crossing Mayfield Creek at Elliott's Mill, took position there, while the cavalry advanced until they came within a mile and a half of the enemy's defenses, driving his pickets into camp and bringing away several prisoners and their horses. It was discovered that an abatis of fallen timber a half mile in width surrounded the enemy's entrenchments. The rigor of the weather and the non-appearance of any considerable rebel force led to the belief that they were closely collected around camp fires within their entrenchments, and indisposed to take the field. It is believed that with suitable preparation on our part a favorable time was thus afforded for successful attack and the capture of Columbus. From this near approach the cavalry returned by Puntney's Bend and Elliott's Mill to Fort Jefferson, communicating with and being joined by the infantry who formed their support. On the 13th, Lieutenant H. C. Freeman, engineer, with an escort of cavalry, explored the different roads leading from Fort Jefferson to Blandville, and selected a strong position for an encampment a half mile south of Blandville, on the road to Columbus. On the 14th the whole force, proceed, flanked, and followed by strong guards, moved in two columns by different roads towards Blandville, and encamped in such a manner as to command the approaches from Columbus by both bridges across Mayfield Creek in that vicinity. One of these is known as O'Neal's Bridge and the other as Blandville Bridge.
The distance of this day's march was 8 1/2 miles, over difficult roads, covered with sleet. To prevent surprise, strong mounted pickets were thrown forward toward Columbus and to the bridge across Mayfield Creek at Hayworth's Mill, 3 miles above Blandville. On the 15th we advanced to Weston's the Fourth Illinois Cavalry and Dollins' company, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel McCullough, making an early movement southwest in the direction of Columbus, and repeating a near approach to that place, while Captain Stewart, with his company, pushed a reconnaissance 8 miles, quite to Milburg, taking the town by surprise and picking up a man just from Columbus, from whom he derived much valuable information respecting the condition of the rebel force at that place. He learned from this source that our demonstrations towards Columbus had excited much alarm, and induced the enemy to call in his forces at Jackson, Beauregard, New Madrid, and other places; two Mississippi regiments, according to report, having burned up their tents before their flight. (Milburn is reproached as a Union town by the rebels.) Joined at Weston's by the Seventh Illinois, Colonel Cook, our whole force encamped for the night in line of battle 10 miles from Columbus, taking a strong position, commanding the approaches from that place by two roads which here intersect the roads leading from Puntney's Bend and Elliott's Mill to Milburn; General Paine's column, following and encamping at the same place, during the next day, covered our rear, and kept open communication with the base of operations at Fort Jefferson.
Brigadier-General Grant, commanding the various forces in the field, came up with us at this point, and expressed his approval of the manner in which the disposition of the forces had been made. To prevent surprise, strong guards were again thrown forward. At 7 o'clock a.m. on the 16th the entire column, except the Seventh Illinois Volunteers, moved forward over icy roads towards Milburn, a small town southeast from Weston's and 8 miles distant, reaching Milburn about 12 m. The head of the column passed through the town on the road to Mayfield about 2 miles and halted, a portion of the column resting in the town.
Looking to the object of the expedition, so far as it had previously