War of the Rebellion: Serial 029 Page 0104 KY., MID. AND E. TENN., N. ALA., AND SW. VA.

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intended to strike by merely seeing them pass Pattonsville going in the direction of Bristol. It was not certain if 4,000 cavalry had passed Pattonsville that it was the only column in the State of Virginia. I knew that from Pattonsville the column might take any one half a dozen roads that would lead directly to the section of country in which I was then located, and that the salt works in Smyth County (18 miles above Abingdon and near the railroad) would be an interest at which such a force would be most apt to direct its efforts. It might make a feint upon Bristol (an unimportant depot) while the main body might move rapidly upon Saltville, and in an hour might there do damage that would be nearly irreparable. I felt that I owed the duty of taking care that no such effect might be produced. My command was at the time much scattered. Two of my regiments and a battalion had been detached at your own urgent request. I had left a regiment (nearly formed) in Kentucky beyond the Cumberland Mountains. I had only the representatives of two infantry regiments left. One of these (the Sixth-fourth Virginia) had only been formed about one month by adding a battalion of perfectly raw recruits to a battalion which had been in service for a year past. I had never seen this regiment since it had taken a regimental formation. I had ordered it down to take post in front of Bristol, that it might be in a place to be equipped and drilled, and at the same time might be transferred rapidly by rail to any point where its services should be needed. The other infantry force consisted of six companies of minimum size, all recruited during my march into Kentucky last summer, and which I now had near Abingdon to drill and to afford me a chance to swell its numbers to at least the number of companies to make a skeleton regiment. A battalion of Georgia artillery, under my command, was at Jeffersonville, in Tazewell County, about 500 strong, with a battery of twelve pieces. I had a battery of six pieces at Wytheville, where it had been placed under directions from your predecessor in office. Another battery of four pieces was then en route for Rocky Gap, in Bland County, by agreement between the major-general and myself. The rest of my force was mounted, and had for some time past been moving about to find a scanty forage, and to draw it from unwilling owners in every part of Southwest Virginia. Still, it had been required to keep in relation to the points of the country demanding defense. I had in November stationed it to forage near Kingsport, Tenn., but the military authority commanding that department had ordered the officers to withdraw from that department, and, under penalty of arrest, not to take corn or other forage or supplies from East Tennessee; and they had furnished me with a copy of this order, in the nature of a demand, that it should meet my acquiescence. In consequence of this, my mounted force had been scattered to hunt forage. The Fourth Kentucky Cavalry had from day to day fallen back to Russell County, Virginia. The First [Third] Battalion of Kentucky Mounted Rifles had encamped near the Three Springs, in Washington County, Virginia. Johnson's battalion of four companies still lingered near Kingsport, but was on the eve of starting to Kentucky to try to find forage and recruits. Witcher's battalion of Virginia riflemen (mounted also) had drifted as far east as Chatham Hill, in Smyth County, a point on the road from Marion to Jeffersonville, and above the salt works. [Captain John A.] McFarlane's company of Virginia cavalry was posted at the Richlands, in Tazewell, to observe the approaches from the valley of the Sandy. If you are conversant with the geography of this section of the State, you will observe from my statement of the facts that at the time of Captain Larmer's telegram my force of less then 3,000 men was dispersed over