at the proper passes would multiply our forces many told, and that a few of these passes intrenched would render the whole country from Cumberland Gap to Cheat Mountain next to impregnable. These passes are infirmly west of the summit of the water-shed. I think if the intrenchments were completed at the proper points (which might be done this winter) that a few regiments, comparatively, of well-disciplined troops, re-enforced by the local strength of the country upon the advance of the enemy in force, could fully defend Western Virginia and the railroad from any attack the enemy could make. If this were done it would be an easy or safe matter to withdraw a large from the mountains for operations in some other field.
I trust you will not think me impertinent when I say that means heretofore used to embody the conscript force of this region have been injudicious and wholly ineffectual. The authority to raise the conscript force has been so exercised as to render the law the proceedings under it extremely repulsive to the community. There is still in the country a large and effective force, which, with proper means, could be rendered available. The details of such a plan as I think would work out the desired result I will not attempt to develop, but would venture the suggestion that those engaged in gathering the conscripts into regular camps erected for their reception should be wholly different and distinct from the enemy army officers under whom they are to be finally placed. The operation of gathering the conscripts should be a double one; first, the operation of gathering the conscripts should be a double one; first, the civil means of placing them in camp, and, second, the military process of putting them in the army. By this plan all the odium created by self-sufficient, arrogant young officers enforcing insolently the provisions of the law would be avoided by the army.
Another great reform in this country whereby the resources of it can be immediately increased, and the force rendered vastly more efficient, is to be found in dismounting at once the entire mounted force. As far as a cavalry force for operations as such in the mountains is concerned, it is worse than useless. Except for scouts and pickets, they cannot possibly be of any service, while their consumption of grain is absolutely ruinous. A company of 100 horse will consume in a day more corn than will feed for a like period any regiment in the service. In addition to this the service itself, such as it is in the mountains, tends to loosen all the bonds of discipline. Nothing can exceed the alarm and uneasiness of the people at the approach and presence of the cavalry. If the supply of food to our troops is a matter of vital importance, and if it has, as I am sure it has, become a matter of earnest solicitude to the Government, then nothing could add so much to the means of subsistence for the men as to disband the cavalry force in the mountain region where the grain can conveniently carried to the railroad. If the service, however, requires so large a number of men and horses, it would be wise to take them away south, where the corn is abundant. I assure you there is the greatest danger of extreme want of food throughout the mountain region during the ensuing season, and this danger is increased daily by the vast number of horses that not only consume, but needlessly destroy the grain and forage of the land. I advance it as my opinion that, with a few passes fortified, by a judicious and efficient system of collecting conscripts, and the disbanding or removal of the cavalry force from this country, you may safely rely upon the ability of the mountain region to defend and support itself from Cumberland Gap to Lewisburg.
I have remained in this remote region until this late period for the purpose of giving protection to the loyal inhabitants and of observing