hill to the north of the town Giltner came up. On the hill south of the town the enemy made his appearance, occupying a thicket. I ordered a squadron to deploy as skirmishers and drive him from it; promptly done. I moved Giltner's men to a height immediately south, about 250 yards from the court-house, which was done very promptly, and then I ordered the corps to advance into the village. The enemy sounded "boots and saddles" on his bugles, and left the village immediately. My skirmishers passed across the village, and over the hill to the north of it until they struck the woods, and penetrated them until they came to what is called the Harlan road, leading to Harlan County, Kentucky. I had by this time learned in the town that the enemy had passed a large part of his force west of the village, through the farms of Widow Pardoe and Mr. Mildown, and learned that the front of his column was probably by that time at the gap. The moon was now shining; the road was unknown to me; it lay between slopes and heavy ridges, and these heavily timbered with strong black-jack undergrowth, and I saw nothing for such a pursuit against a force far heavier than my own but the loss of valuable men without a single compensating consequence. They could have shot my men down from the brushy slopes without giving us any chance. I refused to order them into ambush after ambush, and therefore gave up the chase.
Next day I rode out to the gap and examined the road, and congratulated myself that I had not attempted the pursuit any farther. If you have been interested enough to read this, you have the detailed and distinct view of the whole affair from beginning to end. We made them abandon some 7 horses and we gathered in some 10 prisoners.
They marched on the 3rd in the morning from the other side of Crank's Gap in the direction of Harlan Court-House, the talk in their camp being that it would take them some seven or eight days to get back to their camp at Percyville, Ky. I left my infantry and artillery at Jonesville, for I ordered it, when I heard of firing near Hunter's Gap, to move from Pattonsville, so as to get in the enemy's rear, should I engage him near Hunter's Gap, as I supposed would be the case, and it was then moved on to Jonesville. Having no tents or camp equipage along for any part of the force, we occupied the vacant houses and stores of the old village. I ordered the mounted force to commence its return to this quarter on the 4th, and left, myself, on the evening of that day.
On the 6th, at Estillville, I received a dispatch from Major-General Jones that Lieutenant-General Smith apprehended an attack on Cumberland Gap, and desired all my available force to remain in that section. I ordered my mounted force back to Lee, and to forage, if it could, in the direction of Cumberland Gap, while I came here to make some arrangements to supply it with things necessary to the preservation of the men from death by starvation or from cold.
It is proper to remark that my cavalry was posted near Kingsport a month since, because it could be foraged there easily, and the post was just that at which protection would be afforded to those bridges and to Bristol, but Brigadier-General (H.) Heth ordered them out of his department, threatening to arrest the officers if they procured corn from Tennessee, and that was the reason they were away when the enemy came and destroyed the bridges. Had they been allowed to forage where I put them, they would all have been just in the place to meet the enemy as he came in. I should be explicit that no force was there from Cumberland Gap, and that garrison had paid no attention to their presence in the country.