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[284] of the General and the officers, the first, second, and third fords were crossed. This consumed nearly the whole day, with the train, the artillery, and the rear-guard still to cross. We were now on the New-Castle side, and, by the road, several more fords to cross; but as it was but a few miles to town, it was determined to cut a road through the woods, which was done, and at eleven o'clock at night, the Eighth entered the town. Here we took possession of the government corn-cribs, where the corn-tithe, or tenth, was deposited. This we fed to our horses, and afterward made demonstrations on the different roads, while the balance of the brigade were endeavoring to extricate themselves from the watery blockade that had so suddenly stopped our progress; but it was not until the next evening that the artillery and train reached the town. The efforts of the quartermasters, officers, and men were very fatiguing and laborious, in dragging the artillery and wagons through the water by means of ropes, and the whole work superintended by the General, who had made it a point of honor to save the artillery and transportation; but the provisions were lost, except the soldier's great reliance, coffee. This was preserved, and when the brigade reached the town, it was issued to the men.

We now found that the rebels held the gap, to dispute our march, and heard that Fitz-Hugh Lee was in our rear. We did not fear the rebel force in our front, for they had not sufficient time to unite their scattered forces. A squadron of the Eighth was sent to force them back, and a brisk skirmish ensued, when reinforcements from the Second and Eighth were sent to assist in driving back the enemy. The rebels retired, and at midnight the brigade reached Mrs. Scott's, at the foot of the Eleven Mile Mountain. But here a new danger arose, for Jones held the Sweet Springs Mountain in force, and that was our only apparent outlet, and besides, our limited supply of ammunition had become partially damaged from the wet. Here our young chief performed a master-stroke of generalship, completely deceiving, as well as mystifying Jones. He sent a force to the top of the Eleven Mile Mountain, to make a bold demonstration, drive in the rebel pickets, and make the rebels believe that our whole force was advancing. In the mean time, the column was ordered to move up a creek and by-road, in the direction of the Covington and Fincastle turnpike. The General had got the information of this road from a citizen, with the statement that no vehicle had passed over the road in two years, and Jones's scouts told him that the road was totally impracticable, but we passed through in safety, Jones waiting the whole day, and expecting an attack every hour. In the afternoon, we struck the Fincastle pike, and distant from Covington ten miles. We had now eluded two rebel armies, but still we knew that they were on both flanks, and perhaps in our front; but we were ordered to move rapidly, and the advance to dash to the Jackson River bridge, to prevent its being burnt. On this road we met a party of Jackson's cavalry, and skirmished with them, pressing them close. When we reached the river, they turned to the right, in the direction of Jackson River depot, while we turned to the left, toward Covington. Here we captured a messenger from Jones to Early, with a despatch to be forwarded to Early by Jackson, by telegraph. (Early was supposed to be at Warm Springs.) This proved of importance to the General, for it disclosed the rebel plans, and the movements of Jones, Echols, and McCauslin. The advance hastened at a trot toward the bridge, and when they came to it, the rebel guard opened fire upon them, but we charged through with a cheer and at a gallop, the rebs retreating at their highest speed. We found piles of combustibles on the bridge ready for the torch, and fire burning and torch ready; but the advance, by its gallantry, saved the bridge. As the brigade moved so rapidly, it left the artillery, trains, and rear-guard far in the rear, with perhaps a gap of two miles open. This was taken advantage of by Jackson, who marched in his force, and ambushed themselves in the cliffs with the cavalry, ready to make a charge on the trains. They made a dash to take the bridge, but were repulsed by the guard that we had left there; and next morning, Jackson's force, with artillery, infantry, and cavalry, made an attack on the rear-guard and the train, but were repulsed, while we succeeded in destroying the train, to prevent its falling into their hands, and the loss that we met with, was in having a portion of the men, who were cut off, captured. Our loss was sixty men captured. These were mostly dismounted men. We also lost three officers captured.

The brigade moved rapidly to Covington, where the advance captured several of the home guard and a number of fine horses, and pushed on toward Callaghan's. The advance crossed the second bridge and surprised a rebel picket of sixteen men. These, with their horses, arms, and equipments, were captured except one of the party, the captain, who escaped.

When we reached Callaghan's, strong pickets were sent out on all the roads. We began to breathe more freely, but our privations began to tell from hunger and cold. Our clothing was frozen stiff, a large proportion of the men had their feet and fingers frozen, but the greatest suffering was from want of sleep. The pickets were forbidden to make fires. After the videttes had been placed, the balance of the men lay down in the road, and the night was intensely cold, but the officers aroused the men and would not permit them to sleep; and a short time before day they were permitted to make fires in the pine-thickets, and with the comfortable bed, and a cup of strong coffee, they soon regained their accustomed spirits. Our crackers were now exhausted, and nothing to eat but fresh pork and coffee.

Here the General sent out scouting-parties to ascertain the movements of the enemy. We here learned that Early held the Back Creek valley, and that there was a force at Gatewood's, covering

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Samuel Jones (6)
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