did not exceed six thousand, many of whom were State militiamen.
Cairo, Feb. 29, 1864.Some particulars of the late expedition of General William S. Smith, lately returned to Memphis, have already been published. General Smith, in person, arrived here last evening. His official report to the military authorities will set forth the following facts: The expedition moved from Memphis on Thursday, the eleventh instant, some seven thousand strong, Brigadier-General William S. Smith in command, the purpose being to clear the country of straggling rebel forces, and, if possible, create a diversion in favor of General Sherman, with whose rear it was thought the cavalry expedition might in due season communicate. It was stated that the enemy were posted in force beyond the Tallahatchie, and that they would determinedly resist the Federal advance. After two days heavy marching, the expedition reached the Tallahatchie. A brigade of infantry, temporarily attached to the expedition, under command of Colonel McMillen, was sent forward and threatened Panola, and afterward to Wyatt, for a similar purpose. The move was successful. The infantry attracted the attention and the forces of the enemy to these points, when General Smith swung his cavalry around and to New-Albany, whence he crossed without firing a shot. He then pushed boldly forward to a point near the Pontotoc, in the vicinity of Houston, where he encountered some State confederate troops, under the command of Gholson, numbering near six thousand. They stampeded at his approach, throwing away their arms as they ran. General Smith pursued them hotly and until he reached Houlka Swamp, where he found the enemy concentrated in heavy force, holding a corduroy road, the only one across the swamp. This could not be turned either to the right or to the left, so Smith's whole force was moved rapidly to the eastward, while a heavy demonstration was made on the front, as though he intended to force a passage over the road. The enemy were again deceived, and our forces fell back upon Okolona. This was on Monday, the fifteenth instant. The attack upon Okolona was so little expected that several confederate officers, at home on visit to their families, were captured. Some of them were finely mounted. The Ninth Illinois regiment of cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Burgh commanding, was then sent out to Sheridan, to endeavor to secure a crossing of the Tombigbee. On the next morning, Hepburn's brigade, commanded by General Grierson in person, was sent out to support the Ninth regiment, and at Aberdeen, with directions to threaten Columbus strongly. With the remaining two brigades, General Smith swept down the railroad toward West-Point, tearing up the railroad completely as he advanced, and also burning all the corn he found. There were vast quantities of this, cribbed and ready for transportation. The amount destroyed could not be much less than two million bushels, and was possibly much greater. Two thousand bales of cotton were also devoted to the flames. During this portion of the march negroes flocked to General Smith by hundreds and thousands, mounted on their masters' horses and mules, with briddles and saddles of the most primitive description. They welcomed General Smith as their deliverer whenever he met them. “God bless ye! Has yer come at last? We've been lookina for you for a long time, and had almost done gone give it up!” was the cry of many. They bade farewell to their wives and children, and marched in the van. Hearing that the enemy was concentrated in heavy force at West-Point, the brigade of Aberdeen was called over by a forced march to the line on the railroad, at a station fifteen miles north of West-Point, while the main force moved down upon West-Point. Two miles north of that place, Smith came upon a brigade of the enemy, drawn up in line of battle, to receive him. This was on Wednesday, the seventeenth instant, at about three P. Mi. Our forces charged it in a gallant style, and after a sharp engagement of some fifteen minutes duration, drove the enemy back through the town into the Suchatoncha Swamp, on the right. Skirmishing continued on the border of the swamp during the remainder of the evening, until dark. Meanwhile the whole Federal force was being brought forward into position. Through his scouts, General Smith ascertained that the enemy was upon his front in powerful force, that he held every one of the crossings of the swamp on his right, and on the line of the Octibbeha in the front. He was confined on the left by the Tombigbee, which it was impossible to cross. His force was heavily encumbered with the pack-trains, horses, mules captured, to the number of full three thousand, and an equal number of negroes. These he felt obliged to protect, and it took such a heavy guard force, as to reduce the effective fighting force nearly one half, leaving him powerless to drive the enemy, so strong in numbers, before him, and who had taken up a strong position, that he could better defend with musketry and riflemen, than Smith could attack with only light carbines, his horses being useless on the marshy ground occupied. There was little time for speculation. The position was imminent. General Smith did the best He could under the circumstances. He made a strong demonstration upon the rebel centre, and while sharp fighting was going on, drew all his. incumbrances and the main portion of his force rapidly back toward Okolona, covering his rear with a well-organized force, which fought the enemy from every line of concealment that offered on their backward march. The enemy pursued in force, and made desperate attempts to overwhelm the rear-guard, but without success. They also failed in attacking the main force in flank, which they several times essayed, but were as often foiled. All their best manoeuvres were thus handsomely checkmated, and General, Smith soon had the fighting all in