At 4 o'clock on the morning of the 12the my advance had forded the Shenandoah at Petersburg, and on the forenoon of the 14th, after a camp of one night upon the route, I reached Franklin. Preferring to avoid any immediate encounter with my force as concentrate, Jackson, leaving temporarily a thin curtain of his people to disguise the movement, began an early retreat. By sundown of the 15th the had disappeared in a southeasterly direction from my front, taking the road toward the Shenandoah Mountain. Although hitherto crippled for want of transportation, and needing more than ever supplies of every description, I had reason to expect that with economy in the camp as well as just effort on the part of agencies elsewhere deficiencies would yet be made good. Accordingly for the ten days next following upon my arrival at Franklin I addressed myself to the task of getting into order and condition my troops, as well as to details of the movements projected against knoxville and the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. While thus occupied I received rom the Secretary of War the Following urgent dispatch, which made me still more deeply regret the embarrassments of my situation:
WASHINGTON, May 16, 1862.
Major-General FREMONT, Franklin:
The President desires to know whether you design to move on to the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, and break it between newborn and Salem, according to the plan you proposed and he approved; and also whether, having reached an broken that road, you cannot move forward rapidly upon Richmond by that troupe, and by what time you can reach the railroad, and how long it will take you from there to reach Richmond. Please answer immediately.*
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
In the mean time the campaign wa being well carried forward. In execution of the elan upon my right the operations of General Cox were resulting in brilliant success. Moving forward as directed, with a view to reach and sever the railroad, his forces were attacked at Lewisburg, May 23, by a body of the enemy over 3,000 strong, under the rebel leader Heth. After an engagement of several hours the enemy were routed and fled in disorder from the field. Four pieces of artillery were captured by General Cox's troops, 200 stand of small-arms, and over 100 prisoners. Our loss was 10 killed and about 40 wounded. In this brilliant affair the conduct of Colonel Crook's brigade, bearing the brunt of the attack, cannot be too highly praised. The rebel loss in killed and wounded in the action was also severe.
But events were now taken place in another direction which had the effect to terminate suddenly my proposed campaign and divert my column intended for Knoxville upon a line of march entirely new. The rebel General Jackson, quitting my front and turning abruptly to the north into the Shenandoah Valley, had with his customary impetuosity, attacked General Banks at Front Royal, pressing him backward toward Strasburg and Winchester, and threatening the whole valley of the Potomac.
With the intelligence of these event dispatched to me under date of May 24 came also an order from the President directing me to break camp and march against Jackson at harrisonburg. As stated in the order, the objects of the movements were, first to relieve General Banks, secondly to cut off and capture Jackson and his force in the valley of the Shenandoah. It was the seventh or eighth day of a
*See Fremont to Station, same date, in "Correspondence, etc., "Part III, p. 197.