From yours of yesterday I suppose you will not wish to push Hardee back of the Etowah, and therefore, in the absence of other orders, when Long is back and rested I will move slowly back to our camps at Chattanooga.
I cannot hear a word of Elliott. Had he been near Knoxville at the right time Longstreet could not have carried away a single gun or wagon; even as it is I think he will be forced to drop almost everything.
I have dispatches from Columbus and Tellico up to last night; all well.
I can only hear of fragments of men seeking to escape, and a small force of cavalry at the Council Ground, Red Clay, on the Dalton road.
I will send to Kingston the orders you indicate for General Elliott.
W. T. SHERMAN,
HDQRS. SECOND DIVISION, FOURTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Columbus, Tennessee, December 12, 1863-7 a.m.
GENERAL: Your communication (dated yesterday, 9 a.m.) arrived yesterday afternoon, and found me over the river examining the country at the junction of Hiwassee and Ocoee. Columbus is about 3 1/2 or 4 miles above the fork of the two streams, on the Hiwassee, and Benton is near the ford of the Ocoee.
The roads are good and both streams can now be forded with artillery with the greatest ease.
The Ocoee is but a small stream, not more than half the size of the Hiwassee. Until it rains these streams are easily forded.
There is a fine road leading to Spring Place from Benton, and also one leading to Cleveland; in fact, all that country lying south and west of this place can be easily traversed by troops. This neighborhood is rich in corn, wheat, and meat. The rebels have taken considerable, but left quite a good supply for the people.
I have been running only two mills, all I needed; but since the receipt of your letter have started another fine one. It will grind 100 bushels per day, and the grain can be gotten in the vicinity of it for some days.
The guerrillas have been, as I stated before, playing the devil. Several have been caught, and one paid the penalty yesterday.
I have had no cavalry, but have ordered infantry to mount themselves and hunt these fiends out. Some half dozen murders have been committed since I arrived in the neighborhood.
Union and rebel citizens have combined together to assist me in catching them. These devils are composed mostly of paroled Vicksburg prisoners. I have burned out one nest of them, and one of the number killed. They hide in the mountains and slip out at opportune times to commit their outrages.
This is a very strong position to hold, being a defile; the Chilhowee Mountain protects my left flank perfectly, and there are no fords of importance between this and Charleston.