A copy of these instructions was furnished Sherman,* with the following communication:
Major General WILLIAM T. SHERMAN:
Inclosed herewith I send you copy of instructions to Major-General Thomas. You having been over the ground in person, and having heard the whole matter discussed, further instructions will not be necessary for you. It is particularly desirable that a force should be got through to the railroad between Cleveland and Dalton, and Longstreet thus cut off from communication with the south; but being confronted by a large force here, strongly located, it is not easy to tell how this is to be effected until the result of our first effort is known. I will add, however, what is not shown in my instructions to Thomas, that a brigade of cavalry has been ordered here which, if it arrives in time, will be thrown across the Tennessee above Chickamauga, and may be able to make the trip to Cleveland or thereabouts.
U. S. GRANT,
Sherman's forces were moved from Bridgeport by way of Whiteside's one division threatening the enemy's left flank in the direction of Trenton, crossing at Brown's Ferry, up the north bank of Tennessee to near the mouth of South Chickamauga, where they were kept concealed from the enemy until they were ready to force a crossing. Pontoons for throwing a bridge across the river were built and placed in North Chickamauga, near its mouth, a few miles farther up, without attracting the attention of the enemy. It was expected we would be able to effect the crossing on the 21st of November, but owing to heavy rains Sherman was unable to get up until the afternoon of the 23d, and then only with Generals Morgan L. Smith's John E. Smith's, and Hugh Ewing's divisions, of the Fifteenth Corps, under command of Major General Frank P. Blair, of his army. The pontoon bridges at Brown's Ferry having been broken up by the drift consequent upon the rise in the river and rafts sent down by the enemy, the other division (Osterhaus') was detained on the south side, and was on the night of the 23rd ordered, unless it could get across by 8 o'clock the next morning, to report to Hooker, who was instructed, in this event, to attack Lookout Mountain, as contemplated in the original plan.
A deserter from the rebel army, who came into our lines on the night of the 22nd of November, reported Bragg falling back. The following letter from Bragg, received by flag of truce on the 20th, tended to confirm this report:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE,
In the Field, November 20, 1863.
Major General U. S. GRANT,
Commanding U. S. Forces, &c., Chattanooga:
GENERAL: As there may still be some non-combatants in Chattanooga, I deem it proper to notify you that prudence would dictate their early withdrawal.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Not being willing that he should get his army off in good order, Thomas was directed, early on the morning of the 23d, to ascertain the truth or falsity of this report by driving in his pickets and making him develop his lines. This he did with the troops stationed at Chattanooga and Howard's corps (which had been brought into Chattanooga because of the apprehended danger to our pontoon bridges from the rise in the river and the enemy's rafts) in the most
*Under same date.