that one or two more marches, at this time, will break them down entirely. The draft animals, also, are worn out, weak, and dying for want of forage. These things have convinced me that the safety of the army and the success of the spring campaign depend upon the disposition for rest that I have made.
By this means a very important object is gained, that of being able to permit the old regiments re-enlisting as veteran volunteers to go home at once for furlough and reorganization. This secures the hearty good-will instead of the dissatisfaction which would otherwise prevail among these men, with whom the privilege of a present furlough to go home is more powerful than the other inducements offered. The regiments will, in this way, also be sooner returned to the field in the spring, when their refilled ranks will be of more avail, in view of their own improved condition and that of the remaining troops.
The supplies are adequate in some respects, and entirely insufficient in others. We have plenty of pork and beef. Over half a million rations of pork have been salted and packed at this place; over half a million more rations of meat are now here on the hoof. Of bread and breadstuffs we have none. The hospitals are well supplied, but the scanty supplies obtained from Chattanooga furnish very little for the troops in the field, who have to be content with what they can glean from the country.
Since the opening of the line to Chattanooga, the following amount of bread, sugar, and coffee has been received: Of bread and flour, 136,201 rations; coffee, 598,150 rations; sugar, 640,732 rations; being on an average one-twelfth part of the rations of bread and three-eighths of coffee and sugar. The increase this supply, I am endeavoring to get the railroad in order through to Chattanooga as soon as possible. If there be sufficient rolling-stock placed on this road and the Nashville road, the Armies of the Ohio and the Cumberland can be well supplied. If sufficient rolling-stock cannot be supplied in time, I would respectfully suggest that the trains be used for carrying quartermaster's stores, bread and small rations, while beef-cattle be driven on the hoof to Chattanooga, as has been the practice in supplying this army.
The intentions of the enemy are satisfactorily ascertained from scouts and deserters. General Longstreet does not intend to advance, and if we advance he will resist at every favorable point, and fall back only when he is forced from these positions in succession, toward Bristoe and Abingdon. He will leave no supplies behind him. He has thus far lived on the country entirely, but that source is almost exhausted. The railroad will soon enable him to obtain supplies from Virginia, if they can be spared from that State. He has received re-enforcements, consisting of his Third Division (Pickett's) and some convalescents. Furloughs have been granted to 5 men from each company, for terms ranging from twenty-five to thirty-five days.
I believe that an advance on our part, with a view of driving him out of East Tennessee before we establish a base of supplies, especially over the bad roads of the winter, would be attended with disastrous consequences to this army; for Longstreet to advance will be equally disastrous to him and his army.
In the spring I can hold the present position and spare a whole corps for operations elsewhere, which of themselves would compel Longstreet's speedy departure from the State.