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Operations in east Tennessee and south-west Virginia.

by the Rev. Edward O. Guerrant, Assistant Adjutant-General to General Humphrey Marshall, C. S. A.
Between the two great Confederate armies in Virginia and Tennessee lay a long stretch of country, principally covered by the Alleghany and Cumberland mountains. The only means of direct communication and transportation between these armies was the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad. Near this road were the great King's salt-works, in Smyth County, and the lead mines of Wythe County, Virginia, and along this route lay many very fertile valleys and rich uplands, which furnished the Confederate armies a large part of their provisions. For these and other reasons the defense of this line was a matter of the first importance to the Confederate Government, and its control of equal importance to the Federal armies.

As the mountainous nature of the country rendered its occupation by a large army impracticable, numerous invasions by smaller forces, principally of cavalry, were made in order to destroy the salt-works and the railroad communications. The very extent of the frontier and its broken surface made it difficult of defense, and rendered necessary a larger force of occupation than was generally available.

General Garfield's campaign early in 1862 against General Humphrey Marshall has already been described in this work. [See Vol. I., p. 393.]

In December, 1862, General Samuel P. Carter, of Tennessee, and Colonel T. T. Garrard, of Kentucky, crossed the Cumberland Mountains from Kentucky with a large force of Federal cavalry and made a raid upon the railroad in east Tennessee, and destroyed the bridges over the Holston and Watauga rivers. General Humphrey Marshall was at that time in command of the Department of Western Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. His troops were widely scattered over the country in order to obtain subsistence, and before [476] they could be concentrated the enemy had retreated across the mountains into Kentucky. The raiders were prevented from occupying Bristol and doing further damage by the timely arrival of General Marshall's force, which pursued to Jonesville.

In May, 1862, a much larger invading force of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, numbering several thousand, was led up the Kanawha and New rivers, West Virginia, by General J. D. Cox. This column was met at Princeton, in Mercer County, and arrested by General Marshall in an engagement on the 16th of May, which resulted in the repulse and retreat of the invading force, whose killed and wounded were left behind. [See Vol. II., p. 280.]

On the 3d of September, 1863, Burnside occupied Knoxville, Tennessee, with his army corps.1 Nearly all the available Confederate forces had been ordered to reenforce Bragg at Chattanooga. A small force under Brigadier-General Alfred E. Jackson occupied the upper portion of east Tennessee. Marshall had been transferred to the

Brigadier-General J. M. Shackelford. From a photograph.

Western army, and Colonel Henry L. Giltner, of the 4th Kentucky Cavalry, with a handful of troops, occupied the Department of South-western Virginia. On the 7th of September about five hundred of Burnside's infantry advanced as far east as Telford's Depot, in Washington County. On the 8th they were attacked by about an equal force, under General Jackson and Colonel Giltner. After a short engagement the Federals retreated to Limestone Depot, where, after a stubborn resistance, 350 surrendered, about 100 escaped, and 60 were killed and wounded.

The Federal forces, under Colonel Foster, advancing again into upper east Tennessee, were met by Colonel James E. Carter, of the 1st Tennessee Cavalry, at Blountsville, where a stubborn fight ensued on the 22d of September. The Federal batteries shelled the town, and by superior numbers compelled the withdrawal of Colonel Carter's force.

In the latter part of September, 1863, Brigadier-General John S. Williams assumed command of the Confederate forces in east Tennessee and advanced as far as Blue Springs. Burnside's forces occupied Bull's Gap, nine miles in front. Williams was ordered “not to give up an inch of ground until driven from it.” He had only about seventeen hundred effective men, with two batteries of artillery. Brigadier-General Alfred E. Jackson, with about five hundred men, mostly recruits, was at Greenville. There was no other support within nearly one hundred miles. To maintain his ground against a force so largely superior, General Williams took a strong position on a ridge crossing the road east of Blue Springs. By multiplying camp-fires and beating drums he made an exhibition of force he did not possess. But this ruse de guerre did not hold the enemy in check. On the 10th of October they [477] advanced in force and attacked General Williams's position. Every inch of ground was stubbornly disputed, but the greater number of the Federals compelled the lengthening of the Confederate lines until they became little more than a skirmish-line. About 5 P. M. a heavy column of infantry broke the center of Williams's line, but was arrested by a heavy fire of artillery from the high ridge. The engagement lasted until dark, with but little change of position. To avoid capture by a force probably treble his own, General Williams withdrew during the night and retired toward Virginia. The next morning at daylight he was intercepted at Henderson's Mill by a large force of Federal cavalry, which had passed around him the day before. By a gallant charge this force was driven from the field, but continued to pursue and attack the Confederates until they reached the neighborhood of Leesburg.

On the 4th of November, 1863, General Williams, at his own request, was relieved of the command, and the brigade was placed under Colonel Henry L. Giltner. Major-General Robert Ransom, who was then in command of the department, ordered Colonel Giltner to cooperate with Brigadier-General William E. Jones in an attack upon General Carter, whose brigade was camped at Big Creek, near Rogersville, Tennessee. On the night of the 5th of November Colonel Giltner's brigade crossed the Holston River at Kings-port and advanced to Big Creek. This brigade numbered 1063 men, besides Lowry's battery. General Jones's command, probably, was not so large. At daylight next morning Colonel Giltner attacked General Carter's brigade, consisting of about one thousand men, and captured most of the force with all their camp-equipage, horses, artillery, and transportation. General Jones, who had gone around to the rear of the Federals, intercepted some two hundred fugitives. A few escaped across the river.

In May, 1864, a formidable force under General Crook: advanced up the Kanawha and New rivers and reached the railroad at Dublin, in Pulaski County. An inferior force, commanded by General Albert G. Jenkins, engaged the advancing Federals on the 9th of May at Cloyd's Mountain, and Jenkins was mortally wounded and his force defeated. General Crook destroyed the depot at Dublin and the large bridge over New River.

On the 10th of May a large cavalry

Brigadier-General Jacob Ammen, U. S. V. From a photograph. General Ammen commanded the District of east Tennessee, April 10, 1864, to January 14, 1865.

force, under General Averell, made an advance on Wytheville, but was met at Crockett's Cove by General John H. Morgan and defeated, leaving forty dead on the field.

In June, 1864, Colonel E. F. Clay, of the 1st Kentucky Mounted Rifles, in command of a small brigade of Confederate cavalry, was sent into Kentucky [478]

Map of operations against the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, Lynchburg, Va., to Knoxville, Tenn.

from the Department of South-western Virginia to secure forage and cover other military movements. Colonel Clay first advanced upon Paintsville, with a view of capturing some four hundred Federals who were camped there. Difficulties in the way of his advance delayed his arrival until the enemy had received large reenforeements, which deterred him from making an attack. Retiring upon Licking River, he camped in the narrow valley of a little stream known as Puncheon. Though he had taken every precaution to guard against surprise, an important order had not been executed, and at 2 P. M. the enemy in force surprised his camp, attacking it from the surrounding mountains. After a desperate resistance he was forced to withdraw, leaving thirty-seven prisoners in the enemy's hands--nine wounded, two of them mortally. Colonel Clay lost his right eye during the engagement.

Late in September, 1864, General Stephen G. Burbridge, with a force estimated at 5000 men, advanced upon King's salt-works, through eastern Kentucky, and up the Big Sandy River. He was met at Liberty Hill, Virginia, by Colonel H. L. Giltner, in command of a small brigade of cavalry. At that time not over 1000 men interposed between General Burbridge and the salt-works, only about 23 miles distant. But by dint of strategy and stubborn resistance Giltner detained the Federal army two days on the road, so that when Burbridge arrived there about an equal force confronted him, commanded by General John C. Breckinridge. On October 2d Burbridge attacked the forces at the salt-works. A battalion of Virginia Reserves (the 13th), [479] composed of boys and old men, received the first shock of battle at “Governor” Saunders's house, in advance of the main line. This little company fought desperately and suffered severely before being driven back. The engagement continued with varying fortunes during the day, and when night came Burbridge was not in sight at the salt-works. The next morning he was 20 miles away. He left Colonel Charles S. Hanson (wounded) and many other wounded men and prisoners in the hands of the Confederates. General Williams and Colonel Giltner pursued him to the head of the Louisa fork of the Big Sandy. The 10th Kentucky Cavalry (Confederate) lost its colonel, Edwin Trimble, and nearly every officer above lieutenant was either killed or wounded. It had borne the brunt of battle at the ford of Holston River.

In December, 1864, General Stoneman, with a force of cavalry estimated at four thousand, entered south-west Virginia through east Tennessee, and proceeded to take possession of the country. The department had been drained of most of its troops by increasing demands from the armies east and west, so that Breckinridge found himself in command of only about 1000 or 1500 men in a department large enough to require an army corps to defend it. This handful was concentrated at the salt-works in hopes of defending a position naturally very strong, even against so large an opposing force. Stone-man, doubtless aware of this fact, and knowing the defenseless condition of the country, changed the ordinary tactics and devoted himself to capturing the towns and destroying the railroad. He occupied Bristol and Abingdon, and passing by the salt-works advanced upon Wytheville and the lead-mines. In hopes of arresting his course Breckinridge moved from the salt-works to Marion, on the railroad, where he intercepted Stoneman on Sunday, the 18th of December, and fought an engagement which lasted through the day and resulted in a substantial victory for the Confederates, who held their position against largely superior numbers. But during the day Stoneman sent a force down another road to the salt-works, now without defenders, except a few militia and teamsters, and destroyed as much of the works as possible before Breckinridge's forces could reach there. Having accomplished this long-desired object, the Federal forces withdrew across the mountains.2 The weather was very cold and wet, and all the troops suffered great hardships and privations. During the engagement at Marion on the 17th and 18th of December they stood in the rain and mud, without fire, food, or shelter, for over thirty-six hours. Yet they bore it all uncomplainingly and heroically.

1 General J. M. Shaekelford commanded Burnside's cavalry force in the Knoxville campaign.--editors.

2 On the 27th of February, 1865, General Grant instructed General Thomas, commanding the Department of the Cumberland, to direct General Stoneman “to repeat the raid of last fall, destroying the railroad as far toward Lynchburg as he can.” Stoneman set out from Knoxville about the 20th of March, and moved, via Morristown and Bull's Gap, across Iron Mountain to Boone, North Carolina. Stoneman's force consisted of General A. C. Gillem's division. The brigade commanders were Colonels S. B. Brown, W. J. Palmer, and J. K. Miller. From Boone the command crossed the Blue Ridge to Wilkesboro‘, and then turned toward south-western Virginia, destroying the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad from Wytheville nearly to Lynchburg. On the 9th of April Stoneman moved again into North Carolina, via Jacksonville, Taylorsville, and Germantown. At Germantown the force divided, Palmer's brigade going to Salem, and the main body to Salisbury. Palmer destroyed the railroad between Greensboro' and Danville, Virginia, and also south of Greensboro‘. The main body entered Salisbury on the 12th of April, capturing 14 pieces of artillery and 1364 prisoners. General Stoneman now returned to Tennessee with the artillery and prisoners, leaving the force, under command of General Gillem, to do scouting service on the east side of the mountains.--editors.

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