Doc. 4. the Yazoo expedition.
General McArthur's operations.
Vicksburg, May 27, 1864.The following is an account of General McArthur's late expedition into the Yazoo country. The forces of which this little army are composed consists of about two thousand infantry, five hundred and fifty cavalry, and eight pieces of artillery. They left Vicksburg on the morning of the fourth of May, and took up the line of march for Yazoo City, distant by the land route about seventy-five miles. The men were in excellent spirits and only too glad to exchange the march, with a fair prospect of a fight, for the irksome, monotonous duties of camp. The main objects of this movement were to draw in this direction the attention of the detached bodies of rebels in the north part of the State, and prevent a combination which would hazard our armies in Tennessee, Kentucky, or Georgia. Part of the marine brigade was to co-operate with the expedition by river, and on the arrival of our forces at Mechanicsburg on the sixth, the marine cavalry boats were found at Satartia. The former is a small town situated about four miles directly back from the latter. The command moved on, and next day encountered the enemy strongly posted near Benton. The troops were speedily brought up and placed in position, and a brief skirmish put the rebels to flight, but the nature of the country is such, that a retreating force by the use of artillery can annoy or delay their pursuers very easily, and this they were bold enough to do. Taking advantageous positions, and placing a gun or two in a battery, they could compel a delay to deploy and advance in line, and when closely pressed they would hurry on with their guns, leaving tired “infants” far behind. The rebels were found to be Colonel Mayberry's brigade of mounted infantry, with four pieces of artillery. The fight here was principally with artillery, and the loss was slight. Pursuit was continued six miles, when the men were recalled, and encamped near Benton. Meanwhile, from despatches captured, General McArthur learned that General Wirt Adams was on his way from Canton to cross the Big Black and join May-berry with three thousand more men that night.  Confident of his ability to contend with the entire rebel force thus concentrated, General McArthur, with his characteristic imperturbability, awaited to give Adams the chance to cross if he chose at the point he had designated, about twenty-two miles from Benton. General McArthur had taken the very wise precaution to send into Yazoo City — which the marine portion of the expedition were now occupying — a portion of his train, so as not to be encumbered therewith in his movements, preferring, unlike some commanders of expeditions, to use infantry to support his advance cavalry force. On the twelfth, General McArthur started his little army eastward, in the direction of Vaughan, distant eighteen miles, determined if the enemy were there, as reported, to make them fight or run. He had gone but a few miles when he came upon the rebels in force, fully displayed upon carefully chosen ground, and apparently determined to resist his march. He immediately drew up his men and offered battle. For a short time the contest was sharp, but a flank movement skilfully managed and a successful advance of a section of artillery which opened on them an enfilade unexpectedly, threw them into confusion followed by a hasty retreat. Again they were pursued and a running fight — if the toilsome march of infantry after mounted men can be called running — was kept up all the way to Vaughan. Vaughan is a station on the Mississippi Central Railroad, distant thirty miles from Yazoo City. The railroad crosses the Big Black at a point four miles from Vaughan. That night the troops were camped at the station, and the next day engaged in the destruction of the depot and a portion of the track and most of the tressel work at the crossing. Brigadier-General Ellet had meantime arrived at Yazoo City with some more troops, and assumed direction of affairs there. Skirmishing was frequent, even near the city, and a detachment of marine cavalry, on its way out to communicate with General McArthur's command, after following over the route of the fighing, from Benton to Vaughan, had nearly reached the latter place, late at night, when a body of rebels were found picketing the road at a place where it forks, and they were compelled to return. After causing the destruction of the railroad, and being satisfied of the fact that Adams would not fight him, General McArthur moved leisurely back, and arrived in this city on the fifteenth. This part of the Mississippi Central Railroad had been once destroyed before by our army, and was just rebuilt at great cost and labor, and was designed by the rebels to transport supplies from the rich region of the Yazoo, through to the interior, for the use of their army. This city has suffered but little from the ravages of war, though it has been temporarily occupied by Federal troops three different times, and there has been a severe street fight, marks of shots being plainly visible in many places. Its citizens are, for the most part, females, wives or widows, or sweethearts of rebel officers and soldiers, and hence they are thoroughly rebel. There is great destitution throughout this whole region. None of the staple groceries are to be found, even in the houses of the most wealthy. Corn meal, and a wretched quality at that, with garden vegetables and milk, constitute the most extravagant bill of fare the country will afford. All articles of dress are sold at fabulous prices, and the poor are truly in a wretched condition. Every kind of business is entirely suspended, and what little energy is left in the people is concentrated upon the raising of grain; but the negroes having mostly left, there will not be more produced than will be needed for home consumption. Large numbers of refugees and deserters from the rebel army have come in, some having their families with them, appealing for help to get away. In some instances three deserters have lived for fifteen months in the nearest swamp to their homes, and have been hunted for repeatedly by the scouts and conscript parties with bloodhounds. They desire to take the oath of allegiance, and go where they can live as loyal citizens of the United States undisturbed. Said one who had been a conscript and escaped after three months : “Sir, I have long looked for this day ; I will take the oath of allegiance and once more become a loyal citizen of the United States, that good old government for which my grandfather fought seven years, and for whose enemies I never did, and never will, fire a gun.” Several prisoners fell into our hands, and a few were lost during the marches and fights. A flag a truce was sent out to the rebels in the hope of effecting an exchange, but Adams declined.
May 30.The expedition has returned to Vicksburg, marching through in three days. No enemy appeared during the march. Adams has retired with his whole command across the Big Black, seeking a safer place than the vicinity of McArthur to carry on his military operations. This accounts for his declining the exchange. He wished to keep his movements secret till his command were safely across, and the Big Black between himself and McArthur. The expedition is an entire success, and reflects great credit upon the officers who planned and executed it. The men held up during the long fatiguing march remarkably well, and came into Vicksburg in the same high spirits in which they left.