In addition to these count a battalion of men, 350 strong, under Major Thompson, raised from special service of defending the Pound Gap or points in Scott, Lee, and Wise Counties, Virginia, but which cannot be moved beyond the boundary of this State, and we shall have a force in this quarter of 3,000 effective men, which at present constitutes my whole command.
It is the opinion of intelligent officers who have raised the companies belonging to Williams' regiments that the execution of an order to them to march now to Nashville would bring the business of recruiting in the mountainous parts of Kentucky to a full stop, and do great injury to our cause. This opinion, connected with the fact that they are badly clothed-not provided with socks or hats or warm clothing-and that they are not drilled in the school of the battalion, and that the officers are countrymen, who have not studied tactics at all yet, induced me not to send them west under General Johnston's request, though I at first determined to do so and to leave my own orders unexecuted. Should you feel that the exigency demands me to place my command in risk of another retreat before superior numbers, I leave to your discretion the disposition of Stuart's regiment, Fifty-sixth Virginia, in the direction of General Johnston's call, and have ordered that officer forward, "unless he receives other orders at once from Major-General Crittenden at Knoxville."
It is impossible to occupy this camp any longer. Forage cannot be procured for horses and the country is absolutely "stripped to its ruin" of all provisions. We are relying for flour and meal on hauling 55 miles through the deepest and worse sort of roads, and corn is not to be had for the horses engaged in transportation.
My main object in passing the mountains is, first, to obtain food and forage, which I learn may be had in Kentucky within a line drawn from Pound Gap to Prestonburg; second, to inspirit our friends in Kentucky, by resuming the position first occupied by the Kentucky Southern-rights men who fled from the interior of the State and from the unhallowed persecutions of the Federal power and its Kentucky allies.
In the effectuation of these objects my opinion is that there is not a man to be spared, Stuart's regiment included, without risking the ruin of the whole command; still I defer to you upon this state of facts whether the regiment of Fifty-sixth Virginia (Stuart) shall be moved to respond to General Johnston's call. It occurs to me that a telegraphic dispatch might enlighten you upon the point as to whether the exigency will continue to demand that force, and whether only one regiment of 600 would be of such importance to General Johnston as to compensate for the extreme risk to be incurred by its loss in this quarter.
I am much in need of another battery, and I learn there are six guns at Abingdon, but no horses or men. Would it not be well to move and equip that battery and let me have it? I should be greatly obliged for it, and if I make any movement towards the mouth of Sandy, on the frontier under my charge, shall find such addition to my artillery indispensable.
I am, truly, &c.,