places for ambuscades, to which, of course, my men would be subjected, and which I would not subject them to without some compensating reason. I could not bring the enemy to a general engagement. He was retreating as fast as he could out of the State, and did retire from it before me in three hours after I came upon him-superior to me by three to one in numbers and by more than ten to one in armament. I did everything that could be done to intercept him, for, hearing of his raid for the first time on Monday night at 10 p.m., I made dispositions to meet him as rapidly as they could be made. In half an hour my orders to every corps of my command had been dispatched.
The information I received was by telegraphic dispatch, which came by the way of Morristown, Tenn., from Pattsonville, Va., dated Monday, December 29, and reaching me at Abingdon at 9.30 p.m.:
The enemy's cavalry 4,000 strong, passed this point to-day at 1.30 p.m., marching on Bristol, 45 miles from this place.
This was signed by Captain [S. P.] Larmer, one of [R. C.] Trigg's partisan rangers, who was gathering up deserters in the western counties. If there was anything of truth in it, my first thought was that the raid was meant not for Bristol, but he salt works above this place 18 miles, and Captain Larmer could not possibly tell by the march of the enemy by Pattonsville where his point of attack would be, nor could any one, until he arrived at Estillville. There he would pass Moccasin Gap, in the Clinch Mountains, and from that point he might feint upon Bristol or Holston Bridge, in Tennessee, while, in fact, his main body might be moving on the salt works. At Estillville he could turn up the valley of Moccasin Creek or up the valley of Copper Creek, crossing at Osborne's Ford, or he might come up the Reedy Creek road or up the valley of Holston River and take the Poor Valley road. To meet this possible or probable move of the enemy, I ordered my battalion of Georgia artillery to move from Jeffersonville, in Tazewell County (where it was stationed), 28 miles, with dispatch, and cover Saltville. This order was executed by the evening of the 30th, the information having reached Jeffersonville by the middle of the day on the 30th.
I adopted the road from Abingdon to Pound Gap as my line of defense, and in front of it, looking westward, all the roads leading to Estillville as my lines of observation. I had [H. L.] Giltner's cavalry regiment at Lebanon, in Russell County. I ordered it to hold its position, throwing strong pickets to Russell Old Court-House, and to Hansonville (10 miles on one road and 7 on another), and from these pickets to throw out vedettes along the Copper Creek, Moccasin Creek, and Poor Valley roads, leading toward Estillville. I sent from this place a squad of 20 horses to Holston Ford, 7 miles back, with orders to communicate with the pickets at Hansonville, and at the same time to throw vedettes down the river road leading to Estillville. The mounted battalion of [Major V. A.] Witcher [Thirty-fourth Virginia], then at Chatham Hill, in Smyth County, I ordered to move via Saltville and down the Poor Valley until it came to the Abingdon road, leading to Pound Gap. By these arrangements I manned a line of 28 miles from Abingdon, and made reconnaissance of all the roads leading from Estillville toward that line, while I brought my mounted forces within supporting distance of each other, ready to concentrate upon whichever road the enemy might be approaching.
[Colonel C.] Slemp's regiment of infantry (about 600 strong) was within 2 miles of Bristol. [Lieut. Colonel E. F.] Clay's [Third Kentucky] battalion