Camp Number 5, Princeton, May 5, 8 A. M. .
Sir: — There will be no difficulty in turning the enemy's position at the Narrows of New River. There are paths or open woods accessible to infantry leading across the mountains to the right of the Narrows into the valley of Wolf Creek; thence by good roads to the mouth of Wolf Creek, four to six miles from Giles Court-house, and in the rear of the Narrows. This you will understand by looking at any map of this region. Guides can be procured who will undertake to pilot us across, a circuit of perhaps ten or twelve miles. I doubt whether the enemy will attempt to hold the Narrows. Their force was the Forty-fifth Regiment, and about eight hundred militia of Giles, Montgomery, and Counties.
The Forty-fifth has a large part of it scattered over towards the Wytheville Road, a part missing, and the remnant at the Narrows will run on the first excuse. The force now here can take the Narrows on your order in forty-eight hours. They are said to have some artillery — three to six pieces. I have sent reliable scouts to try to get accurate information. A Rebel captain of the Forty-fifth said: “No man could stand the yelling of the Yankees, especially as they fired so fast!!” Twenty wagons [with] provisions and Company B, Thirtieth, arrived at 2 P. M. They report the roads hence to Raleigh very good and improving; the trouble is from Raleigh to Gauley.
Captains Hunter and Lovejoy have arrived. They report Captain Foley died of his wounds. This will be a death-blow to the “Copperheads.” All the people tell us we need apprehend no bushwhacking this side of that gang, either here or in front of us.
I am much gratified with the order and messages you send. I know I have not given you as full and explicit reports of things as would have been desirable. But when actually engaged in an enterprise I am so occupied in trying to do the best thing that I can't write satisfactorily. I think in this matter every important thing was right, save possibly one which I will explain when we meet. We can get here and in the country in front considerable meat — some cured but mostly fresh. In sending forward provision trains this can to some extent be considered. More salt and less meat can be sent.
Will you dispatch General Cox that our long-range muskets are much needed in the present service. Our experience the last few days satisfies everyone that a man who can kill at four hundred yards is worth three or four men with common muskets. The quartermaster will never, send them unless General Cox orders it.
It rained during the night and is cloudy this morning. I think we shall not have another “smart spell of falling weather,” however. In the house intended for your headquarters are ten or fifteen rooms of all sorts, some chairs and tables but no bedding, a good kitchen cooking stove, two negro women and all appendages. Thomas will be able to make it a good establishment in a few hours for everybody you want and room for hospitality. If, however, you prefer smaller quarters, there are three or four others that will do as well, and the house in question can be a hospital if needed. No sick here now. You must have your bedding with you when you arrive if possible.
R. B. Hayes,
Lieutenant-colonel 23D Regiment O. V. I.,
SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 250-1