On the 23rd of September, I was summoned to Vicksburg by the general commanding, who showed me several dispatches from the General-in-Chief, which led him to suppose he would have to send me and my whole corps to Memphis and eastward, and I was instructed to prepare for such orders.
It was explained to me that in consequence of the low stage of water in the Mississippi, boats had arrived irregularly and had brought dispatches that seemed to conflict in meaning, and that John E. Smith's division, of McPherson's corps, had been ordered up to Memphis, and that I should take that division and leave one of my own in its stead to hold the line of the Big Black. I detailed my Third Division, General Tuttle, to remain and report to Major-General McPherson, commanding the Seventeenth Corps, at Vicksburg, and that of General John E. Smith, already started for Memphis, was styled the Third Division, though it still belongs to the Seventeenth Army Corps.
This division is also composed of three brigades, commanded by General Matthies, Colonel G. B. Raum, of the Fifty-sixth Illinois, and Colonel J. I. Alexander, of the Fifty-ninth Indiana.
The Second and Fourth Divisions were started for Vicksburg the moment I was notified that boats were in readiness, and on the 27th of September I embarked in person in the steamer Atlantic for Memphis, followed by a fleet of boats conveying these two divisions. Our progress was slow on account of the unprecedentedly low water in the Mississippi and the scarcity of coal and wood. We were compelled at places to gather fence rails and to land wagons and haul wood from the interior to the boats, but I reached Memphis during the night of the 2nd of October, and the other boats came in on the 3rd and 4th.
On arrival at Memphis, I saw General Hurlbut and read all the dispatches and letters of instruction of General Halleck, and therein derived my instructions, which I construed to be as follows: To conduct the Fifteenth Army Corps, and all other troops which could be spared from the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, to Athens, Ala., and thence report by letter for orders to General Rosecrans, commanding the Army of the Cumberland, at Chattanooga; to follow substantially the railroad eastward, repairing it as I moved; to look to my own line for supplies, and in no event to depend on General Rosecrans for supplies, as the roads to his rear were already overtaxed to supply his present army.
I learned from General Hurlbut that Osterhaus' division was already out in front of Corinth, and that John E. Smith was still at Memphis, moving his troops and materiel out by rail as fast as its limited stock would carry them. General J. D. Webster was superintendent of the railroad, and was enjoined to work night and day and expedite the movement as rapidly as possible, but the capacity of the road was so small that I soon saw that I could move horses, mules, and wagons faster by land, and therefore I dispatched the artillery and wagons by the road, under escort, and finally moved the entire Fourth Division by land. The enemy seems to have had early notice of this movement, and he endeavored to thwart us from the start. A considerable force assembled in a threatening attitude at Salem, south of Saulsbury Station, and General Carr, who commanded at Corinth, felt compelled to turn back and use a part of my troops that had already reached Corinth to resist the threatened attack.