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[226] twenty thousand on Sunday week, when the gunboat fleet came down the river, and was prevented by a flag of truce from reconnoitring or attacking. They were under the impression then that they could not resist an attack from the gunboats, and I have the authority of a deserter from their ranks for saying that they would have fled rather than fought. What was the object or what the result of the flag of truce I do not know.

The evacuation of the place commenced a week ago to-day. It was carried on rapidly. Every wagon within miles around was impressed to transport stores and ammunition to the depot of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad--a distance of about three miles. Civilians were entirely excluded from the camp on and after the twenty-fifth ult.

Gen. Polk left Columbus on Thursday, the twenty-seventh, for some point South, supposed to be New-Orleans.

By Sunday last all the infantry had gone. Gen. Cheatham then departed, leaving the fort in charge of about one thousand three hundred cavalry, with instructions to burn the camp and fly on the approach of the Federals. This last command left on Monday morning, having destroyed everything on the previous night. They set fire to all the stables, and burned eighteen thousand bushels of corn, and about five thousand tons of hay. They also burned a quantity of stores which had been left behind by the evacuators for want of transportation.

The troops that left Columbus went to three different places--one third to Jackson, Tenn., one third to Island No.10, and the remainder started to Nashville, but where they went to I am not informed.

The town of Columbus is a small, unimportant place, with a population, in its palmiest days, of about one thousand inhabitants. As the terminus of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, it has a business significance that would not otherwise belong to it. It is situated in a low, flat ground, and for mud and dirt of its thoroughfares resembles Cairo. There are four large brick buildings in the town--one of them a hotel, whose principal patronage was that of railroad-passengers. We found nearly every house vacant to-day. The people were driven off last summer when the rebels took possession of the hills. There are no provisions to be had for miles around — the “Southerners” having depleted every farmer of his produce, without giving him even confederate scrip therefor. There are a few stores scattered through the streets, but they are all closed — the Davisites having “cleaned them out” also. Altogether, Columbus is one of the poorest and gloomiest towns I have come across, even in the benighted regions of Secessia.

I believe the only woman I met in my rambles through this metropolis to-day was a Mrs. Sharpe, wife of the Ex-Mayor of the city — for Columbus is nothing short of a Southern city. Mrs. Sharpe, on seeing the Federal soldiers in the streets, addressed one of the officers, remarking that she hoped “the Union men would not desert her, as she had stuck up for the Union cause while the secession soldiers threatened to tear her house down.” She informed us further that the rebels had forcibly taken her husband to the South. The reason was because he was well acquainted with their many faults and foibles, and they feared he might narrate his experience, derived from a lengthy residence among them, to the Federal officers. They decoyed him into their camp on Sunday morning, and forced him away on the cars on Sunday night. Mr. Sharpe is an old citizen of Columbus, a wealthy and highly respectable citizen. He is a lawyer by profession, and has held several public offices.

The rebels did not burn the depot of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, nor did they destroy the track in the vicinity of Columbus. They left in too great haste to do any damage to this end of the road. I believe they destroyed a culvert or two beyond Moscow — about twenty miles from this place.

The first thing that met the Federal eye on entering the camp to-day was an effigy marked, “Bill Seward the d — d abolitionist.” Not far distant from this was a similar representative of “Tilghman the traitor,” and a third one of “Floyd the runaway.” Trophies are numerous about town. There are no shot-guns or rifles to be had, however. They were all carried off, being rather scarce in the South just now.

We counted fourteen guns — mostly thirty-two-pounders — that had been thrown down the river-bank, but were not submerged. There are a few good gun-carriages in the fort.

The gunboat St. Louis and two mortar-boats have been left here to protect the town from attack by river. I suppose a few regiments of infantry and artillery will be sent down to-morrow.

Com. Foote, with the gunboats Cincinnati, Carondelet, Louisville, and Pittsburgh has gone to Cairo.

Another account.

A correspondent of the Philadelphia Inquirer gives the following account of the occupation:

Columbus, Ky., March 4, via Cairo.
Columbus, which is the strongest rebel position in the Valley of the Mississippi, has been evacuated, burnt, and otherwise destroyed. So incensed were the rebels that they spared nothing in their work of destruction except a portion of private property.

The evacuation commenced on Thursday last, but all the rebels did not leave until a late hour yesterday afternoon. The torch of the incendiary was first applied on Friday, and the conflagration raged with great fury until Sunday. Even now large portions of the enemy's barracks, magazines, and other quarters are still burning, sending up heavy clouds of smoke and ashes.

The rebels did not destroy the fortifications, which have cost them so much labor, but left them unmolested. Everything which they could not carry away with them they either burnt or threw into the river. A great many cannon of the most effective range have been dismantled and sunk in the river. In one place I saw five heavy guns, and in another seven, which had

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