I observe, if the strength of the enemy is not overestimated, he has commenced and must keep on, for he cannot subsist where he has stopped; therefore I shall exert my full power to get as large a force as possible together as quickly as possible, and if he does not follow up his advantage (?) I will try his base to see if he relies on the Sandy. I have a cavalry force on the Louisa road in 2 miles of the State line, and only about 25 miles from Pikeville, which I shall order to burn his supplies at Pike[ville] if the thing can be effected. But I believe he will not attempt to maintain himself at Pound Gap,and I fear his force moves to attract me, while a heavier force is moving from the head of the Sandy and Guyandotte on to Tazewell Court-House. If so, his occupancy of the valley of Clinch River is a misfortune imminent. If he has only 2,500 infantry he will not advance, but will retire again to Pikeville. If he does advance I will defeat him with the force I have-say 1,500 men. I shall not hesitate to engage him if these turn out to be the facts after he puts 50 miles of famine country behind him.
My orders are given to concentrate at Clinch River. My mounted battalion goes forward to Guest Station and pickets in front of Gladesville. This will bring us in proximity to each other and something will turn up.
I hear that 7,500 is the force to be moved from Pikeville, and it may be 5,000 are on the other road now, but I think not. How it is expected I can repulse these with about 1,400 men, when the enemy is spread over a country of 40 miles or more in breadth, you can tell better than I can. I suggested re-enforcements long since and deeply regret they are not here.
Please send me the order to disband that special service battalion, and leave it to my discretion how to proceed in the case.
Yours, respectfully, &c.,
Brigadier-General, P. A. C. S.
General R. E. LEE,
Commanding C. S. Army, Richmond, Va.
LEBANON, VA., March 20, 1862.
GENERAL: I inclose the official report of Major Thompson, exhibiting the circumstances under which he lost his position at Pound Gap.
Except as permitting the enemy to be insolent the affair is of no earthly consequence. When I came out of Kentucky I had an idea Pound Gap was an important place, to be held at any price, but subsequent investigation into the topography of the country proved to me that it could be turned in a least six or seven ways, and that it could be cut off from Abingdon without going nearer than 30 miles of it, or at 19 miles of it, or at 9,7, or 4, or 2 miles; this from the Pikeville side From the Cumberland side in at least half a dozen other ways.
One can pass from Whitesburg to Gladesville, 15 miles west of Pound Gap, and save 10 miles between the places. I sent my sick on horseback through that route. I drove a lot of hogs through the same pass. One can drive wagons from the Pound, 4 miles this side of the Gap, through to Cumberland Ford, 15 miles in front of Cumberland Gap. I have sent wagons down on the Poor Fork of Cumberland after corn, and they have returned to the Pound laden. These were actual demonstrations of the correctness of my conclusions. Hence I moved all the public property away from Pound Gap. When this force came upon