WOODSTOCK, April 6, 1862.
Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN,
Commanding Army of the Potomac:
GENERAL: Your letter of the 1st April, probably intended for me at Manassas, I received by special messenger late last night.*
The enemy in front under Jackson is reduced to about 6,000 men. The force is much demoralized by defeat, desertion, and the general depression of spirits resting on the Southern army. His exact position is at Rude's Hill, on the left of the turnpike, about half way between Mount Jackson and New Market.?He is not in condition to attack, neither to make strong resistance, and I do not believe he will attempt to make a determined stand there. I do not believe Johnston will re-enforce him. We understand him (Johnston) to be engaged in the direction of Richmond, with a view of concentrating all his forces there. All our reports agree in this. He is now near Gordonsville. On the west we learn from General Fremont that the rebels are retreating from Fort Alleghany, about 2,600 strong, and also from Huntersville, Monterey, and on Fremont front generally. Their purpose is doubtless concentration at Staunton, in which event Jackson will be re-enforced to that extent, and perhaps make a stand at Staunton. He is moving commissary stores, ammunition, &c., in that direction. His alternative will be to join Johnston's movements in the direction of Richmond, and in that view perhaps he is now transferring his stores to Waynesborough.
Our advance separates us so far from our depot of supplies-Winchester-as to require caution, and the features of the country, hemmed in on both sides by mountain ranges, makes it practicable for the enemy, if in force, to flank our extended line on either side, and the necessity of guarding these lines in all directions has reduced our force of effective men to less than 12,000, not including Abercrombie or Geary, who are at Manassas or vicinity. In the event of a movement we can draw in some detachments not included in our present effective force. If General Blenker arrives soon he will relieve us of this difficulty. Our cavalry is weak in numbers and spirit-much exhausted with night and day work. Good cavalry would help incalculably.
The movements in contemplation are an attack on Jackson at Rude's Hill, with a view to cut him off, or drive him into the mountain roads, by the way of Luray, Sperryville, &c. This is one of the lines of retreat that he has hitherto contemplated, but a very difficult one. This would prevent a concentration at Staunton. For this movement we are ready at any time. If Jackson retreats on Staunton it will require longer time and the assistance of General Blenker. With his brigades we can bring our force up to about 20,000 men.
The railway bridges from Front Royal are in progress. The re-establishment of this communication will help us, and I shall hope that we may be able to second your movements upon Richmond at the right time, neither being too early nor too late in ours. I desire most earnestly to be kept well informed of your movements, and shall communicate often with you as to our own and those of the enemy.
The Secretary of War informed me by telegraph yesterday that a new department was to be created for my command in this valley. If this is effected it will not lessen the importance of our co-operation or the necessity of each being well informed as to the daily progress of events. I shall, in any event, cherish a sincere feeling of satisfaction
*See Part I, p. 234.