Tuesday, November 17, 1863

Bridgeport, Alabama

TO ELLEN EWING SHERMAN
November 17, 1863

Dearest Ellen,

I got here four days ago, and went up to Chattanooga to See General Grant. I got back last night and find many letters, all of which I must answer now as tomorrow I move back to Chattanooga with the 15th Army Corps. Hugh has already started, another Division is moving, and all will be off by tomorrow.

The enemy still invests Chattanooga in force and we must drive them back. Great difficulty has existed to Supply Chattanooga. I cannot now explain it. I hate to take my troops & horses & mules up into that mountain Gorge, where our men will be half starved and horses totally.

I have all your letters up to the 12th: two from Minnie and one from Lizzie. I will answer all at length as soon as I can. We are all well. I regret that you have to go to Washington, and I wish your father would remain at home. If he be afflicted as you say he ought to remain tranquil and give up all business. I know it would be hard thus for him to remain, but I only wish he would do so.

I approve highly of your sister Theresa’s hurrying at once to marry, tell her so. When parties are agreed, the Sooner they consummate the marriage the better for all concerned. Give her and Colonel Steele my best love. I hope & trust your mother & father may live many years yet in quiet.

We cannot expect any rest, and it is for this reason I so prefer you to be at Lancaster. The next year is going to be the hardest of the war. I see no signs of relaxation on the part of the South. Every man is now in their army, and ours is fearfully small from detachments & Sick. I will have my hands full, and must do my best. Logan will command the 15th Corps and Hurlbut & McPherson the others.
I am very busy.

Love to all. Yours,
W. T. Sherman

General Dodge is fixing the railroad from Nashville to Bridgeport. He sent the following report:

HEADQUARTERS LEFT WING, SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Pulaski, Tennessee
November 16, 1863
Major R. M. SAWYER, Assistant. Adjutant General, Department and Army of the Tennessee:

MAJOR: As I telegraphed to General Sherman, I have made a thorough examination of the railroad from Columbia to Decatur; also of the different pikes and dirt roads leading to different parts of the State.
The commanding officer at Columbia informs me there are seven bridges north of that place besides Duck River bridge, and that some 150 men were at work on the small bridges south of Columbia to Lynnville; road in pretty good order; a few small trestles out. A bridge at Lynnville Station, over Robertson’s Creek, partially destroyed; another bridge over this creek, 3 1/2 miles south of Lynnville Station, is partially gone. At Reynolds’ Station, a bridge over Richland Creek is badly damaged. Also another over the same creek, 3 miles south of Reynolds’, is partially out. These creeks were formerly crossed by truss bridges 100 feet span. We shall put in trestle, but it will need truss by time fall rains come on.

At Richland Creek, near Richland Station, the bridge is gone, 200 feet by 36 high. At Tunel Hill, 3 miles south of Richland, is a trestle-work 600 feet long, 40 feet high, all gone. At Elk River, a bridge 600 feet long and 40 feet high is nearly all out. Trestle will replace them, but by Christmas truss bridges, 150 feet span, will be required. Two and a half miles south of Elk River, trestle bridge over small creek, 300 feet long and 30 feet high, all gone. The bridge over White’s Sulphur Creek, 8 miles north of Athens, is completely destroyed; length 600 feet, height 72 feet. A small trestle-work at Athens is out; also Swan Creek bridge, 10 miles south of Athens, is all gone. Spring Creek bridge, 5 miles north of Decatur, and bridge over bottom near Decatur are all out. Seven hundred feet of trestling will repair the road between Decatur and Athens. I have placed my workmen detailed from regiments at nearly every break from Elk River to Columbia. I believe in ten days I can repair the road from Pulaski to Columbia.

The telegraph-wire from Decatur to Columbia is in pretty good order, few breaks only, and can be repaired in a very few days provided I get material; I have sent for it to Nashville. The principal dirt and pike roads leading from Lynnville, Pulaski, and Prospect, to Columbia, Shelbyville, Fayetteville, Lawrenceburg, Savannah, Waterloo, Florence, and Lamb’s Ferry, are good, with plenty of water and forage. Streams now fordable. The road leading south to Athens via Elkton is good except crossing at Elk River; at times is fordable, but from this time on will probably have to be ferried. The same road from there to Elkton, thence to Huntsville, is also good, except as stated above. Also road leading from Prospect to Athens and Huntsville. High water would retard an army moving over any of the above roads as all bridges are gone.
I shall have no difficulty in supplying my command with bread, meat, and forage, and supplying my mounted men and teams with stock. If the people bring it to me I propose to pay them. If I go after it I shall only give a certificate. I now have seven mills running, which will furnish all I need. I believe that I should have an order authorizing my quartermaster and commissary to purchase to supply the command, and would like to have the chief assistant quartermaster and commissary of subsistence of department set the price that we should not exceed, as I prefer to pay one price from one end of my command to the other. I have some difficulty in getting supplies promptly because General Grant has not ordered it. This, no doubt, ere this has been done.
There is a considerable number of rebel bands scattered through the country. They do what damage they can and run. Lee and Roddey are south of the Tennessee. At Decatur they have a battery behind cotton-bales. At Huntsville is also reported a rebel cavalry force. My mounted infantry have gone there. I do not consider it prudent or being practicable to put infantry south of Elk River until we got bridges over that stream. I therefore keep mounted men south of Elk River.

This railroad is, excepts as mentioned, in fine running order, a good road-bed, fine rail (strap-joint), plenty of spare rail along the road, and good cedar ties its entire length. It lacks new water-tanks only. If you can send me a good topographical or sectional map of Tennessee it would be of great aid; I have none. Also if there are any engineers, topographical or civil, off duty any place, one would be very acceptable,and I could get up maps of this country that might be of benefit in the future.

If the One hundred and twenty-second Illinois is relieved at Eastport, I respectfully request that it be ordered to me, and I also desire to call your attention to the fact that there are a large number of officers and men belonging to my command in Memphis, Vicksburg, Columbus, Ky., and on detached service. Many of them have been ordered forward, but do not respond. As I need every officer and man I trust the general commanding department will order them to join me. Nothing but a positive order from him will bring them.

I have detailed rather fully the condition of affairs. Heavy details should be put on the road at Columbia and more force stationed at that point, so as to relieve my command as far south as this. I trust troops will soon relive me, and that I can move forward. A small division would guard the road. It now has stockades at nearly every bridge, and with a nucleus to rally to at Athens, Prospect, Pulaski, and Columbia, the road would be comparatively safe, and, moreover, supplies of forage, beef, pork, stock, &c., could be gotten and sent to Nashville.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. M. DODGE, Brigadier-General

General Hurlbut reports from Memphis:

HEADQUARTERS SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Memphis, Tennessee, November 16, 1863.
Maj. Gen. W. T. SHERMAN, 
Commanding Army of the Tennessee, via Nashville:
Forrest is below me with 1,600 men from Alabama, in addition to Chalmer’s command; he will attack somewhere on the line within forty-eight hours. He is reported to have Parrott guns. i will endeavor to be ready for him he comes up, but he may break through and pass north. Scouts from south report Bragg falling back to Rome. The rebels ran train from Jackson to Grenada on the 8th. Stores and ordnance, except for local use, have been sent in from Corinth.
Tuttle’s division is on the line, but is very weak, not over 3,300 men. I have closed all military posts and stopped all trade with the natives beyond the pickets. Nothing comes in or goes out. I think a strong effort will be made to get into West Tennessee and thus untie about 8,000 me to annoy the Tennessee River. There is a prospect of some active fighting here.
S. A. HURLBUT,
Major-General

I also received the following from General Halleck in Washington:

WASHINGTON, D. C., November 17, 1863 2.45 p.m.
Major-General SHERMAN,
Chattanooga, Tennessee:

If you can be supplied by the river, it is not important to keep open the railroad to Memphis. I however cannot advise the giving up of Corinth. I have sent several regiments of cavalry and infantry to Eastport from here, and propose to send more if you require them there. If not, I will send them elsewhere. Do you want more cavalry; and if so, where? I will write more fully.

H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief


HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, Washington, November 17, 1863
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, 
Chattanooga:

GENERAL: Your telegram of yesterday is received and briefly answered. I will add a few remarks to what I have said be telegraph.

The navigation of the Tennessee River is precarious. It can be relied on only in certain winter months. At other times we must rely upon railroad transportation. By giving up Corinth, we give up the control of all these roads of Northern Mississippi and Alabama, and expose the navigation of the Cumberland, Tennessee, and Mississippi above Memphis.

I fully agree with you in regard to Eastport, and to sending a force toward Columbus or into Alabama. The policy of holding numerous points with large garrisons for the purpose of protecting the country from rebel raids is not wise. I have always opposed it.

Corinth, except when actually menaced, will not require a large garrison, and most of that can act with the troops at Eastport in any expedition south. Eastport I regard as a temporary, rather than a permanent post, while the importance of Corinth will continue till the enemy is forced to evacuate Mississippi and Northern Alabama. The garrisons at other points on the line to Memphis can be withdrawn if you think it unnecessary to keep open the railroad.

I hope Hurlbut will soon be re-enforced from Arkansas, but this is not certain.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief

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