with their advance guard and capturing some 4 or 5 prisoners, who, on being questioned separately, stated that six regiments of infantry were about to attack us. Believing that I would have but little chance of success in a fight with them, on account of the darkness and our total ignorance of the ground, we moved off in the direction of Pelham, and, after going about 6 miles, went off the road into the woods at 2 o'clock and bivouacked without fires until daylight.
When we started again up the Cumberland Mountains, on the Brakefield Point road, I determined to break the road, if possible, below Cowan. When partly up the mountain we could plainly see a considerable force of infantry and cavalry near Decherd. We moved forward to the Southern University, and there destroyed the Tracy Railroad track. From there I sent a detachment of 450 men, under Colonel Funkhouser, of the Ninety-eighth Illinois, to destroy the railroad at Tantalon, and went forward myself in the direction of Anderson, intending to strike the railroad at that place. Colonel Funkhouser reporter to me that three railroad trains lay at Tantalon, loaded with troops, and my scouts reported two more trains at Anderson. Both places being approachable only by a bridle-path, I deemed it impossible to accomplish anything further; besides, the picket force left at the railroad, near the university, were driven in by cavalry, who preceded a railroad train loaded with infantry. They were now on my track and in our rear. I collected my force, and determined to extricate them. Leaving a rear guard to skirmish with and draw them down the mountain, I started on the road toward Chattanooga. When about 8 miles from the university, during a tremendous rain, which obliterated our trail, I moved the entire command from the road about 2 miles eastward into the woods, leaving the rear guard to draw them forward down the mountain, which they did, and then escaped through the woods and joined us, some not coming up until next morning. As soon as the rebel column had passed us, we struck through the mountains, without guides, in the direction of Pelham, and came out at the place we intended to strike, and reached the foot of the mountain, at Gilham's Cove, over a very rocky and steep road. We bivouacked at 10 p.m., and next morning at daylight started for Manchester, just getting ahead of Forrest, who, with nine regiments of cavalry and two pieces of artillery, aimed to intercept us at Pelham.
We reached Manchester at noon, having been in the saddle or fighting about twenty hours out of each twenty-four eleven days, and all the time drenched with rain, our men half starved and our horses almost entirely without forage, yet our officers and men seemed willing and cheerful, and are now only anxious for another expedition, if by such they can accomplish any good. We did not lose a single man in our expedition to the rear of Tullahoma. If our course had not been impeded by the streams flooded beyond all precedent, we must have captured one or two railroad trains, one of them having General Buckner and staff on board; we should have had ample time to have thoroughly torn up the railroad in daylight at several points, whilst on account of the darkness we were compelled to follow the main roads and the time lost in going via Pelham enabled the rebels to throw a large force in pursuit of us.
I am, very respectfully,
J. T. WILDER,
Colonel Seventeenth Indiana Infantry, Commanding Brigade.
[Major JOHN LEVERING,
Asst. Adjt. General, 1st Brigadier, 4th Div., 14th Army Corps.]