Chaffin's, October 12, 1864.
Lieutenant General J. A. EARLY,
Commanding Valley District:
GENERAL: I received last night, by the hands of Captain Page, your report of the 9th instant, of operations in the Valley, and your two letters of the same date.* My regret is equal to your own at the reverses that occurred at Winchester and Fisher's Hill, but I hope our loss can be redeemed. To do this it will be necessary for you to keep your troops well together, to restor their confidence, improve their condition in every way you can, enforce strict discipline in officers and men, keep yourself well advised of the enemy's movements and strength, and endeavor to separate and strike them in detail. The cavalry, I think, could be reinvigorated and encouraged by aiding them with the infantry, in addition to instituting strict discipline, especially if you could take advantage of the enemy's (cavalry) present boldness by leading them into ambuscades of infantry. you have in Fitz Lee's and Rosser's commands some of the best scouts in the army-men that have been habitually on that service, and upon whose judgment and reports you can rely. If you could send them in rear of the enemy they would keep you advised of his movements. You can get more certain information in this way than by the open operations of cavalry, unless you are sufficiently strong to bear down all opposition. I think by these means, and others which your good judgment will dictate, your command will soon be restored to its former condition and efficiency. It will be necessary, also, for you to make use of al available troops. If they are not the best, or such as we would prefer, they may, on emergencies, do much if used to the best advantage. If they can do nothing more than guard trains, hold positions, swell your numbers, they will be of great benefit. The reserves and local troops were organized for this purpose, and should be encouraged and made use of. they can also collect straggler, absented, &c., if properly applied. I wish you to gather what aid you can from this source.
General Breckinridge writes that as soon as he can make some necessary preparations,he will send to you Cosby's and Giltner's brigades, with a battery of artillery, if you require it. Communicate with him at Wytheville. Every exertion must be made to get out all our force and concentrate it where required. I will endeavor to send the officers you desire, but heir promotion is not so essential, as I believe all can act in the positions you wish by virtue of seniority, and it may be better to let them prove their qualifications, as has frequently been done in other crases. The last defeat of your cavalry (on the 9th) is much to be regretted. It may have proceeded from bad management, and I wish you to investigate it. I would not for the present send them too far from your main body, or allow them to hazard too much. Although the enemy's cavalry may exceed ours in numbers, and I know it does in equipment, still we have always been able to cope with them to advantage, and can do so again by proper management. You have the greater proportion of the cavalry in Virginia and it must be made effective. The men are good and only require to be properly commanded. I wish you would bring every officer who misbehaves before a board of examiners, or a count-martial, as their cases require, and have their conduct investigated. I wish you also to make requisitions for such cavalry arms as you require, and, if possible, I will have them
*See Part I, pp. 554, 559. Only one letter found.