I received a message from General Halleck today, four days after he sent it. I am still to head to Chattanooga repairing the railroad as I go east. The railroad is in good order to Bear Creek. Railroad badly broken beyond Bear Creek. I will push my head of column rapidly to Tuscumbia and Florence, and repair road as fast as possible.
Stage of water on the Tennessee River at Eastport seems good for navigation of light boats. A small, light steam ferry-boat up at Eastport would be most valuable. General Grant, who has gone to Cairo, Illinois will notify General Rosecrans of my exact position and force, and I will report from Athens as soon as possible, bearing in mind attention to supplies.
I wrote the following to General Hurlbut at Memphis:
HEADQUARTERS FIFTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Corinth, October 18, 1863.
Major General S. A. HURLBUT, Commanding District of Memphis:
I received your letter yesterday, and think with Fuller’s brigade, which a strong and good one, we can cover this road to Tuscumbia. The caution and timidity with which Chalmers approached the road shows that we need apprehend nothing from that quarter. Our chief danger will be from Forrest, who will probably get out of Tennessee from the direction of Columbia, and Stephen D. Lee, who will come out by Muscle Shoals. Sufficient for the day, &c. We must take advantage of this time.
Corse got here last night. Today I move to Burnsville and tomorrow to Iuka. By the day after I will have two divisions, Osterhaus and Morgan L. Smith, well toward Tuscumbia, encumbered as little to finish up. The Tennessee has risen and is rising. I foresee much trouble in our operations for want of the means of crossing the river. I hear of fords, but they are all described as most precarious. I wish you would write to the quartermaster at Saint Louis and ask him to send me a good steam ferry-boat, to come up the Tennessee along with the first gun-boat that comes up. From the stage of water at Eastport there must be full 3 feet over all bars in the Tennessee at this moment, and the current indicates a rise in the mountains above.
I will be able to let you know in a day or two the exact amount of damage to the railroad beyond Bear Creek. I will keep a brigade at or near Iuka until I feel that your arrangements are made to relieve them. I do not propose at any time to move troops by rail, but to expedite stores and baggage.
I am, your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General