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[473] Chalmers, with McCulloch's and Neely's brigades was ordered to Monte Vallo. Alabama, to protect the iron works of that region. On the 31st Forrest started with Buford's division for Tuscumbia to assist Roddy in meeting a movement in that quarter, and had reached Russellville, Alabama, when he received information that Sturgis, with eight thousand infantry, five thousand cavalry and six batteries, was moving from Memphis into Mississippi, parallel with the Memphis and Charleston railroad. Forrest began at once to concentrate his scattered command.

Rucker, from Oxford, with three small regiments, was thrown across the Tallahatchie at New Albany, and commenced to retard the enemy's advance. This little brigade, under Rucker, who was second only to Forrest as a fearless fighter — composed of three regiments, under three dashing young Colonels, Duff, Bill Taylor and Alex. Chalmers — was highly complimented by Forrest for gallantry in performing this duty. On the 9th Forrest took position with two brigades of Buford's division, Johnson's brigade of Roddy's division and Rucker's brigade of Chalmers' division, east of the Hatchie, near Rienzi, to dispute the passage of Sturgis over that river, supposing he was moving to reinforce Sherman in Georgia. The scouts now reported Sturgis moving south towards Forrest's camp at Tupelo. Chalmers, with two brigades, was then at Monte Valle, Alabama; Roddy, with one brigade, near Tuscumbia; Gholson, with one brigade, near Jackson, Mississippi. General S. D. Lee, now in command, determined to fall back toward Okalona until he could concentrate his forces, and left that night by rail, after ordering Forrest to get in front of Sturgis and retard his advance. Forrest moved before day to take position at Bryce's crossroads, on a dividing ridge where the waters of the Hatchie rise and run north and of the Tallahatchie rise and run south, and when in four miles of that place he learned that the enemy had already occupied it and were now between him and his headquarters at Tupelo.

He had with him there his three smallest brigades, the effective strength of which at that time he reported as follows: Lyons', eight hundred; Rucker's, seven hundred, and Johnson's, five hundred; while Buford, with Bell's brigade, about fifteen hundred strong, and two batteries of artillery, were some distance in the rear. Ordering them to move instantly up, which they did, coming eight miles in a gallop, he moved forward with the men he had and opened the fight, and at the same time ordered Buford to send one regiment across the country to attack the enemy in rear. The battle raged fiercely for some hours with doubtful success, and eight hundred Federals and six hundred and forty Confederates fell dead and wounded around Bryce's house. One peculiarity of Forrest's fighting was his almost reckless use of artillery, and on this occasion he had eight pieces of artillery that were boldly handled by Captain Morton, a beardless youth, with the face of a woman and the courage of a lion. The Federals made several splendid charges, that were repulsed at

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Jefferson Forrest (9)
Sturgis (4)
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