(which is an important military position), and I have a battalion of mounted rifles near there. I placed the Fifty-fourth Virginia at Wytheville, so as to be movable, by rail, to Dublin, New River, or Saltville-east or west, as the case may require. I informed you I had left Colonel Hawkins on the Sandy. He retreated into Virginia before a superior force, which occupies Piketon, Ky., now, say 900 strong. At Whitesburg my men have been constantly engaged with the Home Guards (about 600 strong), and, I hear, successfully engaged generally, though the other a party of 40 came into Whitesburg and murdered several of the citizens, burned the houses of Captain Caudill and of his father and brothers, and carried his wife off a prisoners.
I mention these things to show you that, in the border counties of Kentucky, the war is deadly and fiercely waged, although the participants are all mountaineers, and their numbers are comparatively small. I think it is not improbable that a dash of my mounted men and a light battery into the valley of the Sandy will be of great benefit in enabling me to relieve our friends and their families; but I will be frank to say that the war must be carried on as they have chosen to make it, and as they do make it everywhere, or it had better not be begun.
I declare to you that the people of Kentucky did not estimate it as above the pageant of an agricultural fair or a good cattle show when our army was in that country. I took the ground that all who were for us must go into the army; all who were against us must go to their own friends before our lines; but I could not carry out my programme, and I do not to re-enter the State in arms unless I can have the privilege to pursue my own policy in conducting the invasion.
What we obtain we should organize and make our own permanently, and should rid it of people who are deadly hostile to our cause and its success. Kentucky is the best theater on which to defend Western Virginia. If you do not fight there they will come and fight here, and I assure you the mountain counties of Kentucky are as loyal to our cause as the mountain counties of Western Virginia. Subsistence is limited and scare in both sections, but our people can probably get on, and our cavalry should be active and "change its base" very often.
I do not mean to weary you with suggestions. I have been so confounded at the misunderstanding under which it would appear I h ave acted from the beginning, that I now confine myself to throwing out these hints rather to attract your consideration than to offer any views of my own. I am ready to do all in my power, but should my mounted force go into Kentucky and my infantry force remain here, I may naturally inquire where shall I go? My command is now spread over 100 miles square.
I inclose a letter handed me by the niter agent, in which it would seem some instructions will be proper. As I am not in command in this department, I have taken no steps in the premises. (Mislaid.)
I shall have the honor to claim your attention also to a state of facts upon which I fear I shall have to ask your active interference, should General Kirby Smith not rectify what I have complained of to him. It is the marching off to Tennessee of about 300 mounted recruits by Captain (now Major) Stoner, who were raised in Kentucky under my authority, and whose subsistence and forage were paid by my order all the way here, on their certificate, left for my quartermaster to take up. If such things can be successfully done we shall have no discipline, and, next, no army. I have officers now around my camp electioneering with the twelve-months' men of my mounted battalion to get them off to other commands. I shall state the case in full to you, in order that the proper correction may be immediately applied.