Valley, holding the points which I was directed to occupy; Colonel Foster's brigade had been doing most excellent service in holding him in check. General Hartsuff was directed to send at once all his infantry force (except Gilbert's brigade) up the valley, and also Wolford's cavalry. The cavalry brigades of Colonels Foster and Carter were already well up the valley in the presence of the enemy; General J. M. Shackelford was then in command of all the cavalry, General S. P. Carter having been ordered on duty as provost-marshal of the District of East Tennessee, which duty he performed with the utmost skill and justice. White's division, and all of Hascall's except Gilbert's brigade, started on the 14th, with instructions to move as rapidly as possible.
On the night of the 16th, I received a dispatch from General Halleck, dated the 13th, as follows:
It is important that all the available the available force of your command be pushed forward into East Tennessee; all your scattered forces should be concentrated there. Move down your infantry as rapidly as possible toward Chattanooga, to connect with Rosecrans.
Early on the next morning (the 17th), I started up the valley to take command of the troops in person, and to make such dispositions as would carry out the spirit of the above order. At the same time I forwarded telegraphic orders for the Ninth Corps (then in Kentucky) and all other available troops to join me at once. I also gave instructions for all the troops not then in the presence of the enemy to retrace their steps down the valley toward Rosecrans.
I knew nothing of the reason for General Halleck's first dispatch until I received the following on the 17th:
There are several reasons why you should re-enforce Rosecrans with all possible dispatch. It is believed the enemy will concentrate to give him battle; you must be there to help him.
I again repeated my order for all the available troops to move down the valley at once, and proceeded up the valley myself, to look after those who were then in the presence of the enemy beyond Jonesborough, near the Watauga River, and arrived in Greeneville on the 18th.
I reached the extreme advance on the night of the 21st, and on the 22nd made arrangements to attack the enemy's position at Watauga Bridge, early on the morning of the 23rd. I could see no way of extricating this portion of the command, except by a demonstration of this kind. A cavalry brigade, under Colonel Foster, was sent around to threaten his rear, and on that night he evacuated the position, burning the bridge. I at once set all the forces, excepting a small portion of cavalry in motion down the valley to the relief of Rosecrans. I arrived at Knoxville late in the evening of the 24th.
It should be remembered that up to the night of the 16th, I was acting under instructions to occupy the upper country of East Tennessee, and all of my available forces were well up the valley, above Knoxville. All that could be turned back were started at once, and as soon as possible the remainder were withdrawn from the presence of the enemy and turned back for the purpose of proceeding to the relief of General Rosecrans.
The point where the troops were turned back on the 17th was 140 miles from Chickamauga, where General Rosecrans was fighting on the 19th, and the advance of our forces up the valley was over 200 miles distance from him.