Dispatches were sent to Sherman informing him of the movement of Longstreet and the necessity of his immediate presence at Chattanooga.
On the 14th of November, I telegraphed to Burnside as follows:
Major General AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE:
Your dispatch and Dana's just received. Being there you can tell better how to resist Longstreet's attack than I can direct. With your showing you had better give up Kingston at the last moment and save the most productive part of your possession. Every arrangement is now made to throw Sherman's force across the river, just at and below the mouth of Chickamauga Cree, as soon as it arrives. Thomas will attack on his left at the same time, and together it is expected to carry Missionary Ridge, and from there push a force on to the railroad between Cleveland and Dalton. Hooker will at the same time attack, and, if he can, carry Lookout Mountain. The enemy now seems to be looking for an attack on his left flank. This favors us. To further confirm this, Sherman's advance division will march direct from Whiteside's to Trenton. The remainder of his force will pass over a new road just made from Whiteside's to Kelley's Ferry, thus being concealed from the enemy, and leave him to suppose the whole force is going up Lookout Valley. Sherman's advance has only just reached Bridgeport. The rear will only reach there on the 16th. This will bring it to the 19th as the earliest day for making the combined movement as desired. Inform me if you think you can sustain yourself until that time. I can hardly conceive of the enemy's breaking through at Kingston and pushing for Kentucky. If they should, however, a new problem would be left for solution. Thomas has ordered a division of cavalry to the vicinity of Sparta. I will ascertain if they have started and inform you. It will be entirely out of the question to send you 10,000 men, not because they cannot be spared, but how could they be fed after they got even one day east of here?
On the 15th, having received from the General-in-Chief a dispatch (of date the 14th) in reference to Burnside's position, the danger of his abandonment of East Tennessee unless immediate relief was afforded, and the terrible misfortune such a result would be to our arms, and also dispatches from Mr. C. A. Dana, Assistant Secretary of War, and Colonel Wilson, of my staff, sent at the instance of General Burnside, informing me more fully of the condition of affairs as detailed to them by him, I telegraphed him as follows:
November 15, 1863.
Major General AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE:
I do not know how to impress on you the necessity of holding on to East Tennessee in strong enough terms. According to the dispatches of Mr. Dana and Colonel Wilson, it would seem that you should, if pressed to do it, hold on to Knoxville and that portion of the valley which you will necessarily possess. Holding to that point, should Longstreet move his whole force across the Little Tennessee, an effort should be made to cut his pontoons on that stream, even if it sacrificed half of the cavalry of the Ohio Army. By holding on and placing Longstreet between the Little Tennessee and Knoxville, he should not be allowed to escape with an army capable of doing anything this winter. I can hardly conceive of the necessity of retreating from East Tennessee. If I did so at all it would be after losing most of the army, and then necessity would suggest the route. I will not attempt to lay out a line of retreat. Kingston, looking at the map, I thought of more importance than any one point in East Tennessee. But my attention being called more closely to it, I can see that it might be passed by, and Knoxville and the rich valley about it possessed, ignoring that place entirely. I should not think it advisable to concentrate a force near Little Tennessee to resist the crossing, if it would be in danger of capture, but I would harass and embarrass progress in every way possible, reflecting on the fact that the Army of the Ohio is not the only army to resist the onward progress of the enemy.
U. S. GRANT,