Jul. 5 Report of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan

Buckhannon, Va., July 5, 1861.

Colonel E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant-General:

COLONEL: You will probably feel as much regret as I do in finding that I am still here. The cause is the difficulty of getting up supplies and arranging transportation. I hope that to-day’s arrivals will enable me to move in the morning. While waiting here I have endeavored to employ out time to advantage.

You will observe that this is the important strategical position in this region. From it I can cover our base of operations and supplies, and move readily by good roads in any desired direction. I have directed the position on Cheat river at Grafton, Webster, Clarksburg, and Parkersburg to be intrenched, that the necessary garrisons may be reduced as much as possible. The bridges, tunnels, &c., on the two branches of the railroad are now well guarded. The Cheat River, covering the left of our base, is guarded by eleven companies; Grafton, by a regiment; Clarksburg, some eight companies, besides virginia recruits; Parkersburg, six companies, two regiments of Indiana troops to arrive there to-day, and to be disposable as a reserve where needed. Two other Indiana three years’ regiments are en route to Bellaire, to be sent wherever needed. Six companies occupy Wirt County Court-House, where Union men have suffered much. Four companies at Ravenswood repulsed O. J. Wise night before last. I hope that he determined to renew the attempt, as in that case he will have been cut off by a column of twelve hundred men under Colonel Norton, that were to reach Ripley from Letart’s at 2 p. m. yesterday. I shall not be surprised to learn before this letter is close that he is captured. In consequence of the threatening aspect of affairs in the Great Kanawha Valley I have ordered four regiments there, as explained in my instructions to General J. D. Cox, a copy of which has been forwarded to you.

Of the troops composing the active army fifty-one companies and one battery are at Philippi, amusing the enemy, who is strongly intrenched with artillery on the Laurel Mountain between that place and Beverly. I have with me here six entire regiments of infantry, six detached companies, two batteries, two companies of cavalry; two more regiments, and some five or six detached companies of infantry will reach here by since, and four companies of the Seventeenth reached Glenville from Parkersburg yesterday. I ordered strong detachments from these commands to move last night on Bulltown, and break up a large force of armed rebels congregating there. I can, if necessary, have them all back with me by to-morrow night.

I have sent out frequent small parties to break up the collections of rebels. We have them pretty well under now. One of our parties of forty last night broke up two hundred. The morale of our men is excellent-could not be better. It is difficult to get perfectly accurate information, but we are improving in that respect every day. The feeling of the people here is most excellent. We are welcomed wherever our men go. It is wonderful to see how rapidly the minds of many of these people become enlightened when they find we can protect them.

Fear and ignorance combined have made most of the converts to secession; the reverse process in now going on with great rapidity. I expect to find the enemy in position on Rich Mountain, just this side of Beverly. I shall, if possible, turn the position to the south, and thus occupy the Beverly road in his rear. If possible I will repeat the maneuver of Cerro Gordo.

Assure the General that no prospect of a brilliant victory shall induce me to depart from my intention of gaining success by maneuvering rather than by fighting. I will not throw these raw men of mine into the teeth of artillery and entrenchments if it is possible to avoid it. Say to the General, too, that I am trying to follow a lesson long ago learned from him; i. e., not to move until I know that everything is ready, and then to move with the utmost rapidity and energy. The delays that I have met with have been irksome to me in the extreme, but I felt that it would be exceedingly foolish to give way to impatience, and advance before everything was prepared. I think the troops are improving decidedly in their performance of guard and outpost duty, and that we are losing nothing in efficiency by the halt at this place.

From all that I learn the enemy is still uncertain as to where the main attack is to be made, and is committing the error of dividing his army in the face of superior forces. If he abandons the position on Laurel Mountain, the troops at Phillippi will press him closely. I shall know to-night with certainty what the has in the pass at Huttonsville. I am told that the has moved all his troops thence towards Beverly. By our present positions we have cut off all his supplies of provisions from this region, so that the must depend almost entirely upon Staunton-a long haul, over a rough mountain road.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major-General, U.S. Army, Commanding Department.


The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. II. With additions and corrections. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902.