I cannot concentrate my troops and move them in that direction without exposing this section of country, the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, and the salt-works, the two last of which I am expressly directed to guard. My line is so long and force so small, that if I move into Northwestern Virginia I must leave the important line of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad exposed to at least three mounted regiments of the enemy, to say nothing of his troops of other arms. If the War Department will relieve me from the duty of guarding the salt-works and the line of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, I can then go into Northwestern Virginia, perhaps into Pennsylvania, and at least make a diversion in your favor, and damage the enemy seriously.
The only point at which I can strike without seriously exposing the line I am charged to guard, is the Kanawha Valley. The enemy is strongly fortified at Fayetteville, Gauley Bridge, and Charleston. I am now on my way to Piney, near Raleigh Court-House, where I have a small brigade, and if, from information I gather, I think the enemy can be attacked with reasonable hope of success, I shall do it. So long as the enemy are in the Kanawha Valley, a nearly equal force should be held between there and the railroad. To drive them out of the Valley would be of little use, as I could not support my troops there at this season, and the enemy would return as soon as I withdrew. If I can cut them up or capture them, I can then, perhaps, go into Western Virginia and Pennsylvania. I am looking with great interest, as is the whole Confederacy, to the operations of your army; and I trust in God that you will soon be able to announce another glorious victory.
With great respect and esteem, your obedient servant,
SALT SULPHUR SPRINGS, June 27, 1863.
Major General S. B. BUCKNER,
Commanding, &c., Knoxville, Tenn.:
GENERAL: Your telegram of the 25th was forwarded to me from Dublin, and received this morning. The Fifty-first [Virginia] Regiment had been ordered back, and arrived at New River Bridge before I received your telegram. I am contemplating an attack on the enemy in my front, with the view of pushing on through Western Virginia, and, if practicable, into Pennsylvania. If I do, I shall need every man I can command, and more besides. My move will depend on information I expect to receive in a few days. In the meantime, whenever I can spare you that regiment or any other, I will do so cheerfully. I would like to know if you succeeded in punishing the party that has just made the raid into your department, and the extent of the damage they did.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GENERAL ORDERS, Numbers 73. HDQRS. ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, Chambersburg, Pa. June 27, 1863.
The commanding general has observed with marked satisfaction the conduct of the troops on the march, and confidently anticipates results commensurate with the high spirit they have manifested.