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[423] of horses announced the arrival of the Yankee cavalry. There was at this time about thirty of Baxter's battalion in town; about sixteen of them were quietly finding their horses and getting supper at their barracks on Maine street; the balance were scattered over town. At the first alarm, these sixteen men got into line, Baker (Baxter being absent) telling them to stand firm, that it took more than one Yankee to stampede his men. The advance-guard of the Yankees, about sixty men, charged upon these sixteen men; our boys gave a yell, and galloped to meet them; the Yankees turned and fled as fast as their horses could carry them; our boys pursued them back a mile, until they met the main body of the enemy, consisting of the Tenth Missouri, Fifth Ohio, two battalions of Illinois, one company of Mississippi and one of Alabama cavalry, with a battery of mounted howitzers, in all about one thousand two hundred men — some estimate them at eight hundred. The enemy fired several volleys and charged in turn, our boys falling back slowly until they were about to be flanked, when they retreated hastily into town; here they made a short stand, killing the orderly of the Yankee commander, and one or two others.

By this time the Yankees, guided by renegade Alabamians, had got the remaining few of our boys nearly surrounded; but they made a desperate effort, and broke through the enemy's ranks and escaped. We lost six men taken prisoners, but not a man was killed or wounded on our side. It was now dusk, and the enemy did not pursue beyond the suburbs of the town. The wagons, tents, and camp equipage of Baxter's battalion were saved, having been sent out in the morning when the gunboats appeared.

The letter then gives a dreadful account of outrages committed upon “fences, shrubbery,” etc., and says: “You have had Mitchel and Turchin with you; compared to Cornyn (Colonel F. M. Cornyn, Tenth Missouri cavalry) and his set, they were angels.”

The letter proceeds:

Here is a fac-simile of several writs that were served upon citizens of the town and neighborhood:

headquarters First brigade, Major F. P. Blair's division, Tuscumbia, Ala., February 23, 1863.
edict First.--The United States Government, having ordered assessments to be made upon the wealthy citizens of the States now in rebellion against said Government, I have ordered an assessment upon your property to the amount of — dollars, payable immediately.

You are therefore commanded to pay over to Major W. H. Lusk, Paymaster of this brigade, the above sum, or the same will be collected from you at the sacrifice of your property.

Florence M. Cornyn, Colonel Tenth Missouri Cavalry, Commanding Brigade.

The lowest assessment that I have heard of under this edict was five hundred dollars, the highest five thousand dollars. One gentleman, Mr. Wm. Warren, for failing to pay his assessment, was carried off.

To our inexpressible relief the scoundrels left town on Wednesday afternoon, taking with them about fifty bales of cotton, all the mules and horses they could find, and about as many negroes as they could force off, about sixty in all. They took the plantation teams to haul their cotton. Owing to the bad roads, they left fourteen bales of cotton between town and the mountain, and I understand they were compelled to leave much more further on, which they burned.

The enemy came through Frankfort, to which place they came on the Fulton road. By this means they were enabled to get here without our having warning, as nobody dreamed of their coming that roundabout way. Nearly every person they met or saw they brought along with them. Some of them they compelled to walk thirty miles. When they arrived here they had one hundred citizens prisoners. These, together with the citizens they got in town, made a big show. No doubt the official report of the expedition will mention having captured one hundred and fifty prisoners, not ten of whom will be confederate soldiers.

As they subsisted wholly on the country, our loss is enormous. Our farmers say they will not try to make crops in the valley this year, unless protection is given them. There are immense quantities of corn in this valley, enough to feed a very large cavalry force all the year round. All the Yankees have to do is to come and get it.

This letter is written by a “ColonelNorth A. Messenger, editor of the North Alabamian, published at Tuscumbia, and himself a renegade from the free States.

Messenger gives the following account of his own experience during the time our forces were at Florence. While we read it, we can only regret that he got off so well:

I had been confined to my room for a week before the devils came in; was dragged out the first night in rain and mud; kept standing in the streets, under charge of a drunken Dutchman, until a late hour, and then put into a cold room, with the bare floor to rest on. Next day, fearful lest so obnoxious a creature as a rebel editor should die on their hands before he was sufficiently punished, I was given a comfortable room in the hotel, and a Yankee doctor sent to see me. I managed to keep up my spirits by abusing every Yankee that came near me; and, when the balance of the prisoners were marched off, I watched for an opportunity and walked off. A Dutchman ordered me to halt; I told him that I was released, walked around the town and concealed myself until they all left.

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Florence M. Cornyn (2)
William Warren (1)
Turchin (1)
O. M. Mitchel (1)
North A. Messenger (1)
W. H. Lusk (1)
F. M. Cornyn (1)
Frank P. Blair (1)
Henry Baxter (1)
Willis Baker (1)
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February 23rd, 1863 AD (1)
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