Some weeks later, a similar and in good part the same force, but including most of A. J. Smith
's corps, now returned from the luckless Red river campaign
, was sent from Memphis
, with instructions to push on till he was found and beaten, so as to prevent the transfer of a large part of his force to Jo. Johnston
, then resisting Sherman
in northern Georgia
. Maj.-Gen. S. D. Sturgis
--in spite of overwhelming proofs of his aggravated unfitness — was again intrusted with the command.
His force consisted of 9,000 infantry and artillery, with 3,000 cavalry led by Gen. Grierson
had advanced E. S. E. nearly 100 miles, through West Tennessee
and northern Mississippi
, meeting little opposition till near Guntown
, on the Mobile railroad ; where Grierson
's troopers found1 Forrest
's cavalry, and pushed it vigorously back on his infantry, which was strongly posted on a semi-circular ridge or crest, with a naked slope in front, and a small creek at its foot, which could with difficulty be forded by infantry at a few points only.
Word was sent back to the infantry, now 5 or 6 miles behind ; and, in an intensely hot day, they were pushed forward at double-quick to the scene of action, arriving thoroughly blown and incapable of exertion.
As if this were not folly enough, the train of more than 200 wagons came rushing up with them, filling the road and impeding the movement of the troops; being hurried over the bridge and parked within sight and range of the enemy's lines.
And now, without rest or proper formation, without an attempt to flank the enemy's strong position, or exhibit any common sense whatever, our exhausted infantry was sent in to the support of the already engaged cavalry; and both, of course, were speedily, thoroughly routed, and in most disorderly flight, over a bad, narrow road, with their train utterly lost at once, and no supplies, no place of refuge, no reenforcements, within three days march.
The 1st cavalry brigade, Col. Geo. E. Waring
, had been carved up to give an escort to the commanding General
, and for various details, until not enough was left to present an imposing front; but the 2d brigade, Col. E. F. Winslow
, was disposed as a rear-guard, and did what it could to cover the retreat of the hungry mob of fugitives on foot.
After crossing a stream at Ripley
a stand was made and a sharp fight ensued, whereby the pursuit was checked, but with a considerable loss in prisoners on our side.
Thenceforward, the pursuit was less eager; but it was continued nearly to Memphis
: no attempt being made by Sturgis
to reorganize his infantry or do any thing effective to mitigate the severity of the disaster.
Our loss, mainly in captives, was variously stated at 3,000 to 4,000; but it is probable that the force that Sturgis
brought back to Memphis
, counting guns, wagons, and supplies (all lost), was not half so efficient as that with which he set out. Among our killed were Col. T. W. Humphrey
, 95th, and Col. Geo. W. McKeag
, 120th Illinois; the former for months acting Brigadier, and both excellent officers.
Another expedition, also numbering 12,000, was promptly organized to wipe out the recollection of this most needless disgrace; Gen. A. J. Smith