town, and when intrenched will command absolutely the valley from mountain to mountain. The movement of the brigades of Williams' division to Manassas by reconstruction of the bridges is impracticable, on account of their great height and the want of timber. The only course in that direction is to bridge the forks of the river on the country road above the railway, and follow the roads in that direction to Manassas. To make this safe, we ought to be supported from Manassas by occupation of Warrenton and the roads leading from that point to the railway. The other and safer is to follow the route by Snicker's Ferry; this should be selected. I think we can occupy Front Royal and Chester Gap from this side. You can judge better which is our true course and when we should move, and I will be glad to receive instructions. The enemy is broken, but will rally. Their purpose is to unite Jackson's and Longstreet's forces-some 20,000-at New Market, below Mount Jackson or at Washington, in order to operate on either side of the mountain, and will desire to prevent our junction of the forces at Manassas. At present they will not attack here. When the First Division moves is uncertain. It would relieve me greatly to know something of Rosecrans' movements, and how far the enemy will be pressed in front of Manassas. Our cavalry and artillery, with infantry supports, are kept well in front of our advanced position here, and the enemy harassed continually.
SEMINARY, VA., March 26, 1862-2.50 p.m.
Major General N. P. BANKS,
Sumner, with two divisions of his corps, is 5 miles below Manassas, moving on Warrenton. The telegraph is working to Manassas and will probably be open to Warrenton on Friday. From the best information he can gather General McClellan believes the main force of the enemy has retired beyond the Rappahannock, occupying the line of the Rapidan from Fredericksburg to Gordonsville; and he thinks that the force met by Shields on the 23rd consisted almost entirely of Jackson's command.
Following extract from telegram to Shields is forwarded for your information.*
* * * * * *
By command of Major-General McClellan:
STRASBURG, March 26, 1862-10.30 p.m.
General S. WILLIAMS,
Your dispatch in cipher received. Thanks for the news. The best informed Southern men say Jackson is moving to Staunton en route for
*See first clause in Williams to Shields, same date, Part I, p. 344.