For a distance of 5 or 6 miles our rear guard was scarcely molested. Afterward, for 2 or 3 miles, the skirmishing was heavy.
Eight miles from West Point General Grierson, with the Sixth and Ninth Illinois Cavalry, started to the relief of the brigade train, reported to be in imminent danger, about 4 miles to the front. Two companies of the Seventh Illinois were with the train.
In passing a swamp, about 9 miles from West Point, the Second Iowa was heavily pressed by the enemy. When a short distance north of it I received word from Major Coon that the brigade was moving faster than it was possible for him to march, and immediately afterward that a line must be formed in order to give him relief.
The remaining companies of the Seventh Illinois were at once posted upon eligible ground, supporting Company K, First Illinois Artillery. Lieutenant Curtis opened upon the enemy, and by a well-directed fire checked temporarily their advance, and the Second Iowa fell back behind the line.
It is proper here to remark that no signals, as directed, were sounded from the rear, and no calls for assistance or re-enforcements were made that were not at once responded to.
The Seventh and Ninth Illinois Cavalry alternately relieved the Second Iowa as rear guard, and, in compliance with orders to fall back as rapidly as possible and fight only when absolutely necessary, we resumed our march.
During the night the enemy was successfully ambuscaded by the Seventh and Ninth Illinois, and suffered a heavy loss.
The brigade encamped 2 miles south of Okolona, at which place Company K, First Illinois Light Artillery, was detached and attacked to the Third Brigade.
At sunrise we resumed the march, the Second Brigade taking the advance. Ten miles from Okolona I was ordered by General Smith to form the brigade in line of battle, making such dispositions that the First and Third Brigades, then heavily pressed by the enemy, might pass through. The Sixth Illinois was detained by General Smith in the rear. The Seventh Illinois I was directed to send forward with the train. The Second Iowa and Ninth Illinois were promptly formed in fine positions, but were soon ordered farther to the rear, where they met and checked the advance of the enemy.
Some three hours the troops were used in forming successive lines, and fighting their way slowly back to Ivey's Hill, where, lines were formed and a general engagement tendered the enemy. Dark put an end to the engagement, leaving our cavalry in possession of the field, having repulsed and beaten the enemy at every point where he made an attack. Prior to this the Seventh Illinois Cavalry had been relieved from duty with the train, and had borne a distinguished part in the various engagements of the day.
We bivouacked that night 2 miles south of Pontotoc, and the next day at noon recrossed the Tallahatchie at New Albany.
The last seen of the enemy he was 9 miles southeast of New Albany.
By slow marches we regained our camp at Germantown on Friday, the 26th ultimo, at 12 m., after a march of 400 miles in eleven marching days.
In a report like this I cannot properly express my appreciation of the heroic conduct of the regimental commanders and all officers and men of the Second Brigade. All bravely fought, patiently