had neither seen nor heard of the camp at Hull's, I concluded that Captain Baldwin had made a mistake, possibly, as to its existence, and I issued to Colonel Giltner immediately the following order:
DECEMBER 31, 1862-8 p.m.
Press on to Blountsville with speed. When arrived there, direct your movements by the reports which Baldwin's makes. My chief aim is to cut the enemy off from Moccasin Gap; but, remember, your function is only to harass him until my infantry can catch up.
I will observe that, from the time at which Captain Baldwin made his first report, I was much at a loss how to understand the movement of the enemy by the light of these report: "The enemy is crossing the Blountsville road." I inferred from that he was making for Moccasin Gap. Had he designed going to Kingsport, he would have taken the road to Kingsport. He would only cross the Blountsville road (coming from Union) if he intended to go to Moccasin Gap, or to get upon the Reedy Creek road and to take that, by which he could go either to the one place or the other. Next came the declaration that he was in camp on the Jonesborough road to Blountsville. If so, he was as near Bristol as he would be at Blountsville, and could approach it directly by the Beaver Creek road. If that was true, it would not do for me to attempt pursuit and leave Bristol uncovered, since I was ordered to look to its defense. When the third dispatch came, announcing that the enemy had been crossing the ridge two hours, I could not tell whether the force at Hull's had gone, nor could I tell that he mean to make for Kingsport, as the road he was said to be taking was the very nighest cut he could take to Moccasin Gap. When the officer reported his still in camp at Hull's at 6.45 o'clock, I should have hesitated to uncover Bristol had I not received Captain Bedford's dispatch. I had determined early in the day that if, in fact, the enemy intending to retreat, I would try to intercept him, and, with the view to a pursuit, had ordered rations for four days to be cooked, that our movement might commence at nightfall. Considering all I had heard of the sentiments of the population of East Tennessee, and the limited experience I had had, I was not disposed to let my adversary have access to information as to my movements. If he had moved and encamped again, as reported in Captain Baldwin's second dispatch, he would be there that night, and, by going to Blountsville under cover of the night, I should gain his rear. I made no order to move or to cook rations until my cavalry arrived (after 2 p.m.). Until I was satisfied that the probability was strong that he had not encamped at Hull's, or had left there, I would not give marching orders to the cavalry, though I had already started the infantry and one section of artillery; and, to move this, I had to press horses that evening, as mine had not arrived from Wytheville.
I waited after my force was in motion for several reasons: First, to receive the troops promised by General Jones, and to know certainly whether they arrived. Second, because Captain Jeffress' horses came in after nightfall from a day's journey, and I wanted them to rest a little before they were put again on the road to draw the guns I desired to carry with me. Third, because a section of artillery under that officer, which I ordered him to prepare and move, would have no other escort to Blountsville than myself and staff, and a signal corps who were with me. Your correspondent intimates that he knows, but will not tell, the reason I delayed my departure until 1 a.m. of January 1. I was in Blountsville about the hour he fixes for my departure from Bristol, and