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[297] operations otherwise consisted in little more than skirmishes of scouting parties.

On January 28, 1864, however, a considerable Federal force, under General Palmer, advanced from Ringgold in reconnoissance and drove in the cavalry outposts before Tunnel Hill, but retired as soon as it was discovered that that position was still held by Cleburne. On the 17th of February, on account of Sherman's Meridian expedition, the divisions of Cheatham, Cleburne and Walker, under General Hardee, were forwarded to Mississippi to assist Gen. Leonidas Polk, but they were soon recalled, Sherman having retreated from Meridian to Vicksburg.

Commencing a campaign in earnest, Grant directed Thomas to utilize his well-prepared army of the Cumberland by gaining possession of Dalton and as far south of that as possible. In compliance with this order, Johnson's and Baird's divisions, of Palmer's corps, occupied Ringgold on the 22d of February, and Cruft's division went to Red Clay on the railroad to Cleveland, Tenn. Davis' division reinforced Palmer at Ringgold. Long's brigade of cavalry advanced toward Dalton. The whole Federal strength in this movement was twelve brigades of infantry, one of cavalry, and several batteries. To meet them Johnston posted Stewart's and Breckinridge's divisions before Mill Creek gap, northeast of Dalton, and Stevenson north of Dalton. On February 24th, Palmer advanced in three columns, the center directed against Wheeler's cavalry. As Thomas reported, the center ‘met with a fire at long range from a battery of Parrott guns, the enemy's practice being excellent and succeeding in checking the column.’ But the flanking columns advanced and compelled Wheeler to retire, and the Federals encamped that night in the valley immediately before the pass called Buzzard Roost, through which the railroad passes. On the next day two Federal divisions held the position at Buzzard Roost, and two others, with the cavalry, were sent around by the north to make an attack in the rear

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