and Captain Rice's battery, and, by marching them a greater portion of the night, reached the two passes early in the afternoon of the following day, Colonel Heck's regiment and a section of artillery occupying the Buckhannon Pass, and Colonel Jackson, with the remaining section, taking up their position here.
I regard these two passes as the gates to the northwestern country, and, had they been occupied by the enemy, my command would have been effectually paralyzed or shut up in the Cheat River Valley. I think it was a great mistake on the part of the enemy not to have remained here after driving Colonel Porterfield's command over it. I have caused all the country road leading from the northwestern country, which cross this range of mountains between the foot of Cheat Mountain and Saint George, the county seat Tucker County, to be blocked up by cutting large trees across them. I have done this to prevent the enemy from getting into rear and cutting off my supplies, which, so far, I have been obliged to obtain chiefly from Staunton.
By sending out heavy escort I am now endeavoring to collect grain and cattle, both from the direction of Philippi and Buckhannon. I have made Beverly for the present my principal depot. I propose in a few days to send the three small companies left at Huttonsville, six miles farther south, to the foot of Cheat Mountain, where, in a strong position, which I shall improve, I shall establish them, and deposit two days' supplies for my entire command.
The road from Saint George to Cheat River Bridge, on the railroad, is a country road, and scarcely practicable for wheels. My last information, which is, of course, not very reliable, is that the enemy have blocked up this road from the Cheat Bridge to where it is crossed by the Northwestern turnpike, which leads by Evansville to Grafton. If this proves to be true, it will increase my difficulties in getting on this railroad very much. Should they have done the same thing on all the roads crossing the railroad from the south, they will have put the railroad, I fear, beyond the reach of my present force. This force I consider more than sufficient to hold these two passes, but not sufficient to hold railroad, if I should get an opportunity of seizing it at any particular point; for I must have an adequate force in each of the passes to secure them for our use. My best chance of getting at the railroad seems at present to be by the Morgantown road, a road which leads from Yeager's (see map) to Evansville. When once at Evansville, which is on the Northwestern turnpike, I should threaten Grafton (twelve miles distant) and Cheat Bridge (fourteen miles distant), at both of which points they now have a force which they would be compelled to keep in this position, and thus enable me to get at the road at Independence, five miles from Evansville, destroy it there, and then upon the force at Cheat Bridge (by marching on the railroad) before it could be re-enforced from Grafton. The objection to this operation is that it enables the enemy at Philippi to throw himself upon my rear. If, however, I had sufficient force to hold this post securely, my remaining force could regain it from Cheat Bridge, by way of Saint George, with a little work on that road; the roads from Philippi leading over the Laurel Mountain into that road, four in number, having, as I have already stated, been blocked up by me. My moving force (say three thousand), however, will not be sufficient, I fear, for this operation.
The various accounts which I get of the enemy's strength (none positive or even reliable) present him as having from four to seven thousand at Philippi, with from six to ten pieces of artillery, and that he is entrenched on the hill behind the town, about three thousand at Grafton,