On the evening of December 30, Forrest's scouts ascertained that Dunham's Brigade was just north of Clarksburg. Forrest, knowing that General Sullivan was at Huntingdon, "determined to throw his force between Dunham and Sullivan and whip the former before the latter could intervene." That same night, Dunham's scouts reported that Forrest was camped at Union Church, just six miles west. A confident Dunham was determined to catch Forrest the following day at Parker's Crossroads.
The two forces met early on December 31 at Hicks' field on the McLemoresville Road, 1? mile northwest of Parker's Crossroads. After a short exchange, during which they were subjected to a heavy battering of shot and shell, the outgunned Federals began an orderly withdrawal.
Expecting Forrest to move south, Dunham deployed his troops along and behind a ridge on the east side of the Lexington-Huntingdon Road. Forrest, however, sent most of his forces east, along the Pleasant Exchange Road (Wildersville Road).
In response to this unexpected movement, which Dunham incorrectly thought was an attempt by Forrest to escape, Dunham moved north.
Dunham formed in line of battle parallel to the Pleasant Exchange Road and just north of a wooded area enclosed by a split-rail fence. The left side of the line was anchored on the Lexington-Huntingdon Road, the right on an open field.
"All had moved into position with alacrity and with the steadiness of veterans ?The artillery had been ordered forward ? but it had not yet arrived. By this time the enemy had got into position and the fire from his batteries had become intense along our whole line." Colonel Cyrus L. Dunham
Dunham's mistake put his men in a grim position. The Union artillery, which was late getting into position, was low on ammunition and, as Dunham would later report, "? was strikingly inefficient." Meanwhile, Forrest's artillery pounded the Union line. His cavalry was in their front and dismounted soldiers were working around the Union right flank.