Camp at Monterey, July 20, 1861.
Col. GEORGE DEAS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, C.S. Army, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: Yesterday I received the letter of General Lee of the 16th of July, unaccountably delayed upon the road, in which he refers to the importance of defending the mountain passes to prevent the advance of the enemy to the Central Railroad at Millborough. I have been exceedingly anxious that the general should be apprised by personal inspection of the indescribably condition into which this branch of the army has fallen, and therefore have learned with great pain, through Major Harman, that his contemplated movement toward this quarter has been delayed. I can confidently say that of all the troops under my command the regiments from Georgia and North Carolina are alone reliable and fit for service, all the rest having been demoralized to a greater or less extent by our late disasters. The condition of Colonel Ramsey’s command, the larger portion of which has arrived in camp, is in truth pitiable. Officers and men are absolutely stripped of everything–tents, clothing, cooking utensils, shoes–and I am sorry to believe that many have thrown away their arms. Men and horses jaded, dispirited, halt, and limping, are wholly unfit for duty, and what disposition to make of them is a most serious question. No re-enforcements have come up from below. The Arkansas regiment, so long and anxiously looked for, did not leave Staunton until yesterday. It certainly must be obvious at a glance that with the available troops at hand little or nothing can be done, and yet, unless the points referred to by the general be taken at once, they must pass into the enemy’s hands. Is the whole country thus to be surrendered? A glance at the map will show that to prevent the advance of the enemy at least two routes toward the east must be at once held–the one upon which we now are and the turnpike from Huttonsville through Huntersville to Millborough. My letter of yesterday will have informed you that I have sent forward a small but comparatively well-organized force to occupy the Allegheny pass on the former, with the faint hope that they might ascertain by reconnoitering that the Cheat pass had as yet been neglected by the enemy, and by a forced march at night might throw themselves into it. This movement, contemplated by me from the first, had been delayed by the sickness of Colonel Johnson, who, it is needless to say, has been my main reliance. I am sorry to say that he is still unwell and unable to sustain the advance by his presence. The inhabitants of Pocahontas, through which the other route passes, are said to be loyal. Those of them who are not already in General Wise’s brigade are flying, or are disposed to fly, to arms. But they appeal for assistance and ask not to be abandoned. Under these circumstances, weak as I am, the receipt of the general’s letter decided me at once to send the Sixth North Carolina Regiment into Pocahontas and to the Elk Mountain pass, said to be defensible, accompanied by the Bath County Cavalry. I have taken the liberty of countermanding the proclamation of Major Harman calling upon the militia of Pocahontas and adjacent counties to rendezvous at Staunton. Have directed that they rendezvous at Huntersville; have sent them powder for their rifles; have ordered them to go at once against the enemy, to blockade the road from Huttonsville to Elk Mountain by felling trees before him, and to beset his flanks from the adjacent woods and fastnesses. I have also written to Major Harman to send one of the regiments at Staunton by the railroad and Millborough in the same direction, and shall make arrangements at Huntersville for their supplies. I think the general will perceive that in comparison with my resources I have undertaken a vast deal, and yet what else was to be done? I must either advance or retreat from this point. To advance may be dangerous; to retreat would be ruinous, since the whole country, thus apparently abandoned, would probably turn from us to receive the enemy with open arms. I must be excused, therefore, for praying most earnestly that attention be turned in this direction; that re-enforcements of all kinds be forwarded at once; that some one more competent than I be placed in charge of these complicated operations; or that, if this cannot be, the necessary staff officers be sent to my assistance, since, without any exaggeration, apart from the anxieties of my position, flesh and blood cannot long stand the mere detail labor imposed upon me.
HENRY R. JACKSON,
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. LI, Part II. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1897.