Gen. Schofield has written Gen. Thomas with a report that Longstreet is threatening Knoxville again. Schofield is worried that his communications will be cut and asks for reinforcements from Thomas. This would put an end to any movement by Thomas. Thomas writes,
CHATTANOOGA, February 16, 1864.
Major-General GRANT, Nashville:
I have just received a telegram from General Schofield, dated February 14, stating that he had reliable information that Longstreet had advanced to Strawberry Plains, and had brought up pontoon-boats. Schofield thought that he might intend to make a cavalry raid to cut his communication with Loudon, or that he might advance to attack Knoxville, and asks me to send him re-enforcements as early as practicable. What shall I do? If re-enforcements are sent to Knoxville they will be detained there for the winter, and cannot make an advance on Longstreet until the Loudon and Strawberry Plains bridges are rebuilt. It will also become necessary to give up any demonstration against Dalton. But if Schofield can hold Knoxville the demonstration on Dalton can be made, and I hope with success. Captain Gay, just from Knoxville, and gone to Nashville, does not mention such reports.
GEO. H. THOMAS,
Major-General, U. S. Volunteers.
I replied to Schofield and Thomas,
NASHVILLE, February 17, 1864-12.30 p.m.
Major General J. M. SCHOFIELD,
Can you not by proper disposition of your cavalry and Granger’s corps prevent any raid on your communications west of Knoxville? It is highly desirable Thomas should make a move for which he is now prepared, and which will be prevented by re-enforcing you. It is also desirable that the force at Knoxville should be kept at the lowest standard, so as to accumulate supplies for a large force when needed. It is hoped that Sherman’s and Thomas movements will throw the enemy into a position which will leave your army and Thomas’ to act more as a unit.
U. S. GRANT,
NASHVILLE, February 17, 1864.
Longstreet cannot afford to place his force between Knoxville and the Tennessee. If he does, it will then be time to move against him. The work of a raid on the road can soon be repaired, if it cannot be prevented. Make your contemplated move as soon as possible.
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 134-7
O.R., I, xxxii, part 2, p 403, 414