ADJT. AND INSP. GENERAL'S OFFICE,
Richmond, August 3, 1864.
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X. Captain A. H. Polk, assistant adjutant-general, is assigned to duty with Colonel J. B. Palmer, commanding, &c., at Asheville, N. C., and will report accordingly.
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By command of the Secretary of War:
SAML. W. MELTON,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
Petersburg, Va., August 4, 1864.
[His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS:]
Mr. PRESIDENT: In my dispatch of this evening I informed you of the report that forty-six transports (seventeen of which contained cavalry) loaded with troops had descended James River up to last night. This information comes from Lieutenant Woodley, of the Signal Corps, stationed at Fort Boykin. Lieutenant Welch, of Gary's scouts, stationed on the north side of James River, reported up to last night nine steamers descending the river with troops, four of them conveying horses. Some of these, he stated, were wounded men and some prisoners. He does not, therefore, entirely corroborate Lieutenant Woodley's statement. I think it probable that they have sent to Washington that portion of the Nineteenth Corps which was lately operating on the north side of the James River, with some cavalry. A scout reported that on Sunday, the 31st ultimo, a body of cavalry, estimated at two brigades, moved toward James River in the direction of City Point, and this may be the force of cavalry which has been shipped north. I fear that this force is intended to operate against General Early, and when added to that already opposed to him, may be more than he can manage. Their object may be to drive him out of the Valley and complete the devastation they commenced when they were ejected from it. General Grant's
plan of operations here appears to be to mine and bombard our lines, with a view of driving us from them, and as he is very strongly fortified he can operate with fewer troops and enable him to detach a sufficient force for the purpose indicated. The largest force which I can detach would be Kershaw's and Field's divisions, and that would leave not a man out of the trenches for any emergency which might arise. If it is their intention to endeavor to overwhelm Early I think it better to detach these troops than to hazard his destruction and that of our railroads, &c., north of Richmond, and therefore submit the question to the better judgment of Your Excellency.
On the 29th ultimo McCausland's and Johnson's brigades of cavalry crossed the Potomac at Clear Spring, with orders to proceed to Chambersburg, thence west to Cumberland and destroy the bridges over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and the machinery, &c., at the coal-pots in the neighborhood, and after gathering all the cattle in Allegheny and adjacent counties in Pennsylvania to return through Hardy. To cover this movement two divisions of infantry moved to Williamsport, and a third brigade of cavalry proceeded to Hagerstown, where they burned a train of twenty or thirty cars, loaded with stores. On the 30th ultimo General Early returned to Martinsburg by the west road to