MAJOR KEPT SUPERIORS NOTIFIED OF TROOP STATUS IN CAMPBELL
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.
This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
General E. Kirby Smith reported from headquarters at the Dept. of East
Tennessee, on April 30, 1862, that Union troops attacked Cumberland
Gap on the day previous in force. He stated that he would go immediately
to reinforce Gen. Stevenson with all his available troops. Maj.-Gen.
Smith writes that the previous day the Union troops attacked Gen. Leadbetter's
command at Bridgeport. Finding it necessary to retreat, the bridge there
was burned by Gen. Leadbetter.
Maj.-General Smith also wrote to Gen.
S. Cooper, Adjt. and Insp., that the Union troops attacked at Cumberland
Gap. Orders were to move with all their force to Jacksborough. Gen.-Maj.
Smith wrote that he would overtake Gen. Cooper that night or the next
morning. He ordered the Confederate forces to withdraw all the cavalry,
except one company at Clinton and Cobb's Ferry. The troops remaining
were directed to keep up communication with this point, and also to
keep communications open across the country concerning any important
intelligence. Orders also included, if practicable, to include six or
seven days' rations, but precautions concerning that the wagons be in
condition to travel lightly. Also, the troops should be without impediments
and in fighting order, and if the steamboat was located at Clinton,
it should be kept there.
Confederate H.L. Clay also wrote on April
30, 1862, that the Major-General had received Maj.-Gen. Smith's dispatch
on the 28th, and directed the former to inform the latter that movement
would be immediately with all his disposable force up Powell's Valley
to his assistance. The report stated that Maj.-Gen Smith would be at
Jacksborough the next day.
Gen. H.L. Clay ordered a push by forced marches toward Jacksborough
and join Brig-Gen. Barton and to leave a sufficient force at Kingston.
Gen. Clay also wrote to the Colonel that they should move their regiment
immediately to the railroad depot (perhaps Jacksborough), where a train
was waiting to transport it to the terminus of the Kentucky Railroad.
From that point an order was issued to proceed to Clinton, Tenn., and
report to Brig.-Gen. Barton.
Commanding General Smith corresponded
on May 3, 1862, from Fincastle, Tenn. to the Major of the Confederate
force that since their repulse at Cumberland Gap, on April 29th, the
enemy has made no demonstration at that point. The General states that
his intelligence received is that they are removing the obstructions
in the Big Creek Gap road west of Fincastle. Gen. Smith writes that
with his effective force of 1,500 troops, he shall operate through the
mountain on their rear, which is beyond support from the main body at
Gen. Smith also states that as small as
his command is at this point, it was all the disposable force in the
department, and was collected from every direction to co-operate with
Gen. Stevenson at Cumberland Gap.
The Georgia regiments ordered to the department
were weak when reported; they were so reduced in size by measles, mumps,
and typhoid fever that the average force was 300. They were also described
as disheartened by the sickness and its effects. The Confederate troops
later raised in Tennessee suffered the same conditions.
Gen. Smith's intelligence became conclusive
that the enemy was concentrating on an attack at Cumberland Gap. He
immediately telegraphed Gen. Marshall and asked for his cooperation.
Gen. Marshall replied that his command, all told, did not number 1,000,
and he was inclined to doubt the accuracy of Gen. Smiths' information.
Apparently Gen. Marshall had been so often deceived himself, etc. And
so, the reliability of Gen. Marshall's command was put on the back burner.
Gen. Smith relates that the people of East Tennessee believed his force
to be large and effective. The General declared in his correspondence
that he had exposed its weakness and efficiency to his own department.
Gen. Smith stated that "I shall resist
the enemy's entrance into East Tennessee with all the means at my disposal,
but with the people in my midst enlisted against me, and with a force
of at least four to one, more efficient and better equipped, it will
be alone assistance from the High that enables us to maintain possession
of the department. In case of any irretrievable disaster, I have given
instructions to the chiefs of the departments for the quiet and speedy
removal of all their stores."