McCLELLAN IN WEST VIRGINIA.
BY JACOB D. COX, MAJOR-GENERAL, U. S. V.
"AN AFFAIR OF OUTPOSTS."
THE reasons which made it important to occupy West Virginia with National troops were twofold-political and strategic. The people were strongly attached to the Union, and had opposed the secession of Virginia, of which State they were then a part. But few slaves were owned by them, and all their interest bound them more to Ohio and Pennsylvania than to eastern Virginia. Under the influence of Lincoln's administration, strongly backed, and, indeed, chiefly represented, by Governor Dennison of Ohio, a movement was on foot to organize a loyal Virginia government, repudiating that of Governor Letcher and the State convention as self-destroyed by the act of secession. Governor Dennison had been urging McClellan to cross the Ohio to protect and encourage the loyal men when, on the 26th of May, news came that the Confederates had taken the initiative, and that some bridges had been burned on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad a little west of Grafton, the crossing of the Monongahela River, where the two western branches of the railroad unite, viz., the line from Wheeling and that from Parkersburg. [See map, p. 129.] The great line of communication between Washington and the west had thus been cut, and action on our part was made necessary. Governor Dennison had anticipated the need of more troops than the thirteen regiments which had been organized as Ohio's quota under the President's first call. He had organized nine other regiments, numbering them consecutively with those mustered into the national service,and had put them in camps near the Ohio River, where they could occupy Wheeling, Parkersburg, and the mouth of the Great Kanawha at a moment's notice. Two Union regiments were also organizing in West Virginia itself, at Wheeling and Parkersburg, of which the first was commanded by Colonel (afterward General) B. F. Kelley. West Virginia was in McClellan's department, and the formal authority to act had come from Washington on the 24th, in the shape of an inquiry from General Scott whether the enemy's force at Grafton could be counteracted.