War of the Rebellion: Serial 044 Page 0956 N. C., VA., W. VA., MD., PA., ETC. Chapter XXXIX.

Search Civil War Official Records

With the fragmentary command you gave me at Zollicoffer, I moved by your orders on September 28 to Jonesborough, driving the enemy from that place. On October 2, Major-General Ransom arrived, and informed me that he was going to move at once with the infantry upon Cumberland Gap, and ordered me to make a diversion in his favor by moving my cavalry down the Knoxville turnpike, but not to pass Bull's Gap until further orders from him. In obedience to this order, I moved at once, driving the enemy's cavalry before me, having a fight almost every day. When near Bull's Gap, the enemy showed no disposition to retreat any farther, and it was discovered that he had infantry supports and field works. We had several engagements with him here. On October 8, I telegraphed you, asking what had become of General Ransom's expedition to Cumberland Gap, and informing you that the enemy's force in my immediate front was at least 5, 000 men, with re-enforcements constantly arriving. You did not answer my dispatch in regard to General Ransom's movements, which was a matter of the gravest importance to me. I had heard nothing from General Ransom for nearly a week, and had begun to suspect that the movement had been abandoned. You did not reply to this inquiry, but sent the following in reply to my dispatch:

DUBLIN, October 8, 1863.

Brig. General JOHN S. WILLIAMS:

If the enemy had 5, 000 men in your front, they would have driven you away long before this. They are endeavoring to frighten you by a large display of a small force. Do not yield an inch until driven from it. If you cannot hold your ground with the large force of cavalry, I will carry a small force of infantry and artillery to you support.



Now, the plain English of this dispatch is, that I had not intelligence enough to estimate the strength of an enemy with whom I was in daily conflict, or that I had not spirit enough to fight him. The insinuation is against either my sense or courage. I was intensely enraged, and determined to fight General Burnside's whole army, if it cost my country the last man of my "large cavalry force. " I did fight him, and fight him desperately. My handful of brave men on October 10, 1863, at Blue Springs, Tenn., fought 12, 000 Yankees, under Major-General Burnside, from 10 o'clock in the morning until 5 in the evening, when a division of infantry broke our center, and attempted to take our batteries by assault, but was repulsed and driven from the field by grape and canister. I telegraphed you the result of this day's operations, and again asked you what had become of the expedition to Cumberland Gap. You replied that it had been abandoned. This was the first positive information that I had of the abandonment of that expedition, although, as I afterward learned, the infantry had for more than a week been returned to Virginia, and General Ransom gone to Richmond. Why information of this change of plan was withheld from me is strange, indeed. I was performing a subordinate part in the campaign. The principal actors withdraw from the stage without a word of notice to me. At this I was greatly incensed. On the night of the fight at Blue Springs, I learned that the enemy had thrown a cavalry force of several thousand around by Rogers-