Series 1, Volume 12, pt. 3, p 417-18, 426, 430-31, 435-36
Headquarters District of the Kanawha,
Flat Top, June 21, 1862—9 p.m.
Col. George Crook,
Commanding Third Brigade, Meadow Bluff:
Sir: Your dispatch of this morning announcing your movement to Salt Sulphur is just received. Unless there were some reasons which made your immediate movement important, or which prevented you from informing me sooner, you should have arranged so that I might have known it in time to have made preparations for a combined movement of both columns, as I informed you my purpose was in my last written letter to you.
While it is very desirable to strike the enemy’s detachments, the most important problem on this line is to be able to make such a sustained advance as to reach the railroad. To do this requires a march of from five to seven days in advance and the same in return, including time for action at the point reached and casual delays. As our transportation is insufficient to keep us so far in advance, I have been trying to get supplies in advance enough to make the expedition practicable. This has been slow work, but I shall have accomplished it in two or three days. I now fear that your movement independently will delay instead of helping matters, but I shall wait anxiously for the next news from you, in the hope that you may have so good success that it will compensate for the disappointment in other respects or incidentally help the other plan. It is now too late to arrange any, even partial, movement from here to co-operate with yours, as to-morrow morning is the time you have fixed for reaching Salt Sulphur.
You will appreciate the absolute necessity for combination to insure success in reaching the railroad when you reflect that the impassable ridges of the East River and Wolf Creek Mountains are broken in only two places for an extent of 40 miles across my front, viz, at the Narrows and at Rocky Gap. These defiles are each about 2 miles in length and only wide enough to admit a roadway, the sides being quite precipitous. Both are strengthened by fortifications and held by garrisons, which ought to be able to keep back several times their own number. To turn this range by the easier roads on your side the New River was one of the plans I suggested, and to aid in which, if necessary, I have made a ferry at Pack’s old ferry, which I am still enlarging. Another plan partly suggested also was to time a movement on this side with one of yours, so that either the pass at the Narrows might be attacked from both sides of the river and forced, or, if the troops at Rocky Gap were carried in that direction by the demonstration made, to occupy the latter pass and push onward. In either event the reaching of the railroad would be the chief aim, and preparation for nearly two weeks’ continuous work away from our communications would be necessary.
The latest news from both North Virginia and Tennessee have indicated that in a short time to come forces pushing toward this center from both directions would so occupy the attention of the enemy as to give a better opportunity than at present, and for this I desired both portions of the division to be as thoroughly prepared as possible. Should your present movement meet with decided success I shall most heartily rejoice, but my fear is that it will prove premature. I am sincerely desirous to see you have the opportunity to win all the glory you can wish, and especially to have you win the promotion which will make your present command a permanent one. I believe this can be most certainly done by giving your energetic aid in accomplishing the result desired by the department commander indicated above rather than by independent and unconnected movements.
Crippled as we are for want of adequate transportation, we will be forced to watch our opportunities, and by a careful co-operation of the whole division endeavor to secure the results which we shall otherwise fail of entirely. Please keep these things in view in future action. As soon as I hear the result of your present expedition I will try to arrange for further action.
Your dispatch does not inform me whether you are prepared for more than two or three days’ march, and this lack of knowledge makes it impossible to know whether any movement here within a day or two would have any effect in aiding yours. I send, however, a party to the front to-morrow to make a diversion, and so may prevent a concentration on the other side of New River. I greatly regret I have not time to do more.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. D. Cox,
No. 21.] Flat Top, June 22, 1862.
Col. Albert Tracy,
Headquarters in the Field, Mountain Department:
The rebels still occupy the defiles in force. Wharton’s brigade at Rocky Gap and part of Heth’s force at Narrows. A union prisoner, released at Richmond, reported yesterday. The train on which he came to Newbern brought a regiment to re-enforce the enemy in front, and, as he was informed, some artillery. Colonel Crook moved yesterday toward Union to feel of the rebels’ right wing. His dispatch, stating the fact, did not reach me till last night, or I should have tried a movement to co-operate with him. He neglected me directions in this respect, but may have had sudden intelligence which made it proper.
J. D. Cox,
Headquarters Third Provisional Brigade,
Meadow Bluff, June 25, 1862.
Capt. G. M. Bascom,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Flat Top:
Captain: Having positive information that General Heth, with some 2,500 men, was stationed at Salt Sulphur Springs, stripping that country of all forage, provisions, and stock, also impressing in his ranks all persons able to bear arms, thereby preventing farmers from attending to their crops, I left this place on the 22d instant with 1,600 infantry, 150 cavalry, and battery of artillery for the purpose of attacking him or driving him out of that country.
The first day I marched 2 miles beyond Alderson’s Ferry, capturing 5 prisoners. The next morning I started to Salt Sulphur via Centreville, sending part of my cavalry via Union to make a feint from that direction. Near Centreville I found some of their cavalry pickets, capturing one of them. On my arrival at Salt Sulphur I learned that the enemy had fled in great confusion on their first hearing of our approach in the direction of Newport across Peter’s Mountain, from all accounts in a perfectly demoralized condition, leaving some commissary and quartermaster’s stores and some 200 head of beef cattle behind them. Finding it useless to follow them, I returned here to-day.
Although the enemy fled without giving us battle, I regard the expedition as having a very important effect of not only demoralizing their force, keeping hundreds out of their ranks, and allowing the farmers to attend to their crops, but in case of a movement on the Narrows our left flank will be entirely free.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade
Headquarters Third Brigade,
Meadow Bluff, [June] 26, [1862.]
General Jacob D. Cox, Commanding:
Nothing special since my return. I have been satisfied all along that the large number of the enemy reported at different points in front of division is all humbug, and this trip to Salt Sulphur convinces me that me judgment was correct, and that there has only been a part of the Thirty-sixth Virginia Regiment and a small detachment of artillery, with some two or three pieces, stationed at the Narrows for the last month; in all not 1,000. Their position is strong, and I think it better to turn their position and make them evacuate. Heth’s force will not fight.
Headquarters Third Provisional Brigade,
Meadow Bluff, june 26, 1862.
Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox,
Commanding Kanawha Division, Flat Top Mountain, W. Va.:
General: I regret exceedingly that my expedition to Salt Sulphur interfered with your plans, for I can assure you that I have never had any other idea than that of a most hearty co-operation with you, and it was in furtherance of your plans, as I supposed, that I made the expedition, in order that when your proposed move on the Narrows was made I would have no enemy in my rear. I did not know the day before I would make the move, but did it on information just received. I must say, however, that I was greatly surprised to receive such a communication in an unsealed envelope, with the flap of the envelope folded inside, showing that it was not inadvertence—a transaction that in all of my military experience I had never heard of before. Coming in this way its contents gained certain publicity, and as it contained certain reflections on my motives, justice to myself requires that an investigation on the whole affair, by proper authority, should be made. I shall reserve all particulars until the proper time.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: June 1862