At 1.30 a. m. on the 30th, after all my preparations were made for the march to Purdy, I received Major-General Sherman's second dispatch, dated March 27, 8 p. m., directing me to hasten to Purdy and the Hatchie to cut off Forrest's retreat. This indicated a longer march than the first dispatch, and required more rations and forage than I had prepared. To get on shore additional supplies and transportation would delay me some hours, as my wagons were in pieces. I determined to push on at once, and send back for supplies if needed.
During the night of the 29th, I sent two scouts to Purdy to push out west and north from that point and get all information of the movements of the enemy. My command made a rapid march, and reached Purdy at 12 o'clock on the 30th. There was no rebel force near there except Colonel Wisdom's cavalry, about 120 strong, conscripting in that vicinity.
I immediately sent out scouts to the Hatchie at Pocahontas, and toward Bolivar and Jackson.
A detachment of mounted infantry, about 30 strong, under command of Major Haney, from Clifton, reached me after my arrival at Purdy, and were sent out on the roads leading west and north to pick up information.
The reports of my scouts, of the mounted infantry, and of citizens all concurred that Forrest was between Paducah and Jackson, and that he was not moving in the direction of Purdy. I did not move to the Hatchie because Purdy was clearly the key-point to that part of the country, from which I could move to the Hatchie if necessary.
By the same messenger who brought Major-General Sherman's second dispatch, above referred to, I received Major-General Hurlbut's letter of the 26th, Brigadier-General Brayman's dispatch of the 27th, and Brigadier-General Dodge's dispatch of the 27th.
The opinion of Major-General Hurlbut that Forrest intended to cross the Tennessee River, the dispatch of General Brayman that Forrest was only 12 miles from Columbus, Ky., and the information obtained at Purdy that officers of Forrest's command, left behind at Purdy, had gone north to join him, satisfied me that he was moving to some point to cross the river below Clifton. Acting upon this information I returned on the night of the 31st to my transports at Williams' Landing, reaching there at 11 p. m.
At my camp on Sugar Creek, at 10.30 p. m. on the 6th of April, I received Major-General McPherson's dispatch requiring me to make an immediate report giving the reasons for my withdrawal from Purdy.
The statement of facts above made, I trust, will be deemed amply sufficient, but in addition thereto I respectfully submit the following reasons: The dispatches of Major-General Sherman gave me no special instructions how long to remain, nor what course to take if I found the movements of the enemy different from these indicated in his dispatches. When I left Cairo no such movement of my command was contemplated, and I had only drawn supplies to last my command upon the march, as directed by General Sherman's letter of instructions.
At Purdy I found the country had been stripped of everything, and that no supplies could be obtained for either men or animals. If I remained long in that vicinity I should be compelled to send transports back to Cairo for supplies, thus greatly delaying my movements to Athens; but I left Purdy one day sooner than I had