Proceeding by horseback to Staunton
, General Breckinridge
went by rail to Richmond
for consultation with General Lee
, who had then become General-in-Chief
of all the armies, and with President Davis
, touching affairs in his Department.
he was summoned hastily by the announcement that Burbridge
was moving from Kentucky
with a heavy force through Pound gap
, to the attack of Saltville
He reached Abingdon
in time to direct the concentration of troops for its protection, by reason of which disposition Burbridge
was successfully repulsed.
His thorough knowledge of the country, both by a study of maps and by the personal inspection made when he entered upon his command enabled him to comprehend at once its strategic points, and had his orders been strickly carried out, Burbridge
and his entire force would have been captured; but there was delay, and they escaped.
The damage done by Burbridge
in this raid was insignificant, while his repulse tended to inspire the troops and people with better hopes for the future.
The command which General Breckinridge
then had in Virginia
, after the division which General John S. Williams
had brought in the Department a few days before had left for Georgia
, as it did a few days later, was very small and incapable of offensive operations.
He had no infantry except a small brigade of reserves — men under and over the conscript age, while his cavalry was composed of the remnants of commands which had been depleted in battle or by capture.
had been killed, and his command, under Duke
, was his chief resource, though the bulk of it was of men without horses, lately returned from long imprisonment.
Not long after this a threatening movement was made by the enemy from Tennessee
, not wishing to surrender any more territory in that direction, and to avoid the demoralization consequent upon a contraction of his lines, gathered together hastily such dismounted men as he could find, organized them, and went in person with them to meet the enemy.
His success was beyond his expectations — having succeeded, by the force of his personal presence and direction, in defeating the enemy in a sharp engagement at Bull
's gap, which caused him to retire towards Knoxville
, and gave security to the border for some time.