On this day I received positive information from a scout that Breckinridge was in command of the rebel forces at Rockfish Gap, while from prisoners and others we had rumors that a formidable rebel force was hastening toward the Valley from Richmond, and that Sheridan had met with a reverse near Louisa Court-House. At the same time I had assurance that there was no considerable force of the enemy in or near Lynchburg.
On the morning of the 14th I moved with my whole command to-ward Buchanan, and on arriving there found it occupied by Averell. He had driven McCausland sharply from the place, capturing some prisoners and a number of canal barges laden with stores, but had not succeeded in saving the bridge. As there was a convenient and accessible ford at hand the advance of the army was not retarded by its loss. In view of this fact and of the danger incurred to private property the inhabitants of the village protested against the burning of the bridge, but McCausland, with his characteristic recklessness, persisted in the needless destruction, involving eleven private dwellings in the conflagration. The farther progress of this needless devastation was stopped by the friendly efforts of our troops, who extinguished the flames.
On the 15th I moved from Buchanan, crossing the Blue Ridge by the Peaks of Otter road. This road was blockade by felled trees, and our advance feebly contested by some light parties of the enemy. It was, however, easily cleared, and on the evening of the same day my cavalry occupied Liberty, the country town of Bedford, on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, twenty-four miles from Lynchburg. At this point the detachment of picked men (200), which had been sent out by General Averell from Lexington to make the circuit of Lynchburg, reported, having accomplished their perilous undertaking with trifling loss. Moving eastward from Lexington they crossed the Blue Ridge and struck the Charlottesville railroad near Amherst Court-House, tearing up the track for a short distance. Thence moving southeastward they crossed the James River below Lynchburg, destroying the South Side Railroad for a short distance, and burning two trains at Concordia Station; from thence making a circuit within a few miles of Lynchburg they turned westward, meeting the advance of the main army at Liberty. Neither from this scouting party nor from other sources could we obtain any clear or reliable information in regard to the enemy. Through rebel channels we had exaggerated rumors of disasters to our armies both under Sherman and Grant. Some reported that Sheridan had been defeated near Louisa Court-House, while others said that he was already in Lynchburg. Negro refugees just from the town represented that it was occupied only by a few thousand armed invalids and militia, and that its inhabitants in the greatest panic were fleeing with their movable property by every available route. At the same time, from other sources equally worthy of respect, we were assured that all the rebel forces of West Virginia were concentrated there under Breckinridge, and that Ewell's corps of veteran troops, 20,000 strong, had already re-enforced them.
To develop the truth I determined to advance on Lynchburg immediately. Early on the 16th General Duffie moved with his cavalry on the Forestville road, sending a strong reconnaissance toward Balcony Falls to ascertain the truth of a report which located a considerable force of the enemy at that point. General Crook's division of infantry moved by the railroad, destroying it