The telegraph wire was cut, coiled, and burned for half a mile. The water-station, turn-table, and three cars were burned, and the track torn up and rails heated and destroyed as much as possible in six hours. Five bridges and several culverts were destroyed over an extent of fifteen miles. A large quantity of bridge-timber and repairing materials were also destroyed. My march was retarded occasionally by the tempest in the mountains and the icy roads. I was obliged to swim my command, and drag my artillery with ropes across Craig's Creek seven times in twenty-four hours. On my return, I found six separate commands under Generals Early, Jones, Fitz Lee, Imnboden, Jackson, Echols, and McCouslin, arranged in a line extending from Staunton to Newport, upon all the available roads, to prevent my return. I captured a despatch from General Jones to General Early, giving me the position and that of Jackson at Clifton Forge, and Covington was selected to carry. I marched from the front of Jones to that of Jackson at night. His outposts were pressed in at a gallop by the Eighth Virginia mounted infantry, and the two bridges across Jackson's River were saved, although fagots had been piled ready to ignite. My column, about four miles along, hastened across, regardless of the enemy, until all but my ambulances, a few wagons, and one regiment had passed, when a strong effort was made to retake the first bridge, in which they did not succeed. The ambulances and some sick men were lost, and, by the darkness and difficulties, the last regiment was detained upon the opposite side until morning. When it was ascertained that the enemy seemed determined to maintain his position up the cliffs which overlooked the bridges, I caused the bridges, which were long and high, to be destroyed, and the enemy immediately changed his position to the flank and rear of the detachment which was cut off. I sent orders to the remnants to destroy our wagons and come to me across the river, or over the mountains. They swam the river with the loss of only four men, who were drowned, and joined me. In the mean time, forces of the enemy were concentrating upon me at Callaghan's over every available road but one, which was deemed impracticable, but by which I crossed over the top of the Alleghanies, with my command, with the exception of four caissons, which were destroyed in order to increase the teams of the pieces. My loss is six men drowned, one officer and four men wounded, and four officers and ninety men missing. We captured about two hundred prisoners, but have retained but forty officers and eighty men, on account of their inability to walk; we took also about one hundred and fifty horses. My horses have subsisted entirely upon a very poor country, and the officers and men have suffered cold, hunger, and fatigue with remarkable fortitude. My command has marched, climbed, slid, and swam three hundred and fifty-five miles since the eighth instant.
W. W. Averill, Brigadier-General.
A national account.
Webster, West-Virginia, January 3.The Second, Third, and Eighth Virginia mounted infantry, Fourteenth Pennsylvania cavalry, Gibson's battalion and battery G, First Virginia artillery, composing the “Mountain brigade” of General Averill, left New-Creek, West-Virginia, on the morning of the eighth of December, and a march of two days brought us to Petersburgh. On the morning of the tenth, resumed the march, after being joined by detachments from the First Virginia, Fourteenth and Twenty-third Illinois infantry, a section of Rook's Illinois battery, and the Ringgold cavalry, under command of Colonel Thoburn, of the First Virginia infantry. We passed through Franklin, and camped for the night on the South-Branch. During this day's march we again destroyed the saltpetre works that the rebels had begun to repair. Met a party of refugees, who were endeavoring to get into our lines, and at night had a fight with bushwhackers. The weather thus far had been cold, but after night it began to rain, and next morning we started on the march, Colonel Thoburn in the advance. When we arrived at the cross-roads, Thoburn's brigade taking the road to Monterey and Staunton, whilst our brigade took the road leading to Hightown and the Buck Creek valley. It rained very hard, and we were enveloped in the clouds of the mountain tops. This day captured a rebel mail-carrier, and at night camped near Burdtown. Next morning resumed the march down the Buck Creek valley, finding the streams very much swollen from the rains. During the day a party of refugees, who were armed, came to us; they had been lying in the “brush” ever since the Droop Mountain fight, to keep out of the way of the rebel conscript officers. About dark we arrived at Gatewood's, where we intercepted Mudwall Jackson's train, that was on its way from Huntersville to Warm Springs, to get out of reach of Colonel Moore. The train was guarded by two companies of Jackson's ragged chivalry, and loaded with clothing, shoes, and ammunition. We captured in addition to the train twenty-nine prisoners, while the balance escaped to the mountain, and bushwhacked us at long-range, but hurt none. The rebels, not expecting another raid, had rebuilt their camp and saltpetre works. These we again burnt, together with the potash factory. Started next morning for Callaghan's; during the morning captured one hundred and fifty cattle, that the farmers were driving out of the valley, and a contraband directed us to an extensive saltpetre works, which we destroyed. We arrived at Callaghan's at four o'clock, where we heard of the operations of General Duffie and Colonel Moore, and the retreat of Echols. We marched out on the Sweet Springs road, and encamped for the night on Dunlap's Creek.