Hill. The cipher operator was employed all night in putting the general's official dispatches into cipher for transmission from the nearest telegraph station to Washington, through Shepherdstown to Pleasant Valley, and from there to Frederick, and thence to Harper's Ferry and up the Shenandoah Valley to Strasburg, but again fell back to Halltown. After remaining at Halltown five days the command again moved up the valley to Berryville, at which place the cipher operator received orders to return to the Department of West Virginia.
On the 26th of September, 1864, the military telegraph line from Clarksburg, Va., to Weston was intercepted at Weston by a rebel operator, who under the pretense of being the regular U. S. military telegraph operator stationed at that the name of the commandant of that post, addressed to the commandant of the post at Clarksburg, stating that 3,000 rebels under General Basil Duke were advancing on Weston, and asking how many troops were at Clarksburg and how many could be sent to Weston. The military operator at Clarksburg fels satisfied from the peculiarity of the manipulation of the telegraph key at Weston that the telegram was a fraud and that it had been transmitted by a rebel operator, and so informed Colonel Wilkinson, then in command at Clarksburg. This suspicion, however, was kept from the rebel operator, and an answer regularly transmitted to Weston stating that 2,000 troops had just arrived by railroad and that more were expected during the night. Subsequent facts proved that the rebels were under command of Colonel Witcher, 900 strong, who retreated after plundering Weston and its inhabitants, although the original intention of the rebels had been to capture Clarksburg and destroy the large amount of Government property at that depot, which they could very easily have accomplished, only two companies of troops being stationed at Clarksburg at that time. Whether the subterfuge resorted to on our part was the means of saving Clarksburg and its supplies or not is unknown.
On the morning of September 27, 1864, the rebels under Colonel Wither, about Captain Hill, attacked the Federal forces at Beverly, Va., but after a sharp contest were repulsed. After the rebels had retreated, the military telegraph repairer stationed at Beverly, having a thorough knowledge of the country, took the lead of our pursuing force, and, by taking a short by-road, got to the front of the rebels, when a charge was made, driving the rebels across a creek, taking 93 prisoners and recapturing about 40 of our own men taken in the attack on Beverly. The telegraph employe was complimented in the official report of the affair.
At about 11 a. m. November 28 the rebels, in U. S. uniform, under General Rosser, surprised the Federal force at New Creek, Va., and took possession of the place. The rebel force consisted of a division of cavalry. Much Government property was destroyed. The military telegraph office was seized so quickly that the operator had not time to escape and was carried off by the retreating rebels. He was robbed of his valuables and clothing, compelled to march barefoot to Harrisonburg, given nothing to eat until the third day of his captivity, and then merely three-quarters of a pound of fresh beef,