CHIEF QUARTERMASTER'S OFFICE,
DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,
Nashville, Tenn., March 20, 1865.
Major General M. C. MEIGS,
DEAR GENERAL: I returned from Knoxville with General Thomas this morning. Stoneman is at Strawberry Plains with his cavalry expecting to have a movable column of 6,000, and we met the fourth Corps en route at Loudon. Most of the men were up, but transportation behind for want of cars. The railroad is in good order, but it has been stripped of many of its good workers and needs spurring up or it will go behind. It is in operation to Strawberry Plains, and in course of construction to Bull's Gap. Quite an army is assembling at Knoxville, and the quartermaster's department is well up in supplies. In anticipation o demands upon us, I ordered 50,000 sacks of grain there and they came in just right. Other supplies, clothing, &c., are also in abundance, and if heavy operations take place from Knoxville I shall supply it from Chattanooga as a base. Captain Whitman, the quartermaster at Knoxville, does his duty satisfactorily and his depot is in a satisfactory condition. The same remarks are applicable to Chattanooga, Captain C. K. Smith, the quartermaster there, being also a good officer. I went through his tore-houses, corrals, &c., and found them clean, systematic, and well kept. I went to the top of Lookout Mountain, and think the less building there the better. The road is awful, and death on mules. I communicated your telegraphic order to cease building there, and he directed all building to cease, except such as was partially finished-these to be completed. Now, as regards loss of stores at Eastport, the papers have magnified it, as Colonel Mackay's report, which I forward to-day, shows. More forage was accumulated there than was desired and it could not be saved, as the river rose suddenly and unprecedentedly high, flooding the whole country back to the hills and laying Eastport, ten to fifteen miles, under water. I visited the rolling-mill in Chattanooga. It is a fine concern, with splendid machinery, under Mr. Yardley. He tells me it cost about $175,000, but I'll set its coast nearer $300,000. They will have about 25,000 tons of old iron to work over, and if the war last a couple of years it will pay; if not, not. I may be mistaken, but this is my opinion.
I do not see why I am all the time concerning myself about the railroad. It is no business of mine, McCallum might say; but for all that they want regulating badly and a first-rate head here. Stevens, the acting general superintendent, is a good man, but he has not head enough for such a great machine. He can run the road, make timetables, &c., but when he comes to the nicer points of administration he is at sea. The best man I know is A. Anderson, and he ought to stay here. He is better than McCallum so far as administration is concerned. Captain Crilly, assistant quartermaster, does well. He does a vast amount of work without noise or labor, and has reduced the expenses of the department very much. Depend upon it, he is very able. He suffers terribly for funds, and to save the railroad almost from stopping I have advanced him this morning $300,000. But enough of railroads. I said it is no business of mine, and yet I find myself all the time dabbling in them. I think Thomas' plan of campaign is occupy a line near Bull's Gap with Fourth Corps and other troops, and send Stoneman forward with his cavalry. This is mere conjecture, for he has said nothing to me on the subject. You know he