Two and a half regiments, under Generals Schenck and Benham, came as far as the foot of Sewell to support the advance, which acted as a corps of observation. After reconnoitering the enemy's fortified position from 2 to 4 miles in front on top of Sewell, on Lewisburg road, supported by fortifications at Meadow Bluff, 15 miles this side of Lewisburg, ascertained his strength to be from twelve to fourteen thousand, and finding that the country beyond was measurably stripped of forage and subsistence, our force (5,200) retired towards Gauley Bridge gradually, and encamped at the positions shown on the accompanying map; Schenck's Brigade being 10 miles from Gauley Bridge, McCook's 8 miles, Benham's 6 miles, while General Cox was posted, one regiment at Tompkins' farm and remained at Gauley Bridge, with detachments for guarding steamboat landing below.
Our object in taking this position, as reported, was to be near enough to water transportation to bring forward not only forage and subsistence, but the clothing of the troops. Orders were also immediately dispatched to have the paymasters come and pay them, none having received any since they entered the service. The clothing of all, with the exception of the cavalry, was completed by the 1st of November. The paying went on much more slowly, in consequence of the difficulties in getting the rolls and the inexperience of the paymaster, and is not yet completed.
No military movements were or could be undertaken that would interfere with these primary objects. The enemy's motions at Meadow Bluff were watched. the militia, which all summer long had occupied the region west of the New River and south of the Loop Creek Hills, (see map and accompanying memoir, marked A),* showed themselves opposite Miller's Ferry, near McCook's brigade, about the 18th of October, when they were, as we learned, to be assembled at Fayette for the purpose of being paid off, but as we then supposed and since ascertained with the real object of rallying them if possible. Colonel McCook was therefore directed to pass over with a sufficient force to capture or disperse them and occupy or treat the country as circumstances might indicate to him best. He passed over, had a slight skirmish with a small militia force, occupied Fayette, reconnoitered the roads in the vicinity, satisfied himself that there was no force except the bushwhacking militia, secession residents of the country, and retired over Miller's Ferry without leaving a guard on the other side. On reporting the result of his expedition the commanding general expressed a regret that he did not leave a company to cover Miller's Ferry on the other side. Esteeming it if little consequence, he was so dilatory, that when he attempted it he found the cliffs occupied by a force of sharpshooters, which rendered crossing dangerous to a small force, and so reported to me. This was about the 25th of October.
Meanwhile the paying and clothing of the troops was going on, and it was deemed best to complete that before occupying the Fayetteville side of New River in force. It was, moreover, judged best to allow whatever force the rebels could gather to assemble and again some confidence before attempting anything against them which would be something more than a chase. About the 27th of October information reached me that Floyd was moving from Raleigh down to cut off my communications, and these rumors, coupled with a knowledge of the country west of the Kanawha and below us, soon rendered it certain that whatever the rebel force was, it would come in by Fayetteville. It.
* Memoir not found. Map to appear in Atlas.