HDQRS. TWENTIETH REGIMENT ALABAMA VOLUNTEERS, Knoxville, Tenn., March 1, 1862.
Hons. W. P. CHILTON, F. S. LYON, J. L. M. CURRY,
GENTLEMEN: I arrived here yesterday, and find things in such condition that I deem it my duty to make it known to you and through you to the Government. I hope our authorities are better advised than I am, and that this region is not so defenseless against the well-appointed army of the Lincolnites as I suppose it to be. It may be, too, that I estimate too highly the force and courage of the enemy and too lowly our own numbers and resources. But one fact stands out with great prominence, viz, that with a line of railroad of momentous importance to our cause, Government supplies of provisions of immense value at different points on that part of the road nearest to the enemy, with a population two-thirds of whom at least are opposed to us and scores and hundreds of whom are joining the enemy from time to time, and with an army of the enemy within 60 or 70 miles of this place and reaches to other points of the railroad, I find here no regularly-organized system or plan of defense, and, what is still more astounding, no general or other officer in command of the forces in this region. On yesterday I was first told that Captain Monsarrat, captain of artillery here, was the person to look to as commander of this post. I found him to be a very clever gentleman, but as there were other officers here who would rank him, of course he could not be regarded as the commanding officer. I then met with Colonel Vaughn, of the Third Tennessee Regiment, and, comparing notes, found him to be the ranking officer, and on urging him to take charge of affairs here, he consented to do so, and may be considered, I suppose, now here in command.
There are, as I am informed, four gaps in the Cumberland Mountains through which the enemy may invade East Tennessee besides the Cumberland Gap: Big Chitwood Gap, 10 miles north of Hunstville, good road, easily crossed by an army; Elk Fork Gap, horse road and not used by wagons; Old Wheeler's, 3 1/2 miles south of Jacksborough, wagon road blocked up by General Zollicoffer, but it is said that horsemen abound on the hill-side; and Big Creek Gap, good road, and the one which it is conjectured the Yankees will most probably take. Big Creek Gap is 5 miles northeast of Jacksborough; Wheeler's Gap is 3 miles southeast of Jacksborough; Elk Fork Gap is about 15 miles southwest of Wheeler's Gap, and Chitwood Gap is about 18 miles southwest of Elk Fork Gap.
The distance from Jacksborough to Cumberland Gap is 40 miles, and the distance from this point to Jacksborough is some 45 or 50 miles. There are some 5,000 troops, more or less, at Cumberland Gap, which are probably sufficient to guard it and defend it against the enemy. To defend all the other gaps we have probably not over 600 effective men, who are at or near Clinton. There are a few troops at Loudon and other points on the railroad guarding the public stores, amounting to from 200 to 250 perhaps a few more. We have at this place my regiment, numbering
, well and sick men, and Colonel Beck's (Twenty-third Alabama), numbering, all told, less than
, which will be considerably reduced by his large sick list. It is said that other troops have been ordered here. There is no transportation here for troops beyond this point in the direction of any of these gaps. It was determined yesterday after our arrival to take immediate steps to pro-