Camp at Monterey, July 20, 1861.
Col. GEORGE DEAS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, C.S. Army, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: Since I finished by dispatch of this morning I have received information as to the positions of the enemy sufficiently reliable, in my judgement, to be communicated to headquarters for consideration. And first in reference to the number of troops at different points under the command of General McClellan. An analysis of these various reports would give him in Northwest Virginia at least 30,000, and perhaps 40,000, men. Looking to the danger besetting the right flank of our present position, I would refer to the copy of a letter herewith inclosed, adding that there can be no doubt of the fact that the vanguard or a scouting party of the enemy entered Petersburg soon after Colonel Ramsey left it. Four days ago a messenger from a reliable person brought intelligence to Colonel Ramsey that 3,000 of the enemy had descended from New Creek, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, to come up into the neighborhood of Greenland and to take the road to Petersburg. Greenland is about sixteen miles from Petersburg, on the Northwestern turnpike. Petersburg is thirty miles from Franklin and Franklin is twenty-four miles from this point. Colonel Jackson, of the Virginia volunteers, is under the impression that the enemy will attack us from that direction; Colonel Ramsey thinks otherwise, having destroyed, as he says, the bridges behind him, and thinking that the object of the enemy was simply to annoy his rear and to pick up stragglers. It seems to me that prudence requires an eye to be kept open toward that point. Passing on to the column under the immediate command of General McClellan, its number is estimated variously as from 7,000 to 13,000 men. There can now be but little doubt that on the 18th instant 1,000 of these were engaged in fortifying the top of Cheat Mountain. His scouts have been roaming the country on this side of it, and yesterday a party of nine of them were taken in ambush by a party of our scouts, who killed seven of them and wounded the eighth. General McClellan has been assiduously inviting all the people who have fled from that region to return to their homes, assuring them protection to person and property. His treatment of prisoners is humane in a high degree, and I am apprehensive that the contrast between the course of his troops and that of our poor, destitute, half-starved soldiers toward the inhabitants of the country will work serious mischief to our cause. The telegraphic wire has been brought to Beverly, and his movements are evidently conducted with promptness and method. Passing around to the country on our left flank, all of the reports from that direction, together with the fortifying of Cheat Mountain, would seem to indicate the intention of the enemy to move his main column along the Huttonsville turnpike, which for several days past he has been energetically reconnoitering, either toward Huntersville and Millborough, to take possession of the railroad, or, toward Lewisburg, to operate against General Wise. This conclusion shows how important it is that special attention should be turned to that line, and yet how disproportionate our means to the end to be accomplished. The North Carolina regiment, cheerful and hopeful, with instructions to Colonel Lee to move cautiously, is now upon its road to Elk Mountain. I have begged its officers to keep the probability of retreat ever in contemplation, so that retreat may not of necessity become a rout. Certainly nature has constructed no country better fitted for the retreat of a small before a superior force, and this, I am sorry to say, is at last my greatest hope. It is now clear that unless we be soon and largely re-enforced Northwestern Virginia must be abandoned.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
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.