The destruction of the bridge and trestle, even if we had quiet possession of it, will require skill and proper tools. I have, therefore, arranged with Captain McNeill to send with him an engineer officer and 8 or 10 men-mechanics-who have been instructed for this particular work, provided with necessary implements and materials for the destruction of the bridge and trestle.
I have sent by Captain McNeill a copy of your letter to General Imboden, and informed him of my approval of the proposed expedition, as you directed, and I have suggested to General Imboden the expediency, if he is in condition to make it, of an attack on the small force at Beverly.
I have information that the enemy have there only about 400 men, some of them not armed. An attack on that point, made in conjunction with Captain McNeill's proposed expedition, would contribute to the success of the latter.
Finding it impracticable, from the want of forage, to make any use of Jenkins' cavalry, I propose to send him, with 500 or 600 of his best men, on foot, to operate on the Lower Kanawha, between Charleston and the mouth of the river. From information I have, I think it probable that the expedition may accomplish the destruction of much valuable transportation, and perhaps more substantial results. I have some expectation of being able to procure by it a large lot of beef-cattle from Ohio.
I am, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF WESTERN VIRGINIA,
Dublin, March 8, 1863.
Brigadier-General IMBODEN, Staunton:
GENERAL: You will find on the first page of this a copy of a letter* which I received to-day from the Secretary of War. You will see that he directs me to send you a copy of his letter in the event of my giving my sanction to the expedition proposed by Captain McNeill.
I fully approve of the expedition, and have had it in contemplation for some time, but have been unable to carry it out because of the want of cavalry, having been obliged to send off all of my cavalry horses to a distance from the railroad, to be foraged. You are in position to know better than I do the obstacles to the east of Beverly in the way of Captain McNeill's expedition. I cannot be able to send a cavalry expedition to Cheat River until the grass has put up sufficiently to support the horses, and though I am anxious to send an expedition to accomplish the object proposed, I desire to give every assistance in my power to any one who is prepared to undertake it sooner than I can. If I understand the construction of the bridge, its destruction, even when we have quiet possession of it, will be a difficult operation. An engineer officer on duty with me, who understands the structure of the bridge, is provided with tools and implements for its destruction. I will send him, with 10 men who understand the business, with the tools, to join the expedition as soon as it is ready to move.
There are but 300 or 400 troops at Beverly, so far as I can ascertain. If you can capture them or engage their attention while Captain McNeill is making his expedition, it will contribute to his success.
*See Seddon to Jones, March 6, p. 656.