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Doc. 17.-the Cairo expedition.

Official report of Gen; McClernand.

headquarters, District of Cairo, Cairo, ill., January 24.
Major-Gen. Henry W. Halleck, Commanding Department of Missouri:
sir: Being in temporary command of this district, it becomes my duty to submit the following report of the expedition which left Cairo, on the tenth inst., under order to penetrate the interior of Kentucky in the neighborhood of Columbus and towards Mayfield and Camp Beauregard.

The expedition consisted of the Tenth, Eighteenth, part of the Twenty-fifth, the Twenty-ninth, Thirtieth, Thirty-first and Forty-eighth regiments of infantry, Schwartz and Dresser's batteries of light artillery, Dollin's, O'Harnett's and Carmichael's companies of cavalry, attached to regiments; Schwartz's cavalry company, attached to my brigade, and five companies of Col. T. Lyle Dickey's Fourth regiment of cavalry, numbering of infantry, three thousand nine hundred and ninety-two, of cavalry one thousand and sixty-one, and of artillery one hundred and thirty-nine, rank and file, all under my command, and all Illinois volunteers, except Schwartz's battery of light artillery.

The cavalry, which had crossed the river and encamped at Fort Holt, on the morning of the ninth, marched on the morning of the tenth to Fort Jefferson, Capt. Stewart with his company being in the advance. On arriving he determined to take in custody all persons found in that place, and immediately sent forward pickets to guard the pass at Elliott's Mills and other approaches from Columbus.

The remainder of the forces, conveyed by transports, arrived at Fort Jefferson on the same day, tenth,) and encamped awaiting further orders.

On the eleventh I ordered a reconnoissance east to Blandville, by the “Hill road,” eight miles, [50] thence north on the road to Columbus to Weston's, five miles, and returning by Elliott's Mills to Fort Jefferson, nine miles. This reconnoissance was made by Capt. Stewart, in command of his own cavalry, and Company B, Capt. Collins, of the Fourth cavalry. No armed enemy was encountered, but captures of L. T. Polk and David Frazer, supposed to be couriers from Columbus, were made. No United States forces having previously approached so near Columbus, the inhabitants uniformly mistook our cavalry for rebel troops.

On the thirteenth, I ordered a demonstration to be made in the direction of Columbus, by six companies of cavalry, commanded by Capt. Stewart, supported by the Tenth and Eighteenth regiments of infantry, commanded. respectively by Colonels Morgan and Lawler.

The infantry, crossing Mayfield Creek, at Elliott's Mills, took position there, while the cavalry advanced until they came within a mile and a half of the enemy's defences, driving his pickets into camp and bringing away several prisoners and their horses.

It was discovered that an abbatis of fallen timber, a mile and a half in width, surrounded the enemy's intrenchments. The rigor of the weather and the non-appearance of any considerable rebel force, led to the belief that they were closely collected around camp-fires within the intrenchments, and indisposed to take the field. It is believed, that with suitable preparation on our part, a favorable time was thus afforded for successful attack and capture of Columbus.

From this near approach, the cavalry returned by “Putney's Bend” and Elliott's Mills, to Fort Jefferson, communicating with and being joined by the infantry who formed their support.

On the thirteenth, Lieut. H. C. Freeman, engineer, with an escort of cavalry explored the different roads leading from Fort Jefferson to Blandville, and selected a strong position for encampment half a mile north of Blandville, on the road to Columbus.

On the fourteenth, the whole force proceeded, flanked and followed by a strong guard, moved in two columns, by different roads, toward Blandville, and encamped in such a manner as to command the approaches from Columbus by both bridges across Mayfield Creek, in that vicinity. One of these is known as O'Neill's Bridge, and the other as Blandville Bridge.

The distance of this day's march was eight and a half miles, over difficult roads covered with sleet. To guard against surprise, strong mounted pickets were thrown forward toward Columbus and to the bridge across Mayfield Creek, at Hayworth's Mill, three miles above Blandville.

On the fifteenth, we advanced to Weston's — the Fourth cavalry and Dollin's company, under command of Lieut.-Col. McCulloch, making an early movement southwest, in the direction of Columbus, and repeating a near approach to that place, while Capt. Stewart, with his company, pushed a reconnoissance, eight miles, quite to Milburn, taking the town by surprise and picking up a man just from Columbus, from whom he derived much valuable information respecting the condition of the rebel force at that point.

He learned from this source that our demonstrations toward Columbus had excited alarm, and induced the enemy to call in his forces at Jackson, Beauregard, New — Madrid and other places. Milburn is reproached as a Union town by the rebels.

Joined at Weston's by the Seventh Illinois, (Col. Cook,) our whole force encamped for the night, in line of battle, ten miles from Columbus, taking a strong position, commanding the approaches to that place by two roads which intersect the road leading to Putney's Bend and Elliott's Mills to Milburn. Brig.-Gen. Grant, commanding the various forces in the field, came up with us at this point, and expressed his approval of the manner in which the disposition of the forces had been made. To prevent surprise, strong guards were again thrown forward.

At seven o'clock A. M., of the sixteenth, the entire column, except the Seventh Illinois volunteers, moved forward over icy roads toward Milburn, a small town southeast from Weston's, and eight miles distant, reaching Milburn about twelve M. The head of the column passed through the town on the road to Mayfield, about two miles, and halted — a portion of the column resting in the town. Looking to the object of the expedition, so far as it had been previously explained to me, I here manoeuvred my forces so as to leave the enemy in doubt whether my purpose was to attack Columbus, march upon Camp Beauregard, or to destroy the railroad leading from Columbus to Union City, and to awaken apprehensions for the safety of each.

While the rear of the column was still resting in Milburn, I countermarched the portion of it advanced beyond that place, taking the road beyond Milburn, leading north toward Lovelaceville, and followed in proper order the rear of the column, pushed on some four miles on that road, and encamped. Giving out that the object of the march was to encamp for the night on favorable ground near water in the vicinity of Milburn, the latent purpose of a change of the direction of my march was completely concealed.

In the mean time, to increase the deception, in pursuance of my order, Lieut.-Col. McChesney, with the Fourth cavalry, made a demonstration some five miles in a westerly dircection, on the road from Milburn to Columbus, and there again learned that Camp Beauregard was broken up, and that the enemy had retired within his intrenchments at Columbus. And, soon after, I learned that he had destroyed the railroad bridge across the Obion, which if true, must be attributed to a fear that it was my intention to seize and control the railroad in the rear of Columbus.

Sending forward Captain Wemple with his company of the Fourth cavalry to Mayfield, I communicated with General Smith, commanding the columns that marched from Paducah, placing him in possession of a dispatch from Brig.-Gen. Grant, and giving him information of the report that Camp [51] Beauregard had been abandoned. Capt. Wemple, with his command, joined me the next day.

On the next day our whole force advanced north eight miles to Lovelaceville, throwing forward strong pickets to guard the approach from Columbus by Hayworth's bridge.

On the eighteenth my command was marched in two columns, by different roads, in a westerly direction, and encamped for the night about a mile from Blandville, except the Twenty-ninth regiment and part of the baggage train, which, in consequence of the heavy rains of the previous night and the miry roads, were unable to come up. Riding back, I disposed of the regiment and train so as to secure them against danger.

On the nineteenth, the Twenty-ninth and the remainder of the train came up, the march of the former continuing as far as O'Neill's Mills, (before mentioned,) where, with a section of Schwartz's battery, they encamped for the night, disposing the force so as to command the approach from Columbus by the bridge at that place.

During the same day I also sent forward the Tenth regiment and another section of Schwartz's battery to occupy another approach to Columbus, by the Blandville bridge. Those dispositions were made anticipatory of our advance by the enemy, of which I had heard a report. And still further to insure our safety, I placed strong pickets above, at Hayworth's bridge, instructing the officer in command to remove some of its plank, so as to render it temporarily impassable.

Admonished by the reported advance of the enemy and the exposure of my left flank for its whole length, during the march next day, I despatched a courier, during the night of the nineteenth, to communicate with our forces at Fort Jefferson, and to suggest that the pass at Elliott's Mill should be occupied by an adequate force, to prevent my return to Fort Jefferson from being cut off. The courier returned with a message from Colonel Marsh, commanding the Twentieth Illinois, informing me that all our forces, except mine and his own, had embarked for Cairo; but that he would remain and hold the pass until I came up, unless otherwise ordered. At seven o'clock in the morning of the twentieth, the main body of my forces moved forward on the direct road to Fort Jefferson, the Twenty-ninth, with a section of Schwartz's battery, and the Tenth, with another section of the same battery, after having rendered the bridges near their encampment impassable, falling in the rear of the column and moving on with it to Fort Jefferson. During the exposure of this day's march, which was considered eminently critical, the column was guarded against surprise by strong guards of infantry and cavalry moving in front, rear, and on the left flank.

The Eighteenth and Thirty-first regiments, together with three pieces of Dresser's battery, having arrived at Fort Jefferson by one o'clock, were immediately embarked for Cairo; the remainder of the column following the next day to the same place.

The unavoidable deficiency of transportation with which my command set out, aggravated by the bad condition of the roads, prevented me from taking, on leaving Cairo, the five days supply of rations and forage directed by the commanding officer of the district. Hence the necessity of an early resort to other sources of supply. None other presented but to quarter on the enemy or to purchase from loyal citizens. I accordingly resorted to both expedients as I had opportunity In some cases finding live-stock, provisions, forage, etc., the owners of which had abandoned it and gone into the rebel camp, I took and appropriated it to the use of the United States without hesitation.

In other cases I purchased from loyal citizens such supplies as were indispensable, and caused certificates to be issued, charging the Government for the purchase of the articles thus obtained. By these means of supply, resorted to from the necessities of the case, substantial economy was practised, in saving to the Government, in supplies and transportation, more than the full value for the five days named.

The reconnaissance thus made completed a march of one hundred and forty miles by the cavalry, and seventy-five miles by the infantry, over icy and miry roads, during a most inclement season, and has led to the discovery of several important roads which did not appear on our maps.

Besides the immediate effect of so formidable a demonstration, other beneficial results, perhaps of little less importance, have flown from it. Without doubt it has exploded many false reports studiously and sedulously circulated by the enemy to our detriment. It has forcibly and deeply impressed the inhabitants of the district through which we passed with the superiority of our military preparations and of our ultimate ability to conquer the rebellion. It inspired hope among many loyal citizens who hailed us as deliverers, whom I regret our unexpected withdrawal will probably leave victims of rebel persecution and proscription.

Although disappointed by the recal from their advance, I am happy to state that the officers and men under my command, from first to last, performed the duties incident to the expedition with ability, fidelity, and rare patience under the most trying circumstances.

Your obedient servant,

John A. Mcclernand, Brig.-Gen. Commanding District of Cairo.

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