cross the Tombigbee. I ordered Bell's brigade to Columbus and also dispatched General Ruggles to use all his effective force to prevent them from doing so. At the same time ordered Brigadier-General Chalmers, commanding division, to send Forrest's brigade to Aberdeen, or in that direction, to meet and ascertain the movements of the enemy; and also with McCulloch's brigade of his division, and Richardson's brigade, under Colonel Neely, to move out to West Point, leaving General Richardson at Starkville in command of all the dismounted men of the command of protect my wagon train, and send out scouts in the direction of Houston in order to give timely notice should the enemy divide his forces and move in that direction.
On the morning of the 20th, Colonel Forrest met the enemy in force and fell back toward West Point, skirmishing with them, but avoiding an engagement. In repelling their attacks he lost 2 men killed and several wounded and captured. I moved over to his assistance with General Chalmers and his remaining brigade, taking with me also Richardson's brigade and two batteries of artillery, joining Colonel Forrest within 3 miles of West Point. Finding the enemy in heavy force, and having been informed that General Lee was moving to my assistance, and desiring to delay a general engagement as long as possible, I determined at once to withdraw my forces south of Sakatonchee Creek, which I did, camping a portion of them near Ellis' Bridge and the remainder at Siloam. After crossing the river a courier reported the enemy as having crossed the river 8 miles above Ellis' Bridge, destroying mills and taking horses and negroes. With five companies of Faulkner's regiment and my escort I moved rapidly to the point, clearly designated by the smoke of the burning mill, gained the bridge, and succeeded in capturing the squal, which proved to be a lieutenant and 22 privates of the Fourth Regulars, U. S. Cavalry. Fearing the enemy might attempt to cross at the upper bridge during the night, I ordered its destruction and concentrated my force at Ellis' Bridge, 3 miles from West Point. This bridge I determined, if possible, to defend and preserve, because it was necessary in the event we could drive back the enemy to use it in advancing on them; and had I allowed the enemy to cross it and them succeeded in driving them back they would have burned it behind them, rendering pursuit impossible without heading the stream.
During the night all was quiet. On Sunday morning, the 21st the vedettes and pickets were driven in, and the enemy reported advancing from West Point, in full force. I had ordered General Chalmers to dismount his division, throwing Forrest's brigade across the creek in front of the bridge, while McCulloch's bridge took possession of the south bank of the stream to support Colonel Forrest and protect him in the event he was compelled to retire and recross the stream. Dispatches were sent to General Richardson to move up all his force to the bridge across Line Creek, 8 miles of Starkville and 4 miles in my rear; also to Colonel Barteau to move across the Tombigbee, to keep on the flank, and, if possible, to gain the enemy's rear. I ordered Colonel Neely to move his (Richardson's) brigade at once, and to guard all the ferries and fords across Tibbee River from the mouth of Line Creek to Tibbee Station, sending Major-General Gholson with the State forces under his command to Palo Alto to watch any movement of the enemy from the direction of Houston. In making these necessary dispositions my effective force in front of the enemy was reduced to Chalmers' division, my escort, and two batteries. The enemy attacked Colonel Forrest at 8 o'clock, and after a fight of two