War of the Rebellion: Serial 040 Page 0540 Chapter XXXVII. N. VA, W. VA., MD., AND PA.

Search Civil War Official Records

WINCHESTER, VA.,

May 28, 1863.

Honorable E. M. STANTON:

SIR: I humbly ask the privilege of presenting for your consideration my views of affairs in this department.

From information received in the last two days, the rebels are collecting a heavy force of cavalry in Culpeper and Rappahannock Counties. Their intention, in my opinion, is to proceed along the foot of Blue Ridge to the neighborhood of Piedmont or Upperville. Upperville is opposite Ashby's Gap, which is the direct road the Berry's Ferry. Now, their design is either to cross the Shenandoah, throw their force in front of Milroy, and cut him off from Martinsburg or Harper's Ferry, or else they intend to proceed from Upperville, via Bloomfield and Snickersville, to Leesburg, cross there into Maryland, and scour the country for horses.

What is there to prevent a cavalry force under Stuart, of from 5,000 to 10,000 men, from crossing the Potomac at Edwards Ferry or Berlin, separating into two squads, one taking off in direction of Frederick and the other in the direction of Boonsborough? They could capture all the good horses in the valley of the Upper Potomac, pass into Pennsylvania, take their choice out of the horses in Cumberland Valley, and pass out again north of Hagerstown, at Clear Spring or Hancock, or else they could go up and cross at Old Town to Springfield, in Hampshire County; from there, via Romney and Moorefield, to New Market, with all their horses and plunder.

Ten thousand cavalry could accomplish this without any danger to themselves. But I think it very probable that they will cross at Ashby's Gap or Snicker's Gap, and fall on Milroy, in conjunction with General Jones' force, capture him (Milroy) and all his forces,, and destroy the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Stuart and Jones can accomplish this unless Milroy is speedily re-enforced. I have the information, from deserters, exiles driven out by the rebels, and from citizens of the South, who claim protection as foreigners, that Lee's army is re-enforced by Longstreet's force and by conscripts to at east 100,000 men. My opinion is that this report is true. Now, in case Hooker lies still, it will enable Lee to throw a force of cavalry, under Stuart and Hampton, from Culpeper to Upperville, as before mentioned. They will keep Heintzelman or Stahel busy, or else they will cross into Maryland at Berlin, and recross back into Virginia at Shepherdstown or Williamsport or Clear Spring. If Stuart acts in conjunction with Jones, they would be sure to capture Martinsburg and cut off General Milroy's retreat.

Jones' cavalry force, previous to the recent raid, was over 4,000. His whole force, infantry and cavalry, amounted to 7,000 men. By his raid into West Virginia, he increased his cavalry force by 1,000 men, and a like increase of infantry. He has recruited himself with 3,000 horses suitable either for cavalry or artillery, besides beef-cattle of every description, and sheep.

The rebels are so situated in the Valley that they will not lie still. It would be greatly to their advantage to drive your force from the Valley for the benefit of the pasturage and the coming crop. Besides, it would encourage the rebel sympathizers in the North and greatly discourage the Union citizens. Throw in a re-enforcement immediately to General Milroy, so that he can advance up the Valley and occupy New Market and Luray. He could then hold the only passage to West Virginia. The rebels are well supplied with pasture, and their cavalry can march from 20 to 25 miles per day without giving their horses but one feed