Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 10, 1863 (Thursday): The Great Bridge Raid

Rowlesburg WVA (Google Earth)

Richmond, Va., March 10, 1863.
Brigadier General W. E. JONES,
Commanding, &c.:
     GENERAL: This will be handed to you by Captain J. H. McNeill, who has proved himself by past service a gallant and enterprising soldier. He has submitted to me, with the commendation of General Imboden, a plan of a gallant dash, with some 600 or 800 men, to accomplish the destruction of the trestle-work on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the bridge over the Cheat River. These are objects of great importance, and their successful accomplishment has long engaged the attention and special interest of the President. Several efforts heretofore have been, from special causes, frustrated, but the practicability of the enterprise, especially by the sudden dash of a small force, is believed to be by no means doubtful. The plan of Captain McNeill meets the concurrence of the Department, and after consultation with General Samuel Jones, whose approval (as the enterprise was to be attempted in a district of his department) was desired, has secured his sanction. I hope, when explained to you by Captain McNeill, it will likewise have your approval and co-operation. You will be expected to afford a portion, at least, of the force required for the enterprise, and by any contemporaneous operation you may deem judicious to favor and promote the scheme.
     For any further details or explanation, either as to his own views or those of Generals Samuel Jones or Imboden, with whom he has conferred, I refer you to Captain McNeill, and commend him to your favorable consideration.
     With great esteem, very respectfully, yours,

    J. A. SEDDON,
   Secretary of War.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 21, Part 2, Pages 660-661.

The bridge at Rowlesburg, West Virginia linked western Pennsylvania and Ohio to the eastern theater by means of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  Breaking this connection was, to Robert E. Lee, "worth an army" but it would likely have taken one to accomplish the task.  What was proposed here became a twin movement of Imboden and McNeil's men later in the spring.


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