moved against Banks threw out a small force to observe our forces by way of the routes from Front Royal to White Plains and Berry's Ferry toward Aldie. Only a few hundred men were seen. They had one or two pieces of artillery, and the moment they opened fire our men ran.
Geary, with the most of his command, is here now. Some of his cavalry, he says, are at Aldie. The enemy has burned the bridges on the railroad. I will soon find out how far it is practicable, with your permission.
This will be my disposition: Three of my brigades forward immediately to Thoroughfare Gap. One brigade remains at Catlett's, with instructions to push forward cavalry beyond Warrenton to observe. This brigade will join us by way of Hay Market. General Duryea will resume his former position, to guard railroad and depot. General Geary will march with his force by way of Aldie to Berry's Ferry, and when I get to Front Royal resume his position. Railroad and telegraph lines to be repaired immediately. Everything as it was, except the commanders, who ought to be replaced to save us from disgrace.
I will soon clear out the Shenandoah Valley.
Commanding First Division.
Alexandria, May 27, 1862.
General SHIELDS, Manassas:
General McDowell is now here, on his way to Manassas, which he will reach as soon as the track can be cleared for his train, when he will see you in regard to future movements. Keep your troops in hand for a prompt move.
Chief of Staff.
FREDERICKSBURG, May 27, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
In compliance with General McDowell's instructions, I sent forward Bayard's cavalry this morning to take a reconnaissance along the several branches of the Mattapony River. He has just returned to his camp, 8 miles from here, on the Telegraph road to Richmond, and reports that he pushed his reconnaissance some 10 miles in advance of his camp; that the streams are all easily crossed; that he saw nothing of the enemy, but that all accounts along the road concurred in stating that the force recently in our front was not more than 12,000 strong, and were falling back upon Hanover Junction and Ashland. There seems to be no reason to doubt that their destination is Richmond. If their retreat is not intercepted, the country for 20 miles in our front is entirely free from the enemy. I take the liberty of sending this dispatch to you, as I do not know where to address General McDowell.