Operations of General Burnside. Major W. H. Church's account.
General Burnside left Camp Nelson on the sixteenth of August for East-Tennessee. He left Crab Orchard on the twenty-fourth, having completed his preparations, his columns having been in motion for several days. He reached Mount Vernon, twenty miles distant, on the same day. He left Mount Vernon on the twenty-third, and reached London, twenty-five miles. On the twenty-fourth he reached Williamsburgh, thirty miles from London. On the twenty-fifth he reached Chitwood, Tennessee, twenty-eight miles southwest of Williamsburgh, where he came up with Major-General Hartsuff, commanding the Twenty-third army corps. Major Emory here made a cavalry reconnoissance toward Jacksboro, encountered two regiments of rebel cavalry, and routed them, taking forty-five prisoners. General Burnside, with the main body of his army, left Chitwood on the twenty-eighth and reached Montgomery, the county-seat of Morgan County, Tennessee, forty-two miles from Chitwood, on the thirtieth. Here another column of infantry, under Colonel Julius White, came in, having marched from Central Kentucky, by way of Albany, Monticello, and Jamestown. Colonel Burt, commanding the cavalry advance, sent word that the rebel General Pegram was holding the gap in the mountains, near the Emery Iron-Works, with two thousand men. The position was a very strong one, and the gap was the gate to the Clinch River Valley. A battle was expected, as there was not a better place in the country to check our forces. But on the morning of the thirty-first it was discovered that the enemy had fled in the night. Emery River, nine miles east of Montgomery, General Burnside ordered Colonel Foster to march directly on Knoxville, where he arrived and took the town without opposition on the first of September. General Burnside proceeded to Kingston, where his scouts encountered the cavalry pickets of General Rosecrans, and communicated with a splendid body of cavalry of the army of the Cumberland, under Colonel Minty. Burnside's object in moving to Kingston was to make a push for the great Loudon bridge over the Holston River. This was twenty miles from Kingston. General Shackleford was sent to London. On his approach the rebels retreated across the bridge, which they had barricaded, and fired it. Turpentine had been poured on the planks, and it was soon a mass of flames. Our troops fired across the river with artillery and musketry, and the people in the neighborhood said several rebels were killed and wounded. General Burnside left Kingston on the second and entered Knoxville on the third. The reception of our troops at this place was most gratifying. General Buckner with his rear-guard had left the day before Colonel Foster's arrival, for Chattanooga. There is reason to believe Rosecrans had in front of him, at Chattanooga, the whole force of Buckner, Bragg, and Johnston. The people about Knoxville say the flight of the rebels, when Burnside's approach was announced, was something wonderful. Their panic was immense. They had a report among them that Burnside had an army of from sixty to one hundred and twenty thousand men, and were of the opinion that their safety depended upon their speed. They left behind a considerable quantity of quartermaster's stores in pretty good order, and they had several valuable shops which they did not dismantle. Two million rations of salt were among the spoils. The secesh had a story that Longstreet was coming from Virginia with twenty thousand men, but it was one of their vain imaginings. The East-Tennessee troops, of whom General Burnside had a considerable number, were kept constantly in the advance, and were received with expressions of the profoundest gratitude by the people, who are described as the most heartily and generally loyal people in the United States. There were many thrilling scenes of the meeting of our East-Tennessee soldiers with their families, from whom they had been so long separated. The East-Tennesseeans were so glad to see our soldiers that they cooked every thing they had and gave it to them freely, not asking pay, and apparently not thinking of it. Women stood by the roadside with pails of water, and displayed Union flags. The wonder was, where all the stars and stripes came from. Knoxville was radiant with flags. At a point on the road, from Kingston  to Knoxville, sixty women and girls stood by the roadside waving Union flags and shouting: “Hurrah for the Union.” Old ladies rushed out of their houses and wanted to see General Burnside and shake hands with him, and cried: “Welcome, welcome, General Burnside, welcome to East-Tennessee!” A meeting of the Union citizens of Knoxville was held and addressed by General Burnside and General Carter. It was attended by about five hundred men, and a large number of women and children. The demonstrations were not boisterous, but there was intense, quiet rejoicing. Men who had been hidden for months, came in, full of gratitude for their deliverance. The people of Knoxville made many inquiries for Parson Brownlow, who has their confidence as no other man has. They thought the old flag, supported by United States bayonets, meant Brownlow, and will look for him daily until he comes. The people of East-Tennessee generally want to see Andy Johnson, whom they look upon as a sort of political high-priest. The reception that awaits Johnson and Brownlow will be a remarkable exhibition of the enthusiastic devotion of people who have suffered to those who have been true to their cause. About Knoxville the people were pointing out the hiding places of rebel stores, and were zealous in so doing. The prominent secessionists at Knoxville fled with Buckner. There are a few left who have assisted the secession blood-hounds, and the popular expression was: “They must leave here or they must die. They can't live here.” Intelligence was received that the rebels were prepared to make a stand at Cumberland Gap. Burnside was not afraid of their standing, but of their running, and on the fifth, despatched General Shackleford from Knoxville to cut off all means of escape. On the seventh General Burnside left Knoxville with a force of cavalry and artillery, and arrived at Shackleford's headquarters early on the morning of the ninth. General De Courcey, who had advanced upon the Gap, direct from London, Kentucky, was hemming the rebels in on the north side. The rebel force was commanded by General Frazer, of Mississippi. He had, when rumors of Burnside's movements reached Buckner, been ordered by that General to fall back to Knoxville, but the order was countermanded by Johnston, and Frazer's instructions were to hold the Gap to the last extremity. When Burnside arrived, Frazer had been summoned to surrender by both De Coucey and Shackleford, and had returned a firm refusal. Burnside sent an officer with a flag of truce, demanding an unconditional surrender, instructing the officer to wait for an answer at the picketline only one hour. At the expiration of the hour, no answer having been given, the officer withdrew. Preparations for an immediate attack were made, but in fifteen minutes General Frazer sent a flag of truce, offering to surrender the position, provided he and his men were paroled on the spot. General Burnside responded that under the cartel of the United States Government and the confederates for the exchange of prisorers, Frazer had no right to stipulate for a parol on the spot, and that he must insist upon the surrender being unconditional. Pretty soon General Frazer sent a very politely worded letter, saying he was convinced that he could not resist the force brought against him, and he would yield to the fortunes of war. His brigade consisted of two North-Carolina, one Virginia, and one Georgia regiment, and some artillery companies, with fourteen guns. The Georgia regiment was the Fifty-fifth, and was eight hundred strong. The effective force was above two thousand men. The prisoners are on their way to this place, and will arrive here some time this week. The North-Carolina and Virginia regiments were small, owing to desertions. They were bitterly dissatisfied with the war. A vote was taken a few days before the surrender, by the North-Carolina regiments, (that is, the regiments were polled to ascertain the sentiments of the soldiers,) and there was a considerable majority in favor of giving up the Southern Confederacy and restoring the Union! The Georgians, however, were fighting men, and the regiment composed of them was the only reliable one General Frazer had. On the seventh, two days before the surrender, two companies of Shackleford's men penetrated the rebel lines, and burned the mill upon which the garrison at the Gap depended for their supply of flour. It was a hazardous and brilliant affair. When Shackleford's advance was at Tazewell, they were fired upon by a rebel company of home guards, and one man was killed. This was the only casualty of the campaign! General Burnside expected to leave the Gap on Thursday, (tenth,) to return to Knoxville. The information given of the outrages committed by the secessionists, confirm and more than confirm all that Brownlow has had to say of them. There is hardly a neighborhood in which Union men have not been murdered, and hundreds of them have been hidden for months in caves in the mountains, and supplied with food by the women. The able-bodied males were all absent in the army or wandering in exile. The roads in South-Eastern Kentucky now swarm with them, returning to their long deserted homes. The women and old men and children have done a wonderful work raising crops. The wheat crop was very large and heavy, and supplies collected by the rebels fell into our hands at Knoxville and elsewhere. The country is full of corn, mostly raised by women, and there will be no difficulty in supplying the army from the territory it occupies. Guerrilla warfare is not feared, as the loyalty of the inhabitants will prevent it. Kentucky also is becoming settled. There is not a symptom of bushwhackers from Covington to Cumberland Gap. A traveller could ride from here to Knoxville undisturbed. The people of East-Tennessee care little about the “policy of the Administration.” All they  want is that the rebels shall be whipped and the Union restored. They have no fears after that. They associate as well they may, liberty, justice, and peace with the Union; and they know they have had oppression, anarchy, and bloodshed in the Southern Confederacy. It is a common expression among them: “We were born under the old flag and the Constitution. They are good enough for us, and we intend to die under them.” General Carter, an East-Tennesseean, has been appointed Provost-Marshal General of East-Tennessee. He is well known to, and highly esteemed by the inhabitants, and is the right man in the right place. Our forces have occupied the East-Tennessee Railroad as far east as Morristown, and the indications were that they might extend their lines at pleasure. A considerable force had proceeded down the road toward Chattanooga. The universal report was, that the rebels were disheartened and demoralized so that there was no fight in them. They fled like sheep from Emery's Gap, and showed all the signs of being a worthless rabble. Our troops, on the contrary, were in splendid spirits — perfectly happy and in high condition. The infantry marched with surprising alacrity and rapidity. They thought nothing of moving twenty-five miles per day, and would go into camp, after such a march, merry as school-boys. They were delighted to be the liberators of East-Tennessee, and feel that they were not in an enemy's country.