General Lee's suggestions interfered with no plans of mine, nor do other operations promising good results, and which I think practicable or judicious at present, suggest themselves to me.
Before I received General Lee's letter, Colonel W. L. Jackson, whose troops were in the southern part of Pocahontas County, was making preparations to move to Beverly. He ought to be at that place now.
His subsequent movements will depend on the success he meets with there.
Just previous to our move on Winchester, a force was concentrating at Beverly, to make a raid on a large scale, as was believed, toward Staunton.
If Colonel Jackson takes Beverly, he will push on, feel the enemy, ascertain to what extent troops have been detached from that section of the country, and profit by any opportunity that offers of striking and damaging the enemy.
The accompanying condensed abstract will show you the strength and position of my troops. Under the instructions I have from the Secretary of War, whilst I have not regarded the protection of the salt-works on the borders of my department, and that of East Tennessee and the line of the Virginia and East Tennessee Railroad, as the only, I have thought it the chief, duty of the troops under my command, and I have taken positions accordingly.
The troops in front of Lewisburg and near Raleigh Court-House are designed to cover all the approaches to the salt-works and the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad within my department; the troops at and near Saltville to watch the approaches to the salt-works through the adjacent Department of East Tennessee, and to guard and defend those works, and, being near railroad transportation, to be used at other points on the line where their services may be needed.
Within the last two or three weeks, I have repeatedly received telegrams from the commander of the Department of East Tennessee, calling for re-enforcements (I received an urgent one last night), and from Brigadier-General Preston, assuring me that the enemy was moving in force on the salt-works. I received such an one yesterday.
I have, therefore, not felt at liberty, under my instructions to defend the salt-works and this line of railroad, to unite my forces, as General Lee suggests; for a movement against the enemy.
From the most reliable information I have, the enemy have in the Kanawha Valley a force somewhat larger than I have confronting them in front of Lewisburg, and at Piney, 2 or 3 miles south of Raleigh Court-House. They have the advantage of being strongly intrenched at Fayetteville, Gauley Bridge, and Charleston, and they have at least three mounted regiments, two of them recently mounted for the express purpose, as is reported, of making raids on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, whilst I have but one mounted regiment to oppose them.
In my view of the case, so long as the enemy occupies the Kanawha Valley in force, indicating a design to penetrate the country, and strike at the salt-works and the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, a nearly equal force should be interposed between them and these objects.
In view of the instructions I have, the only move I can make, aside from that of Colonel Jackson's to Beverly, without exposing all of