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[717]

Gen. Wilson's cavalry command, after the expulsion of Hood from Tennessee, was collected at Eastport, Miss. (the head of steamboat navigation on the lower Tennessee); whither Gen. Thomas at length proceeded,1 to give him his final instructions. It had been intended to employ but half his force in a raid on the chief towns of central Alabama, designed as a mere diversion in favor of Canby; but Wilson persuaded his chief to let him take all the cavalry he could readily muster — Cheatham's movement eastward, with the remains of Hood's force, having rendered disposable nearly our entire force on the Tennessee. Wilson was thus enabled to set out with nearly 15,000 men, whereof 13,000 were mounted, with six batteries. Prevented from starting at the time designated2 by incessant rains and tremendous floods, the expedition was not fairly over the Tennessee till March 18; when it set forth with light trains, carefully filled — each trooper taking 5 days rations in his haversack, 24 lbs. of grain, and a pair of extra shoes for his horse, with 100 rounds of ammunition; while 5 days rations of hard bread, 10 of sugar, coffee, and salt, were packed on mules; 45 days of coffee, 20 of sugar, 15 of salt, and 80 rounds of ammunition in the wagons--56 of which were laden with a light pontoon train of 30 boats. The train (of 250 wagons) was escorted by the 1,500 dismounted men. Most of the cavalry were provided with the highly valued Spencer carbine. The time allotted for the expedition was 60 days: men and animals to subsist, so far as possible, on the country they traversed. The rear of the column did not actually leave the Tennessee till the 22d.

The general course pursued was south-east, through Russellville, Jasper, and Elyton; but the command was divided, and from time to time expanded and contracted; passing hurriedly over war-wasted north Alabama, and then spreading out so as to sweep over a broad stretch of the plenteous region watered by the tributaries of the Black Warrior and other main affluents of the Tombigbee river: thus menacing at once Columbus, Miss., Tuskaloosa, and Selma, Alabama.

Forrest, commanding the chief Rebel force left in this quarter, was at West Point, near Columbus, Miss.; so that Wilson, moving rapidly on several roads, passed his right and reached Elyton3 without a collision; destroying by the way many extensive iron-works, collieries, &c., and pushing the few Rebel cavalry found at Elyton rapidly across the Cahawba at Montevallo; where the enemy was first encountered4 in force: Roddy's and Crossland's commands coming up the Selma road, but being routed and driven southward by a charge of Upton's division. The Rebels attempted to make a stand at a creek, after being driven 4 or 5 miles; but they were too weak, and were again routed by a headlong charge; losing 50 prisoners. Upton bivouacked 14 miles south of Montevallo, and early next morning rode into Randolph; capturing here a courier, from whose dispatches he learned that Forrest was now in our front; that W. H. Jackson, with one of Forrest's divisions, was moving E. S. E. from Tuskaloosa; and that his rear had been

1 Feb. 23, 1865.

2 March 4.

3 March 30.

4 March 31.

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