HEADQUARTERS NORTHWESTERN VIRGINIA BRIGADE,
Shenandoah Mountain, March 2, 1863.
General R. E. LEE,
Commanding Army of Northern Virginia:
GENERAL: In a recent letter I stated that I would shortly submit to your superior military judgment a plan of operations in the northwest that I thought would be successful in accomplishing some important results. I beg leave now most respectfully to lay the matter before you, and request your approval.
The objects aimed at are, first, the destruction of all the bridges and trestling on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, from the bridge across the Youghiogheny, at Oakland, as far west as Grafton; and, secondly, the defeat and capture of the enemy's forces at Beverly, Philippi, and Buckhannon, and then to enlist in our army the young men of the northwest, and endeavor, if possible, to hold that section of country long enough to overthrow the local government, of which four-fifths of the people are heartily tired, and would joyfully unite in our State elections in May. I believe these objects can be accomplished with a force of 2,500 to start with, and 1,500 stand of arms to put in the hands of the recruits that I know will join me as soon as I pass Beverly. The enemy's entire force, scattered over the northwest from New Creek to the Kanawha, does not exceed three regiments, say 1,500 men, exclusive of the points named.
The following plan, I think, promises certain success: As soon as the enemy is hard pressed in the direction of Winchester, for General Jones to make a demonstration, real or feigned, on Romney, New Creek, and Cumberland. Simultaneously with that demonstration, I will send 500 well-mounted men from Moorefield to Oakland, leaving the former place, without baggage of any kind, at 4 p.m., and reaching Oakland by a forced night march, over a country road but little traveled, till they strike the Northwestern turnpike. I know this can be done without the enemy having the slightest intimation of it till the bridge at Oakland, which is of wood, is in flames. The threat on Romney would call his attention that way. With the bridge at Oakland destroyed, troops could not be sent west over the railroad. My cavalry could not return into Hardy County, nor is it designed that they should. They would proceed from Oakland either by the Northwestern road to Cheat River, and cross it 4 miles above the railroad bridge, or take the Kingwood road into Preston, crossing Cheat River north of the railroad, or, better still, divide at Oakland, and, taking both these routes, cross Cheat River at both places indicated, and burn the bridges behind them. This prevents pursuit by the turnpike or any other road, and gives ample time and opportunity for the destruction of the railroad bridge and trestle-work at Rowlesburg, that bridge also being wood.
Having disabled the railroad at Oakland and burned the large bridges over Cheat, their only danger would be from the west. The forces at Beverly and Buckhannon would, if let alone, be able to head them. It was that danger that defeated my plank in November; but I propose now that two days before my cavalry leave Moorefield for Oakland, I will march from this point on Beverly with my infantry and artillery, and attack that place on the same day my cavalry crosses Cheat River.
The enemy will either fall back on Buckhannon, on my approach, or be re-enforced from that place and Philippi, and give us fight. In either case, the cavalry operating on the railroad will be protected from attack from either point, and if I can overcome the forces at Beverly,