marching last Monday, say, from Meade's front directly to the railroad at Charlottesville.
First, the object of Lee's recent movement against Meade; his destruction of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and subsequent withdrawal, without more motive, not otherwise apparent, would be explained by this hypothesis.
Secondly, the direct statement of Sharpe's man that Ewell has gone to Tennessee.
Thirdly, the Irishman's statement that he has not gone through Richmond, and his further statement of an appeal made to the people at Richmond to go and protect their salt, which could only refer to the works near Abingdon.
Fourthly, Graham's statement from Martinsburg that Imboden is in retreat for Harrisonburg. This last matches with the idea that Lee has retained his cavalry, sending Imboden and perhaps other scraps to join Ewell. Upon this probability what is to be done?
If you have a plan matured, I have nothing to say. If you have not, then I suggest that with all possible expedition, the Army of the Potomac get ready to attack Lee, and that in the meantime a raid shall, at hazards, break the railroad at or near Lynchburg.
OCTOBER 24, 1863-2 p. m.
(Received 3. 45 p. m.)
Your telegram of 11 a. m. is received. The information given in Colonel Sharpe's dispatch is disproved by two deserters just in, who report Ewell's corps in my immediate front on the Rappahannock, with one division (Anderson's) on this side at the railroad crossing.
My cavalry this morning drove in the enemy's cavalry pickets to the railroad crossing, where they fell back on infantry supports that
advanced and compelled our cavalry to retire. From all the information I can get, Lee's army is now between the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, principally at Stevensburg, Brandy, and Jefferson. It would seem as if he intended to dispute the passage of the Rappahannock, and some indications that would lead to the belief of an intention to advance, two pontoon bridges being reported at the railroad crossing, which would not be required if the defensive was only to be assumed.
Before receiving your dispatch, I had intended to repair the railroad as far as Warrenton Junction, to establish my base at Warrenton and Warrenton Junction, and then to advance against Lee, Colonel McCallum reporting he could have the road repaired to Warrenton Junction by the 30th instant. I informed you when in Washington that my cavalry was much reduced by the recent active operations, and particularly by the appearance within the last few days of the hoof disease, which is now spreading rapidly. I have called for reports as to the present numbers and condition of the cavalry.
The proposed raid, in my judgment, will be more likely to succeed with small than large numbers. Twenty-five hundred men, I should think, would be sufficient.