me. At the same time I started a reliable messenger to Kentucky with orders to Colonel Ben. [E.] Caudill, at Whitesburg, to man Pound Gap, Stone Gap, and all the other mountain gaps along his front, and to resist the egress of the enemy, and to say that I would be near approaching.
After crossing Sheaver's Ridge, the enemy kept on to Kingsport. He could have turned to the right at several places after that and have passed through Moccasin Gap. When I was in Blountsville, everybody there supposed of course he had gone to Moccasin Gap, and lamented our inability to reach the gap before him. I knew no reason for him to go by Kingsport. If he meant to go out at the Moccasin Gap, it was only a detour of about 8 miles to go by Kingsport and then to return into the gap, for they are only 7 miles apart. His only motive to go by Kingsport that I could imagine would be to strike at Major Johnson's camp and to release some prisoners taken by my men the day before. I took the chance if he had made this detour of reaching Moccasin Gap in advance of him. I occupied it by 4 a.m. on January 1. He had passed Kingsport that night and had taken down the south side of the Clinch Range.
Colonel Giltner is mistaken as to the hour of my arrival at Estillville, though possibly not as to the time when he first saw me there. I was at Estillville at dinner time, and rode into town with his scout, returning from Kingsport, from whom I learned the direction the enemy had taken. Clay and Johnson had moved when I reached there, so that I infer the young officer had reported, and I came in with a squad from his party which had lagged behind. I sent word for my mounted men to halt until the rear came up, because there were bridal-gaps over the mountains a few miles from Estillville, and the enemy might have passed over those, and would turn successfully upon 300 or 350 men and whip them, if beyond supporting distance from the remainder of my force. Besides, I had given no authority to Colonel Giltner to direct the movements of the corps he had ordered to march. Presuming at Estillville the enemy would cross the Clinch Range below me, and might try to go out on the Lee County border somewhere, I at once dispatched Lieutenant-Colonel Pridemore, a native of Scott County, to the front, with directions to rouse the country people, and to dispatch a courier from Jonesville to Cumberland Gap, so as to let the force there know the situation and to request their co-operation, and to have work sent forward to block up the mountain passes. I urged on him to go to Jonessville that night and dispatch the courier instantly thence to Cumberland Gap.
I pressed on now to the Clinch River, at Speer's Ferry (the point the enemy had crossed coming in), and, finding my cavalry in bivouac, ordered the whole forward. I passed over two roads, one leading up the Clinch from Kyle's Ford (some 25 miles below), the other from Sneedsville. I thought the enemy might double and pass out behind me, for now I did not know where he was, save that I was on one side of a mountain range and he on the other.
Before midnight I met Lieutenant-Colonel Pridemore returning. He had advanced as far as Pattonsville, and there learned that the news I wished to convey had gone already; that the movement of the enemy on the south side was known, and that the country people (it was told him at Pattonsville) had that day felled trees across the road on the north side of Powell's Mountain, so as to obstruct passage in the direction of Jonesville; that I was blockaded as well as the enemy. I then determined to halt until daylight. It was intensely cold, and my men were very much exhausted, some of them being in the saddle now for the third night.