HEADQUARTERS ELEVENTH AND TWELFTH CORPS, Stevenson, Ala., October 6, 1863.
GENERAL: You will proceed without delay to Decherd and assume command of the Twelfth Corps of all the troops in that district, and, after leaving a sufficient number of protect the bridges and stations along the line of railroad, proceed at once with the residue to disperse and destroy any rebel force you may find along the road between Duck River and Murfreesborough.
You will move in the most expeditious manner, making use of the trains and all other means in your power. If, on reaching Tullahoma, you should find the enemy to be in the vicinity of Duck River, I suggest that you send two regiments to Manchester and two to Shelbyville, with instructions for them to take a strong position and hold it until they shall be required by you for other service. Your main column should advance on the line of the railroad until you fall in with our troops from the opposite direction. Direct your cavalry to keep you advised of the rebel movements, and send here for supplies. Let me hear from you as often as practicable. Please inform me of the general and field officers of the Twelfth Corps you may find absent from it. One division of the Twelfth Corps is already under orders to march to Tullahoma.
Keep the track clear the cars may run without interruption between you and here, and see that the telegraph operators and their assistants are kept at their duties day and night. With the proper use of the cars it is believed that you will be able to throw forward your force faster than the enemy can march along the road. At all events, let no one rest until our communications are opened.
I arrived at Cowan at 12 m., Decherd at 1 p. m., having previously telegraphed commanding officers at those points to have all their available force ready to march with three days' rations and 60 rounds of ammunition, after leaving a sufficient number to protect the bridges and stations.
Captain Edgarton's battery was en route from Stevenson by train to join me, in accordance with your orders. The forces at the points named were ready to move as ordered, waiting transportation at the depots. Every available train was made use of, and, at 5 p. m. I had 1,500 infantry at Duck River Bridge in time to learn that the enemy, variously estimated at from 2,000 to 8,000, with artillery, had entered Wartrace, sacked it, and burned the bridge over Garrison's Fork of Duck River, at about 3 p. m., without opposition.
From the conflicting rumors, my ignorance of the country, and of the character and reliability of the officers in command at Duck River and vicinity, I was unable to determine satisfactorily the whereabouts and numbers of the enemy. Although so large a force was reported, Colonel Coburn, with a train containing the Seventh and Sixty-sixth Ohio Regiments, immediately in the vicinity of Garrison's Fork Bridge, had, without firing a shot, ordered the abandonment of the stockade and backed the train to Duck River without actually being attacked by more than 15 or 20 of the enemy, who burned the stockade and destroyed the bridge. This conduct seems to me inexplicable. I have not his report, which I directed him to make to show any reason for this misconduct. Had he disembarked his infantry and made a reasonable fight, his action would have delayed the enemy until the arrival of re-enforcements, saved the bridge, and resulted in a severe punishment to the enemy for his audacity. I regret to be compelled to recommend that this officer be dismissed the service.
Colonel Baird, with a force at Wartrace, abandoned that position without firing a gun. His assigned reason for this will be found in the inclosed document, marked A.*
*See p. 717.