HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF KENTUCKY,
Big Rockcastle, Ky., October 17, 1862 - 4.30 p. m.
Major General LEONIDAS POLK,
Commanding Army of the Mississippi:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication written at noon to-day. Instead of regarding my flanks as well conversed I feel that the position of my army is extremely critical. Heth's division is now arriving. Stevenson should be at Big Hill. Both have marched all night. Stevenson has 16 miles to make before reaching this point. Their command are scattered along the route, are broken down and exhausted, having been taxed by six days' and nights' forced marches and hard work. I have received [?] General Bragg's army to East Tennessee. He gives up the Wild Cat Pass, exposes my flank, and leaves the enemy only 9 miles to reach my front, 3 miles from London, my column at the time being far in the rear; General Stevenson at Gum Springs, 43 miles distant. I have marched by a circuitous route, while he has taken the direct one. His trains have been turned off on my line, delaying me two days, my command working day and night pulling them up the Big Hill. I have his wagons the preference, when I would have secured the safety of my columns had I not been encumbered with them and might have done it by moving on with my train alone. My train is now turned off by a circuitous route and on e that is almost impassable, and on which they must be delayed a long time, if not abandoned. Should his army move of, as directed by his order, the enemy will have a good and direct route from London, by which they can anticipate me two days with their force, compelling me to fight superior numbers under great disadvantage. I have but little cavalry, and that, with the exception of Colonel Ashby's, is new levies. Morgan has remained in Kentucky, Scott covered General Bragg's lines, and General Marshall took his cavalry with his command by the way of Pound Gap. There are four roads coming i on my flank which were uncovered at Mount Vernon. A prisoner taken on the road to Big Hill reports General Crittenden with his whole force near Big Hill. The rear of the wagon train is now near. General Stevenson will arrive to-morrow morning, but should have one day's rest. I have sent McCown to the junction of the Mount Vernon and London roads. Two brigades have been ordered to Mershon's Cross-Roads toward Mount Vernon. I doubt whether the enemy are pressing with their whole force. Cannot we unite and end this disastrous retreat by a glorious victory?
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF KENTUCKY,
Big Rockcastle, Ky., October 17, 1862 - 11.30 p. m.
Brigadier General C. L. STEVENSON,
Commanding First Division, Army of Kentucky:
GENERAL: The major-general commanding directs me to say that General Heth's command moves at 4 a. m. to-morrow by the road over which our trains have passed. Your division will follow, leaving about day, so as to lose no time and still give your men as much time as possible. All of your train except the ordnance wagons had better move immediately to London. Let them halt there until day and then turn