and to the officer commanding Witcher's battalion, for both to move immediately to Bristol. My artillery arrived from Wytheville at Bristol as soon as I did, but not the horses, which had been started on the night of the 29th by land. The damage to the bridges was done. It could have been avoided, and would have been, had the railroad agents furnished the cars to send my infantry forward. It rained hard all that evening.
I learned, on arriving at Bristol, that the enemy had cut the telegraph wires leading west, on his reaching there that day (the 30th). I learned further that the telegraph operator, Mr. [J. C.] Duncan, had the night before (29th) refused to let Captain [T. W. W.] Davies, the commandant of the post at Bristol, communicate to General Smith, at Knoxville, the letter or substance of my dispatch to Colonel Slemp until it should be the pleasure of Colonel Slemp to make it known, as it was a rule that the contents of private dispatches should not be made known until it was done by the party to whom addressed. Slemp was 2 miles out of town. Duncan was positive. A courier was sent to Slemp to obtain his permission, though the moments were precious, if force was to be sent from Knoxville to the bridges to strengthen the guards. Before the courier got back from Slemp's camp, Duncan had left his office and had hid his instrument working westward, and neither he nor his instrument could be found until next morning, after the enemy had reached the telegraph wire and had cut off the connection with Knoxville. I inquired as to Mr. Duncan's sentiments, and was told that he was well known as a Union man. I ordered his arrest immediately, and left very much like arresting Minor also, but did not. General Smith, I understand, and released Duncan, which, under the circumstances, I consider a very grave mistake, for, if such a case goes unpunished in East Tennessee, we shall have plenty of such cases. I supposed he was in this department. Major-General Jones suggested to me his release, because they said they could not work the railroad without the operator of the telegraph at Bristol. I refused to release him, and ordered the operator at Abingdon to repair to Bristol, which he did. It was discovered that Duncan did not live in this department, and General Kirby Smith, it appears, released him after I left Bristol. It is proper you should be apprised of this whole state of facts. I [have] no interest in the result beyond the public good. I have never seen Duncan, and never heard of him before December 30.
December 31 found me at Bristol; the enemy's whereabouts unknown. The picket of cavalry at Union reported that at 11 a.m. he was encamped at 3 miles from Union, between the Holston and Watauga, but appeared to be preparing to move. I ordered Captain [W. W.] Baldwin, in command of a squadron of Partisan Rangers, to move to Blountsville, and thence to watch the road from Carter's Depot to Kingsport, and to report promptly every movement of the enemy.
By 2 p.m. Giltner's regiment of Kentucky cavalry entered Bristol, having come from Lebanon since midnight-550 men. I should have said that I ordered [Thomas] Johnson's camp at Kingsport to be broken up, and his train to move last night to the Three Springs, so as to get behind our forces. Three companies of Johnson's men came in about 12 o'clock to-day. Clay's men a good deal fagged from active scouting for the past thirty-six hours. In a short time after Giltner's arrival, Captain Baldwin reports from Blountsville that the enemy had encamped, in force of about 500, at Hull's, 4 miles from Blountsville, on the Jonesborough road, and is now there, feeding. The picket from Union reports that the enemy has moved, and seems to be taking the direction of