all upon the side of the rebels, the loss upon mine. Defying contact, Jackson would have escaped intact with his prisoners and plunder. This was a contingency not desired by the President nor contemplated in his dispatch.
Accepting, then, the spirit rather than the letter of the order, of if the letter, the added expression to "operate against the enemy in such way as to relieve Banks," I judged it within my discretion of select another than the route specifically set down-this even though ample means had existed with a fresh and active column to move southward upon my original destination or toward the immediate east. Instead, then, of the attempt through a barren district by any of the above-named routes, I determined to move rearward as far as Petersburg, thence striking easterly by way of Moorefield and Wardensville to Strasburg. Retracing thus for a short distance my supply line I could feed my hungry troops, gather stores, and possibly by vigorous effort reach the Shenandoah Valley in time to intercept Jackson going south. Happily, before leaving camp the next morning (May 25), a later order was received from the Secretary of War confirming previous conclusions, and leaving me free to cheese my line of march. I wa to "direct my attention to falling upon the enemy wherever I could find him with all speed." With the Secretary's dispatch came also the information that General Banks had abandoned Strasburg, been driven from Winchester, and was in full retreat upon Harper's Ferry. That the enemy would of his own will relinquish pursuit was no consistent with his manifest object in entering the valley. I was there fore fully apprised of the situation. General McDowell, it wa further stated to me tin reference to the movement about to be made, would operate toward the same object as myself with his troops.
Looking to the chances of a possession of the telegraph wires at any moment by the rebels I did not at this time communicate my plan of march to the President. It was not desirable that the enemy should by any process be informed. upon the road out from Franklin were met at various points my stalled and scattered thins, laden with provisions and forage for the command. From the stores contained I was enabled to supply present necessities, and by liberal issues to men and animals afford the necessary strength for coming fatigue and travel.
At Petersburg was found an accumulation of imperfect rations for five days. Causing three days' rations to be cooked and place in haversacks, I ordered trains made up to carry forward the reminder, together with supplies of ammunition and forage. Tents, with the exception of a very few for indispensable staff and hospital purposes, were at this point required to be abandoned and place in store. In like manner all surplus personal baggage was directed to be cast off, it being my object to put the column in the lightest possible marching order.
My movement northward leaving the department much exposed, and particularly to the west and south, General Cox was enjoined to double vigilance against the enemy, an doddered to do the best he was able in his position. General Kelley, within the Railroad District, was directed to concentrate, as far as practicable, his force, with a view to the safety of New Creek and other important points.
My column had reached Petersburg on the afternoon of May 26. On the 27th, at daybreak, the march was resumed. The troops, fording the Shenandoah and camping at night near Moorefield, arrived on the 28th at Fabius, about 10 miles easterly from Moorefield, upon Branch Mountain. At this latter point, upon the written protest of