settle this matter, I proceeded to Chattanooga, and thence telegraphed you and the War Department relative to my rank and command, and also to you for orders relative to the movements of my force. I received no reply from Richmond, and in answer to dispatch to you received one from General Beauregard, saying, "Date of commission determines rank."
Upon communicating this to Colonel Wharton, on my return, he declined assuming command, but at the same time manifested a desire to withdraw his regiment from the brigade, to which I acceded.
While absent from my command, at Chattanooga, a superior force of the enemy, composed of cavalry, infantry, and artillery, made a forced march from Huntsville, and occupied Winchester on the 20th instant.
On the 22nd Colonel Wharton sent a company to make a reconnaissance of their position, with a view to an attack. This party drove in their pickets, capturing 9, and made a charge into the center of the town. The force immediately there (some 200 or 300) took refuge in the court-house, a brick building, and from this sheltered position kept up a warm fire on the reconnoitering party, killing 2 and wounded 6. The loss of the enemy was the prisoners before mentioned and 9 or 10 killed. The reconnoitering party would have carried the court-house by assault had they not feared the enemy would commence shelling the town with their artillery.
The following morning (May 23) the enemy hastily evacuated the place, retreating toward Salem.
I have since been reliably informed that General Mitchel has moved from Huntsville toward Shelbyville, with a force of about 1,000 infantry, 300 cavalry, and a large wagon train, the latter loaded in part with baggage. It is supposed this movement indicates the evacuation of Huntsville.
Reports from Huntsville, brought by citizens and also obtained from prisoners, agree that the Federals say they have been whipped at Corinth. If there is any truth in this report it explains General Mitchel's late movement.
In compliance with General Beauregard's orders, which I received at Chattanooga, I moved my force over the mountain yesterday, intending to cross the Tennessee River to-day below Chattanooga, in the vicinity of Jasper. Colonel Wharton preceded me and has already crossed.
After crossing the mountain I met a courier about 12 miles from Jasper, with a letter from General Leadbetter, inclosing a copy of General Beauregard's permission to remain in Middle Tennessee. I have therefore halted, and shall immediately recross the mountain.
General Leadbetter also informs me that I am to be re-enforced by Colonels Starnes' and Davis' cavalry and Kain's artillery.
Herewith I have the honor to inclose General Mitchel's report of the occupation of Lamb's Ferry, taken from a Nashville paper.*
I have sent an express to my force left with the wagon train, ordering it to come up here, cross the river, and join me.
Since crossing the river I have killed about 25 and captured 60 of the enemy.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, C. S. Army, Commanding.
Brig. General THOMAS JORDAN,
Chief of Staff.
*Mitchel's first report to Stanton. See p.891.