Saturday, June 22, 1861
Reports and rumors of large numbers of Rebels in Beverly and Piedmont, western Virginia weighed on the minds of some Union officers in the region. General Morris, whose plan of attack scattered the Rebels at Philippi, was sure he had a large force to contend with. General George B. McClellan, commander of the Union’s Department of the Ohio, however, put little stock in such exaggerated numbers. With reinforcements arriving in western Virginia almost daily, the General, left Parkersburg that afternoon with an Ohio regiment and some artillery. He arrived in Grafton after midnight. General William S. Rosencrans was left in charge of the city to hurry the troops along to McClellan.
From there, he planned his next action: a move upon the Rebels under General Garnett near Beverly or perhaps against the force near Piedmont and Romney under General A.P. Hill. Further inspection would lead him to more specific conclusions.1
While McClellan’s troops seemed to have no place in General-in-Chief Winfield Scott’s plans upon the Confederates at Manassas and Leesburg, Virgina, Col. Stone’s men from the Rockville Expedition along the Potomac near Poolesville, Maryland, did. Scott had proposed a plan to (and asked for suggestions from) both Generals McDowell in Alexandria and Patterson in Hagerstown. Both were in charge of fairly large armies. Stone, however, had a small, brigade-size force that would soon be absorbed into Patterson’s command.
Nevertheless, Scott wrote to Stone telling him that he “would be glad that you should furnish him any suggestions that may occur to you.”
Prior to receiving Scott’s message, Stone wrote that he had sent troops as far north as the mouth of the Monocacy River and eight miles north of Point of Rocks [possibly to Knoxville and the Jefferson Pike], but they reported seeing no Rebels in their front. He also asked Washington for more artillery as he wished to join with Patterson in securing Leesburg for the Union.2
Davis Knows Scott’s Mind – The Union are Attacking!
Scott’s evolving plans were obvious to Confederate General Beauregard at Manassas. “The enemy appears to be aiming at Leesburg,” the commander of the Army of the Potomac wired to President Jefferson Davis. “I have sent another regiment there.”3
Davis, meanwhile, congratulated the Army of the Shenandoah’s General Johnston for “the brilliant movement of Colonel Vaughn’s command” in their attack upon New Creek and the destruction of the nearby railroad bridge. Davis, acutely attuned to the finer details of Johnston’s command, urged that the Cheat River Bridge and Grand Tunnel [possibly the Kingwood Tunnel] both be destroyed “so as to prevent the use of that railroad for the duration of the war.”
Not quite sure of Scott’s next move, Davis warned that “if the enemy has withdrawn from your front to attack on the east side of the mountain, it may be that an attempt will be made to advance from Leesburg to seize the Manassas road and to turn Beauregard’s position.” This was, of course, Scott’s plan.
If Patterson moved south, Davis saw an opportunity for Johnston’s force to march through the mountain passes to hit the Union force upon its flank in conjunction with Beauregard’s force at Manassas. No matter what the Union were planning, however, Davis wished to take the offensive.4
In Martinsburg, the northern-most troops in Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah, were finishing the destruction of the B&O shops when cavalry Col. Jeb Stuart reported to Col. Thomas Jackson that a column of Union soldiers were marching on Martinsburg.
Jackson immediately wired Johnston for reinforcements as he sent a battery and the 5th Virginia north down the Valley Pike towards Williamsport to meet the advancing Yankees.5
- Campaign in Western Virginia by George B. McClellan, Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p194. [↩]
- Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p105, 114. [↩]
- Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p946. [↩]
- Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p945. [↩]
- Stonewall Jackson by James I. Robertson. [↩]