down by forced marches and want of forage. En route to Cape Girardeau, Carter with a small detachment of men charged and captured Captain [Stephen V.] Shipman and 40 men out of a guard of 60 men. I kept Shelby's column near Fredericktown, marching daily a few miles toward Cape Girardeau to catch McNeil if he marched toward Ironton, and to await information from Carter (whose dispatch bearers were captured by the enemy) and the junction of his column, and also to watch and learn of the movements of the Federals in the direction of Ironton. From Fredericktown I sent out a detachment of 90 men, under command of Captains [Williams T.] Lineback and [J. M.] Muse and Lieutenant [Josiah L.] Bledsoe, with instructions to burn and destroy the bridges over Big Greek, on the Iron Mountain and Saint Louis Railroad. The found a guard stationed at the point indicated of 250 or 300 men, whom they at once vigorously attacked, killing, wounding and capturing several, and succeeded in leaving one of the three bridges in flames. This detachment afterward rejoined their command at Bloomfield, having accomplished their work in a dashing manner.
On the 25th, I received dispatches from Carter that he had pursued McNeil to within 4 miles of Cape Girardeau. I immediately ordered Shelby to make a night march (some 30 miles) to Cape Girardeau, in order to form a junction with Carter. On learning the Federal forces were in the fortifications, I deemed it unwise to attack and storm the place. I so informed Colonel Shelby, and ordered him on the Jackson and Cape Girardeau road, to make a demonstration against the enemy, while I withdrew Carter by the Bloomfield road, intending to unite the columns at Jackson. Shelby's demonstration amounted almost to an attack. I deemed it necessary to bring Carter's column up to his support. I moved rapidly toward Shelby's column, and on arriving found that Shelby had driven the enemy's pickets and advanced forces into their works; that the enemy were admirably posted, possessing great natural advantages in position, supported by four large forts mounted with heavy guns, field artillery, and about 3,000 infantry and cavalry. As soon as the two columns had united, I withdrew toward and encamped them aground Jackson.
On the nigh of the 26th, a force of about 3,500 cavalry and artillery, under General Vandever, attacked Newton's regiment, who were encamped on the Jackson and Fredericktown road. Newton's loss was 2 killed and 6 or 8 wounded or captured.
In the mean time McNeil had been heavily re-enforced by water.
On the morning of the 27th, I found myself between two forces-McNeil on the east and Vandever on the west -either outnumbering my force, and both prepared to attack me simultaneously. At daylight I ordered my forces in retreat southward via bridge over White Water, Bloomfield, and crossing of Saint Francis at Chalk Bluff. Vandever and McNeil, with their combined force, pursued me. My effective fighting force did not exceed 3,500. The enemy had about 8,000-4,500 cavalry, 3,500 infantry, and fifteen pieces of artillery. I anticipated no damage or trouble except in crossing Saint Francis River, which was much swollen, rapid, unbridged, and no ferry-boats on it. When I commenced my retreat, I ordered details of the unarmed and non-effective to proceed rapidly to Chalk Bluff, under charge of my division quartermaster, to construct rafts for crossing. My retreat was orderly and slow. Vandever and McNeil did not seem anxious for a fight. Light rear-guard fighting was of daily occurrence. Shelby's or Carter's brigades were habitually in the rear always did their duty. On several occasions I offered battle when the advantage in position were greatly in my favor. My object was to give time to the bridge party.