until the 21st, so as to be in position to drive in the enemy's picket at daylight on the 25th, instead of the 23rd, as last directed.
I am aware of the obstacles which will be in the way of your move if more rain falls. If the streams you mention become impassable the move cannot be made at the time designated. You will, of course, inform me immediately if any such insurmountable obstacle presents itself.
Take with you as little transportation as possible. Leave your wagons at the crossing of Piney. From that point your men should move with three days' rations in their haversacks. From Piney, rations may be sent forward to you, as circumstances may require and you may direct. It may be that you will not need than three days' rations. If the enemy drives you back on the day you present yourself before him (which I do not at all anticipate), Piney will be the best point at which to fall back. If he retreats from Fayetteville, I hope you will so manage as to feed on his commissariat. If he neither attacks you nor falls back, and you find it necessary to remain in his front, simply to hold him there, have your rations brought up to you from day to day, only as you need them.
I must caution you again, colonel, not to engage the enemy in an unequal combat, unfavorable to you, if you can avoid it, and, in that country, I am sure you can avoid it. You have good troops, and they must not be cut up in an attempt to dislodge the enemy from a place which, under present circumstances, we could not hold long enough to make it of any value to us.
I will give the instructions in regard to the Forty-fifth [Virginia] Regiment you desire, and will communicate with you, and, perhaps, see you at Princeton before you start.
Very respectfully, &c.,
HEADQUARTERS ANDERSON'S DIVISION,
Near Fredericksburg, Va, March 17, 1863.
Brigadier General WILLIAM MAHONE,
Commanding Left Wing, Anderson's Division, United States Ford:
GENERAL: I wish you to place the forces under your command in the best position for checking any attempt of the enemy to cross at United States Ford, to examine the river above and below you for some distance, and to ascertain whether any practicable fords exist. I have been informed that there is one, called the Blind Ford, just below the junction of the rivers.
If your position can be strengthened, have all needful work done. Have the road repaired. Learn all that you can about United States Ford. This may be effected by inducing one of the enemy's cavalry picket to come over to exchange papers or to trade.
Let me have timely notice of any movements of the enemy. Keep up communication with our cavalry picket at Ely's Ford, on the Rapidan.
Very respectfully, yours,
R. H. ANDERSON,
Major-General, Commanding Division.
[MARCH 17, 1863.-For Cooper to Donelson, in relation to affairs in Southwestern Virginia, see Series I, Vol. XXIII, Part II, p. 705.]