unless by fording the creek below the bridge, and our small force of 26 men was entirely alone, and without a support to act on both sides of the bridge we could not hope to drive the enemy away from the brush, where they were strongly posted. We therefore fell back about 200 yards to a point where a bend in the road with heavy timber placed us out of range. I requested Captain Kendrick to go back with most of his men and bring up any troops he could find, to prevent the return of the enemy to the bridges which we had saved.
Soon after the captain left me the men scattered, and as the place was very much exposed, I did no more than ask them to remain. One, a private, Henry Pine, Company G, Third Kentucky Cavalry, remained, and posting ourselves about 20 yards from the second bridge from Corinth, where no one could approach except under fire of the soldier's carbine and my double-barreled gun and revolver, we waited, expecting every instant the approach of a large force of our own men to occupy the bridges and scour the wood, which was full of fugitives. In this position we remained perhaps twenty minutes, when Pine warned me to move, which I did promptly. The next instant a shower of grape or canister swept over the road, and a sound followed indicating the approach of cavalry. We at once entered the swamp and made our way back to the high ground, where I found Captain Kendrick, who could not obtain assistance. I felt sure that the enemy were returning to burn the bridge I had been watching, and with the captain and 10 men I returned to ascertain the fact. The bridge was in flames.
In making this report I beg leave to say that while a pursuit by so small a force may seem rash, circumstances justified it. The enemy was scattered in small parties of from 10 to 50, and fled at the approach of horseman. Every moment the numbers became larger, and a piece of artillery, if not two, were almost within our grasp, and from the best information I could obtain General Pine was not far off. It was reasonable to expect that our forces were close at hand, and I supposed, up to the time that I returned to the cavalry (of several different regiments) and found it drawn up on the hill, that they were immediately in the rear and coming on. By driving away the bridge-burners the road was kept open for them.
To Captain Kendrick I return sincere thanks for his kindness. He had only 26 men in all, yet he sent in over 50 prisoners and dispersed a large number of armed parties. Private Hass, of the body guard, and Private Pine, of Company G, Third Kentucky Cavalry, showed great courage, both in saving the bridge and under fire close to the enemy. I commend them to the notice of their officers.
The enemy had evidently sacrificed the large body of men composing their pickets, and the first notice many of them had of the flight of the rebel army was the approach of our troops. Men were placed at each bridge with the means of burning it, and the road, although very much cut and broken, was either recently built or recently prepared, and was so arranged as to obstruct pursuit. It has a general southwest direction and crosses Tuscumbia Creek four times in 2 miles or less. We crossed three bridges with plank floors or covering, and were driven away from the fourth, which is, I believe, nearly 5 miles from Corinth. The ground is very wet, and almost if not entirely impassable for cavalry or wagons on both sides of the last 2 miles of the road.
I have the honor to be, with very great respect,
J. H. HAMMOND,
Major-General WILLIAM T. SHERMAN,
Comdg. Fifth Division.