HEADQUARTERS CARROLL'S BRIGADE, Knoxville, Tenn., December 19, 1861.
Honorable D. M. CURRIN, Richmond, Va.:
DEAR SIR: I regret to trouble you with this communication, but feel myself called upon to do so by a sense of duty both to the Confederate Government and to the people of East Tennessee. It might, perhaps, have been more properly done by some one higher in authority than myself. At the instance, however, of a number of leading citizens, together with many officers of the Army, I have concluded to undertake the task of laying truthfully before some one connected with the administration of the Government a fair and truthful statement of the present unhappy condition of affairs in this portion of the State, believing as I do that when laid properly before the heads of the Government it will induce a thorough and most salutary change in the policy now being pursued in reference to that deluded portion of our people who have heretofore been unfriendly to the present revolution.
There are some very important facts connected with the recent political history of East Tennessee which apparently have not yet come to the knowledge of the Government or have been entirely overlooked, while others of less importance have been greatly exaggerated. To these I beg to call your attention. In the beginning of the present contest between the North and South the attitude assumed by East Tennessee was a very doubtful one, and it was deemed best by those fully acquainted with the temper and sentiment of the people to pursue a conciliatory policy towards them. Mr. Davis himself, I believe, adopted this view of the case, and for a time pursued the mild course thus indicated. The result was a very great change in the public mind touching questions at issue between the Northern and Southern Governments.
In September Major-General Polk sent General W. H. Carroll here for the purpose of endeavoring to bring the people over to the support of the Confederate Government and to enlist one or more regiments for the Army. General Carroll succeeded beyond his expectations, raising and organizing in a very short time a full regiment-coming, too, mostly from those counties where in June the heaviest vote had been polled against the separation of Tennessee from the Federal Government. Subsequently about thirty companies move have reported and joined his command from the same section, and composed principally of the same class of people; so that now we have in all nearly 10,000 [?] effective soldiers in the field that in June were almost unanimous in opposition to us. This gratifying result I am satisfied is attributable almost entirely to the liberal and conciliatory policy of which I have spoken; but notwithstanding this large accession to our Army, and the still greater number who had been converted from enemies into friends and allies, there were still left a few leading miscreants and a handful of ignorant and deluded followers, who were wicked enough for the commission of any crime, however detestable. By these, and these alone, were the bridges burned and other depredations committed, while the mass of the people were entirely ignorant of their designs and utterly opposed to any such wickedness and folly. The numbers engaged in these outrages have, I know, been greatly overestimated, as facts have been developed in the investigations that have been made by the court-martial now in session at this place, which satisfy me beyond doubt that there were not, at the time the bridges were burned, 500 men in all East Tennessee who knew anything of it, or who contemplated any organized opposition to the Government.