unmolested by the enemy, who in all probability had not suspected the movement until daylight. About 4 p.m. the rear guard under Averell was attacked by the enemy's advance of cavalry and mounted men and driven, after a spirited action, through the town and back on my main body. The infantry prepared to receive the enemy in position about one mile west of Liberty, but no attack was made.
About midnight we resumed, our march and next morning, 20th, entered Buford's Gap. General Duffie, who had gone forward to take possession of this passage through the Blue Ridge, found it disputed by a small body of the enemy, which he swept out of his way with little difficulty. The march was continued to Bonsack's Station, on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, destroying bridges, water-tanks, and depot buildings on that road as we moved. The enemy coming up to our rear guard on the afternoon of this day made some feeble demonstration, but was easily repulsed.
During the night our march was continued to Salem, destroying all the bridges, contents, and depot buildings on the railroad. We arrived at Salem about sunrise on the 21st. About 9 a.m. the enemy made a demonstration against our rear guard. While opposing his advance in that direction our baggage train and reserve artillery were sent off by the New Castle road, and through some inadvertence the proper guard did not accompany the artillery. While our attention was directed to the rear of the column a detachment of the enemy's cavalry fell upon the artillery en route and got possession of two batteries, spiking the guns, disabling the carriages, and carrying off the horses. They were presently driven off by our cavalry, losing some 30 men, killed, wounded, and prisoners, and the guns were recaptured. Owing to the loss of horses and the breaking of the carriages we were obliged to abandon 8 pieces with their limbers and caissons, after burning all their carriages. From Salem the enemy's cavalry followed us to Catawba Valley, where we rested that night.
On the following morning his advance was ambuscaded and roughly handled, and from that date the army pursued its course unmolested. On the night of the 22nd we rested at New Castle. At this place I was informed that Early was concentrating his forces at Salem. Our scouts also brought reports that the enemy in large force was moving between us and the White Sulphur Springs. Cavalry reconnaissances toward Fincastle, Covington, and Sweet Springs failed to discover any trace of an enemy in force or any grounds for the report.
On the 23rd moved from New Castle to the Sweet Springs. On account of the difficulties of the road and the intense heat of the day we lost a good many horses on this march. At the Sweet Springs I ascertained that the supply train and convoy under Colonel Putnam had been attacked by guerrillas, led by one Thurmond, and that it had turned aside from the Lewisburg route and had taken the road to Beverly. From this point it was suggested that we should move northward by the Warm Springs and the Valley of the South Branch of Potomac, a route lying west of and running parallel to the Valley of the Shenandoah. By this route the army would have reached the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at New Creek and Cumberland. It was objected that by this road the troops would find it impossible to collect necessary supplies and run risks of being cut off by the enemy coming in by way of Staunton and Harrisonburg. In favor of the route via Lewisburg to Charleston, Kanawha, it was