Forrest, I decided to push on to Lexington, regardless of rumors, and stop the re-enforcements from the Tennessee River or strike Forrest in the rear, as the case might require. At daylight I marched and pushed through to within 5 miles north of Sodus Creek, on the Lexington road, and encamped.
During the night I received dispatches from Brigadier-General Sullivan, whose camp was near Juno, on Jackson and Lexington road, that the enemy, 8,000 strong, were again menacing Jackson, and that he should return to Jackson.
I immediately dispatched Stewart's cavalry to the Tennessee River opposite Clifton, with orders to go to Clifton, ascertain facts in relation to the enemy, divide at that place, one part moving toward Lexington to join me there and one part moving up the Tennessee River to Pittsburg Landing, destroying all boats and rafts, and thence to Corinth.
This order was executed by Stewart's battalion of cavalry and Captain Ford's company (Fifty-third Illinois Independent Cavalry) with promptness and efficiency and swept away a cloud of false rumors. They traveled 90 miles in twenty-four hours, captured a messenger from General Maney to Forrest, telling him to keep our communication with General Grant broken and to hold Jackson; and they also captured a messenger from Colonel Roddey, commanding at Tuscumbia, informing Forrest that he was waiting for orders. I immediately took the messenger's horse and equipments, mounted one of my own scouts, and answered the dispatch, ordering Colonel Roddey to hold Tuscumbia and watch the movements of a force said to be approaching him from Corinth. This, with other rumors that he got, so frightened Roddey that he broke camp and made south to Bay Springs and then west.
At daylight (20th) I moved forward to Lexington, arriving at noon; ascertained to my own satisfaction that Forrest's force did not exceed 5,000 men (if so many), with one battery, and that he had scattered his forces along the railroad north of Jackson. I captured and paroled 7 of French's cavalry at this place and immediately pushed toward Pinch with my infantry and artillery, sending my cavalry to Huntingdon to feel the enemy in that direction.
During the day I rebuilt the bridge across Beech River destroyed by Colonel Ingersoll, and encamped for the night at Juno or Pinch.
My cavalry reported during the night, and I found that the enemy were then north and east of Trenton; that no force was threatening Jackson; that no force was east of me toward Tennessee, and also heard that a force had taken Holly Springs.
I determined to return to Corinth, and therefore marched to Henderson by way of Crucifer and Miffin, building a floating bridge across the Forked Deer, and taking the cars at Henderson Station, sending my train by land with instructions to take all cattle, hogs, and sheep on the road for subsistence at Corinth. The command reached Corinth December 24, marching 130 miles in four days and one night.
Great credit is due the officers and men of the command for the soldierly manner in which they bore up under so fatiguing a march, and also for the orderly manner in which they conducted themselves on the march, being entirely free from pillaging or unauthorized depredations of any kind.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. M. DODGE,
Brigadier-General, Commanding District of Corinth.
Lieutenant Colonel JOHN A. RAWLINS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Department of the Tennessee.