Gen. Sherman’s troops have returned, having chased Longstreet out of East Tennessee. With winter setting in, we have no choice but to dig in and await the spring. I wrote Gen. Halleck,
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Chattanooga, Tennessee, December 17, 1863.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C.:
Sherman’s command has just returned from East Tennessee. There are left there now, besides the force Burnside had, Granger with about 11,000 infantry and artillery and Elliott’s division of cavalry.
This will be as much force as can be subsisted for the present and I think abundantly sufficient to keep the enemy from making any inroad, and possibly to drive him entirely out. The rains have already set in, making it almost impossible to subsist the army at any distance from steam-boat landings or railroad depots. To avoid all trouble and to economize transportation over the railroad, I have ordered Sherman to Bellefonte. He will there be able to supply all his forage from the country and nearly all his bread and meat. All the cavalry will be so disposed as to draw forage and most of their rations from the country. By this means and with the use of the Nashville and Decatur road, which I hope will be ready by February 1, I expect to be able to accumulate a large magazine of supplies here by spring. We now have three steamers running, and will have two more in a few days. Still two others are in progress of construction. By the means of these boats and such portions of the railroad as can be used, I will endeavor to accumulate supplies in East Tennessee to enable me to fight a battle there with a large army if the spring movements of the enemy should make it necessary.
If Longstreet is not driven from the valley entirely and the road destroyed east of Abingdon, I do not think it unlikely that the last great battle of the war will be fought in East Tennessee. Reports of deserters and citizens show the army of Bragg to be too much demoralized and reduced by desertion to do anything this winter. I will get everything in order here in a few days and go to Nashville and Louisville, and, if there is still a chance of doing anything against Longstreet, to the scene of operations there. I feel deeply interested in moving the enemy beyond Saltville this winter, so as to be able to select my own campaign in the spring instead of having the enemy dictate it for me.
I am, general, &c..,
U. S. GRANT,
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 9, p 533-34
O.R., I, xxxi, part 3, p 429-30