the fact of the cavalry being on the railroad will prevent the enemy from attempting a retreat in that direction, and, if he escapes capture at our hands, will force him toward Weston or Clarksburg. In either case, vigorous pursuit may be safely made, as no force can be speedily thrown in our rear, there being none nearer than New Creek or Kanawha. New Creek would be cut off by the destruction of the bridges. The Kanawha forces, even if informed in time, would hardly venture to seek to cut us off, with General Williams on their flank at the Narrows on New Creek.
Being joined by my cavalry at Buckhannon or Weston, much of the Northwestern Railroad might be destroyed in a few days, and with a general destruction of these roads and bridges will end, I believe, the occupation of the northwest by the enemy, at least for some months to come, and even its temporary occupation by us will be of immense advantage. I am satisfied that I should receive several thousand recruits, and large numbers of cattle and horses could be collected; and, again, I would be in good position to operate in conjunction with General Williams against Charleston later in the spring.
These expectations may seem wild, but I assure you, general, that at no period since the war commenced has the opportunity ever been so good to gain a foothold in the northwest. The weakness of the enemy there, the disaffection of the people toward their rulers, and the unexpectedness of the movement, all give promise of success. The movement must be a dash from this commencement to its conclusion, and until it is actually begun there ought to be no noisy preparation nor suggestive arrangements, as it is impossible to prevent information from spreading through these mountains. The expedition cannot be safely undertaken before about the 1st OF April, on account of the swollen streams, resulting from the unusually large fall of snow in the mountains this winter. I have not men enough here to move on Beverly, as proposed, after sending my cavalry to the railroad, but if you can send me by the 1st of April the Twenty-fifth and Thirty-first [Virginia] Regiments, from 600 to 800 veterans, I can go through. I can fill their ranks, too, with the recruits we shall get, and by thus placing this raw material for soldiers into the ranks of thorough organized and disciplined regiments, the actual effective strength of the recruits will be doubled over what it must be if they are organized to themselves. These two old regiments are from the northwest, and would fight like tigers the vandals who have so long domineered over their helpless families. Let me have these skeleton regiments until the 15th of May, and, if you need them then, take them back, with their exhausted ranks filled from their own section of the country. They are anxious to come, officers and men. Their old brigade has been disbanded, and they separated and attached to other brigades.
I know how much you need every man, but I hope the service proposed for these men here would result in weakening the enemy in your front, by cutting one of his main lines of supply, more than you would be weakened by the temporary withdrawal of 600 or 800 men.
Recruiting for my brigade is going forward rapidly, but many of the new companies will not be full in time for the early movement I propose.
The importance of the subject is my apology for the length of this letter.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. D. IMBODEN,