he moved due east to Okolona
; he then moved south down the Mobile and Ohio Railroad to Prairie station
(fifteen miles north of West Point
), where he concentrated his command.
On February 20th, he moved his entire command to the vicinity of West Point
Here he encountered the first Confederate brigade drawn up in line of battle a mile out of the city.
After a slight skirmish the brigade retired before him through the city, and on the road towards Starkville
over Sookatonichie creek,. General Smith
, on arriving at West Point
(February 20th), heard of the approach of General Stephen D. Lee
's cavalry from the direction of Meriden
, and had it confirmed from prisoners and deserters taken on the evening of the same date, when Forrest
was retiring, and being followed across the Sookatonichie, to await the arrival of General Lee
, although he had fought no battle, and had met with no opposition to amount to anything on his march from Collierville
to West Point
, suddenly determined to retreat, and issued orders for his command to begin the return march early on the morning of the 21st of February.
He says in his official report: ‘Exaggerated reports of Forrest
's strength reached me constantly, and it was reported that Lee
was about to reinforce him with a portion or the whole of his command.’
To cover his retreat, he moved one of his brigades towards Sockatonichie creek and attacked a part of General Forrest
's command on February 21st.
The fight lasted about two hours, when Forrest
, with his usual perception and vigor, began to believe a change of operation had occurred in his front, and with a regiment and escort he began a headlong charge, breaking through and driving the enemy before him. He found that Smith
was rapidly retreating northward.
He at once had all his command rushed to the front in pursuit, overtaking the enemy near Okolona
, where he began crowding him, and gradually driving him from position to position, capturing six pieces of artillery; this pursuit was kept up to near Pontotoc
, on February 22d and 23d, where it was abandoned except by a small force.
had about exhausted his ammunition, and could follow the enemy no farther.
The retreat was very rapid, the itinerary and reports showing that in the first day's retrograde movement (February 21st), a part of the command marched thirty-seven miles and had to remount with captured horses, abandoning many of their exhausted stock.
It is difficult to understand his headlong retreat, except that the enemy was fearful of being cut off by the cavalry getting in their rear.
It is difficult now to speculate as to the results had