At 7,30 a. m., when my whole line had approached within some 5 miles of Edwards Station, General Smith's DIVISION, on my left, encountered the enemy's skirmishers, who retired. A half mile farther on they encountered the fire of the enemy's artillery, which was briskly replied to until it ceased.
At the moment these demonstrations commenced, there was strong reason to believe [corroborated by subsequent information] that the enemy was moving in large force on the Raymond road, with the hope of turning my left flank and gaining my rear; but the sudden appearance of my forces in that direction foiled the design and threw his right back in some confusion toward his center and left.
Hearing the report of artillery on the left, General Osterhaus pushed forward through a broad field to a thick wood, which covered a seeming chaos of abrupt hills and yawning ravines. From the skirt of this wood he drove a line of skirmishers, and, continuing his advance until he discovered the enemy in strong force, commenced feeling him.
Early notifying Major-Generals Grant and McPherson of what had transpired on the left, I requested the latter to co-operate with my forces on the right, and directed General Hovey to advance promptly but carefully.
At 9,45 a. m. I received a dispatch from General Hovey, informing me that he had found the enemy strongly posted in front; that General McPherson's corps was behind him; that his right flank would probably encounter severe resistance, and inquiring whether he should bring on the impending battle.
My whole command was now about 4 miles from Edwards Station, and immediately informing Major-General Grant, whom I understood to be on the field, of the position of affairs, I inquired whether General McPherson could not move forward to the support of General Hovey, and whether I should bring on a general engagement. A dispatch from the general, dated 12,35 p. m., came, directing me to throw forward skirmishers as soon as my forces were in hand; to feel and attack the enemy in force, if opportunity occurred, and informing me that he was with Hovey and McPherson, and would see that they fully cooperated.
Meanwhile a line of skirmishers had connected Generals Osterhaus' and Smith's DIVISIONS, closing up the narrow space between them. General Blair had moved a brigade farther to the right, to support the skirmishers and the proximate flanks of Osterhaus and Smith. General Ransom's brigade, of the SEVENTEENTH Army Corps, had been ordered to hasten up from the neighborhood of Raymond, and skirmishing along my left and center, particularly the latter, was quite brisk.
These measures in part had been taken in compliance with Major General Grant's orders, based on information, of which he had advised me, that the enemy was in greatest strength in front of my center and left, and might turn my left flank and gain my rear. This, doubtless, as already explained, had been the tendency of the enemy early in the morning, but had been counteracted by General Smith's operations. Later information was brought by an aide-de-camp of General Smith, and communicated by me to Major-General Grant, of the absence at that time of the danger he apprehended.
Instantly upon the receipt of Major-General Grant's order to attack, I hastened to do so, ordering Generals Smith and Osterhaus to "attack the enemy vigorously and press for victory," General Blair to support the former and General Carr the latter, holding Lawler's brigade in reserve.