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[448] to procure their supplies, they were not able greatly to harass his march. However, while their infantry occupied Oxford on the 5th of December, their cavalry was already in the vicinity of Coffeeville, thirty kilometres from Grenada; the largest portion of Pemberton's army was massed in this position, behind the Yallabusha, its front being covered by Lovell with two divisions in advance of this river. That very day the approaches to Coffeeville were the scene of a brisk encounter between these troops and the division of Federal cavalry, which was pressing them too closely. The cavalry was driven back upon its infantry reserves, but retired in good order, showing a resistance which elicited commendations even from its adversaries, fighting alternately on foot and on horseback, and availing itself of all the advantages of ground to stop an enemy superior to it in numbers. The losses amounted to about one hundred men on each side. Notwithstanding this aggressive demonstration, it was evident that the Confederates had no desire to dispute the right bank of the Yallabusha with the Federals.

On reaching this river, the Federals would have found themselves only one hundred and sixty kilometres from Grand Junction, and about five hundred kilometres from Columbus, whence they derived all their supplies; but notwithstanding the visit and encouraging words of Mr. Jefferson Davis, it was not likely that Pemberton would wait for them in positions poorly fortified and too much extended, the Confederates having every interest in weakening their adversaries by drawing them still farther into the interior. Grant therefore concluded that he could not push his land expedition beyond Grenada; indeed, at that period, it was not considered possible to subsist an army of thirty or forty thousand men solely upon the resources of a country so sparsely peopled as the State of Mississippi, and to keep them in the field even for a few days without having their communications with the base of operations perfectly secured.

Despairing to overtake Pemberton to inflict upon him a decisive defeat, Grant then fell back upon the plan of attacking Vicksburg by the river, and on the 5th of December he made a proposition to that effect to Halleck, the more earnestly, perhaps, because he dreaded to see this expedition entrusted to McClernand, while he

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