At 8 p.m. I assembled the general officers of the command, laid before them my instructions and the information obtained, and asked their advice. Pending this conference a dispatch from army headquarters, dated 6 p.m., notified me that Crittenden's corps, of the Federal Army, marched southward from Chattanooga that morning, and that it was highly important to finish my operations in the cove as rapidly as possible. [See Exhibit H.] Another, dated 7.30 p.m., informed me that our force at and near La Fayette was superior to the enemy, and that it was important to move vigorously and crush him. [See Exhibit J.]
I was informed [by whom I do not now recollect] that the baggage train of my division had been ordered from Lee and Gordon's Mills to La Fayette, and that Cheatham's division, of Polk's corps, was at Dr. Anderson's, to resist Crittenden and protect my rear.
According to our information, the distance from Chattanooga to Morgan's, by way of Crawfish Spring, did not much, if any, exceed 20 miles. Crittenden might take that route, entirely avoiding Cheatham, and fall on our rear while engaged at Davis'. There was, besides, an unknown force of the enemy within striking distance on our right, and another force in our front probably equal to our own. In every other direction, unless we should retire through Worthen's Gap, we were hemmed in by Pigeon Mountain, and every way of retirement or receiving support closed against us by the blockade of Dug and Catlett's Gaps. General Hill's failure to attack during the afternoon justified the belief that these passes remaining obstructed. Our conclusion, which was unanimous, was that we ought not to advance without more definite information as to the force at Stevens' Gap, nor until assured that General Hill could move through Dug Gap and force a junction with us at Davis' Cross-Roads; and if General Hill could not do this, or if the enemy on our flank proved to be so strong that an advance would be hazardous, our best course would be to turn upon Crittenden, Cheatham co-operating, and Hill if possible, and thus that corps of the enemy. This last operation would destroy one-third of the enemy's force and leave all our own united to contend against the balance on his line of communication. I addressed a letter to General Hill, inquiring what was to be expected from him, and sent a copy of the same to army headquarters, with a letter stating the opinion, as above expressed, of the general officers of my command. These communications, both to army headquarters and to General Hill, were borne by Major Nocquet, of General Buckner's staff, who undertook that service at my request. [See Exhibits K and L.]
At 9.10, before the conference reached any conclusion, I had written a letter to army headquarters, stating the information gained, with my impressions as to the enemy's purposes and the course I ought to adopt. [See Exhibit M.]
During the night, as fast as reliable guides could be obtained, I sent out small scouting parties to the rear, right, and front to get information of the enemy.
At 4.20 a.m. on the 11th, I received from army headquarters the following dispatch:
LA FAYETTE, September 10, 1863-12 p.m.
GENERAL: Headquarters are here and the following is the information: Crittenden's corps is advancing on us from Chattanooga. A large from the south has advanced within 7 miles of this. Polk is left at Anderson's to cover you rear.