it proper to re-enforce the troops at Bristol, which, I stated, I expected I should have to do during that day, after I could hear from the country as to the direction of the enemy, and that I should, at all events, desire to send ammunition to Bristol, which I at once directed my ordnance officer to place on the cars.
By 10 a.m. the scouts from the Abingdon road to Pound Gap reported that the Estillville roads in front of their line had been scouted for some 8 or 10 miles, and no enemy appeared in that direction. Slemp telegraphed me that Clay was observing the enemy, and that he had turned off to Blountsville, which was in 9 miles of Bristol. Johnson communicated that he had passed Clay's camp, making for his own, before day, and had come upon the enemy in front of Clay's pickets; had shot a sergeant and captured two prisoners with his little party, but that he was cut off from Kingsport and could not get to his camp, and that the enemy at day-dawn was making for Blountsville, said by the prisoners to be from 2,600 to 3,000 strong, composed of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee [troops], under General Carter, of Tennessee. I immediately ordered Hawkins to move to the railroad depot at Abingdon his 400 infantry, and embark on the cars at once for Bristol. I telegraphed Slemp to resist the enemy, and he should be re-enforced within an hour.
Hawkins reached the depot by 11 a.m., when, to my utter surprise, I learned the cars had all left Abingdon and had returned to Bristol about 9 o'clock. I directed the telegraphic operator to telegraph for their immediate return, to transport troops to Bristol from Abingdon. An hour and a half elapsed, when the operator handed me a dispatch to him from a Mr. [W. S.] Minor, the railroad agent at Bristol:
Does General Marshall order the cars to Abingdon? If so, let him say how many troops he wishes to transport.
I give the substance, possibly not the exact words, of this dispatch. Answered immediately by telegraph:
General Marshall orders the immediate return of cars to transport 400 men from Abingdon to Bristol.
Another hour and a half passed, and then came this dispatch:
If General Marshall wants the cars at Abingdon, he will have to confer with the general superintendent at Lynchburg.
This was done as soon as the telegraph cold do it; and now was the first time I was aware that my original request had not taken that direction. Mr. [T.] Dodamead telegraphed to me that the cars should be sent from Bristol immediately, and that he had not received my dispatch of the night before until 10 a.m. that day, but that cars were then (2 p.m.) loading my artillery on board at Wytheville.
I repaired to the depot in person in about an hour, with my staff, to go to Bristol. Slemp telegraphed that the enemy had taken the direction of Union from Blountsville with a part of his force. I then saw he was making for Holston Bridge. I cold not arrive in time to stop him. The cars did not come from Bristol until after dark, and my men had been waiting to go since 11 a.m. We reached Bristol after 11 o'clock at night, and learned that the enemy had crossed the Holston, burned the bridge, captured the guard at Union, and had gone before sundown, westward, toward the Watauga Bridge, and, doubtless, had destroyed that also, and was, when last heard from, going west.
Before leaving Abingdon I had sent a courier to Colonel [H. L.] Giltner,