BRISTOL, TENN., December 30, 1862.
Send ten boxes musket-cartridges. Enemy, from best information, turned in the direction of Bluntsville-1,200 or 1,500 strong. Our force united, I think, can take them. Be glad [to have] your company.
On receipt of these dispatches, the ammunition was ordered to the cars at Abingdon immediately. Unfortunately it afforded an excuse for them to return to Bristol without further notice to me. I received the following note from Major Johnson by courier:
CLAY'S CAMP, December 30, 1862.
I passed Clay's camp about 3 o'clock. I proceeded on the Kingsport road. About 7 miles from his camp I met Clay's pickets dashing back, and they reported the Yankees in pursuit. I rode to the rear; it was dark, and 3 Yankees rode up and asked me if we were the Ninth Pennsylvania Regiment. I unhorsed 1; the other 2 surrendered. I learn from these men there are three regiments ahead of the prisoners. Of course they are near by. I am cut off from my command. I have no doubt they are marching for Bristol, and can be there by noon.
The foregoing was received at 11 a.m. Also the following from Lieutenant-Colonel Clay:
I have just received information from Lieutenant [R. T.] Jack (of Johnson's command) that the enemy has gone in the direction of Union; perhaps will go thence to Bristol. Force about 1,500. Johnson's command is near here. Will act together in the direction of Union. His command is only about 80 men. I have scouts in all directions.
E. F. CLAY,
THREE SPRINGS-11 a.m.
Reliable information. The enemy gone to Union by the Blountsville road. Will be there by 1 o'clock. Major Johnson's command will act in that direction.
E. F. CLAY,
The pickets sent out to the Holston Ford brought me now a report that the enemy was not seen on the roads leading from Estillville in the direction of the salt works, and as the above telegrams indicated that his movement was really designed for Bristol or its vicinity, I ordered Colonel Hawkins to move his infantry at once to the railroad cars to embark for Bristol, intending to transfer my force to the front of the enemy. The work soon came to me, to my surprise and mortification, that the cars could be ordered to return. I was in the telegraph office, I think, at the time; it not, I was in its immediate vicinity, and requested the telegraph operator to dispatch immediately to have the cars returned from Bristol to transport my troops to that point. I waited a considerable time before I received any reply. Meanwhile the following arrived:
DECEMBER 30, 1862.
Our pickets were driven in the enemy's pickets 1 miles this side of Blountsville. Our pickets just here at 12 o'clock.