strong rebel force approaching from the northeast, upon his left and rear, and withdrew his main force bank through the village to a strong position, facing the road upon which the approaching force was advancing. The enemy attacked with determined vigor with a force of cavalry, estimated at eight regiments; but after a fierce fight was worsted and driven back with considerable loss. Another detachment of the enemy at this moment threatened the rear of Colonel Hatch's command. Leaving Lieutenant-Colonel Prince with the Seventh Illinois to hold the ground Colonel Hatch went with the rest of his command to the rear, on the route he had advanced over. At this juncture Colonel Lee's command made its appearance from the northeast. Colonel Prince supposing it to be another detachment of the enemy, thought it prudent to withdraw to the northwest, on the road upon which he had advanced. The former approaching, learned from prisoners that Colonel Hatch and been in Water Valley, had a fight, and afterward fell back. Inferring that Colonel Hatch had been beaten he advanced with great caution, waiting to communicate with Hatch. The country being hilly and densely wooded it took some time to establish communications. By this chapter of accidents the enemy found time to escape across the Otuckalofa and burn the bridge near the railroad; but we arrived in time to save the railroad bridge. We bivouacked on the north bank of the river. While here it was reliably ascertained that Federal forces from Helena had been at or near Grenada and on the northwest-infantry at Charleston, cavalry at Oakland-and that some cavalry fighting had taken place at the latter point on Tuesday and Wednesday. The desire to communicate with these forces, relying somewhat upon the moral effect of their presence at this point, determined me to press the enemy one day longer.
Colonel Mizner's command, with one piece of artillery, was ordered to take the advance on Friday morning followed by Lee's brigade, and that by Colonel Hatch's. Considerable delay occurred in getting across the river, and Colonel Lee, having found a bridge near his camp, reached the main road on the south side of the Otuck (as it is familiarly called), before the advance of Colonel Mizner's command. To avoid delay he was ordered to take the advance, and did so, followed by Colonel Mizner's command, and his by that of Colonel Hatch's. Thus the entire command was concentrated, and, from the absence of parallel roads, compelled to move on the same road.
At about 2 o'clock the head of the column came up with the rear of the enemy and pressed him sharply. Having discovered a small party of rebel cavalry on our right carefully watching our movements, a detachment was sent to dislodge it, and an order was sent to Colonel Lee, at the head of the column, to move cautiously, throw out strong flankers, and show a wide front. Colonels Hatch and Mizner were also directed to throw out flankers at the head of each of their commands.
Riding rapidly to the front I found one piece of our artillery moving cautiously forward and now and then throwing shell beyond our skirmishers as they steadily advanced. At about 1 mile from Coffeeville a few shells, were thrown to the front, when suddenly the enemy opened at short range upon our position with shell, using, I think, four pieces of artillery, perhaps six. At the same time his infantry in line opened upon our advanced dismounted skirmishers with rapid volleys, while heavy skirmishing was in progress on both flanks of the head of our column and extending to the rear of the head of the column. From all this it was quite evident we had encountered a heavier force than we were able to combat, under the jaded condition of our men and horses.