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[342] sent to him from Bowen, and for a time the tide of battle turned in our favor. The enemy still continued to move troops from his left to his right, thus increasing on that flank his vastly superior forces. General Pemberton, feeling assured that there was no important force in front of Loring, again ordered him to move to the left as rapidly as possible. To this order, the answer was given that the enemy was in strong force and endeavoring to turn his flank. As there was no firing on the right, the order was repeated. Much time was lost in exchanging these messages. At 4 P. M. a part of Stevenson's division broke badly and fell back. Some assistance finally came from Loring, but it was too late to save the day, and the retreat was ordered. Had the left been promptly supported when it was first so ordered, it is not improbable that the position might have been maintained and the enemy possibly driven back, although his increasing numbers would have rendered it necessary to withdraw during the night to save our communications with Vicksburg unless promptly reenforced. The dispatch of the 15th from General Johnston, in obedience to which Pemberton reversed his order of march, gave him the first intelligence that Johnston had left Jackson; while making the retrograde movement, however, a previous dispatch from Johnston, dated ‘May 14, 1863, camp seven miles from Jackson,’ informed Pemberton that the body of Federal troops mentioned in his dispatch of the 13th had compelled the evacuation of Jackson, and that he was moving by the Canton road; he refers to the troops east of Jackson as perhaps able to prevent the enemy there from drawing provisions from that direction, and that his command might effect the same thing in regard to the country toward Panola, and then asks these significant questions:
Can he supply himself from the Mississippi? Can you not cut him off from it? Above all, should he be compelled to fall back for want of supplies, beat him? As soon as the reenforcements are all up, they must be united to the rest of the army. ... If prisoners tell the truth, the force at Jackson must be half of Grant's army. It would decide the campaign to beat it, which can only be done by concentrating, especially when the remainder of the eastern troops arrive. They are to be twelve or thirteen thousand.

From Pemberton's communication it is seen that he did not feel his army strong enough to attack the corps in position at Clinton, and that he hoped by the course adopted to compel the enemy to attack our force in position. Whether the movement toward Dillon's was well or illadvised, it was certainly a misfortune to reverse the order of march in the presence of the enemy, as it involved the disadvantage of being attacked in rear. As has been described, the dispositions for battle were

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