force of the country as many young men as possible; hence I required the proceedings of the board of exempts and the ages and occupations of persons excused for the pursuit of trades, &c.
I think I shall find occasion when the emergency will justify a substitution of one person for another, for you may rest assured there has been more shuffling in this matter of exempts than is creditable to parties or to officials. My effort has been, and will be, to make my militia regiments a sort of corps de reserve, in course of instruction and preparation for the field, yet some part of every regiment constantly on public duty, as, for example, the militia regiment of Wythe, Smyth, Carroll, and Grayson, and that of Washington and Russell, should by turns furnish a company to watch the East Tennessee frontier-the railroad-and guard against surprise by disloyalists from East Tennessee at Abingdon, Marion, Saltville, Wytheville, all of which are important depots for armies in the field, and each of which may be struck at from the southern side. These companies will thus gather ideas of military life, and while on duty can be prepared for more active service. The remainder of the regiment will keep an eye to the operations in the field, feel that their life is semi-military, and liable at any moment to become wholly so. Besides, this system will break the transfer from one condition to the other, and has a tendency to prepare all who remain with us to practice loyalty. Your mind will at once embrace the ideas of my system, and will discover how materially your instructions of the 21st tend to overthrow them. I think it best to place the whole before you, while declaring that I shall render implicit obedience to the course indicated by your directions.
The counties north of this have displayed a disloyalty as bad as any of those in Northwestern Virginia, and throughout the district there have been signs of the same spirit. I hear through the sheriff of this county that 900 Virginias have been sworn into the service of the enemy at Pikeville since the proclamation of the Governor of Virginia. One of my captains (Ratliff), who is now here for guns, informs me that two-thirds of Buchanan and McDowell Counties are against us. I think the same proportion will obtain in one-half of the county of Wise. The desertions from Lee, Scott, and Russell have been very numerous; for my scouts inform me of the continual passage of men from Virginia into Kentucky. I requested martial law to be proclaimed over this district, and at all events over the counties of Lee, Wise, McDowell, Buchanan, and Wyoming, and I thought it might as well embrace all the rest. I am unable to conjecture why martial law was proclaimed over East Tennessee and over the districts commanded by Generals Jackson and Heth, and not over that in which I am operating, unless it was apprehended I might make some improper use of the powers, or because it was designed to place some one else here in my stead. The failure to declare it upon my suggestion has at any rate been a sufficient reason for my failure to repeat the request, and I now content myself with the statement of the condition of affairs prevailing in this quarter of the country.
Depredations have been constantly committed in Lee by East Tennesseeans, and threats are made from Harlan County, Kentucky, to lay the country waste. In Lee County the militia have lately had several engagements with Unionists from Tennessee passing over into Kentucky. My courier yesterday brought me word from General Richmond of a conflict last week, in which our militia killed some 25,