Thursday, December 10, 1863, 9 am

Athens, Tennessee

I arrived here at 9 am and met with General Howard. He showed me this note from Jeff Davis stating that he was still at Columbus. That is good news as I prefer him to stay there.

Columbus, Tennessee, December 10, 1863- 7 a.m.

Major-General HOWARD, Commanding Eleventh Corps, Athens, Tennessee:

GENERAL: Your communication from Athens, dated last night, arrived at 12.30 this morning.
I arrived here day before yesterday at dark, and have until the arrival of your dispatch been anxiously waiting to hear from General Sherman.

About 3,000 rebel cavalry left this vicinity at our approach. No other force can be heard of nearer than the neighborhood of Dalton. Report says the rebel cavalry have burned the bridge at Calhoun and Charleston. I hope you will find the report untrue. I am awaiting further orders from General Sherman, and in the mean time am building bridges and running the mills with good success.
Plenty of grain and meat can be procured here. I expect General Sherman here today from Tellico, and then will know what I am to do next.

I have no cavalry. The guerrillas are very impudent around me.

I am, very respectfully,
JEFF C. DAVIS, Brigadier-General, Commanding Division

I sent the following reply to Davis:

Athens, December 11, 1863-9 a.m
General JEFF. C. DAVIS, Columbus:

DEAR GENERAL: I came over from Tellico yesterday and found General Howard here and Ewing arriving. General Howard showed me your note of yesterday 7 a.m. and I was much gratified that you had remained at Columbus. My orders to Howard to call you to Athens were conditional on what he reported from a rumor that the enemy had advanced from Dalton and occupied the line of Hiwassee and held the bridges, in which event a concentration would have been proposed and Athens the point; but the whole rumor was false, and I am glad you got to Columbus and acted as you did.

I sent you a letter from Tellico yesterday to the same effect,and now renew my orders to hold Columbus and report to me if it be possible to cross there en route for Spring Place or for Cleveland. My maps vary. The larger one puts Columbus on the Hiwassee below the mouth of Ocoee, whereas the Coast Survey maps put it above the mouth of Ocoee, which would make two bridges necessary. Report to me the fact. If Columbus be below the mouth of Ocoee, and if one bridge will pass you to Cleveland, I will order Morgan L. Smith to move that way with Long’s cavalry.

I am doing all I can to get you some sugar, coffee, salt, and shoes, and hope I will succeed, but really, I think with abundant forage, meat, meal, and an open country, we are far better off than in that cursed gorge- Chattanooga. My troops are in elegant heart, ready for Atlanta or anywhere. Do all you can to keep your troops up to that standard. Howard will move to Charleston tomorrow, and will put his advance at Cleveland and will communicate with you. I expect to hear from Long in about three days, when I will make and send you specific orders. In the mean time finish your bridge, scout up the Ocoee and forward, grind all the meal you can, collect good hogs, sheep, and beeves, and generally take care of yourselves. I want all the geographical information possible for immediate and future use, especially of the river and country between Columbus, Cleveland,and Charleston.

Yours truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

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