I hope you will communicate directly with Davis, for fear I may have misapprehended your wishers. Parties of guerrillas infest this whole country; quite a number are reported between here and Cotton Port. I fear my patrol thither may have been picked up; the distance to Cotton Port is 20 miles, and a hilly road. Shall send for the supplies when I learn they have arrived.
O. O. HOWARD.
NEAR ATHENS, December 9, 1863.
I have similar information. I will send to-night orders for to-morrow, and will send over to Madisonville to see what is there. I hear Longstreet is retreating via Tellico Plains.
HEADQUARTERS CHIEF OF CAVALRY,
DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,
Camp near Crossville, Tennessee, December 9, 1863.
Major General J. J. REYNOLDS,
Chief of Staff, Chattanooga, Tennessee:
GENERAL: I have the honor to report my arrival at this place to-day. The train from Nashville with supplies required did not reach me at Sparta until the 7th-detained on account of rains and crossing of streams-and on that day my command moved. On the 8th a continued rain made the condition of the roads such as to delay the progress of the command. I find no forage of any consequence on or near the road, and am depending on what could be hauled from Sparta and the little collected by sending off the road. I except to reach Kingston on the 11th, with the portion of the cavalry command with me, in good condition for service. I send by courier to Kingston to receive any communications that may there await me.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. L. ELLIOTT,
Brigadier-General and Chief of Cavalry.
HEADQUARTERS FOURTH ARMY CORPS,
Knoxville, December 9, 1863-3.30 p.m.
General G. H. THOMAS,
I think Burnside is retaining us here beyond all reason. The weather is fine and we could now return without much suffering but the moment it rains the roads will become impassable, and great suffering must ensue among our officers and men who are without shelter, badly clad, and not half fed. Four thousand men (two brigades, Mott's and Spear's) arrived here this morning, which makes Burnside's force strong enough for every emergency, and more than he can feed and clothe.