I failed to cross the river at Hess' Ford, because I found it so strongly guarded by the enemy that I deemed it impossible, and did not try. I ascertained that my move to that place was the current talk among the citizens at least twenty-four hours previous to my arrival in the vicinity, and had every reason to believe that the enemy were advised of it. Therefore, under your order received at that place allowing me to select the crossing, after procuring rations for the brigade, moved to Bellefonte, but found the river impassable on account of its swollen condition, and was forced lower down to get boats.
I crossed on the 7th and 8th at or near Larkin's Landing and Guntersville, and with part of my brigade passed up through the mountains to the tunnel, and, after driving the enemy off, and filling the tunnel through the shafts with every available stick and stone, destroyed his camp equipage, including 25 tents, and passed down to Salem with the balance of my brigade, which crossed at Guntersville. Passed up through Vienna, Maysville, and New Market, and connected the two columns at Salem on the right of the 10th, with the view of attacking the garrison at Elk River Bridge, and trying to destroy it. At Salem I received inclosed communications* from General Lee both at once. At the same point I met several wounded men and stragglers from General Wheeler's corps, and one gentleman who had recently parted with Colonel Russell. All agreed in the statement that Wheeler had been severely repulsed at Farmington; that he had a valuable wagon train, and was trying to save it by sending it across the river below Decatur; that he was hard pressed, and a fight would likely occur near that place. My scouts sent forward returned from Winchester with the information that Decherd and Allisonia had each been re-enforced strongly that evening-at least one brigade at each place. In view of all these circumstances and reasons, I determined to countermarch, and, if possible, connect with General Wheeler, or take part of the fight of his hands.
I started back at daylight, 11th [12th?], and about 4 p. m. met the enemy 4 miles toward Huntsville from New Market, and engaged the advance of his column, and with my entire brigade at hand, drove him back on his own column until dark. I had by this time ascertained reliably from a prisoner and my own scouts that General Mitchell was in front of me with a full division at hand.
I withdrew at 10 p. m. to New Market; thence to Madison Cross-Roads; thence to Athens, Ala., near which place I learned that General Wheeler had crossed the river, &c., as his inclosed communication* shows. Learning that the enemy had all passed on beyond Huntsville, I marched to Mooresville, Ala., and encamped in the midst of an abundance of forage, and sent you dispatches.
I remained at Mooresville three days. Sent out three parties or detachments to operate on the railroad between Winchester and Tullahoma. Learning that they would be compelled to return on the west side of Elk River, I moved to this point and sent another detachment of 60 men with 6 commissioned officers, via Elkton and Fayetteville. These detachments are sent under command of energetic, ingenious officers, and made up of the best material in my command, and I shall move with my full force on any weak point I can hear of until further orders. I have constantly reported to both