If possible we should avoid fighting a great battle in this section of the State. Large armies cannot be supported here for any length of time.
It is this conviction, with the necessities of the army, that have forced me to make the dispositions described above. These dispositions have for their object the present security and future improvement in strength of the army, the safety and enlargement of our communications to the rear, and the preparations for active operations so soon as the condition of the roads, the weather, and supplies will permit.
I have just received a report from General Sturgis stating that the pursuit of General Martin's (rebel) division of cavalry resulted in its complete rout. Armstrong's division, pursued by Wolford's division, saved itself by falling back upon its infantry supports and securing a good defensive position. In the mean time a considerable force of infantry forded the river below Dandridge, which forced General Sturgis to fall back toward Maryville. I have sent him orders to collect all the good horses, to the number of 2,000, if possible, and make a raid toward Saltville, passing around by the way of Clinton, Cumberland Gap, and Jonesville.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. G. FOSTER,
Major General U. S. GRANT,
Commanding Division of the Mississippi, Nashville, Tenn.
February 21, 1864.
GENERAL: I have the honor, in obedience to your direction, to make the following report of the operations of the Army of the Ohio while I was in command, and of the general condition of affairs in East Tennessee:*
General Grant visited Knoxville on the 30th of December, 1863. Seeing the suffering of the troops, he decided to have me await the arrival of supplies and the completion of the Strawberry Plains bridge before advancing. He left on the 7th of January to return by the way of Cumberland Gap. The cavalry, under General Sturgis, was almost constantly engaged with the enemy's cavalry in the direction of Dandridge and Mossy Creek after crossing the Holston. These fight culminated in a general cavalry engagement near Mossy Creek on the 29th [of December], in which the enemy were driven from the field toward Morristown. General Elliott's division of cavalry, from the Army of the Cumberland, particularly distinguished itself for gallantry.
On the 13th January, the main body of our cavalry having entirely exhausted the supplies in the country around Mossy Creek, were forced to move to Dandridge, where some little forage was to be found. The draft animals of the infantry and artillery, being
*General Foster relieved General Burnside on December 12, 1863. For portion of this report here omitted, see Series I, Vol. XXXI, Part I, p. 286.