trestle work north of the town. The supposed rebel camp-fires seen the night before proved to be the light of the deport burning at Coonewar and the camp-fires of Union troops from Corinth, near Saltillo, who left next morning before we reached their camp.
Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in hard labor, by which all the trestle work and bridge from Saltillo to Okolona, a distance of 34 miles and a large bridge south of Okolona, across a branch of the Tombigbee River, were thoroughly destroyed, as well as large quantities of timber lying along the railroad side for repairing purposes. The enemy were see in Verona and Okolona, but fled, returning however, in some force to Okolona as our troopers were leaving that place on Wednesday afternoon. Lieutenant-Colonel Prince, with a party, at Verona, on Tuesday captured eighteen large boxes of infantry equipments complete, some of them marked Colonel P. D. Roddey; several boxes of canteens, a quantity of Confederate army clothing, over 100 new wall-tents with flies, &c., complete; some commissary stores (embracing several barrels of sugar), small-arms and ammunition. Eight wagons, pressed for the purpose, were loaded and brought away and the rest of the spoils destroyed on the spot. On our march returning a bridge gave way in the night and the loads were burned and the wagons abandoned. Wednesday night, December 17, our whole party camped at Harrisburg, a deserted town about 2 miles northwest of Tupelo. Thursday morning, the 18th,before day, we took up the line of march on our return, and halted the forenoon to feed about 9 miles east of Pontotoc.
At about noon, at a point about 6 miles east of Pontotoc, riding in advance with my escort, I learned that a large rebel cavalry force, said to be 6,000 or 7,000, were in Pontotoc. Thinking that this force was sent to cut off my small command I looked for them to advance on the road eastward toward Tupelo. Closing up my column it was quickly thrown off the road to the north, and moved by neighboring roads to the northwest with a view of passing some 4 miles north of Pontotoc. Approaching the road from Pontotoc to Tuscumbia (which leads east of north from Pontotoc) we fell in with rebel flankers or stragglers about 3 miles from Pontotoc, captured 3 and wounded 1, while others escaped.
It was here ascertained that the rebel column was moving out from Pontotoc on the Ripley road, directly to the north, and passing across our front about 1 mile distant; that the head of their column was feeding on that road about 1 1/2 miles distant to the northwest, the smoke of their camp-fires being plainly in sight and that about 400 of their force were still in Pontotoc. My horses, were so down from hard and long marching that it was deemed imprudent to encounter an enemy so superior in numbers and mounted on fresh horses. My object was to avoid him if possible; if not, to fight at his rear. Throwing out a small guard at a strong position to guard our right flank, the column was promptly moved toward Pontotoc, on the Tuscumbia, road, capturing several stragglers from the rebel force by the wayside.
Passing down this road the rebel column was for the space of a mile in full view, moving north on the Ripley road, and about three-fourths of a mile to the west of us. Arriving at Pontotoc it was found that the rear of the enemy had left town, but could still be seen in the distance moving north. Couriers were here detailed and a dispatch put into their hands to advise the general commanding that this force was moving north, and an escort ordered to conduct the couriers 8 miles on the Oxford road. My command left Pontotoc at once, about sundown, on the Rocky Ford road, bearing a little west of north, and running