Twenty-first Army Corps; Lieutenants Scarritt and Thomas, aidesde-camp, and Lieutenant Crow, topographical engineer, First Brigade of this division, and proceeded with Colonel Funkhouser and the Ninety-third and Ninety-eighth Illinois Mounted Infantry, and one section of Colonel Wilder's battery, to Harrison's Landing, on the Tennessee River. The distance from Poe's to Harrison's is about 7 miles over an excellent road. The road approaches to within 1 1/2 miles of the river near Dallas, and then down the river, striking it above the ferry at Harrison's, and runs within artillery range of its banks for nearly a mile, only separated from the bank by open cornfield. At Harrison's the river is said to be 600 yards in width; the current is slow and the channel deep. The western bank of the ferry is overhung by a bluff equal in height to any occupied by the enemy. Just above the ferry the creek Ooltewah (pronounced Walftever) enters the river. From the creek south and the river at the ferry east is a valley, and to the southeast bluffs, upon which there are earth-works, recently erected, which command the ferry and the whole valley south of the creek.
Lieutenant Crow's sketch* very accurately presents the course of the river, the ferry, the enemy's works on the hill, the embankments at the ferry (though I think it extends down the river much farther than he supposes), and the surrounding country. The examination of the enemy's position was very carefully made by Lieutenant Crow, Lieutenant-Colonel Starling, and the other officers named, from commanding positions within less than 800 yards of the enemy's works. From examination and reliable information I learned that all points on the river from Chattanooga to Kingston are watched by the enemy, and many of them fortified, but think with any means of crossing a passage could be forced with very small loss.
Loyal inhabitants doubt if the river can be forded anywhere. I have seen deserters who have crossed at many points and their statements agree with those of the inhabitants. The only hopeful point mentioned to me is at the lower end of McCree's Island, (miles above Harrison's. The river can be reached almost anywhere. The people, including deserters, disagree as to the position of the rebel forces.
Dr. McGraw, who claims to be a Union man, and professes to have been in General Thomas' service, told me on yesterday afternoon, positively, that General Bragg's headquarters are at Cleveland; that Forrest's headquarters are at Kingston, his forces scattered all over the country; that Polk's corps is at Kingston, sent there under the belief that our whole force would advance by way of Bridgeport, and to operate on our rear from that point; that the rebels were alarmed for the safety of Rome, which they suppose to be threatened by troops they understand to be in the neighborhood of Huntsville. He says Polk has 15,000 men, and Hill, who has superseded Hardee, nearly as many, and that he (Hill) has one division (Cheatham's) at Chattanooga and the remainder near there.
He also says that Buckner has not more than 5,000 men, chiefly at Knoxville and Loudon, which latter place is very strongly fortified.
JOHN M. PALMER.
*See p. 120a.