they should be honorably discharged. I told them I would communicate with you on my reaching Abingdon, and their claim to a discharge should be fairly heard and decided, and I [dare] say that many of them will re-enter the service after a short furlough, but they wish an honorable discharge, and to have no appearance of a conscription, of which they seem to have a horror. My impression is, probably half of them will seek a place with General John H. Morgan if discharged, for his dashes into Kentucky, and his brisk adventures and active movement, have great fascination for all of them, and they dislike this service in the mountains. My judgment is, they will do no good unless discharged, and that then half of them will rejoin. The battalion of mounted rifles will still have 300 men of new recruits, and about the same number will go out. What remains may be very advantageously reorganized, and, I think, will be better for it. I hope, then, you will let me manage the matter according to my own judgment, and I think I can secure the return of them nearly all to the service in one command or another. I brought out a cavalry regiment, all recruits, raised for my command while I was in the State of Kentucky, and really forage is so scarce that I think it would be well to send them back to Kentucky until they shall be positively needed elsewhere. I think, if I had 1,500 or 2,000 cavalry sent down the Sandy and across to the Lower Kanawha, they might be of benefit in cutting off the enemy's trains while ascending the Kanawha. But even should the twelve-months' men be discharged, I shall have a large mounted force. I fear that, unless discharged, these men will be of no future use. If discharged, I hope they will re-enter somewhere, and prove of utility to the cause we uphold.
I request commissions of colonel of cavalry for Henry L. Giltner, of lieutenant-colonel for Moses Tandy Pryor, and of major for Nathan Parker. These gentlemen are acting as the field officers of the regiment of cavalry of which I have referred. I have forwarded the muster-rolls of four of the companies, and there are five other companies, all of legal size, whose rolls I will forward in a few days. The regiment numbers now some 700 men.
I find a great many Kentuckians straggling about the country here not in the service. They would not enlist at home, and have run here before our army; take its protection, eat up the food of the country, and are a positive nuisance. I wish you would authorize me to seize all such as conscripts. I have a particular desire to make them useful to the country. I feel also that I should name to you that, in Wise County, on Samuel Salyer has a battalion of partisan rangers who are doing no good, as I learn, but much positive harm by making forays into Kentucky, and bringing the plunder they take back into Virginia. The lex talionis will give us trouble, in which event they will render but little assistance.
I go to meet General Echols, at his request, at Dublin Depot, in the morning, but I shall be vastly surprised to learn, as a fact, that the enemy has pressed an considerable force beyond the falls of the Kanawha, nor do I believe that he will before next spring.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
[P. S.]-Telegraph me whether you require me to reorganize the twelve-months' men, or whether I may manage their case according to my judgment.