Saturday, December 12, 1863

Athens, Tennessee

I received the following from General Grant:

CHATTANOOGA, December 12, 1863
Major General W. T. SHERMAN:
Knoxville, Tennessee:

Your letter of the 11th is received. Whilst I would like exceedingly to force Hardee beyond the Oostenaula, I would not deem it altogether safe to attempt it now.

There is no force here now to co-operate with you, nor the means of transportations, nor the rations to carry along. The Fourth and Eleventh Corps of General Thomas’ command are absent and the two divisions of your command are at Bridgeport. I sent your orders to return as soon as possible, but of course do not want you to start until you know Long to be safe. Elliott has been ordered to take up the line of the Hiwassee; but, judging from his efforts, there is no telling when he will reach there.

His orders were sent to him at Alexandria on the 26th to strike for Kingston and go in pursuit of Longstreet. On the 1st he reached Sparta with one brigade. On the 9th he reported from Crossville and said he would reach Kingston on the 11th. I hope he may succeed in coming up to time. If Long should be with you on your return, you might send him toward Dalton as far as you deem it safe for him to go, and let him destroy any railroad bridge he may pass on the Cleveland and Dalton road. After going as far as you choose to send him, he could take the most direct road to Chattanooga. I do not think it advisable to destroy mills or any property in East Tennessee except what may be required for military purposes.

U. S. GRANT, Major-General

I replied to Grant:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, 
Athens, December 12, 1863
Major-General GRANT, Chattanooga:

DEAR GENERAL: I am in receipt of yours by courier-line form Washington and answer by same line.
I have heretofore reported that I left General Granger’s command with General Burnside and Spears’ command, with all the cavalry to arrive, all to push Longstreet on his rear, with General Foster on his flank from Cumberland Gap.

We have rumors of large captures, and though not confirmed by anything official, I think highly probable.

Colonel Long’s cavalry passed the mountains from Tellico four days ago, and I have Morgan Smith’s division in support, with Lightburn’s brigade well up the mountain in support. I hope he will capture a train of 300 wagons which dodged us on our way up, and produce consternation in North Georgia. Davis is at Columbus,on the Hiwassee, Howard at Charleston and Cleveland, and Ewing’s division here.

I think I am bound to remain here until the cavalry returns. In the mean time we are faring well; plenty of forage and provisions, and we need only shoes and small stores to go anywhere. From yours of yesterday I suppose you will not wish to push Hardee back of the Etowah, and therefore, in the absence of other orders, when Long is back and rested I will move slowly back to our camps at Chattanooga.

I cannot hear a word of Elliott. Had he been near Knoxville at the right time Longstreet could not have carried away a single gun or wagon; even as it is I think he will be forced to drop almost everything.

I have dispatches from Columbus and Tellico up to last night; all well.

I can only hear of fragments of men seeking to escape, and a small force of cavalry at the Council Ground, Red Clay, on the Dalton road.

I will send to Kingston the orders you indicate for General Elliott.

Yours truly,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

I sent this message forward for General Elliot. It would be best if he arrived here as we leave to hold the bridges.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, 
Athens, December 12, 1863
COMMANDING OFFICER,
Kingston, East Tennessee,:

SIR: I have a communication from General Grant of December 11, containing orders for General Elliott. After he has pushed Longstreet as far as General Burnside requires, he will drop down the valley to the Hiwassee, occupy it as a line, and report his position to General Grant at Chattanooga. The points on the Hiwassee that control it are Columbus and Charleston. I have bridges at both places, but as my orders are after covering a movement of cavalry into Georgia, via Murphy, to return to Chattanooga. I may be gone before Elliott gets here. Please send a copy of this to General Elliott if he has passed up the valley. The cars now run from Knoxville to Loudon. No enemy hereabouts; all at and below Dalton.

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

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