War of the Rebellion: Serial 051 Page 0610 Chapter XIII. KY.,SW.VA.,TENN.,MISS.,N.ALA.,AND N.GA.

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for more than a day. The oxen drawing it broke down for want of forage, which I found could only be procured in limited quantities and with great labor from farmers around, nearly all these farmers being strongly disaffected or lukewarm in our cause. It was for this reason I sent away, days before the investment, all the artillery and spare horses, being of no service in a defense, all of which reached Abingdon safely.

It is proper also to allude to the mill on which we depended for grinding the supplies of wheat stored in the gap (about 40 days' rations). This spring is about half a mile below the gap on south side, and when the force of the enemy appeared in my rear our defenses necessarily included the mill and the spring, which involved an extension of the lines and division of forces.

Finally, it is proper to remark that although a casual observer passing through the mountain would be led to suppose the position a very strong one (and this was my own at first and is the general impression), yet there proves to be many weak points in it when a careful examination is made. Many steep declivities and other irregularities on the surface prevent a prompt re-enforcement of the key points and higher positions, or a quick communication from one to another. I have before spoken of several gradual approaches by ravines and depressions, completely masking an advancing force.

During the period of thirty-two days of my command in the gap, fogs prevailed until 10 or 11 a. m. so dense that a body of men could approach very near without discovery. (See statement of Lieutenants Van Leer and Wilkins.) I will express the opinion, arrived at after a full knowledge of all conditions gained during a month, that an assaulting force equal to the garrison could carry it as easy as in the open field, if guided or informed of its weak points by disaffected persons in the vicinity, especially during the prevalence of fogs, which greatly demoralized the men, who were unaccustomed to service and had never been in action.


It is an ungracious task a commander to have to speak disparagingly of his subordinates anywhere, but particularly to do so in part explanation of reverses in war. But the act of doing so is forced upon me in self-defense, and may reveal some characteristics in a part of our lives which will shun disaster on some other occasion if borne in mind.

On June 8, 1863, I took command of Palmer's brigade, Department of East Tennessee, headquarters at Clinton; but the command was scattered and its discipline drill, and efficiency in a deplorable condition. (See Insp. General George B. Hodge's report and official statement of its former commander, Colonel J. B. Palmer, both made in June, 1863, and should be on file in Adjutant-General's Office, Richmond.) After two months I found myself at Cumberland Gap with only two of my regiments. The two batteries had been ordered by General Buckner to Knoxville the same day I was ordered to the gap. The other two regiments, after having been posted in the vicinity of Big Creek Gap, were ordered to re-enforce me about the time Knoxville was evacuated; but Colonel Sheliha, General Buckner's chief of staff, said they joined General Buckner's forces by a mistake.

On assuming command of the gap August 8, 1863, I found that