RICHMOND, January 24, 1862.
Brigadier General HUMPHREY MARSHALL,
GENERAL: I am directed by the Secretary of War to advise you that, in view of this Department to re-enforce you at present it is deemed best that you should fall back to Pound Gap, there making such dispositions as may be deemed most expedient, and reporting your movements promptly to this office.
Captain Wade reports the route by the Louisa Fork to be impracticable for an advance of the enemy in force, and, further, that there is a possibility of his cutting you off, should you take that route, by means of his greater facilities through steamboat navigation to Piketon.
I am, very respectfully, &c.,
R. H. CHILTON,
CRAFT'S, SIX MILES FROM POUND GAP,
Letcher County, Ky., February 2, 1862.
GENERAL: Your telegraphic dispatch of the 24th ultimo reached me by courier on the 26th, by which I was ordered to "fall back to Pound Gap, and to report dispositions there made."
Yesterday Captain Wade delivered me your letter of the 24th, which repeats the direction of the telegram, "in view of the inability of the Department to re-enforce you (me) at present," and requiring me at Pound Gap to make "such dispositions as may be deemed most expedient," which are to be "reported promptly to the Department."
I am extremely embarrassed by this order, for that it indicates a point for me to rest and dispose of the force under my command where it is simply impossible to feed men or animals for two days. The subsistence of the country about Pound Gap for 20 miles is literally exhausted. The supplies for the rifle battalion now at Pound Gap are drawn with great difficulty over that distance (55 miles) and much complaint is made of the precariousness of the supply. Nor can I halt within 20 miles of Pound Gap on this side of the mountains with any chance of obtaining food for man or horse. You can have no conception of the state of affairs here, general; starvation stares these people in the face. They are most averse to parting with a peck of corn or a pound of meat, and daily the women beg for the retention of the means of sustaining themselves and their children. It is no sham or affected apprehension they feel; I much fear they only see what spring time will startlingly reveal as a stern reality. It cannot advance our cause or make converts to it to starve the best friends we have in this population, and in this county we have many, indeed a considerable majority of the people.
I have reflected upon my duty under your order, especially in view of the reason given for its issuance; and the disposition I shall make of the force will be to pass the mountains and to arrange the regiments as near as they can be to Pound Gap, so as to obtain supplies.
I hear from Captain Wade that the Secretary of War feels solicitous about the invasion of Virginia by the way of Pound Gap and by the way of Piketon. I feel morally sure the enemy is equally solicitous to prevent an invasion of Kentucky by the two routes named. This opinion is based upon his declarations as well as his operations. The presence of a force here, under my command or under the command of any Kentuckian whom the people of the "blue-grass-region" know, operates as a