in direction of Huntsville, and again confirmed my reports of the 21st; reported also that a number of bands of the enemy were passing WEST of Sulphur Branch trestle, and that my colored troops had skirmished with them. On the 23rd Colonel Wallace Campbell, One hundred and tenth U. S. Colored Infantry, commanding at Athens, dispatched me that enemy were tearing up track (railroad) two miles south of him, and that he should move down and drive them away; dispatched same information to Major-General Rousseau and General Granger, and stated that I would be ready to move at once; and almost immediately informed generals commanding that line was cut south.
Early on the morning of the 24th I dispatched General Rousseau that road had been struck near Athens; that at 5 p. m. on the 23rd heavy artillery firing had been heard, with musketry intermingled, and at 7. 30 p. m. a bright light as of burning buildings at Athens had been seen; that I had already moved all my mounted force to Sulphur Branch trestle and Elk River bridge, and that I would try and communicate with Athens by courier, and requested him to send the information to General Granger by way [of] Stevenson. Immediately sent another telegram that the enemy, 3,000 strong, passed through Rogersville at 10 a. m. on 23rd instant making for the railroad; that the THIRD [Second] Tennessee Cavalry, Colonel Prosser commanding, had skirmished with the enemy at 2 p. m. the day previous; that I had informed General Granger of the crossing of Roddey on Sunday previous with four regiments, and to inform General Granger of this news also; that my mounted force had moved to the bridges at 3 a. m. that morning, under command of Colonel Thomas N. Pace, Tenth Indiana Cavalry. In the mean time I had received dispatches from Colonel Lathrop, at Sulphur Branch trestle, informing me of the arrival at that post of Lieutenant- Colonel Minnis with THIRD Tennessee Cavalry, on his way to Athens; that the firing in direction of Athens had continued that morning (24th), and that he, Colonel Lathrop, would send forward for information. At this time I received the following dispatch, dated 24th, at Nashville, and signed by command of Major-General Rousseau:
General Granger telegraphs, via Stevenson, that the force on the road below Pulaski is about 200 strong, and that Colonel Prosser is after them; have a few scouts toward the Tennessee River.
Same being immediately followed by the following telegram, dated at Nashville, 24th, by command of Major-General Rousseau:
General Granger telegraphs this morning that the enemy 200 strong struck the road near Athens last evening and burned a house there; he also says a small party was near Decatur; he seems to be waiting for you to attend to the party at Athens. You will attack the enemy vigorously on the road wherever he may be, and please keep us posted.
To which I replied, acknowledging receipt of the two dispatches, and stated that they seemed inconsistent with each other, but that I would fight the enemy if found; that the information which I had already sent was entitled to weight, being from an officer of Colonel Prosser's regiment, who had already met and skirmished with the enemy at 2 p. m. the day previous; that I had ordered Colonel Pace forward to find and attack the enemy, but not to uncover the bridges. I also informed my officers commanding below of the dispatches received as to the 200 men. At about noon same day I dispatched to General Rousseau the information received from Colonel Spalding, dated on the 23d, that Forrest with 8,000 men and eight pieces of artillery passed toward Athens the day previous; that he camped at Rogersville night of 22d. I immediately countermanded my order to Colonel Pace, as to finding and fighting