Formerly a cavalry division commander within the Army of the Potomac, William Averell was indeed exiled to West Virginia following the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Kelley purchased Colonel Joseph Thoburn’s infantry to come with Averell and guard his supply wagons. Averell, which elected Salem as his objective, foresaw the need for additional assistance in the shape of multiple moves of Federal soldiers to confuse the opponent. After communicating those ideas to Kelley, Averell went along to department headquarters in Cumberland, Md., from the night of December 6 to produce a concerted course of action.
Averell and Kelley’s complex plan required four different instructions, under Brig. Gen. Eliakim P. Scammon, Colonel Augustus Moor, Brig. Gen. Jeremiah Sullivan and Colonel Thoburn, to seize various locations and hold all of them until Averell could attain his destination and also make good their escape. Scammon was to move his forces out of the Kanawha Valley and arrive at Lewisburg on December 12, viewing to the north and preventing any Confederate reaction from that direction. Moor’s command would be to arrive only north of Huntersville on December 11, look for enemy task toward Lewisburg on 12th and 13th and continue to be near of Frankfort through to the eighteenth. Finally, Sullivan and Thoburn would threaten Staunton from different instructions and keep adversary causes there from responding to Averell’s existence. Moor and Thoburn had been to get their particular purchases directly from Averell, while Kelley would be to issue sales to Scammon and Sullivan. A vital part of the deception included threatening town of Staunton until December 20-21 to correctly divert adversary interest.
Averell straight away gone back to New Creek and rushed to complete arrangements for the raid. On the morning of December 8, the brigade, consisting of the 2nd, 3rd and 8th West Virginia mounted infantries; the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry; significant Thomas Gibson’s separate battalion of cavalry and Captain Chatham Ewing’s battery of artillery, set out from brand new Creek. The current weather that early morning was described as ‘bright and breathtaking, ’ but Averell reported–prophetically–having ‘many misgivings due to our poor problem to overcome the wearying distances and face the perils event to such an expedition.’
The brigade, totaling some 2, 500 men, headed southwest toward Petersburg, wanting to complete shoeing their mounts on the way. The possible lack of materials and a practical ways doing the task during the move, but made efficient efforts impossible. On December 10, the brigade arrived in Petersburg and ended up being joined by Thoburn along with his demand of 700 infantry. The blended power proceeded southwest to Monterey, showing up there on December 11. At Monterey, the brigade received materials, along with forage for the horses. Averell had all males and officials have been judged becoming unfit the upcoming harsh task repaid to brand new Creek. On the morning of the twelfth, in the midst of a driving, cool rainstorm–the portent of much more bad weather to come–Thoburn’s command, alongside almost all of the brigade’s supply train, turned southeast toward McDowell while Averell led their men southwest toward their particular goal at Salem.
Brigadier General Benjamin Kelley, commander associated with Union Department of west Virginia, hatched the idea for a raid regarding the Virginia & Tennessee railway in line with the ‘intimated’ wishes of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck.
Averell stayed from the primary roadways, alternatively going the line down a harsh road that went beside straight back Creek and sporadically climbing to run atop the high ridgelines. The operating rainfall now mixed with sleet and snow, and an intensely cold wind blew through the north. The meandering path required the column to cross back once again Creek at least 13 times inside 23 kilometers from Monterey to Gatewoods. It was no easy task; the stream had been rising steadily and ended up being really quick.
As Averell’s demand moved tortuously down straight back Creek, the Confederate forces in the region started initially to react. Early on the early morning of December 11, a patrol of 150 Partisan Rangers commanded by Captain Philip J. Thurmond experienced Scammon’s men on Big Sewell hill. The Confederates engaged the force for enough time to discover that it absolutely was above a meandering Federal patrol. Brigadier General John Echols, notified by Thurmond, withdrew their forces from Lewisburg to a spot 2 or 3 miles west, across the Greenbrier River.