War of the Rebellion: Serial 024 Page 0536 WEST TENN. AND NORTHERN MISS. Chapter XXIX.

Search Civil War Official Records

doing so I hesitated as to the route I should take on my return. I was at the point where the main road from Abbeville and Coffeeville intersected the road I passed down upon, about 5 miles from Grenada. I felt the importance of striking Coffeeville and destroying some bridges that I heard of there, and from there fall back via Oakland, on the Mississippi and Tennessee road. Coffeeville was 13 miles off and Oakland 30; but on reflection I determined not to do so. Had I taken the other road the result might have proved disastrous.

Sunday night a force of 5,000 rebel cavalry came into Oakland in pursuit of me with two field pieces. After feeding and resting for a short time they proceeded on to Grenada via Coffeeville. Had I taken the other road via Coffeeville, and the only other one by which we could return, we should have encountered this force. As we should have been compelled to go into camp from sheer exhaustion soon after leaving Coffeeville they would no doubt have come upon us in camp, and with more than double our numbers and a perfect knowledge of the country they would have had us at great disadvantage.

On Monday morning I broke camp, 4 miles beyond Charleston, and marched to Mitchell's Cross-Roads, 12 miles from the mouth of Coldwater, where we found that General Hovey had sent forward to that point about 1,200 infantry and four field pieces. I had scarcely arrived at Mitchell's Cross-Roads when word came into camp that two companies of infantry, sent out by Colonel Spicely on the Panola road as a picket, were fighting and in danger of being cut off. Without waiting an instant I threw my force forward, Captain Walker, of the First Indiana, with his little howitzers in front, and Major Burgh, of the Ninth Illinois Cavalry, immediately following. As soon as we came in sight of the enemy Captain Walker and Major Burgh brought their guns into position, and a few well-directed shots sent the enemy flying. The enemy was posted on the north side of the Yockna, a deep stream about 125 feet wide, crossed by a ferry. I immediately threw a portion of Captain Walker's command across the stream, who pursued them lively for a few miles, until farther pursuit was useless. This force was part of Starke's cavalry.

Being now entirely out of rations I sent into the mouth of Coldwater, where the supply train was, for two days' rations to be sent out during the night, intending to march early next morning and endeavor to reach Coffeeville. My men had their horses saddled up and in readiness at daylight, but no rations came. Owing to the breaking down of wagons they did not come up so that the rations could be distributed before 2 p. m.

This day, Tuesday, December 2, it rained incessantly all day. Not being able to march on Coffeeville, owing to the want of rations, and knowing that the enemy were in considerable force at Panola, on the Tallahatchie, 14 miles from my camp, where they had fortified to defend the crossing, and also at Belmont, 7 miles farther up the river, I concluded that I would go up there and reconnoiter and if possible drive these forces away, so as to have no force in my rear when I should move toward Coffeeville the following day.

I left camp about 2 p. m. and rode rapidly to Panola. About 1 1/2 miles before reaching the town we came upon their camp (apparently a very large one), but we found nobody to receive us, they having fled the night before. I sent Major Burgh with the Ninth Illinois Cavalry forward, who took possession of the town and captured a few prisoners. We also ascertained from negroes who had been at work on the fortifi-