Wednesday, January 1, 2014

December 26, 1863 (Friday): Longstreet Asserts Authority In Western Virginia

Saltville, Virginia (

Secretary of War:
    SIR: I am informed that a large portion of the enemy's cavalry, recently in East Tennessee, is now in Kentucky and near the Virginia line. I think it highly probable that they contemplate a raid on the salt-works and lead mines. I therefore respectfully suggest that the infantry and part of the artillery of
Major-General Ransom's command be placed in position to guard those works and this line of railroad. One regiment of Brigadier-General Wharton's brigade is stationed near Saltville. I think it advisable that the other part of the brigade be placed at or near Glade Springs.
    To defend this line of road against the raid on Salem, which I apprehended would be much more extensive and destructive than it proved to be, I ordered Major-General Ransom to send his infantry to Bristol, from which point it could have been moved by railroad to the point where their services might have been needed. Ransom referred my order to Lieutenant-General Longstreet, under whose orders he was acting, who declined sending the troops, and informed me that Ransom's command was under his orders, as he, Longstreet, conceived, by authority of the President; hence I can give no orders to that portion of my troops. I therefore make the foregoing suggestion to you for such action as you may think proper.
     With great respect, your obedient servant,


Official Records, Series I. Vol. 31, Part 3, Page 872.

Longstreet was a loose cannon.  At the time this was being written, Jefferson Davis was calling on him to produce a written order from Davis Longstreet claimed required return back to Bragg just as he was attacking Knoxville at Fort Sanders.  Here is interfering with Jones sending troops defend western Virginia.  Any threat to the region put at risk the vital salt works at Saltville, Virginia.  The ability to salt meats and preserve them for use by the army and civilians was essential to the war effort.  It had been made clear not only to Longstreet, but to Bragg before him, they were not to interfere with Jones command.  Although something of a backwater command, Jones duty was important out of proportion to the number of troops he possessed based on the resources he protected.


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