Longstreet appears to be besieging Burnside, lacking the strength for an attack. Grant sends Sherman to relieve Burnside, and tells him that he’s in charge of all the troops headed that way, and that he won’t bother him with overly specific instructions. Grant’s confidence in Sherman’s ability as a commander is evident
CHATTANOOGA, November 29, 1863.
Major General WILLIAM T. SHERMAN:
News is received from Knoxville to the morning of the 27th. At that time the place was invested, but the attack on it was not vigorous, Longstreet evidently having determined to starve the garrison out. Granger is on the way to Burnside’s relief, but I have lost all importance of this one. I am inclined to think, therefore, that I shall have to send you.
Push as rapidly as you can to the Hiwassee and determine for yourself what force to take with you from that point. Granger has his corps with him, from which you will select in conjunction with the forces now with you. In plain words, you will assume command of all the forces now moving up the Tennessee, including the garrison at Kingston, and from that force organize what you deem proper to relieve Burnside. The balance send back to Chattanooga.
Granger has a boat loaded with provisions, which you can issue and return the boat. I will have another loaded to follow you. Use, of course, as sparingly as possible from the rations taken with you, and subsist off the country all you can.
It is expected that Foster is moving by this time from Cumberland Gap on Knoxville. I do not know what force he has with him, but presume it will range from 3,500 to 5,000. I leave this matter to you, knowing that you will do better acting upon your discretion than you could trammeled with instructions. I will only add that the last advices from Burnside himself indicated his ability to hold out rations only to about the 3rd December.
U. S. GRANT,