THE BATTLE OF SALTVILLE.
THE loss of the Virginia Saltworks would have been a dire disaster to the Confederacy. The saline springs and wells were numerous, and large sums of money had been expended in their development and in the manufacture of the most indispensable condiment used by man or beast.
A person who had never seen them could scarcely conceive of the huge piles, long ranges of salt hills.
The Federals had long coveted these works, and our scouts reported that a force of six or eight thousand cavalry with from six to ten pieces of artillery was making a rapid march from Kentucky, with the avowed determination to capture and destroy them. They were commanded by Generals Burbridge and Hobson and Colonel Charles Hanson. It was also understood that there were two negro regiments in the Federal column.
The Saltworks were probably sixty miles from the Virginia and Kentucky line, and in order to delay the enemy and to keep informed of his movements, Colonel Giltner, whose brigade was between Saltville and the Federals, sent Colonel Trimble with one hundred and fifty men to Richlands, forty miles from Saltville. It not being known with certainty by which route the Federals would approach the Saltworks, various detachments of observation were sent on several roads leading to the front and flanks. Learning that Burbridge had sent a battalion to Jeffersonville toward our right flank, Colonel Giltner ordered Captain Bart Jenkins to move in that direction to watch them. Trimble slowly fell back from Richlands, skirmishing the while with the enemy.
Our main force, not more than three hundred effective men, took position on the slope of Clinch Mountain, while the enemy in plain view were encamped in the broad fields of the demesne of stanch old General Bowen, some two miles from our position. This was on Saturday, October 1, 1864.