Van Dorn estimated that Grant's total strength was about 42,000 men. His own force at Ripley was about 22,000, but he believed that with this inferior number he should act at once, for the enemy was growing stronger and Rosecrans was adding daily to the fortified strength of Corinth. Consequently he decided to attack Corinth suddenly, hoping to surprise and defeat Rosecrans before he could call in his outposts.
On the morning of September 29th he marched out of Ripley and made a feint toward Pocahontas, threatening Bolivar. Grant reported on October 1st, "For several days there has been a movement of the rebels south of my front, which left in doubt whether Bolivar or Corinth was to be the point of attack. It is now clear that Corinth is to be the point, and that from the west and southwest. My position is precarious, but hope to get out of it all right."
Grant had reached his conclusion on finding out, so late as the 30th, that Van Dorn had left La Grange, Tenn.; the Confederate cavalry, thrown out as far as Summerville, having effectually screened Van Dorn’s movements. But he had correctly solved the puzzle in time to save Rosecrans, whom he ordered on October 1st to call in his outposts, increasing his force at Corinth to 23,000, and Hurlbut at Bolivar was instructed to watch Van Dorn, this order being followed on the 3d by orders to attack the Confederate rear by way of Pocahontas.
Van Dorn having repaired the bridge over the Hatchie, crossed on the evening of October 2d—leaving Adams' cavalry to guard the rear and protect the train which was parked between the Hatchie and Tuscumbia—and marched to Chewalla, about ten miles from Corinth, driving back a detachment which Rosecrans had sent in that direction. At daybreak on the 3d the march was resumed, following the railroad; and as the old Confederate intrenchments were approached, about three miles from the town, Price formed in line of battle between the Memphis & Charleston and Mobile & Ohio railroads,