One of the three points of attack to be made simultaneously on this place, it has always been understood, is to be by the Tennessee or Cumberland, or both. The idea has military merit. What renders it probable (whenever the attack is to come off) is that the enemy is constructing one or more gunboats far up the Cumberland, and at Sandy Creek, up the Tennessee, some 8 miles beyond the State line, he has been converting river steamer (two or three) into iron-plated gunboats, to be heavily armed. This river side is my weak point.
The inhabitants in the counties east of the Cumberland and bordering on the river are much alarmed, and send messages that a force is coming, &c.; but heretofore it has been marauding parties merely, and latterly the increase of force is, I think, more to sweep the country of provisions without risk than from any idea of crossing the river. They want the means of transportation to do so.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. F. SMITH,
DANVILLE, KY., November 23, 1861.
Brigadier General S. P. CARTER,
Commanding East Tennessee Brigade:
GENERAL: The inclosed dispatch* has just been received. The general commanding directs me to say that the order to break up camp was based upon orders received from department headquarters.
By order of Brigadier General G. H. Thomas:
GEO. E. FLYNT,
HEADQUARTERS EAST TENNESSEE BRIGADE,
Camp Calvert, November 24, 1861.
)Received November 27, 1861.)
Brigadier General GEORGE H. THOMAS,
Commanding, &c., Danville, Ky.:
GENERAL: On the 21st instant I sent out upwards of 600 men, with orders to take the old State road and proceed as far as Flat Lick (8 miles this side of Cumberland Ford), and endeavor to gain some certain information as to the force and position of the rebels, and if possible to cut off their cavalry, which I had been informed were in the habit of coming down on thieving expeditions to the vicinity of Barboursville.
The detachment returned this evening, having marched from Barboursville since morning. Lieutenant-Colonel Spears, the officer in command, reports that none of the rebels were at Cumberland Ford, nor have they been below that point for some days. From the best information he could obtain form the citizens there is but a small number of troops at Cumberland Gap, the larger portion of them having moved down Powell's Valley in the direction of Jamestown.
Lieutenant-Colonel Spears represents that subsistence in large quantities can be obtained in Knox County, and that a very small force could occupy a position at or near the Cumberland Ford, and hold it against a greatly superior force.
* See Fry to Thomas, November 22, p. 445.