Number 21. Report of Colonel R. V. Richardson, First Tennessee Partisan Rangers. OSYKA, May 3, 1863.
DEAR SIR: In obedience to Special Orders, Number --, dated April 28, 1863, I received, at 9 p. m. of that day, to the depot at Jackson, supposing the train of troops to accompany me was ready to start. When I got to the depot, I was chagrined and surprised to find that the three companies of the Twentieth Mississippi Mounted Infantry, who were to constitute a portion of the forces subject to my orders in the movement projected against the enemy, with horses, were just beginning to be placed on the train.
About 2. 30 a. m., April 29, 1863, the men and horses were all aboard. I inquired for the conductor, and learned that he was in bed at his chamber. I sent him and order to get up and proceed with his train immediately, or I wound send for him a file of men. After a short time he came. He then inquired of the engineer whether he could pull the train, who replied that he could not, because there were too many cars in the train.
The conductor and engineer then said that three cars must be taken from the train. This was done. Now they said they had not wood enough to run the train to the next station, and they had no lamps. I inquired whether or not they had an ax to cut wood; they replied they had none. About daybreak they started with the train, and did not reach Hazlehurst until 11 a. m. In spite of all efforts, these men were churlish, and seemed to be laboring to defeat as far as possible the movement of troops. They claim their privilege of exemption from military service as employees of the railroad company. It should not be granted to men who are so unmindful of the public interests.
As we rolled into Hazlehurst, a citizen approached us in an excited manner, and said 1,000 Yankees were within a quarter of a mile of the place, approaching it. I did not much believe the report, but, as a measure of precaution, I ordered the train to be run back on the road about a mile. I then ordered the men to form on each side of the railroad, and 20 horses to be taken from the train, and sent out a scout in the direction of the reported nemy. The scouts returned in a half hour, and reported the enemy not to be found as reported.
I availed myself of every resource to get information as to the position and direction of movement of the enemy. He was reported to have been that Tuesday morning at Union Church, and to have engaged Colonel Wirt Adams' command there; also that he was making his way for Natchez. He had been [seen] the previous evening at Bahala, by a detachment of 120 men which had gone WEST to Union Church. So far as I could judge, he was leaving the line of the railroad and was going to Natchez. Colonel Adams seemed to be close after him. I could get no information of the locality of any other command which you had ordered to report to me. It seemed that the proper direction for me to go, both for the purpose of reaching the enemy and gathering any portion of any command, except the three companies of the Twentieth Mississippi Regiment, then with me, was Union Church. After feeding the horses, at 1 o'clock I started on the Natchez road for Union Church. I got there at 9 o'clock that night, and learned that the enemy had left there at 8 o'clock in the morning for Brookhaven, and that Colonel Adams had camped the previous night within 3 or 4 miles of the enemy, but had gone that morning toward Fayette, believing that the enemy intended to go to Natchez.