War of the Rebellion: Serial 057 Page 0353 Chapter XLIV. THE MERIDIAN EXPEDITION.

Search Civil War Official Records

hours were repulsed with considerable loss. The hastily-improvised breast-works of rails and logs thrown up by Colonel Forrest greatly protected his men, and our casualties during this fight were 7 men wounded.

As the enemy withdrew I followed them with my escort and a portion of Faulkner's regiment, mounted; also with a section of Morton's battery, supported by a regiment from McCulloch's brigade on foot. Our advance at first was necessarily slow and cautious. I soon ascertained after a few well-directed shots from our artillery, that the enemy had begun a rapid and systematic retreat, and dashed on after them, sending back orders to General Chalmers to send forward to me, as rapidly as possible, 2,000 of his best mounted men and Hoole's battery of mountain howitzers. I soon came on their rear guard, charged it with my escort and Faulkner's command, and drove it before me. They made several stands, but Colonel McCulloch, with his brigade, having caught up, we continued to charge and drive them on, killing and wounding 15 or 20 of them and capturing a number of prisoners.

Night came on, and we kept so close to the enemy that my men mistook each other for the enemy and fired a volley at each other, without, however, doing any damage. Fearing a recurrence of such mistakes, and considering the great risk necessarily incurred in following and fighting a superior force after dark, I determined to encamp for the night and resume the chase at daylight next morning. Early next morning, the column moved forward, taking a different road. With my escort I came upon and charged the enemy 4 miles from Okolona, and drove their rear guard into town, when I found them drawn up in line of battle and apparently awaiting our arrival. Colonel Barteau, with Bell's brigade, had also reached Okolona, and was in line of battle awaiting the arrival of the balance of my forces. Leaving my escort in line as skirmishers, with my staff I made a circuit around the town, took command of Bell's brigade, and advanced upon them. They received us with a volley and charged with yells, but were handsomely repulsed in the open field and forced to retreat, which they did rapidly and in confusion, using every exertion to check pursuit by ambuscading and forming regiments on either side of the road, who would fire and retreat successively. Before attempting or being able to make a stand of any kind they were crowded so closely that they cut out the horses and abandoned five pieces of artillery (some of the pieces spiked), and gaining the broken and hilly country on the Pontotoc road their resistance became more stubborn. They had every advantage in selecting position, and to drive and dislodge them I was compelled to dismount the most of my command, and fought the last 9 miles on foot. About 5 miles from Okolona they formed and awaited us, making a determined stand, McCulloch's and Forrest's brigades both arriving with Hoole's battery. After a short but obstinate resistance the enemy gave way.

In this engagement Colonel Forrest was killed while rallying and leading his men. In a few miles they again formed, and having dismounted a portion of their men and made breast-works of the fences on each side of the road, they were with some difficulty and hard fighting compelled again to retire. In driving them at this point, Lieutenant-Colonel Barksdale, commanding Fifth Mississippi Regiment, fell mortally wounded.

23 R R-VOL XXXII, PT I