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[478]

On the 18th the enemy had completed the railroad to Abbeville, thrown a pontoon bridge across the Tallahatchie river at that place, and commenced his movement on Oxford. Feeling unable to contend with A. J. Smith, with his largely superior command, he determined to make a counter movement on Memphis with onehalf of his command, leaving the other half under his first division commander — the whole force not then exceeding four thousand effective. He conceived this idea on the morning of the 18th of August, 1864, and sending out men to cut the telegraph wires in rear of Smith, promptly at 5 P. M. of the same day he started, saying to his second in command, “If you can hold them back two days, I will be in Memphis.” Believing it the best method of delaying the enemy, the officer left in command determined to threaten an attack. Early on the morning of the 19th, taking his escort and Colonel Burrows' regiment, two hundred and fifty strong, having placed his command in a strong position behind Hurricane creek to receive any return attack that might follow, he moved on Abbeville, captured forty pickets on the Oxford road, and charged into town. As the Confederates came in, a large force of Federal cavalry went rushing out. Colonel Burrows, a dashing preacher, who fought as well as he prayed, wanted to charge after them; but the officer in command ordered a halt until he galloped to the top of the hill and saw a heavy force drawn up behind it, evidently to receive a pursuing charge, and withdrew. The return attack came, and was severely repulsed, and the enemy were held back more than two days without discovering the absence of Forrest. This affair at Abbeville and the affair at Town creek, where Forrest's command was so quickly cut to pieces and himself severely wounded in a similar trap, led me to believe that A. J. Smith had studied Forrest more closely than any other Federal general who met him. The movement on Memphis had the desired effect to draw Smith back. A similar movement by Van Dorn on Holly Springs drew Grant from Oxford; and it is believed that a similar movement, made when our army lay at Canton, Mississippi, twenty thousand strong, while Memphis was lightly garrisoned, would have drawn Grant from before Vicksburg. The railroad could have put them in Panola. in two days--three days marching would have put them in Memphis; and, with the Mississippi river in our possession at Memphis. and Port Hudson, Grant would have starved sooner than Pemberton.


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