So far as can be judged from the movements of the enemy, their object is to create a diversion of our troops toward Decatur, and to protect the line of the railroad from Nashville via Columbia, Athens, Huntsville, and to Stevenson, so as to enable them to repair the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, and thereby secure two line of railroad instead of one to Chattanooga, and further to prevent our forces from making raids from this valley into Middle Tennessee. They may, however, intend a move south (as some suppose), still I cannot believe this to be their intention. If they should move south they will doubtless go in the direction of Gadsden via Somerville and Blountsville.
General Clanton is at Danville, 14 miles east of Moulton; Colonel Nixon is at Moulton, Colonel Johnson at Courtland, and Major Bradford between Moulton and Decatur.
The Twenty-seventh and Thirty-fifth Alabama Infantry Regiments are near this place. The enemy believe our forces in the valley to be nearly equal to theirs. They stay closely in Decatur; there are no fears felt of a raid in this direction.
Colonels Jackson and Ives, with 100 men each, crossed the Tennessee River on the night of the 12th, a few miles below Florence, and surrounded a camp of 48 Yankee cavalry, killed 4 and captured 42, a whole company, and all their officers, only 2 escaping. They also captured and brought to this side of the river about 65 good horses, saddles, and all the arms of the company. Colonel Jackson lost 1 man killed, neon wounded.
The company belonged to the Ninth Ohio Cavalry, and was on detail duty gathering up beef-cattle. They had collected about 250 head, all of which were turned out and scattered. The expedition was somewhat hazardous, but was very successful.
There is no other post or provost-marshal office in this district. I do not think it expedient to establish any other for the present. If the enemy leaves Decatur there should be another office in the east and one in the west end of the district. Time will soon develop what is best to do in this respect.
I expect to enroll the names of every man in the district between the ages of sixteen and fifty, with a view of organizing all who are allowed do volunteer into companies for local defense. The names of those who will not volunteer I will turn over to proper conscript officer. By this means I expect to ascertain the names and localities of all deserters and tories, and will better enable me to catch them.
Very respectfully, major, your obedient servant,
JOHN W. ESTES,
Lieutenant Colonel and Chief Provost-Marshal, First District, Ala.
N. B.-I have just receive information that I believe to be reliable that the Yankees have sent several trains loaded with troops from near Decatur and Athens in the direction of Nashville within the last few days.
Demopolis, Ala., April 19, 1864.
Respectfully forwarded to Lieutenant Colonel T. M. Jack, assistant adjutant-general, for his information.
J. C. DENIS,