War of the Rebellion: Serial 005 Page 0280 OPERATIONS IN MD., N. VA., AND W. VA. Chapter XIV.

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the enemy retreated in confusion, with the last of their wagon train. Their position was soon, though cautiously, taken possession of, when it was found thickly strewn with blankets, clothing, camp equipage, &c., as evidence of a precipitous flight. A short time for rest was now given, and we then moved forward, with the usual scouting parties in advance, through an escaped road upon a steep mountain side, in a defied, continuing for about 4 miles between two mountains up the Big Loop Creek, finding about midway of the defile a bridge of some size broken down, which delayed us nearly an hour to repair. Yet still, as the guides informed us that there was a long and difficult hill for the passage of wagons about 2 miles in advance of the bridge, I decided to push forward, in the hopes of overtaking it, although the men had been marching nearly all the night previous, as well as during most of that day, in for a greater part of the time a drenching storm and over roads in many places to great extent of tenacious mud, and many of them by the failure of expected trains with less than half their rations. On reaching at 4 p. m. the outlet of this defile at Keton's farm, about 15 miles from Fayetteville and 20 miles from our previous bivouac near Cotton Hill, we found the expected steep hill some 2 miles distance, and their wagons over it or not in slight, and therefore I concluded to bivouac the men there with such food as we could best obtain and report the case, as I did, to General Schenck at Fayetteville, who had assumed the direction by order of General Rosecrans, and suggesting to him to join me with his force (about one-half of mine), that we might attack or drive the enemy in Raleigh the next day.

The first dispatch of General Schenck informed me that he had sent the Twenty-sixth Regiment and some mounted men to re-enforce me. a second note, received at 10 p. m., informed me that the Twenty-sixth Regiment was ordered to return, while it directed me also to return as soon as practicable to this place. As the men were still for more than nine-tenths of them without any shelter in a most drenching rain or succession of violent thunder showers, many their blankets even, which had been thrown off in the ardor of the chase, and as they were still standing around their fires unable to sleep in the rain upon the open ground, the greater part of the command, though most unwilling to give up the pursuit, felt that if it was so ordered it must be best for themselves, after their few hours' halt (it could not be called rest), to retrace their steps that very night rather than remain standing in the cold and wet till morning with only the prospect before them of their return. We accordingly commenced our return soon after 1 o'clock, and reaching McCoy's about 4, we rested till after 6 a. m. of the 15th, or to-day, when we moved onward, and with a single rest about midway the command reached this place soon after noon, being still in excellent spirits, their main disappointment being in not having been permitted to continue the pursuit of the rebels. We are at his hour partly in houses, but a great number out in the open air in the village, where it is now snowing upon them in their bivouac, which, added to their really great exposure, will, I fear, half annihilate their effective strength.

The main facts and circumstances of the expedition are therefore tat after remaining about one week upon Loop Creek awaiting the co-operation of another force, and with my command of about 3,000 men divided in four portions, as ordered by General Rosecrans, I at length moved forward with one-half this force to meet the enemy in front to the farthest point of Cotton Hill. There in the night after our first engagement with his outpost on the afternoon of the 13th enemy made a most precipitous retreat, leaving portions of his baggage, wagon loads.