My cavalry is now beyond the Holston; my infantry will occupy the line of the Holston from Zollicoffer toward Kingsport to-morrow. I cannot move the small force of infantry I now have so far into East Tennessee, as to uncover this section of country and the salt-works and lead-mines. The enemy's force in my front is chiefly cavalry or mounted infantry. They have guides who know the country well, and, if the enemy is enterprising and active, they may do us much damage whilst my force occupies the line it will occupy to-morrow. The damage done in my rear whilst I was at Zollicoffer warns me of what may be done whilst I occupy the position I have taken.
With a few thousand additional infantry, I think I could do much toward driving the enemy from East Tennessee, but whilst my force is so small as it is at present, I cannot thrust it far into East Tennessee without exposing this section of country, which it seems to me of the utmost importance that we should hold.
So far from receiving any of the re-enforcements I have asked for, I received a telegram from General Cooper day before yesterday, informing me that General Lee had again called for my two best regiments of cavalry, and directing me to send them if I could spare them. I have not sent them and shall not without a more positive order, and I trust that the order in regard to the transfer of those two regiments, the Eighth and Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry, to General Lee's army may be revoked.
With great respect, your obedient servant,
HDQRS. DEPT. WESTERN VIRGINIA AND EAST TENNESSEE, Abingdon, October 31, 1863.
Major General ROBERT RANSOM, Jr.,
GENERAL: Your note this morning is very satisfactory. You wrote apparently in haste, and I could not decipher all of it, but enough to show that the enemy is falling back. If I could get a few thousand additional infantry now, I think we could press General Burnside out of East Tennessee. With our present force, however, we may do much. Push the cavalry well to the front and right. Do not allow the infantry to go beyond the Holston. Keep a strong cavalry picket at or near Kingsport to prevent a cavalry raid by our right without our knowing it.
I have directed Brigadier-General Williams to be relieved. Place all the cavalry under Brigadier General William E. Jones. Williams has had time enough to make up his mind to stand a trial or not, as he thinks best.
Let me know where you will encamp to-morrow night. If I can get through a mass of paper business here, I will try to go to your headquarters. Nothing new to-day that I have heard.
Very respectfully and truly,
P. S.-Get from General W. E. Jones all the information you can as to the extent of the damage done the railroad, if any, south of Carter's Station.