Place last evening about sundown. They were escorted to that place. I reached here at noon. They report that Wheeler had a very heavy force-from 10,000 to 12,000. Before the prisoners were paroled the entire force moved off north on the Federal road. General Steedman obtained information that Wheeler had divided his force, sending one column against Cartersville, one against Cleveland, and one toward Chattanooga. General Steedman, with his force, has returned to Chattanooga. These facts I learn from an officer from Dalton. I have sent a courier to General Smith. Telegraphed General Steedman via Dalton. Train now on the way with message. I have advised post commanders. You shall be in telegraphic communication with Chattanooga to-night, if not now. I have put 300 men on the repairs of railroad, and will work every hour until they are completed. Trains are at Resaca to convey General Smith in any direction. I think he will return to Resaca to-night. I will send you copy of Wheeler's letter to General Steedman in reference to paroling the prisoners. I ask that your order them on duty.
2.45 P. M.
Since reaching the telegraph office I have received the following letter from General Steedman, which shows that Captain Cilley, captain and assistant adjutant-general, who gave me the information alluded to, was mistaken:
DALTON, August 17, 1864.
COLONEL: Please inform General Smith that the enemy has gone to East Tennessee. They report having captured Cleveland, but I do not credit the report. Push the work on the railroad with all possible dispatch. Use the siding at calhoun, and, if necessary, send to Adairsville and get all the iron you can. Colonel Laiboldt has sent a small regiment to the bridge two miles south of this point to protect the working party. I have sent for ties and iron, with which any sidings you may take up can be replaced. Dispatch General Sherman that the enemy has gone to East Tennessee, and I have returned to Chattanooga to protect the Chickamauga bridges. The force of the enemy consists of at least 5,000, nine small bridges, and may reach 7,000. My belief is they intend to capture Knoxville.
JAMES B. STEEDMAN,
I have sent a courier to General Smith from here. I give you the conflicting accounts at to Wheeler's strength for what they were worth. My own opinion is that he has between 6,000 and 7,000 men.
G. B. RAUM,
RESACA, August 17, 1864.
I neglected to state in my division of 2.30 p. m. that the enemy seemed greatly elated at their success in destroying the railroad. Officers expressed the opinion that it would require several weeks to make repairs. There was no effort made to conceal the direction in which they were going, but rather a desire to indicate it. The prisoners were sent by the most direct route to Tilton. It will not be necessary to take up side tracks to repair the railroad.
G. B. RAUM,