Price, his mind made up to join Van Dorn, pulled away from Iuka with speed and efficiency. He gained a head start of at least three hours on the Federals, and with the narrow roads providing the only route through this rough country, that was all he needed to escape Grant's two columns. Federal cavalry caught up with his rear guard on the afternoon of September 20 but were repulsed by waiting Confederates who lay in ambush. No further tailing of the column was attempted. Price reached Baldwin on September 23 and was firmly astride the railroad leading to Holly Springs.
Van Dorn received word from Price two days later that his army was safe and ready to join his own. The two had earlier discussed the possibility of a rendezvous at Ripley, twenty-five miles west of the railroad and twenty miles south of the state line. The two armies finally came together there on September 28.
Without hesitating, Van Dorn proposed an offensive for the newly enlarged force he now commanded. He informed his subordinates that he wanted to move boldly into Union-held Tennessee to the west of Corinth. This would allow him a shorter line of advance that took his army between the detachments of Federal troops at Corinth and Bolivar. Van Dorn also was motivated by a realization that his goal was not only to aid Bragg's invasion of Kentucky by causing as much havoc as possible in western Tennessee but also to liberate as much Southern territory as he could. He even hoped to regain control of the Mississippi River. A less ambitious but more practical plan was to advance west of Corinth to deceive the Federals and then to turn quickly eastward and attack the railroad town. Recapturing Corinth would allow the Rebels to reclaim the railroad junction and possibly its attendant lines north and south. Mansfield Lovell liked the idea of at-