Schofield: “From the best information I can get [Longstreet] is moving rapidly toward Virginia or Georgia”

I received a letter from Gen. Schofield indicating that Longstreet may be abandoning Tennessee.

KNOXVILLE, February 23, 1864-11 p.m.

Major-General GRANT, Nashville, Tenn.:

I have information, which I believe reliable, that Longstreet has retired from Strawberry Plains. He has also withdrawn his cavalry from the south side of the French Broad. I shall march for Strawberry Plains with all my available force to-morrow morning, leaving a sufficient garrison for this place.

J. M. SCHOFIELD,

Major-General.

If true, we must take advantage of this opportunity.  I wrote back,

NASHVILLE, February 24, 1864-11 a.m.

Major General J. M. SCHOFIELD,

Knoxville, Tenn.:

Should you discover by your movement on Strawberry Plains that the enemy has retreated eastward and is abandoning East Tennessee, push him as far as practicable with your whole force, destroying effectually the railroads.

Relieve Granger’s troops to return to Chattanooga as soon as you ascertain the enemy is gone and cannot be overtaken by infantry. Sherman’s safety in Mississippi depends upon our efforts here. Thomas in moving with apparent success on Dalton.

U. S. GRANT,

Major-General.

 

I received this reply.

STRAWBERRY PLAINS, February 24, 1864

Major-General GRANT:

Longstreet destroyed the ferry-boat and completed the destruction of railroad bridge and retreated from this place yesterday. From the best information I can get he is moving rapidly toward Virginia or Georgia. As soon as I can cross the river I will push forward as far and as rapidly as possible. His main force has gone toward Goldsborough. The indications are that his whole force is going up the French Broad.

J. M. SCHOFIELD,

Major-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 150-1

O.R., I, xxxii, part 2, p 456-7