At Clinton I received instructions from the major-general commanding to bear to the south, and, if possible, get into a plantation road which entered Jackson between the Clinton and Jackson and Raymond and Jackson roads, while Major-General Hurlbut's command would follow the main Clinton and Jackson road. After bearing off across the fields about 2 1/2 miles, the road was reached with the advance of the infantry, and came up with the rear of our cavalry.
Colonel Winslow was now directed to crowd the enemy vigorously, outflank his cavalry, if possible, and get into Jackson before him, and informed that the main column of infantry would follow him rapidly and give him all the support he needed. He moved forward as directed, came upon the flank of Lee's cavalry, which was slowly falling back on the main road before Hurlbut's advance. A dashing charge was made here by the Eleventh Illinois Cavalry, routing the enemy and capturing 1 piece of artillery, caisson and limber complete, with horses and artillerymen.
The enemy retreated toward Jackson, so closely followed by Winslow's cavalry that they had no time to form behind the intrenchments. A disposition to make a stand in the center of the town was shown by them, but a few cannon shot from the battery which accompanied our cavalry started them on the retreat, a small portion crossing Pearl River on a pontoon bridge near the town to French's division, which was on the east side a few miles distant, and the majority taking the Canton road, on which it was reported Loring was advancing with a view of effecting a junction with French. Winslow's cavalry dashed rapidly into the town and down to the river in time to save the materials of the pontoon bridge, though not in time to prevent its being cut loose and partially floated down the stream.
It was now dark; the advance division of infantry (Leggett's) was 2 1/2 miles from the town and had already marched 18 miles since morning, 10 miles of this distance skirmishing continually with the enemy, the leading brigade deployed in line of battle. Not deeming it prudent to leave the cavalry in town unsupported, I sent back word to know if one of the brigades would volunteer to go into Jackson with me that night; that the distance was 2 1/2 miles. The First Brigade (Force's) replied that they would go if it was 10 miles. It was accordingly marched in and placed in position behind the enemy's intrenchments on the Canton road, at 10.30 p. m.
At an early hour the next morning the pioneer corps of Leggett's and Crocker's divisions, under the direction of Captain Hickenlooper, chief engineer, commenced collecting the materials and reconstructing the bridge, which was finished by 3.30 p. m., when Brigadier-General Chambers' brigade commenced crossing, followed by Crocker's and Leggett's divisions.
February 7, moved forward at sunrise and entered Brandon without serious opposition, bivouacking 1 miles east of the town. At this point Winslow's cavalry, which had been left behind at Jackson, came up and took the advance and retained it until we reached Meridian.
February 8, at 6 a. m., resumed the march, our cavalry skirmishing more or less with the enemy, and bivouacked with the main force on Line Creek, 4 1/2 miles from Morton, cavalry about 2 miles in advance. Shortly before dark it was reported that Loring and French had formed a junction at Morton, and were disposed to give battle.