Halleck: “The holding of East Tennessee … is deemed of the greatest importance”

I received the following request from Gen. Halleck.  The government considers it of prime importance to protect the loyal population of East Tennessee.

Major-General GRANT,

Chattanooga, Tennessee:

We have heard nothing from General Foster for some days. Richmond papers of yesterday say that Longstreet is preparing to hold Rutledge; that his cavalry passed through Pound Gap and penetrated Kentucky to Mount Sterling, burning that place and capturing money and supplies, and that Cumberland Gap is threatened. If this be true, and Longstreet is establishing himself in East Tennessee, will it not be unsafe to withdraw Sherman’s forces till the enemy is driven out of the State? The holding of East Tennessee, and the prevention of the enemy from getting supplies there, is deemed of the greatest importance. Please give this suggestion your careful attention. Moreover as General Meade’s operations have failed to produce any results, Lee may send by rail re-enforcements to Longstreet without our knowing it. This contingency must also be considered.

H. W. HALLECK,

General-in-Chief.

I replied,

CHATTANOOGA, December 14, 1863-2 p.m.

Major General H. W. HALLECK,

General-in-Chief:

Have heard nothing definite from general Foster for several days. Sherman sends me word that he hears that Longstreet has lost most of his artillery and baggage and many prisoners; not certainly known, however. Sherman has one division at Tellico Plains, one at Sparta, and Howard’s corps on the Hiwassee. Granger is at Knoxville. Colonel Long has gone through the gorge at Tellico Iron-Works into Georgia in pursuit of a portion of Longstreet’ force. Elliott must be in East Tennessee somewhere, with his division of cavalry, but I do not know where. His start and progress as long as heard from has been slow beyond any apparent excuse. Granger will remain where he is until all danger has passed; also Elliott. I do not think the accounts from Richmond papers can be correct, or I would have heard it.

U. S. GRANT,

Major-General, Commanding.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 9, p 526-7

O.R., I, xxxi, part 3, p 403, 422