September 26, 1861
The New programme for Western Virginia.
--It is clear that the "forward movement" of General Lee from the direction of Huntersville and Monterey has been blocked by the judicious fortifications of the enemy, and by the superior numbers of his strongly posted forces. It is plain that some other line of march must be adopted, or else the enemy must be expected to make his winter quarters in Western Virginia. It is certain that, if prompt and effective measures be not taken for penetrating that country by some line of march leading to the rear of Reynolds, we must expect one-third of Virginia to remain under the jurisdiction of Pierpont and Carlile, for a season. Every day's delay to reconquer Western Virginia adds to the strength of the enemy, by converting true men among its population over to the side of the North. To allow the enemy to winter in Western Virginia is to allow him to fortify himself in its strongholds so securely as to endanger the permanent loss of the country.
With a view to permanent separation, it would never do to allow the Northern Confederacy to own the Western slope of the Alleghanies. To concede that slope to the Yankees for the practice of their negro-stealing habits, would be equivalent to abolishing slavery in Virginia altogether. The ridge of the Alleghany chain of mountains might be a natural line of boundary for the two Confederacies, but it would be anything else than a line of defence for the Southern States.--Rome was never secure from the invasions of the Gauls and the Goths until her Generals had carried the war beyond the Alps and planted the eagles of the Empire upon the Rhine and the Danube. Rome was not secure until she held the Rhine and Danube.--A mountain frontier is a nursery of assault and invasion.
With a view to the ultimate possession of Western Virginia, the present campaign in that quarter possesses immense interest to the whole South. It is as important a portion of the South as Kentucky itself. We shall be able to hold Kentucky with difficulty, if the enemy should hold Western Virginia; just as we should be able to hold Western Virginia with difficulty without Kentucky. In view of the promising operations just now going on in Kentucky, the campaign in Western Virginia becomes doubly important, and is doubtless enlisting the especial attention of the Confederate authorities.
It would seem from the late advices reaching us from that direction, that Gen. Lee, failing in his forward movement upon Cheat mountain, was turning his attention to the operations in Greenbrier county, and that, with an escort of twenty-five men, he had gone over to the camp of Gen. Floyd, beyond Lewisburg at Meadow Bluff, to look after operations in that field. He is to be followed by several thousand of his troops from Huntersville. The Government has also dispatched all the regiments available at Lynchburg to the reinforcement of General Floyd; insomuch, that if a fight does not come off with Rosencranz in the meantime, we shall have on that line of operations, by the end of this week, nearly twelve thousand men, counting the sick and the well, exclusive of General Lee's army from Huntersville.
These circumstances show very plainly that the Government has resolved upon a new programme for Western Virginia, which contemplates a forward movement, with a strong force, from the direction of Lewisburg upon Clarksburg, Parkersburg, and Charleston, in Kanawha.
Provided a competent force be put at the command of our Generals on that line, much may be expected from this new programme. We should expect much quicker work from it, however, and much more certain success, if the column numbered thirty thousand men, instead of fifteen or twenty; and we shall receive advices of further reinforcements being forwarded with much satisfaction.
The only fear to be apprehended for the success of operations beyond Lewisburg, is from the too great circumspection of General Lee. In mountain warfare the learning of the books and of the strategists is of little use. In a country where it is impossible to find enough level land to muster a company of militia, there is very little scope for ingeniously studied military evolutions or consummately arranged plans of campaign on paper. It is impossible for the books to embrace the thousand thousand topographical features of a wild region, where all Nature seems drunk and the hills and mountains in high frolic. The only rule of warfare in such a region is to throw away all rule. The policy there is to fight and march, to march and fight. Mathematics is fit only for wadding. Ingenious ink and paper plans of campaign are about as useless in the region about the Big Sewell as a McCormick's reaper in a mountain wheat "field." Technical generalship in a mountain campaign is as much out of place as the Great Eastern steamer would be on the Gauley river. The great requisites of an army fit for mountain warfare are good legs and a plenty of ammunition. The best General for such an army is he who will keep them most actively on the march and most constantly loading and firing. Physical exertion is the great thing in mountain warfare; the refined strategy of science can have no play. While General Lee was weaving ingenious webs of strategy about Cheat Mountain, Rosencranz was legging it down to the Gauley. Legs and powder and ball do much better in the mountains than even the science of a Vauban or a Lee.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: Undated: September 1861