About 1 at night the cavalry returned, reporting the road occupied in force by the enemy, with whose advance guard they skirmished, driving them back about a mile, taking 2 prisoners, and having their chief guide, Esquire Thomas Maxwell, wounded, and 3 men of the Fourth Illinois.
Inclosed please find the report of Lieutenant-Colonel Heath;* also a copy of his instructions and the order of march.
As soon as the cavalry returned I saw that an attempt on the road was frustrated, and accordingly have placed McDowell's brigade to our right front guarding the pass of Snake Creek, Stuart's brigade to the left front to watch the pass of Lick Creek, and shall this morning move directly out on the Corinth road, about 8 miles, to or towards Pea Ridge, which is a key-point to the Southwest.
General Hurlbut's division will be landed to-day, and the artillery and infantry disposed so as to defend Pittsburg, leaving my division entire for any movement by rail or water.
As near as I can learn there are five regiments of infantry at Purdy, at Corinth, and distributed along the railroad to Iuka are probably 30,000 men,but my information from prisoners is very indistinct. Every road and path is occupied by the enemy's cavalry, whose orders seem to be to fire a volley, retire, again fire and retire.
The force on the Purdy road attacked and driven by Major Bowman yesterday was about 60 strong. That encountered last night on the Corinth road was about five companies of Tennessee cavalry, sent from Purdy about 2 p.m. yesterday. I hear there is a force of two regiments on Pea Ridge, at the point where the Purdy and Corinth road comes in from this place.
I am satisfied we cannot reach the Memphis and Charleston Road without a considerable engagement, which is prohibited by General Halleck's instructions, so that I will be governed by your orders of yesterday to occupy Pittsburg strongly. Extend the pickets so as to include a semicircle of 3 miles, and push strong reconnaissance as far as Lick Creek and Pea Ridge.
I will send down a good many boats to-day to be employed as you may direct, and would be obliged if you would send us if possible a couple thousand sacks of corn, as much hay as you can possibly spare, and if possible a barge of coal.
I will send a steamboat under care of the gunboat to collect corn from cribs on the river bank.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Brigadier-General, Commanding First Division.
Captain WILLIAM McMICHAEL,
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION,
Steamer Continental, March 16, 1862.
Commanding Detachment of Cavalry:
SIR: You will take command of the cavalry this day ordered and start on the Corinth road, proceeding continually with advance guard and flankers. When you reach the vicinity of Lick Creek Bridge examine