Colonel Lee was ordered to fall back steadily in the center and strong parties were at once sent to the support of our skirmishers on the right and left flanks. The column was faced to the rear and Colonels Mizner and Hatch were ordered to form successive supporting lines of detachments on each side of the road to cover the retreat of our skirmishers and check the advance of the enemy on the main road. The enemy pressing hard upon our retiring forces, the moving back of the led horses of dismounted men and the reversal of wagons and ambulances occasioned considerable confusion, though no indications whatever of a panic were at any time perceptible. Our flanks were repeatedly attacked by the enemy's infantry, but our flankers as often succeeded in repulsing them. The column was steadily withdrawn about 1 1/2 miles to the rear to an open, field, when the fighting ceased. Night having come on in the mean time the column was halted at this point, a strong rear guard sent back to watch the enemy and check his pursuit if attempted, while suitable parties were detached to watch the approaches on the right and left flanks of the rear. Having waited about an hour to enable our dismounted men to find and mount their horses the division was marched back to the camps which it ha occupied the night before, arriving there at about 11 p.m. Here I at first thought of resting the next day and sending scouting parties toward Coffeeville, but upon the advice of Colonel Lee the command was moved early on the morning of the 6th to Yockna River, crossing at Prophet Bridge, about 6 miles distant from Water Valley. The command was encamped so as to watch the approaches and gather forage.
In the action near Coffeeville, as well as during the entire pursuit, the men and officers behaved in the most gallant manner, cheerfully bearing every hardship in order to inflict injury upon the enemy.
Lieutenant-Colonel McCullough, of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, fell while covering the retreat of our column with the mounted companies of his regiment. He was at first reported wounded and a prisoner, but it is now ascertained that he was instantly killed. A better or braver man never fought or fell. He died with his face to the foe, at the head of his command, thus nobly sacrificing his life for the safety of his fellows. His loss is a severe one to the country and the service.
Lieutenant Woodburn, of the Seventh Kansas, fell mortally wounded at the first volley of the enemy. Captain Townsend, Fourth Illinois Cavalry; Lieutenant Colbert, of the Seventh Kansas: Captain Eystra and Lieutenants Reed, Budd, and Harrington, of the Second Iowa, and Captain Caldwell, of the Third Michigan Cavalry, received honorable wounds in this action. Sergeant Baylor, of my escort, was wounded by my side near the close of the action. The horse of Colonel Lee was wounded; that of Colonel Hatch killed.
The conduct of Colonels Mizner, Lee, and Hatch in the handling of their troops was worthy of praise. Major Ricker, of the Fifth Ohio Cavalry, conducted the rear guard in the retreat with cool bravery and good judgment.
Lieutenants Wilson and Davis of my staff deserve special commendation for their efficiency in transmitting my orders and effecting their execution and for valuable suggestions in the midst of the action.
Other officers were self-possessed and inspired the men with confidence. I mention only those whose conduct came under my own personal observation.
As to the troops, they fought well, without exception. The Seventh Illinois and the battalion of the Fifth Ohio, which had until very lately been illy armed, have proven themselves, with good arms in their hands,