The cavalry arrived at Bolivar on the afternoon of the 3rd instant, so as to push forward toward Purdy and to co-operate with the force from the Tennessee River, which I judged, from the information received, had arrived from Cairo and was moving in that direction also. In the mean time I had sent 200 of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, commanded by Captains Woods and-, of the same regiment, to the Brownsville and Estenaula crossings, with instructions to press laborers and tools, and to lay out timber for bridges, thus to occupy the attention of the enemy and prevent his crossing there until a new bridge could be built at Bolivar, so as to move on to Purdy.
The infantry and the supply train arrived at Bolivar on the 4th instant, at noon, where the remainder of the day was consumed in issuing rations and affording the infantry a short and necessary rest.
The bridge was nearly completed when I felt convinced from information brought in by scouts that the rear of Forrest's command had reached Purdy on Monday night, the 2nd instant, and that his entire force was pushing on to Tupelo, Miss; also that there was no co-operating force moving up from the Tennessee River.
The enemy, having all cavalry, was enabled to move much more rapidly, and could distance he might desire. Though he had already a two days' march the advantage, and a rapid and unfordable stream as a safe barrier against any flank movement, I ordered Colonel Waring to pursue with his cavalry division at daylight on the morning of the 5th and to move as far in the direction of Ripley as possible, thinking that the enemy would make a stand there to enable him to move off the immense train of supplies he was reported as sending down by way of Corinth.
On the 6th instant I directed Colonel Waring to send reconnoitering parties to Ripley, to Hatchietown, and to Salem, and with his command at Mud Creek (8 miles north of Ripley) I directed him to await the arrival of the infantry, which camp up in the afternoon of the same day.
Information brought in by the reconnoitering forces as well as that derived from prisoners captured at Ripley, from citizens of that place, and a deserter, proved beyond a doubt that Forrest's forces had again united at Tupelo, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, and were moving toward Okolona. The immense trains he was reported as having brought with him was an entire exaggeration, and consisted only of pressed wagons for the transportation of sufficient forage to give two brigades a two days' supply at Corinth and five days' rations to this men, and were release and returned to their owners.
Knowing that a further pursuit in a county entirely destitute of forage would compel me to abandon much of my artillery in another day, from the fact that many horses had already given out and been abandoned along the road, and it being represented to me that the condition of the horses of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry in particular was such that it would necessitate the abandoning of one-half of them unless they could have ample rest and forage, I therefore held a consultation with commanding officers of divisions and brigades, who unanimously agreed with me to move back to the railroad terminus, and were of the opinion that to continue the pursuit to Tupelo or Okolona would be certain disaster to ourselves unless amply provided with rations and forage necessary for such a campaign.
On the morning of the 7th the infantry, followed by the cavalry, therefore marched to 4 miles beyond Salem, and the whole command