IN THE FIELD, July 30, 1863.
Brigadier General JOHN McNEIL,
Commanding District of Southwestern Missouri:
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that on receipt of your Special Orders of 26th instant, directing me to move against Coffee, I left Newtonia on the morning of the 28th, and marched in a southwesterly direction,being satisfied, from information received on the evening of the 27th,that Coffee had gone south with Livingston's men three days before. The opinion formed in my own mind was that he had taken quarters in the Cowskin Prairie region. To that point I directed my movements. My force was 240. I found my horses in bad condition for such a scout, a great number of my men being dismounted, and 125 were sent on with train, whose horses were unserviceable. Twelve miles out we run onto a notorious bushwacker named Stanly, killing him and capturing his horse and arms. Near the town-site of Rutledge we drew up at the house of one Hellner, who had a few days ago returned from Price's army. He was on a commanding bluff, watching us; he was descried, and chased so closely that we captured his hat, bridle, and powder-horn. On searching the house, a large rebel mail was found, mainly directed to Price's brigade, among which were found two letters touching on Coffee's movements, &c., with I send you for the valuable information contained. The Spring's spoken of in these letters are southwest of Pineville, some 20 miles. Guides can be had at Newtonia. I had one Hargrove, enrolling officer for McDonald County; also one Harman and Mayfield, of Enrolled Militia. Judge C. B. Walker, member of Legislature from McDonald County, at present a refugee in Newtonia, would be a most efficient and reliable guide, and is always willing to serve.
Information obtained from the women, upon whose credulity the advance guard often imposed themselves as friends of Coffee, was corroborative of the facts in these letters. Additional evidence of Coffee's presence in that country is found in the impudent and insulting conduct of the women there, who always grow must insolent and outspoken when emboldened by the presence of a rebel army. We bivouacked at night in Rutledge. There I learned from a woman, who seemed to know, that Coffee had moved up to White Rock Prairie, south of Pineville. Accordingly I moved early across to Pineville, 7 miles, and there learned that a scout of about 100 of Coffee's men had on Monday been in White Rock Prairie, but had gone back. I was then 20 miles from his camp, with a greatly inferior force, and no means of increasing it. My men were out of rations; in fact, had been out for one day. We did not have any rations in camp when we started. There is nothing to eat in that country. It is the very impersonation of poverty and desolation. I was, therefore, compelled to wend my way back and to lay the facts before you for your action. I am now on Oliver's Prairie, and shall leave to-morrow morning en route for the Central District. I exceedingly regret that we did not have a "set-to" with Coffee. He is an acquaintance of ours. We want to pay him back for the Lone Jack advancement. My judgment is that 500 men can whip Coffee; and, furthermore, i will say that his line of retreat is through Cane Hill. A force sent through Burtonville to taken him in rear while one attacks him on the north, would insure his overthrow. I, however, submit the facts, and leave your better judgment to make the proper use of them.
With much respect, you obedient servant,
JNO. F. PHILIPS,
Colonel Seventh Missouri State Militia Cavalry.