in the fields, and men are daily now applying to me for orders to the purchasing agents to exempt them from further pressure. I found a battery which had fallen back from Cumberland Gap to Sneedville, Tenn., to obtain forage for the artillery horses belonging to it, the officer declaring to me that everything in the nature of supply was gone from that point to the Gap, and that necessity would compel him to hunt for forage up as high as the road from Rogersville to New Gap, in the Clinch range, and, of course, behind those mountains from here. My Fourth Kentucky Cavalry has fallen back from one point to another of this valley until it has reached Turkey Cove, in the upper part of Lee, and the colonel informs me by letter to-night he cannot stay there more than two-days longer. Two alternatives present themselves: First, to abandon the idea of helping Cumberland Gap, and to require the force at that point to look elsewhere for aid in the supposed exigency, which will not arise before spring; or, secondly, to abandon our cavalry, and to rely on a dismounted force to hold this valley, transporting by mule trains from the rear all the supplies the men will want.
To picket the nearly innumerable mountain passes, of which there are not less than fourteen between here and Cumberland Gap, from Cumberland Gap to Pound Gap will require more force than I have at present under my command. To do so, and at the same time to keep a force to act in mass upon a given point if assailed, is simply beyond my power, and therefore not to be expected. I placed Jeffress' battery of six pieces, covered by [George M.] Jesse's and [W. H.] Vaughan's companies of dismounted men [Kentuckians] in Moccasin Gap, near Estillville, in Scott County, Virginia, and Major [Thomas] Johnson's mounted battalion of four companies near Kingsport Tenn., about 8 miles from the same gap. I think some earthworks should be thrown up at that point, as it is one of the great gateways into East Tennessee, whether from Pound Gap or Cumberland Gap, or the intervening gaps. The general will please indicate his approval of this idea, and I will advance with such works, which will materially diminish the necessity of large active forces at that point unless assailed.
The bridle gaps over the Clinch range between that and Looney's Gap [25 miles below] should be filled up or destroyed. I suppose they are frequent, for the East Tennessee renegades travel over all those mountains almost whenever they choose. From Loney's Gap to War Gap is 5 miles. I have posted [E. F.] Clay's battalion on Copper Ridge. I understand some forage may be had sufficient to support a battalion for some time. This position is out of our department; but as I may go for forage into East Tennessee, I combine, in the best way I can, what I may do with what I can do. That battalion is posted behind Clinch River; it should be, because frequently that stream cannot be crossed by fording, and baggage cannot be put behind it whenever one chooses. It is almost useless to try to stop the passage of the Cumberland range by infantry and cavalry. Take Jonesville as a center, and you may form some idea from this diagram, in which I make the gaps and distances between them: