or had he listened to me or sent for me before he saw me, I would have been with him before I came, and would have saved him a world of trouble about Kentucky affairs. Hereafter I must confine myself to a sphere of remark about such affairs which will recognize that there [are] other people who have a word to say besides myself in this military matter, though if I am striking at any intent existing and construing rightly please to say so to me explicitly, and let me adjust the matter at once by returning to my civic profession, for it will be better so than to lay the basis of any misunderstanding hereafter. I will meanwhile co-operate with General Smith with pleasure in all that he may suggest, understanding that his sphere of command is Eastern Tennessee, and mine the frontier to which I was assigned originally, to be reoccupied and to form the base of my advance into Kentucky so soon as force can be raised or spared for the purpose.
With regard to General Heth, you say in calling on the militia I must take care "not to interfere with the counties in which General Heth is operating." I do not know them nor the sphere of General Heth's operations. I saw the other day an invitation from General Heth to Brigadier-General Bowen, of Tazewell County, inviting an interview, with the hope of procuring his co-operation, &c. If General Heth takes the militia in Tazewell, where am I to find a force to act in defense of the roads leading through Tazewell into Smyth, or am I expected to look to this at all?
I will not weary you now with my understanding of what is going on, for I presume you are as well or better posted than I am. I feel that I am in a situation where mistakes may be made easily and blunders will be fatal. I may be sacrificed myself, but cannot do anything of consequence to the country or its cause if left here without force adequate to the protection of the section in which I am situated, nor can I possibly do either myself or the cause justice unless I know the lines on which my obligations lie. All else that I can do I will do. These things you can explain to me privately and then act on officially. I will then know what to expect and can act accordingly. Affairs are pressing in this quarter, and I apprehend that only a few days remain before I shall be called on the meet heavy odds with little and immaterial force.
I hear the enemy has driven Thompson's battalion from Pound Gap, but I have no official report of such an occurrence. I had moved everything but the men of that battalion away from there prior to the accident, if indeed any has occurred, for I felt that Pound Gap was not a strong or a military position, and could not be held long successfully. I have called out the militia in Russell, and shall do so in Washington, Lee, Scott, and Wise at once. I have nothing else.
I shall expect you to refer to this as a private letter, though it contains much I will repeat officially.
Yours, truly, &c.,
The President misread my letter. Instead of saying in five counties, I said in Wise* County. I am told that in Wise, Buchanan, and McDowell there are very bad districts.
*See Davis to Marshall, March 13, p. 321.