I am now in communication with General Grant. We need to plan our next moves.
CHATTANOOGA, December 11, 1863
Major General W. T. SHERMAN: Knoxville, Tennessee:
Start your command, with the exception of Granger’s corps, back to their former camps by the most practicable routes. As soon as they are on the way, you can return yourself, leaving the troops to follow.
Elliott, I have just learned, did not leave Alexandria till last Friday. He will probably be in Kingston before this reaches you. If the enemy are any place where he can harass them you may order such expedition as you deem best. If it is now too late to do any service, direct Elliott to take up a position on the line of the Hiwassee and await further orders.
Logan has gone to Bridgeport with two divisions that were here. I do not suppose it will be necessary to order him to where you are.
U. S. GRANT, Major-General
I have learned that my last dispatch to General Grant did not reach him. I have sent him this update:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE,
Athens, December 11, 1863
Major General U. S. GRANT:
GENERAL: I have reported to you the successful relief of General Burnside, my leaving him the two divisions, commanded by General Granger, and my return to the Hiwassee. But a dispatch I made you, and entrusted to General Howard to be carried by an officer going to Chattanooga on business, was lost by the officer from his exceeding care to keep it safe by separating it from other letters. This is just reported to me and I will send this through by some of my own men.
On the 7th I left Knoxville, and on the 8th I dispatched Colonel Long with the cavalry through the gap at Tellico Iron-Works, with orders to overtake a certain wagon train and destroy it, to make his appearance in North Georgia, and stampede the people capture horse, mules, &c. I followed him to Tellico with Morgan L. Smith’s division, which I left there in support and came here.
Jeff. C. Davis is at Columbus, on the Hiwassee, and is building a bridge; has three mills going and plenty to eat; he needs shoes, sugar, and coffee, to be happy. Howard has one brigade at Charleston, and is repairing the railroad bridge which the rebels damaged after we passed north; it must be ready now. Howard will move tomorrow to Charleston with his corps, and advance one division to Cleveland and open communication with you. I must cover Long, but the moment he returns I can return to Chattanooga or move on Dalton. There is a good road from Columbus, or Cleveland, or Spring Place, which completely turns Dalton.
I think we should now compel Hardee to fall back of the Etowah River, giving us Rome and the Oostenaula. Of course we must fight if Hardee gives us battle, but he will not. Longstreet is off and can not do harm for a month. Lee, in Virginia, is occupied and Hardee is alone. We know that it is all nonsense to blame Bragg; it was his army, his men that broke. Bragg, Hardee, or no man could have held his army after our combinations were made.
If you move all your army to Ringgold and Varnell’s Station, and I pass along down east of the Oostenaula, we can whip Hardee in no time, and we can enter Rome. Rome, you know,is not on the main railroad, but on a side road, just where the Oostenaula and Etowah unite (I have been there), and is a great manufacturing depot.
I find this country full of mills, but have destroyed none, because we hold and may hold the country. I have about thirty cars on the railroad and have destroyed none. General Burnside requested me to destroy none, as he could cross a locomotive at Loudon, and use the road down as far as Hiwassee.
We have eaten and are eating up much meat, meal, flour, &c., and though we try to forage on the enemy, I fear we take much of Union people. But we try and discriminate by receipts. I sent word by Wilson to have, say, 50,000 rations of sugar, coffee, salt,, and bread, sent me to Cotton Port. We can live well enough anyhow,and I won’t complain if you send nothing for the men are shining fat, but these things are asked for. Shoes are in great demand. Unless otherwise ordered, as soon as Long comes in and is rested, I will march slowly and deliberately for Cleveland and Chattanooga.
I cannot hear of Elliott and presume he is where he should be, up the Clinch, on the flank of Longstreet. I saw Burnside’s troops march out in pursuit before I left. I suppose Wilson has given you a copy of Burnside’s letter to me.
If you want me to destroy railroad, mills, machinery or anything, send me word, for I am sparing all these on your verbal order to spare the railroad from Tyner’s to Charleston. The bridge at Charleston could be easily fixed, leaving no break from Tyner’s to Knoxville but the bridge at Loudon. Burnside has 5 locomotives and 20 cars. I have saved 30 cars between Charleston and Loudon.
I expect to hear from Long in three days. The truth is, we are flourishing up here, and in no particular hurry to come to Chattanooga. So if you want, us, send the order, or if you want to push the enemy beyond Dalton, I am also “in position.”
Send me orders by the party that bears this, who is an expert scout. After tomorrow, the road via Harrison and Cleveland will be safe.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General