DALTON, January 2, 1864.
Mr. PRESIDENT: I have received the letter which you did me the honor to write me on the 23rd ultimo.*
Having been here but six days, during four of which it rained heavily, I have not been able to observe the condition of the army. I judge, however, from the language of the general officers, that it has not entirely recovered its confidence and that its discipline is not so thorough as it was last spring. The men are generally comfortably clothed. A few shoes and blankets are wanting in each brigade, which the chief quartermaster promised to supply very soon.
According to the returns of December 20, the effective total of the army (Infantry and artillery) is not quite 36,000; the number present about 43,000; that present and absent about 77,000. The reports of the adjutant-general show that about 4,00 men have returned to the ranks since the battle of Missionary Ridge. My predecessor estimates the enemy's force at Chattanooga Bridgeport, and Stevenson at about 80,000.
Major-General Wheeler reports that about two-thirds of his cavalry is with Lieutenant-General Longstreet. He has about 1,600 in our front. Major-General Wharton has 850 near rome, and Brigadier-General Roddey, with his brigade, is supposed to be near Tuscumbia; his strength not reported. I am afraid that this
cavalry is not very efficient; that want of harmony among the superior officers causes its discipline to be imperfect. I will endeavor to improve it during the winter.
The artillery is sufficient for the present strength of the army, but is deficient in discipline and instruction, especially in firing. The horses are not in good condition. It has about 200 rounds of ammunition. Its organization is very imperfect.
We have more than 120 rounds of infantry ammunition, and no difficulty in obtaining more.
The chief quartermaster reports that besides the baggage wagons of the troops he has enough to transport eight day's rations; but that will leave no means of transporting forage and other stores of his own department. The teams are improving, but are far from being in good condition. One hundred and twenty wagons are expected from the Department of Mississippi, promised by Lieutenant-General Polk.
The army depends for subsistence upon an officer at Atlanta (Major Cummings) who acts under the orders of the Commissary-General. The chief commissary of the army reports that that officer has provided for the next month. But we depend upon the railroad for bringing supplies to the troops. As yet rations but for five days have been accumulated here, with a supply for three previously placed at Calhoun, 20 miles to the rear. We have had no receipts for two days, for want, it is said, of good fuel on the road. The practice of transporting beef cattle by railroad has made it impossible to accumulate stores here. I propose as soon as the arrangement can be made, to have the cattle driven, but the change will require time. The men are not entire satisfied with the ration, it is said.
Your Excellency well impresses upon me the importance of recovering the territory we have lost. I feel it deeply; but difficulties appear to me inthe way.
The Secretary of War has informed me that I must not hope for
*See Vol. XXXI, Part III, p. 856.