CHATTANOOGA, December 12, 1863
Major General W. T. SHERMAN:
Your letter of the 11th is received. Whilst I would like exceedingly to force Hardee beyond the Oostenaula, I would not deem it altogether safe to attempt it now.
There is no force here now to co-operate with you, nor the means of transportations, nor the rations to carry along. The Fourth and Eleventh Corps of General Thomas' command are absent and the two divisions of your command are at Bridgeport. I sent your orders to return as soon as possible, but of course do now want you to start until you know Long to be safe. Elliott has been ordered to take up the line of the Hiwassee; but, judging from his efforts, there is no telling when he will reach there.
His orders were sent to him at Alexandria on the 26th to strike for Kingston and go in pursuit of Longstreet. On the 1st he reached Sparta with one brigade. On the 9th he reported from Crossville and said he would reach Kingston on the 11th. I hope he may succeed in coming up to time. If Long should be with you on your return, you might send him toward Dalton as far as you deem it safe for him to go, and let him destroy any railroad bridge he may pass on the Cleveland and Dalton road. After going as far as you choose to send him,he could take the most direct road to Chattanooga. I do not think it advisable to destroy mills or any property in East Tennessee except what may be required for military purposes.
U. S. GRANT,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE,
Athens, December 12, 1863.
DEAR GENERAL: I am in receipt of your* by courier-line form Washington and answer by same line.
I have heretofore reported that I left General Granger's command with General Burnside and Spears' command, with all the cavalry to arrive, all to push Longstreet on his rear, with General Foster on his flank from Cumberland Gap.
We have rumors of large captures, and though not confirmed by anything official, I think highly probable.
Colonel Long's cavalry passed the mountains from Tellico four days ago, and I have Morgan Smith's division in support, with Lightburn's brigade well up the mountain in support. I hope he will capture a train of 300 wagons which dodged us on our way up, and produce consternation in North Georgia. Davis is at Columbus,on the Hiwassee, Howard at Charleston and Cleveland, and Ewing's division here.
I think I am bound to remain here until the cavalry returns. In the mean time we are faring well; plenty of forage and provisions, and we need only shoes and small-stores to go anywhere.
*Of December 11.