how to cut off Averill's retreat, as he had several ways of getting back to a safe position. He might return the way he went-go up the railroad and then by the way of Blacksburg in Montgomery-come back by the way of Fincastle to Covington-or by the way of Buchanan and Lexington through the Valley, there being numerous intervening roads between these main routes which afforded him ample facilities for escape if he had good guides. After consultation with General Imboden, who was very familiar with the country, I determined to send his brigade to Covington next day, where it would be in a position to intercept Averill's retreat on the road by that place or move to the right and intercept him at Callahan's if he returned the same way he went.

During the night it rained in perfect torrents-such a rain as I have rarely seen — and by the next morning all the streams were very high. The direct route to Covington was down the valley of the Little Calf Pasture crossing that stream many times, across Big Calf Pasture

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