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Brilliant Exploits of Gen. Averill
BRILLIANT EXPLOITS OF GEN. AVERILL
THE VIRGINIA AND EAST TENNESSEE RAILROAD DESTROYED
Great Destruction of
EXTRAORDINARY LABORS OF
Edray, Pocahontas County, West Va., Dec 21, 1863
Via Beverly Dec. 22, 1863
To Major-Gen. Halleck, General in Chief
I have the honor to report that I cut the Virginia
and Tennessee Railroad at Salem on the 16th inst., and have
arrived safely at this point with my command, consisting of the Second
Third and eight Virginia mounted infantry, Fourteenth Pennsylvania
Dotson’ battalion of cavalry, and Ewing’s Battery at Salem.
Three depots were destroyed, containing 2,000 bbls.,
of flour, 10,000 bushels of wheat, 100,000 bushels of shelled corn, 50,000
bushels of oats, 2,000 barrels of meat, several cords of leather, 1,000
sacks of salt, 31 boxes of clothing, 20 bales of cotton, a large amount of
harness, shoes and saddle, equipments, tools, oil, tar, and various
other stores, and 100 wagons. The telegraph wire was cut and burned for a
The water station, turn-table and three cars were
burned, and the track torn up and the rails heat and destroyed as much as
possible in six hours. Five bridges and several coverts were destroyed,
over an extent of fifteen miles. A large quantity of bridge timber and
repairing materials were also destroyed. My march was retarded
occasionally by the tempest in the mountains and the icy roads.
I was obliged to
swim my command, and drag my artillery with ropes across Crog’s Creek
seven times in twenty four hours. On my return, I found six separate
commands under Gens. Early, Jones, Fitz Lee, Imboden, Jackson, Echols, and
McCoustin, arranged in line extending from Staunton to Newport, upon all
the available roads, to prevent my return. I captured a dispatch from Gen.
Jones to Gen. Early, giving me the position, and that of Jackson at
Clifton Forge, and Cornington was selected to carry.
I marched from the front of Jones to that of Jackson
at night. His outpost were pressed in at a gallop by the Eight Virginia
mounted infantry, and the two bridges across Jackson’s River was saved, although faggots were piled ready to ignite.
My column, about four miles long, hastened across,
regardless of the enemy, until all but my ambulances, a few wagons and one
regiment had passed, when a strong effort was made to retake the first
bridge, in which they did not succeed.
The ambulance and some sick men were lost, and by the
darkness and difficulties, the last regiment was detained upon the
opposite side until morning, when it was ascertained that the enemy seemed
determined to maintain his position up the cliffs which overlooked the
bridges. I caused the bridges which were long and high, to be destroyed ,
and the enemy immediately changed his position to the plank and rear of
the detachment which was cut off. I sent orders to the remnants to destroy
our wagons, and come to me across the river or mountains.
They swan the river with the loss of only four men,
who were drowned, and joined me. In the meantime forces of the enemy were
concentrating upon me at Collaghan’s over every available road except
one, which was deemed impractical, but by which I crossed over the top of
the Alleghanies with my command, with the exception of four caissons,
which were destroyed in order to increase the teams of the pieces. My loss
is six men drowned, one officer and four men wounded, four officers and
ten men missing.
We captured about 200 prisoners but have retained but
forty officers and eighty men, on account of their inability to walk. We
took also about one hundred fifty horses.
My horses have subsisted entirely a very poor
country, and the officers and men have suffered cold, hunger and fatigue
with remarkable fortitude. My command has marched, climbed, slid and swam three hundred fifty-five miles since the 8th
W.W. Averill, Brig.-Gen.
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