HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF EAST TENNESSEE, March 23, 1862.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond:
GENERAL: The inclosed report* of the troops under my command will give the Department an idea of their insufficiency for the defense of this district. Small as this force is, it will be shortly diminished by the expiration of service of some of its most effective regiments.
The enemy is pressing on East Tennessee in three directions. A force of 6,000 has attacked Cumberland Gap; 800 infantry and a strong cavalry force have appeared at Montgomery threatening Kingston, and are said to be the advance of a large force coming from Nashville. General Johnston telegraphs that Chattanooga is threatened from the same point.
Of the thirty-two counties in East Tennessee but six are friendly; the others are hostile; some even in open rebellion. A force of nearly two regiments is required to guard the bridges and porkeries; the garrison at Cumberland Gap is fully occupied; there remains but three skeleton regiments and two battalions, numbering together some 2,300, for the defense of the line from Cumberland Gap to Chattanooga. General Leadbetter, with two of these regiments, a battalion, a section of artillery, and some cavalry, has been ordered to Kingston. Colonel Vaughn, with his regiment and some cavalry, is at Clinton. Chattanooga is defenseless. A battalion of Colonel Maney's regiment has been ordered there, but I have no troops to re-enforce him with. Floyd's brigade, which was there, has been furloughed and sent home by him, and the remnant, some 260 broken-down men, who decline re-enlisting, are at present here. I telegraphed Governor Brown of the danger to Chattanooga, and called upon him for both men and arms for its defense. I returned last night from Cumberland Gap, where I had gone for the purpose of repelling an invasion of Powell's Valley. A regiment of infantry and some cavalry, increased some 1,500 by East Tennessee refugees, crossed near Big Creek Gap, surprised a squadron of cavalry, capturing their arms, horses, and some 14 prisoners. They recrossed into Kentucky as soon as a movement was made to cut them off from the mountains.
The Cumberland Range is crossed in every direction by foot-trails and in many places by bridle-paths. Whilst no barrier, it is a formidable obstacle to the advance of an enemy into Tennessee. It should be defended by a mobilized force of not less than 10,000 at some central point. [?]
Colonel Rains has a force of about 4,000 of the best troops in this district under his command. His position, naturally strong, is by the works thrown up capable of defense against largely-superior numbers. He is well supplied with artillery. The enemy cannot bring more than 6,000 against him, and their troops do not compare in efficiency with his. Though I cannot send him re-enforcements, I feel no concern in regard to the result. I have directed him to keep his men under shelter, to husband his ammunition, to let the enemy exhaust their artillery, and when he repulses them to seek the opportunity of driving them into the Cumberland.
In conclusion, I must again urge upon the Department the necessity, if not already too late, for immediately and largely re-enforcing this command. Besides its military resources and strategic importance.