Report of Brigadier General James R. Chalmers, C. S. Army, commanding expedition.
HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY IN NORTH MISSISSIPPI, Oxford, Miss., October 20, 1863.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the forces under my command from the 5th to the 15th instant:
On the afternoon of the 3rd instant, I received orders from General Johnston, through Major-General Lee, commanding cavalry in Mississippi, to move with my whole command against the enemy on the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad within four days, the principal object of the move being explained to be to divert the attention of the enemy from a movement which General Lee was about to make in person in a different direction. To effect this object, and at the same time to annoy the enemy as much as possible, I determined to concentrate my force, consisting of my own brigade and that commanded by Colonel R. V. Richardson, which was then stationed at New Albany and at Salem, as if with the intention of attacking La Grange or some point farther east, and then while the attention of the enemy was drawn in that direction to make a rapid movement against Collierville, in the hope of surprising it before information of my movement could be received. With the view of still further, misleading them, I caused it to be reported where I knew it would reach the enemy, that we were concentrating a large force for an attack on Corinth.
Finding it impossible to put Colonel Richardson's brigade (which had been transferred to my command on the 2nd) in readiness to move before the 6th, I ordered my whole command to move on the morning of that day, directing Richardson's brigade, the First Mississippi Partisans, and Second Missouri Cavalry, which were on out-post duty, to join me at Salem. But hearing on the evening of the 4th that the enemy intended to disturb the election which was to be held in Holly Springs on the 5th, I left the new regiment, commanded by Colonel George, which was not fully organized, to picket the river, and moved at daylight on the next morning with the other troops under my immediate command-consisting of the Seventh Tennessee, Third Mississippi (State), Eighteenth Mississippi Battalion, and one rifled gun, the whole amounting to about 850 men-to Holly Springs, and threw out pickets to protect the place.
During the day, as I afterward learned, the enemy came within a few miles of the town with a force of 800 men (Third and Ninth Illinois and Sixth Tennessee Cavalry), and three pieces artillery; but hearing of our presence there they fell back to Lockhart's Mill, on Coldwater, 8 miles from town, where they encamped for the night, and sent couriers to the Sixth and Seventh Illinois Cavalry, which were encamped at Quinn and Jackson's Mill, 12 miles below, on the same stream. As soon as I was informed of their position, I determined to attack the command nearest to me before the other could form a junction with it.
The Eighteenth Mississippi Battalion (Major A. H. Chalmers) was ordered to move at midnight, and, crossing Coldwater some distance above Lockhart's Mill, to get in the rear of the force at that point