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[161] it for the field. When there he was either to assist General Bragg in holding his new position, or cover the country near Columbia, upon which the army depended for food. These troops were so poorly equipped, and the difficulty of supplying deficiencies so great, that the division was not ready for actual service until February, nor able to cross the Tennessee until the middle of the month. It was directed to Columbia, and, by occupying that neighborhood, enabled General Bragg to feed his army in Middle Tennessee. Without such aid he could not have done this, and would have been compelled to abandon the country north of the Tennessee River.

In the middle of January General Wheeler made an expedition with the principal part of the cavalry of the Army of Tennessee, to interrupt the Federal communications. After burning the railroad-bridge over Mill Creek, nine miles from Nashville, he went on to the Cumberland and captured there four loaded transports, three of which, with their cargoes, were destroyed, and the fourth bonded to carry home four hundred paroled prisoners. A gunboat which pursued the party was also captured with its armament. General Wheeler then crossed the swollen stream, the horses swimming through floating ice, and at the landing-place near Harpeth Shoals destroyed a great quantity of provisions in wagons, ready for transportation to Nashville.

While inspecting the defenses of Mobile on the 22d of January, I received a telegram from the President, directing me to proceed, “with the least delay, to the headquarters of General Bragg's army,” and informing me that “an explanatory letter would be ”

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