Series 1, Volume 25, part 2, pp. 7-9
Headquarters District of Western Virginia,
Marietta, Ohio, January 29, 1863.
Maj. N. H. McLean,
Chief of staff, Department of the Ohio:
Major: I have the honor to inclose a copy of a telegram received to-day from General Scammon, at Charleston, stating indirect receipt of information as to the purposes of the enemy in the direction of the Kanawha.
Mr. Thomas N. Ayers, to whom the dispatch refers, is the superintendent of the coal-oil manufacturing company, which has works at Cannelton, 10 miles below Gauley Bridge, and which has its chief place of business at Maysville, Ky.
Reports of this sort have not been infrequent, and I attach little importance to them. I have given General Scammon directions to use his force with such activity as to compensate for its weakness as far as possible, and to look toward a concentration of it, with the determination to make a persistent stand at Gauley Bridge, even if the enemy advance by way of Sandy River, through Logan and Boone Court-House, to the Kanawha, below him. By keeping himself thus in their rear, the impossibility of keeping up supplies would make their stay short, whilst the withdrawal of Crook’s command leaves a considerable surplus of subsistence stores in the upper valley. Forage, however, is not abundant. In view, therefore, of the diminution of the force in the Kanawha, I have the honor to request from the general commanding a statement of his views of the policy to be pursued in the contingency referred to by General Scammon, or any other similar one which may arise.
I believe I have before stated to the general that the chief embarrassment of the officer commanding in the Kanawha is not in reference to his direct front, but as to his flanks, raids of cavalry being possible, either by the route taken by [A. G.] Jenkins last season, i. e., through the mountains between Summerville and Beverly, thence down the Little Kanawha Valley to the Ohio, reaching the Great Kanawha anywhere between Charleston and the mouth; or by the valley of the Big Sandy, and thence, as above stated, to the Kanawha above Charleston, at the Salines, or anywhere below. In either case it will be important to know what policy it is desired to have pursued--whether to attempt to hold Gauley Bridge, leaving the enemy to occupy the lower valley, or penetrate into Ohio, trusting to the necessity of their making but a brief visit, or to retreat to the Ohio. Of course these questions could only arise when the enemy is in greatly superior force. The line is not one which would be available to the enemy for permanent operations on a large scale, but they would, no doubt, be very glad to repossess the valley on account of the salt, as also on account of the diversion it would make in behalf of their forces elsewhere.
Political reasons also weigh with them in the desire to keep a foothold in Western Virginia.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. D. Cox,
Headquarters District of Kanawha,
Charleston, January 29, 1863.
Colonel Paxton is directed to send one or two companies of cavalry on the road leading south from Cannelton. There are rumors of an approach of the enemy from Tazewell. Their force is said to be cavalry and light artillery, under [Henry] Heth. This reconnaissance must be made with all speed, and with special reference to the selection of points where an enemy could be most successfully opposed by inferior force. No time must be lost.
It is reported that the enemy intends to strike the river near Mr. Ayers’ works, at Cannelton. You will readily understand the route by which they would approach.
E. P. Scammon,
Marietta, Ohio, [January 29, 1863.]
Brigadier-General Scammon, Charleston:
The possibility of a move of the nature you speak of has made me incline to the opinion that a force small as yours can be best used against one greatly superior by holding Gauley instead of Fayette; but this, of course, implies that the crests around that post are held with tenacity, as suggested in my former communication on that subject. A large cavalry force cannot subsist in the Kanawha, and I cannot believe anything more than a raid would be attempted, during the winter, at least. To be exceedingly watchful, keeping scouts everywhere in front and flanks, and prepared to concentrate at Gauley, seems to me the true course. For this reason, industry should be used in making that position defensible, as before suggested.
I fear we cannot calculate upon much aid, for there is nothing within reach, and the removal of Crook in the face of reports hereto- fore made by me shows that the necessity elsewhere must be great. To do the very best thing possible with the means we have is now our duty.
Let me know your views as to the use of your force, if left for a time without help.
Your dispatch will be forwarded to General Wright.
J. D. Cox,
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: January 1863