War of the Rebellion: Serial 051 Page 0608 Chapter XIII. KY.,SW.VA.,TENN.,MISS.,N.ALA.,AND N.GA.

Search Civil War Official Records

vindication from unjust censure ever be allowed me, this statement may in the future be viewed by the liberal and the just as some evidence that I had on that occasion done all that an honorable man or active, discreet officer could have done under the circumstances.

First I will briefly notice the remarks in President Davis' annual message to Congress on December [7] next following the surrender of Cumberland Gap on September 9, and simply say to the remarks and implied censure contained therein, that had the President possessed himself of dates of refreshed his memory in regard to them he is the last man from whom a virtual charge of misconduct could have been expected. The Federal forces under General Burnside entered East Tennessee about the last of August and took possession of Knoxville on or about September 2. A large part of these forces passed through the Cumberland Mountains from Kentucky into Tennessee at Big Creek Gap, 40 miles south of my position, on or about September 1, as made known to me by reliable scouts sent for that object. East Tennessee was, therefore, in possession of the Federal Army (unopposed by General Buckner, the Confederate officer in command of Confederate forces in East Tennessee), and the holding of Cumberland Gap was no longer any protection to East Tennessee or of Southwestern Virginia.

Second. My orders from General Buckner.

On August 21, General Buckner ordered me to hold the gap, stating that if the enemy broke through between me and Big Creek Gap (my left and rear) he would check them. (See dispatch marked A,*) From this I of course understood that I would be protected in my rear.

On August 30, General Buckner directed me to evacuate the gap (see document marked B+) with all speed; to burn and destroy everything that could not be transported, and report to General S. Jones at Abingdon, Va., 125 miles distant. As I had been led to believe East Tennessee was to be held by us, and knowing the importance of the gap in this event, I thought this order might have been some trick of the enemy, and telegraphed in cipher to General Buckner that I had about forty days' rations and believed I could hold the position, but asked to be informed if I should still evacuate.

On August 31, I received a dispatch from General Buckner to hold the gap and fall back on his instructions to me of August 21. (See document B.+) Knoxville had at this time been abandoned, and General Buckner and his forces were at Loudon, 30 miles soutwest of Knoxville, at the crossing of the Holston (or Tennessee) River.

I therefore, in conformity to the last order, proceeded to prepare vigorously for a defense.


There are three public roads uniting in the gap-the Virginia road, leading eastward to Powell's Valley; the Kentucky road, running through the gap from Knoxville into Kentucky, and the Harlan road, leading along the north side of the mountain northwardly. In consequence of the broken nature of the country, declivities, ravines, &c., the artillery could not command either of these roads but for a short distance (except the Kentucky road toward the south, various points of which, in its windings, could be reached as far as within


*See p. 615.

+See p. 616.