The Fifteenth Army Corps is in superb condition, most of it having marched the whole distance from Memphis. Before leaving Iuka, in a personal consultation with Generals Hurlbut and Dodge, I made up out of the Sixteenth Army Corps a command of about 8,000 men, to follow on my heels. General Dodge commands this force, and I have reports from him as having crossed his command at Eastport, ready to march on the 5th. Of course I have vested Generals McPherson and Hurlbut with plenary powers in their respective districts, but I attach importance to the region of country at the head of the navigable part of the Tennessee, say Eastport, as it is a fine point from which to pierce Alabama in the rich district from Russellville to Decatur; but we have almost stripped Corinth and Eastport of all but a defensive force.
I make this communication direct that the General-in-Chief may understand why I did not further repair the railroad, and did not come by Athens.
I am, &c.,
W. T. SHERMAN,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Fayetteville, Tennessee, November 8, 1863.
Brig. General JOHN A. RAWLINS,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Division of the Mississippi, Chattanooga:
SIR: I have the honor to report my arrival at this point this morning with the Fourth and Third Divisions, Fifteenth Army Corps, and that I have reports of the Second and First Divisions that assure me they will be up early to-morrow. I have heretofore reported my movement, that on reaching Elk River, near Rogersville, it was impassable without a bridge that would have consumed five days in construction. I turned up toward Pulaski and took a right-hand road through Gilbertsborough, Prospect, Elkton, &c. This road I found so rough that I sent word back to General Blair to bring the two other divisions via Pulaski. I have a report from General Blair, 4 miles the other side of Pulaski, and allowing for to-day's march, he should be in to-morrow.
From Elkton I sent forward the Third Kentucky Cavalry, with Captain Audenried, to communicate to you my progress, and to bring me back specific orders based on this change of route. Captain Audenried is not yet back, though hourly expected, and as soon as he comes I will renew my march.
Should any cause delay him I will move to Winchester to get some bread, salt, &c., and then proceed direct to Stevenson. I sent orders back to General Dodge to move direct from Florence to Pulaski, and thence to Fayetteville, by which he will escape much of the stony, bad road that we have traversed. I now have General Grant's orders to post Dodge at Athens, which I will cause to be done unless Captain Audenried brings other orders.
Any attempt to supply my command from the Tennessee would fail-the road is a very bad one and guerrillas would capture many of our wagons. I must of necessity depend on your railroad or haul from Nashville. All the good roads lead to Nashville, and all the cross-roads east and west are simply impassable in muddy weather.