by this time almost entirely without forage of any kind, were dying by the hundred daily. It became a matter of the first importance to move to a position where forage, if not corn for the men, could be obtained at once. I therefore ordered the Fourth and Twenty-third Corps to move across the Strawberry Plains bridge (which was passable on the 15th January), to march to Dandridge, cross the French Broad River near that place on a bridge to be built of wagons and any boats that could be obtained, and then to occupy the country south of that river as far toward the Nola Chucky as possible. It was represented that a considerable quantity of corn was to be found in this section. Besides this, the movement would tend to disturb Longstreet concerning his left flank and communications to the rear, especially toward North Carolina. The Ninth Corps was ordered to hold Strawberry Carolina. The Ninth Corps was ordered to hold Strawberry Plains, to be ready to support the movement while in progress, and afterward cover Knoxville.
The troops started on the 15th and reached Dandridge on the 17th, when the bridge was immediately commenced. It was completed to what was supposed to be the opposite bank of the river, and a brigade crossed over. It was soon found, however, to be upon an island, and that another channel of the river remained to be bridged. In the mean time the cavalry which had skirmished heavily with the enemy on the previous day (the 16th) near Kimbrough's Cross-Roads, 5 miles from Dandridge toward Morristown, had been forced back by the determined advance of the enemy almost to the town. General Parke satisfied himself that General Longstreet was in his front with his whole force, having advanced from his front with his whole force, having advanced from his cantonments to meet our supposed advance in force. This fact, added to the delay in completing the bridge, the difficulty in crossing in presence of an active enemy, the want of rations, and the commencing rain, which would soon make it impossible to get up supplies from the rear over the then almost impassable roads, induced General Parke to decide to retire at once on Strawberry Plains, which he did without loss. I immediately ordered the whole force to move to Knoxville, cross the Holston on the pontoon bridge at that place (just completed), and ascend the south side of the French Broad to reach the foraging ground that it had failed to reach through Dandridge. As the cavalry passed through the town most of their horses had not been fed for forty-eight hours, and some of the artillery horses were without food for four days and nights. The cavalry reached and occupied the country south of the French Broad as far up as Fair Garden, 10 miles beyond Sevierville and scouted through the entire country as far up as the Nola Chucky. The Fourth Corps in following was 4 miles out from Knoxville, when I received General Sturgis' report that the reports of the supplies in that section of the country were very much exaggerated, inasmuch as they would only suffice his cavalry for three weeks, and that the roads were impracticable for wagons and artillery. Disappointed in this, no other course remained but that of distributing the bulk of the force to obtain forage and supplies wherever it could be found. I accordingly sent the Fourth Corps to Morrisville, Lenoir's Station, and Loudon, with orders to gather their supplies from the surrounding counties. The Ninth Corps occupied the railroad, within supporting distance of Knoxville. The Twenty-third Corps encamped around the town. All the draft animals were sent to the rear on the Tennessee River, to forage. Those that were entirely broken down were sent back to Kentucky. The cavalry occu-