Report of Capt. J. G. Ballentine, C. S. Army.
Cavalry camp, near Ripley, Tenn., April 29, 1862.Sir: After returning to camp from a four days scout on the Forked Deer River I have the honor to submit the following report: According to orders received I proceeded by the most direct route to Key Corner, a small village situated on the banks of Forked Deer River, in Lauderdale County, State of Tennessee, distant from the Mississippi River about 15 miles, the road from this place (Ripley) being one of the finest natural roads I know of in this portion of the State, and at the present time in fine condition for the passing of any and all kinds of vehicles; the country slightly broken, plenty of water, and settled by small planters-forage and provisions of all kinds being scarce and difficult to obtain. After passing the junction of the Ashport and Key Corner roads, I found small quantities of cotton, from 10  to 30 bags; also small quantities in the seed and stored in pens near the road. This state of things I found on all the roads leading from Key Corner to the interior. After procuring all the information possible I sent a detachment of men-consisting of First Sergt. J. T. Lawler, Privates L. Wilds, McCauley, Vanhorn, Lewellen, Robb, Marlow, Mills, and Marr--under the command of Lieut. Kenneth Garrett, Company A (Shelby Light Dragoons), men used to the river and accustomed to boating. The river, with its present stage of water, is capable of floating small-class steamers. The bends being short and numerous, I think it would not be practicable to undertake its ascension, the drift-wood being closely wedged in the channel proper and the cut off, Bostick's Slough, being too narrow and crooked, only allowing about 6 inches of water between the banks and the guards of the smallest boats. About middle way of the slough there is a drift extending from bank to bank, yet, from all the information I could get, I think its removal could be readily accomplished. From the lower end of the slough Forked Deer is a broad, open stream, sufficient to accommodate the largest class of steamers. After emptying into the Obion, 4 miles from the Mississippi River, there is a gradual bend to where the Obion empties itself into the Mississippi. About a quarter of a mile from the mouth of the Obion, and floating in about 8 feet of water on the shore side, I found the boat ordered to be inspected. It proved to be the wharf boat, built last fall a year ago at Mound City, Ill., for the Memphis and Saint Louis Packet Company, being about 180 feet long by 36 beam, her outside newly painted, and her inner works of the most approved pattern, her estimated worth being about $8,000. From all appearances the boat was intended for hospital purposes, having a fine, large cooking-stove in her office, her lower deck strewn with mattresses and cottage bedsteads. In different apartments were found soldiers' belts, epaulettes, cartridge boxes, and tent poles. The smoke of steamers above being seen, the male inmates of the boat were ordered to the skiffs, and in a few moments our party was in the woods. In a short time the steamers passed down, one (the N. W. Graham) having in tow a boat, supposed to be the wharf boat lying at Mitchell's Landing, opposite Cottonwood Point. We returned to the boat, and after removing the family from her, together with all their valuables (with the exception of about $30 worth, being prevented from saving all by the appearance of boats above Hale's Point), the boat was fired about 5.20 p. m. and burned to the waters edge. Everything aboard was lost — chains, cable, and a very large, splendid anchor. I am prepared to show that this boat was towed to and put in possession of Isaac Bracken by a Federal gunboat manned by Federal soldiers. On Monday, the 28th instant, at Key Corner, I burned (believing it the only means of keeping the Federals from taking possession of it) 91 bags of cotton, supposed to belong to Echols, of Dyersburg, Dyer County, Tennessee. I weighed 10 bags, their average weights being 480 pounds; this average being taken from the weight of 10 bags. The number of bags burned 91, as mentioned before, marked as follows: Six bags, belonging to Carnel, in the army at Corinth, I permitted his brother to remove into the interior. In submitting the above I have given facts and circumstances as they presented themselves, and in closing do not hesitate to say that great praise is due to the officers and men under his command who  executed the orders, performing with cheerfulness and alacrity all the duty assigned to them. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. G. BALLElNTINE Captain Company A, Commanding Scouting!arty. To the Adjutant, First Regiment Tennessee Cavalry.
Headquarters Cavalry, Ripley, Miss., April 30, 1862.Approved and respectfully submitted to the general commanding the army. Great credit is due to Captain Ballentine and the officers and men of this command for the energy displayed on this trip. I would state for the information of the general commanding that there is a large supply of cotton, purchased by a firm in Memphis, stored at Brownsville, and I am informed that parties are purchasing cotton through the country.
W. H. Jackson, Colonel, Commanding Cavalry.