Sunday, December 6, in person I visited Knoxville, where I met Major-General Sherman, and received instructions to commence the return march on the morrow. It was decided that General Granger's corps should remain as re-enforcement to General Burnside, in accordance with the first plan and order of Major-General Grant, which had designated General Granger's command to move to the relief of Knoxville. Besides the fact that my corps was, to a large extent, without tents, one or two brigades without blankets, and nearly all either suffering form bad shoes or entirely destitute of shoes, having turned directly form the pursuit of Bragg, without going back for anything, these considerations made it advisable that we return as soon as possible to our camps, now that the pressing necessity was over. On the march back the commissaries generally preceded the corps, and seizing the mills notified the inhabitants to bring in wheat and corn, which they purchased and ground in readiness for distribution on the arrival of their respective brigades. The mills were kept running night and day. The salt captured at Charleston on the way up lasted till our return to the same place. By means of this we were able to make use of the cattle and sheep of the country, which were sufficient for our purpose. The region of our march also abounded in sorghum or home-made molasses, which was purchased in quantity and issued to the troops. This was found a suitable substitute for sugar. For coffee, wheat in the grain was issued.
No complaint of want of food came to my ears.
The loyal inhabitants were no less demonstrative on our return than on our march up. One lamentable fact came under my observation; the habit of depredations upon the property of citizens prevailing among certain portions of our army, too little checked by officers. Instances of great outrage came to my knowledge, and of suffering on account of such misconduct by the troops, even among people of undoubted loyalty.
While called upon thorough necessity to impress supplies, I ordered proper receipts in all cases to be given, and restrained theft by the severest sanctions.
We returned, by comparatively easy marches, recrossing the bridge of wagons at Davis' Ford.
At Athens a halt was made, by direction of General Sherman, except that one brigade, Colonel Hecker's, was sent forward to Charleston to repair the bridge and hold it.
The cavalry guard, on hearing of the approach of the enemy, had abandoned the Charleston Bridge and fled. It was, however, only partially destroyed by the enemy, so that Colonel Hecker repaired it again in a couple of days.
General Sherman had located Davis' division abreast of Hecker's, farther up the river at Columbus, thus threatening to move down the old Federal road past Bragg's right, while the rest of his force was in the vicinity of Tellico Plains, for the purpose of supporting Colonel Long's cavalry, which had gone in pursuit of one of Longstreet's trains, through Murphy, N. C.
Supplies were expected by the river to Cotton Port, and I was directed to impress wagons, and have the stores brought to Athens, with a view to a concentration at that point, but by mistake no supplies were landed there.
As soon as Colonel Long returned, the march was continued to Chattanooga. At Cleveland my troops were cheered by the arrival