So entirely was this support relied upon, that the Federal commander has openly boasted that “General Smith would be in Columbus by the fifteenth.” It is confidently believed here, that the Federal force now moving in that direction will fall in with some obstacles little dreamed of in their philosophy, which will very seriously interfere with their arrangements. General Forrest, who is already confronting them, has been amply reenforced, and strong hopes are entertained that very few will reach General Sherman, and those will hardly improve his already partially demoralized army. This Northern Mississippi raid, it seems, consists of from seven to ten thousand men, cavalry and infantry combined, with six pieces of artillery. This raid is abundantly provided for. Our cavalry have been doing splendid work. I have heard Wirt Adams's old regiment more particularly mentioned. I had begun to fear the “forty wagons” affair was a “reliable contraband” story, but to-day I learned the particulars from a participant in the affair. Two squadrons from Wirt Adams's old regiment, led by Colonel Wood, (now commanding that gallant corps,) and supported by a small force of dismounted men under Colonel Dumontielle, charged across a small field, along the opposite side of which the enemy's wagon train was passing, heavily guarded by a line of infantry on either side. The charge was so sudden, so wild, so gallant, that the wretches felt their doom was sealed and fled in wild confusion. On dashed the avenging “rebels,” and while the mules and drivers struggled in confusion and dismay, they shot drivers and mules as they swept like whirlwind down the line of struggling, crushed, and disorderly Yankees, and poured a perfect shower of balls into them, and then, coming to a heavy line of infantry drawn up to receive them, they wheeled off and dashed again out of sight and reach. We lost six men and some few horses in the affair; and among them a very gallant fellow, Sergeant Gibson, who Was wounded, and afterward killed in cold blood by the cowardly wretches who had fled on the first sight of our men. It is of course not prudent to mention what is now transpiring hereabouts, but all weak-kneed people had as well take heart, and not cry “Wolf!” too soon. There is no little probability that the adventurous Yankees will pay dearly for their grand raid. All apprehensions of an attack on Mobile or Selma are now dissipated. It turns out that there is no considerable force at Pascagoula, or in that vicinity, and if General Polk had only been reenforced at the critical point, at Meridian, for instance, the whole Yankee force would have been incontinently “gobbled up.”
Richmond despatch account.
Richmond, Va., March 9, 1864.The recent victory of General Forrest in Northern Mississippi, by which the grand plan of the Yankees in the West was so effectually defeated, was one of the most remarkable achievements of this war. We have conversed with gentlemen recently from that section, whose accounts all concur in the main facts of that almost marvellous exploit. The enemy's reports fully confirm these accounts, but they do not state the exact force by which these results were accomplished. Owing to the exhaustion of his horses, the want of arms and munitions and other causes, Forrest could array a force of only two thousand four hundred men to confront Smith and Grierson's column of seven thousand of the best equipped cavalry the Yankees have ever put in the field. Forrest's men, too, were mostly new and untried, especially in the cavalry service. He had recently recruited them them in West-Tennessee. It seemed the extreme of rashness and recklessness to attempt with such a force to arrest the march of a column of seven thousand splendidly mounted and equipped men, led by experienced officers, whose march thus far had been uninterrupted, who were buoyant and confident, and were charged with such an important mission. The junction of this cavalry force with Sherman at Meridian was the key of the whole scheme of the Yankee plan for the occupation and subjugation of the South-West. If successful, Sherman would have been in a condition to advance upon Demopolis and Selma, or Mobile; and these important points, as well as the rich countries adjacent, would have been at the mercy of the enemy. They could have been driven back only at the enormous risk of weakening Johnston's army, so as to open Northern Georgia and Rome and Atlanta to Grant's army. General Polk, with his scant infantry force, quickly perceived the momentous issue which depended upon the result of the cavalry movement from Memphis, and after securing his small army on the east side of the Tombigbee, and removing all his supplies and munitions, and returning to Mobile the troops he had borrowed from General Maury, sent imperative orders to Lee and Forrest to unite their forces, and at every cost to crush and drive back Smith and Grierson's cavalry. Lee did not receive these orders in time to reach Forrest with his force, which was already greatly exhausted by the continual skirmishing with Sherman's column. Forrest was therefore left alone with his two thousand four hundred men to perform this immense undertaking. Confronting the enemy on the broad prairies near West-Point, on the Tibbee River, he prepared for action. The enemy formed in a long and most imposing line, outflanking Forrest, and threatening the instant demolition of his small and imperfectly organized force. The charge was given, and the Yankees advanced with great boldness and an air of certain victory. Great was their surprise when, as they approached Forrest's line, they observed his men slip from their horses, and converting themselves into infantry, each man taking the most favorable position, availing themselves of every advantage the ground afforded, and awaiting with the utmost coolness the impetuous charge of the Yankee chivalry. On came the splendidly mounted-dragoons,