Tuesday, December 8, 1863

Knoxville, Tennessee

Having seen General Burnside’s forces move out of Knoxville in pursuit of Longstreet, and General Granger’s move in, I put in motion my own command to return to winter quarters. I ordered General Howard to move, via Davis’s Ford and Sweetwater, to Athena, with a guard forward at Charleston, to hold and repair the bridge which the enemy had retaken after our passage up. General Jeff. C. Davis moved to Columbus, on the Hiawaesee, via Madisonville, and the two divisions of the Fifteenth Corps moved to Tellico Plains, to cover movement of cavalry across the mountains into Georgia and to overtake a wagon-train which had dodged us on our way up, and had escaped by way of Murphy. Subsequently, on a report from General Howard that the enemy held Charleston, I diverted General Ewing’s division to Athena, and went in person to Tellico with General Morgan L. Smith’s division.

I sent the following telegram to General Grant:

KNOXVILLE, December 8, 1863.
General GRANT:
I leave Granger at Knoxville, and with my command start tomorrow for the Hiwassee.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

I receive his reply at night. There is still a possibility that Longstreet might return with reinforcements. I am to be on guard.

CHATTANOOGA, December 8, 1863-5.30 p.m.

Major General W. T. SHERMAN,
Knoxville, Tennessee:

Keep your troops in the valley of Upper Tennessee until it seems clear that the enemy has entirely abandoned the State. It may be possible that Longstreet may be re-enforced about Bristol and return. Two boats unloaded rations near Kingston, and more will be sent in a day or two. Two more boats will ge running in a few days, when we will be able to feed your army to a great extent from here.
U. S. GRANT, Major-General

The enemy continues to send false information, which we must consider:

Sweet Water, Tennessee, December 8, 1863-8 p.m.

Major-General SHERMAN,
Commanding Army of the Tennessee:

GENERAL: My corps is encamped at this place, except one brigade, which I pushed forward and will be near Athens to-night. It has instructions to proceed to Charleston as soon as possible. The bridge was not destroyed at last accounts, only the planking taken up.

Some rebel cavalry were at Athens last night, and a rumor is current among rebel sympathizers that Bragg has driven Hooker back to Chattanooga, and that Breckinridge is moving up this way with 40,000 men, his advance having reached Charleston already. I do not believe this, but think it worthy of your notice.
Very respectfully,
O. O. HOWARD, Major-General, Commanding

General Howard is having some problems with his troops raiding the civilians of the area:

Sweet Water, Tennessee, December 8, 1863

To the Officers of this Corps:

GENTLEMEN: I did hope to be able to write nothing but hearty commendation for the conduct of this corps during this eventful campaign. I appreciate your energy and willing co-operation in military duty, but I will frankly say that acts are done and allowed to be done which are a burning shame and excite my early indignation. From Union men, women, and children articles of every description have been stolen, and the thieves not brought to punishment. Piteous cries and complaints come to me every day of this dreadful misconduct. I call upon you as men and as officers who have a care for our common reputation to use every exertion to put a stop to these crimes and irregularities, to punish the offenders with the utmost severity, to catch up stragglers from other corps and turn them over to the provost-marshal for punishment.

The provost-marshal makes more complaint against the Second Brigade, Third Division, than any other. Therefore I make a special appeal to the officers of this brigade.
Every regimental commander will read this circular to the officers of his regiment.

O. O. HOWARD, Major-General, Commanding

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