and the residue of the Second Brigade was sent with the train to the rear, to camp upon the Yockna River. Colonel Mizner was ordered to take command of the First and Third Brigades, to guard the crossing of the Otuckalofa River, and to make a strong cavalry reconnaissance toward Grenada on the Coffeeville route, reporting directly to Major General U. S. Grant. At 9 a.m. on Sunday the 14th, with a small escort from Company F, Fourth Illinois Cavalry, under Lieutenant Cartter, and Colonel Hatch's detachment of 800 men from the Second Iowa Cavalry and the Seventh Illinois Cavalry, I took the road for Okolona, and reached Pontotoc, 45 miles march, at 9.30 on Monday morning. On the way we fell in with small scouting parties of the enemy and captured several prisoners, by some of whom we were informed that a body of rebel infantry from Bragg's army were encamped 5 miles east of Pontotoc on the road to Tupelo, and another near Tupelo, and by others just returned from Columbus that there was a strong rebel force at Okolona. A small party dashed off on the Tupelo road 5 or 6 miles, but found no enemy. At Pontotoc the gentle rain through which we had marched changed to a violent storm, and the roads were heavy. All our ambulances and prisoners were sent back from Pontotoc, with two wagon loads of leather and the Government surveys and township maps of the State of Mississippi (found at Pontotoc), under an escort of 100 men.
Major Coon, of the Second Iowa Cavalry, with about 100 men, was sent rapidly forward to strike the railroad at Coonewar Station, north of Colona with orders to destroy the telegraph line and railroad, and especially the railroad bridge north of Okolona.
At 1 p.m. on Monday, with the rest of my command, I took the road for Tupelo, Miss. through a terrific rain storm, and moving steadily forward night came upon us about 6 miles from Tupelo. The approach was on a zig-zag road, with vexing intersecting roads, through low muddy ground, much of it heavily timbered and intersected by small sluggish streams, passable only on small frail bridges in bad condition. A little after dark the light of a considerable fire was observed some miles distant to the south, and a less bright but broader light could be seen some miles to the north. An officer sent to a dwelling not far from our road was told by the occupant that these fires were rebel camp-fires.
Pushing cautiously forward, at within 2 miles of Tupelo we learned from the occupant of a house near by (who mistook us for rebel cavalry) that Federal troops from Corinth had that day been at Saltillo, 8 miles north of Tupelo, and that the rebels had fled south, abandoning Tupelo.
Fearing that Major Coon might encounter too strong a foe, Lieutenant-Colonel Prince, Seventh Illinois Cavalry, with about 100 men, was sent promptly into Tupelo, and the rest of the force was moved back 7 miles to a point where the Aberdeen road broke off to the southeast, and on which it was ascertained that Major Coon had advanced, with a view of affording him support if needed. It was found that Major Coon had dashed into Coonewar in the afternoon, stampeded a small party of rebel cavalry, took a few prisoners, and make a strenuous but unsuccessful effort to capture a railroad train passing that station south. The train was fired upon by his advance on the full gallop, and one trooper, leaping from his horse, pistol in hand, mounted the side of the tender under way, but was compelled as promptly to jump off to avoid a leaning post standing close to the track and just ahead of him. The depot, containing commissary stores and corn, was burned, and small bridges and trestle-work on the road near Coonewar were destroyed. Lieutenant-Colonel Prince returned about 3 o'clock a.m. Tuesday to our camp, having found no enemy in Tupelo, and having destroyed some
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