Numbers 8. Report of Brigadier General C. W. Hill, Ohio Militia, of operations from July 4 to 19.
HEADQUARTERS U. S. VOLUNTEERS,
Grafton, Va., July 22, 1861.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following statement of facts, showing the operations of my command in attempting to intercept the retreat and capture a portion of General Garnett's army from Laurel Hill.
When I was first assigned to duty here, the Cheat River line was in the hands of Colonel J. Irvine's command (Sixteenth Ohio Regiment), and he continued in charge of the line until the night of the 15th instant. On the 1st instant I went over the line with Colonel Irvine from Rowlesburg to the Cheat River Bridge, five miles above, and there gave him in writing all of the instructions which I had received from the department headquarters touching that line. The instructions as given to me and thus imparted contemplated Rowlesburg as the point of support on the railroad, and West Union, distant thirteen miles, as the place for the advance guard to the eastward, with scouts farther east, and as soon as practicable an advance guard towards or at Saint George. Intermediate points were to be held, and for the whole, including the protection of the three bridges in the railroad, the garrison was to be increased early to 1,000 men. From the 4th to the 6th instant a minute reconnaissance of the line was carried on by my order by Colonel Charles Whittlesey and Major J. B. Frothingham, engineers, and the conclusions arrived at reported on the 6th to department headquarters.
On the 7th instant twenty-five cavalry, to serve as vedettes, couriers, and pickets, were added to Colonel Irvine's command, as had also been a 6-pounder field piece.
On the 12th instant six companies of the Eighth Ohio, under Colonel Depuy, had joined Colonel Irvine, moving in by way of Oakland and Chisholm's mill; and the garrison at Rowlesburg and thence five miles up Cheat River was held by six companies of the Fifteenth Ohio, under Colonel G. W. Andrews and two companies of the First Virginia.
On the 9th Colonel Irvine telegraphed as follows: " Our increased knowledge clearly indicates the occupancy of the junction (Red House) as the proper position for our troops." Referring him to the instructions already given, and the views of Colonel Whittlesley and Major Frothingham, Colonel Irvine was informed on the same day that he " must act on his best judgment."
On the 12th instant Colonel Irvine telegraphed me that he intended to move eastward along the northwest pike. He says: " My main force will be at the mill mentioned (Chisholm's), eight miles from Oakland, with strong advance guard at the Red House, say two hundred or three hundred men." Our telegraphic correspondence was frequent each, and conducted with a view to keep each other fully advised of all material facts.
On the 13th of July I was called in from Webster at about 11 a. m., and then I received a telegram from Major S. Willliams, detached the 12th, at Beverly, and at Roaring the 13th, saying:
General McClellan, having just learned that the rebel forces abandoned their positions at Laurel Hill last night, and are now making for Eastern Virginia, via the Louisville and Saint George pike, directs that you take the field at once, with all the force you can make available, to cut off their retreat. Two Pennsylvania regiments