HEADQUARTERS EIGHTEENTH BRIGADE,
Camp Buell, Paintsville, January 14, 1862.
DEAR SIR: At the date of my last report (January 8) I was preparing to pursue the enemy. The transportation of my stores from George's Creek had been a work of so great difficulty that I had not enough provisions here to give my whole command three days' rations before starting. One small boat had come up from below, but I found it had only enough provisions here for three days' rations of hard bread for 1,500 men. Having issued that amount, I sent 450 of Colonel Wolford's and Major McLaughlin's cavalry, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Letcher, to advance up Jennie's Creek, and harass the enemy's rear if still retreating. At the same time I took 1,100 of the best men from the Fortieth and Forty-second Ohio and the Fourteenth and Twenty-second Kentucky (three companies of Colonel Lindsey's regiment, the Twenty-second Kentucky, had arrived the evening before), and at noon started up the Big Sandy towards Prestonburg. After advancing 10 miles the enemy's pickets fired on our advance and retreated.
At 8 o'clock we reached the mouth of Abbott's Creek, 1 mile below Prestonburg. I then found that the enemy was encamped on the creek 3 miles above, and had been supplying himself with meal at a steam mill in the vicinity. I sent back an order to Paintsville to move forward all our available force, having learned that another boat load of stores had arrived. I then encamped on the crest of a wooded hill, where we slept on our arms in the rain till 4 o'clock in the morning, when I moved up Abbott's Creek 1 mile and crossed over to the mouth of Middle Creek, which empties into the Big Sandy opposite Prestonburg. Supposing the enemy to be encamped on Abbott's Creek, it was my intention to advance up Middle Creek and cut off his retreat, while he cavalry should attack his rear. I advanced slowly, throwing out flankers and feeling my way cautiously among the hills. At 8 o'clock in the morning we reached the mouth of Middle Creek, where my advance began a brisk skirmishing with the enemy's cavalry which continued till we had advanced 2 1/2 miles up the steam to within 1,000 yards of the forks of the creek, which I had learned the enemy were then occupying.
I drew up my force on the sloping point of a semicircular hill, and at 12 o'clock sent forward 20 mounted men to make a dash across the plain. This drew the enemy's fire, and in part disclosed his position. The Fifty-fourth Virginia Regiment (Colonel Trigg) was posted behind the farther point of the same ridge which I occupied. I immediately sent forward two Kentucky companies to pass along this crest of the ridge, and one company Forty-second Ohio, under command of Captain F. A. Williams, together with one under Captain Jones, Fortieth Ohio, to cross the creek, which was nearly waist-deep, and occupy a spur of the high rocky ridge in front and to the left of my position.
In a few minutes the enemy opened a fire from one 6 and one 12 pounder. A shell from the battery fell in the midst of my skirmishers on the right, but did not explode. Soon after the detachment on the left engaged the enemy, who was concealed in large force behind the ridge. I sent forward a re-enforcement of two companies to the right under Major Burke, of the Fourteenth Kentucky, and 90 men, under Major Pardee, of the Forty-second Ohio, to support Captain Williams. The enemy withdrew his Fifty-fourth Virginia across the creek, and sent strong re-enforcements to the hills on the left. About 2 o'clock I ordered Colonel Cranor, with 150 men form the Fortieth and Forty-second Ohio and Twenty-second Kentucky, to re-enforce Major Pardee,