previous next

Doc. 76.-Colonel Elliott's expedition.

New-York Tribune account.

General Pope's headquarters, six miles South of Corinth, June 21, 1862.
on the evening of the twenty-seventh ultimo Col. Elliott received orders to get his brigade, consisting of the Second Iowa and Second Michigan cavalry, immediately in readiness and proceed, provided with three days cooked rations for the men and one day's for the animals, with as much secrecy as possible, from his camp in the vicinity of Farmington, across the Memphis and Charleston Railroad east of Iuka, to the head-waters of the Tombigbee, thence to bear north of west so as to strike the Mobile and Ohio Railroad at some point near Booneville, and destroy the track in the most effective possible manner, so as to prevent the passage of trains at least for days. He was directed after accomplishing the object of the expedition, to return over another road, but in the same direction he came, and in case he should find his return to Gen. Pope's army rendered impracticable by the enemy, to make his way through Alabama toward Huntsville, and then report to Gen. Mitchel. To better understand the expedition, it should be borne in mind that it was undertaken three days before the intention of Beauregard to abandon Corinth became manifest, and that it was part of the programme of Gen. Halleck to destroy the rebel means of retreat into the interior of Mississippi before or simultaneously with the final assault [228] upon their position, which was to take place the very morning Col. Elliott carried out his instructions at Booneville, and the last rebels left Corinth.

In accordance with the above order, the brigade started out precisely at midnight of the twenty-seventh. Col. Elliott, being perfectly ignorant of the roads and country he had to traverse, had procured two guides from among the native residents about Farmington to where he was to strike the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, and afterward secured the necessary guidance by picking up every citizen he met and forcing them to show him the way, their persons being sufficient guarantee that they would act in good faith.

The brigade crossed the Mobile and Ohio Railroad with daylight on the morning of the twenty-eighth, some two miles east of Iuka, and twenty miles from Farmington, and pushed ten miles further to the south, when they rested. Late in the afternoon the march was resumed, and continued until daybreak the next day, for a distance of nearly forty miles, to the head-waters of the Tombigbee, over little travelled roads and through an extremely rough, broken, thickly-wooded country, watered by numerous streams. Here another halt was made until the cool hours of the evening. The inhabitants, not for a moment suspecting that the “Yankees” could have found their way so far south of Corinth, flocked together, bringing water, milk, and eatables for the supposed Southern cavalry. The one day's rations for the animals being consumed, forcible foraging was resorted to during the day, which speedily opened the eyes of the astonished and affrighted natives.

At four o'clock P. M. the column was again in motion, and marching all night to the north-west arrived in the vicinity of Booneville at three P. M. Reconnoitring parties were sent out to ascertain the condition of things about the town, and upon nearing it discovered that an apparently interminable train, loaded, as was afterward learned, with nearly three thousand confederates, was just about departing south. Retreating upon the main body, they allowed the train to pass out of sight before they commenced operations. Col. Sheridan of the Second Michigan was then ordered to leave one half of his regiment in reserve, and with the balance to proceed south of the town and destroy the track. While marching in that direction the battalion came up with numerous detachments of the enemy, evidently stragglers. They were immediately charged upon and scattered to the four winds. They threw away their arms and rode off at a wonderful rate, outrunning the jaded horses of the pursuers. Reaching the track at a point three fourths of a mile south of the town, Col. Sheridan put his men to work without delay, knocking off and destroying the rails with their axes, the only implements of destruction they had brought along. In less than twenty minutes a quarter of a mile of the track was thus destroyed, when an order was received from Col. Elliott directing Col. Sheridan to join him at Booneville.

In the mean time the Second Iowa, Lieut.-Col. Hatch, commanding, under the immediate supervision of Colonel Elliott, had entered the town, where they found one locomotive and a train of twenty-six cars, containing large quantities of ordnance, ordnance stores, quartermasters' property, commissary stores, and private baggage of officers, estimated in value at from one half to three quarters of a million of dollars — all of which, with the exception of the locomotives that were merely disabled, was effectively destroyed.

The presence of the Union cavalry had now become known to the rebels, who were in strong force both north and south of the town. Without knowing any thing of the evacuation of Corinth, Col. Elliott had, indeed, wedged his command in between the main body and rear of Beauregard's army. The pickets he had thrown out reported strong bodies of the enemy advancing from both directions upon the town. Fearing that his retreat might be cut off, and having done all and more than he had been ordered to do, Colonel Elliott determined to make a retrograde movement at once.

Both the Second Iowa and Second Michigan, while moving to and fro about town, had taken several hundred prisoners, belonging to a regiment that had been stationed at Booneville to guard the town and road, completely surprised and running about wildly upon the sudden entrance of our cavalry. Nearly every house was also full of rebel sick, numbering, in the aggregate, nearly two thousand. A speedy retreat having now become necessary, these prisoners had to be abandoned; not, however, until after their arms and equipments were rendered useless.

The pickets being all drawn in, with the exception of a squad of ten belonging to the Second Iowa, who ventured too far north and were surrounded, and either killed or captured, the brigade started upon the return march. Before setting out, Col. Elliott had become satisfied, by information obtained from prisoners, that Beauregard's army was retreating along the left of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, and hence he took the right, and succeeded in safely reaching our lines, meanwhile extended south of Corinth on Saturday morning. On the way up he picked up three rebel officers and fifty-seven privates, and brought them into camp.

His command had marched nearly two hundred miles in three days and a half. His men had hardly any sleep, in spite of their fearful fatigue, and nothing to eat for the last twenty-four hours of the expedition. The animals had to subsist during the last three days on what forage could be hunted up along the route. Yet, notwithstanding this exhaustive taxation of men and animals, the cavalry brigade sought no rest, but immediately joined in the pursuit, and engaged as energetically in it as though riders and horses had not just made the severest and longest march in the shortest time, but were just entering the field fresh from camp. They kept always in the advance, scouting in all directions, scouring every woods for the enemy for miles [229] around. On the fourth of June, the brigade, supported by Powell's battery, made a forced reconnoissance, and encountered a strong body of rebel cavalry, infantry, and artillery, a short distance this side of Blackland, with whom they had a successful skirmish, the Second Iowa losing three killed and nine wounded, and the Second Michigan two killed and seven wounded. Again, on the sixth, it made another reconnoissance in the direction of Baldwin, skirmishing for six miles, and driving the enemy that distance to Twenty-Mile Creek, in the bottom of which lay a large body of rebel infantry. On the ninth the brigade, temporarily in command of Colonel Sheridan, was directed to proceed the shortest possible road from near Blackland to Baldwin. It did so, and arrived at the latter point on the following morning at four o'clock, finding the enemy gone. Lieut.-Col. Hatch was then ordered with a battalion each of the Second Michigan and Second Iowa, to proceed toward Guntown and feel the position of the enemy. He came upon his rear, one and a half miles from Guntown, and his bold advance forced the rebels out, with infantry, cavalry, and artillery; when, having fulfilled his mission, he returned to Baldwin. This was the last attempt made by any portion of our forces to follow up the retreating enemy.

It was not only in the last days of the siege of Corinth, and during the pursuit, that the brigade made a reputation for boldness and power of endurance. From the very day they landed at Hamburgh, portions of it engaged almost daily in venturesome, successful outpost enterprises. The gallant charge of the brigade upon a rebel battery near Farmington, on the ninth ultimo, alone won for it the confidence and admiration of the whole army.

Its efficiency is principally due to the efforts of Col. Elliott, than whom a better cavalry officer can hardly be found in the service. It is but gratifying that he has already obtained his well-deserved reward by his promotion to a Brigadier-Generalship. He is now on duty on Gen. Pope's staff, and Col. Sheridan is permanently assigned to the command of the brigade.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Henry H. Elliott (10)
P. H. Sheridan (5)
John Pope (3)
G. T. Beauregard (3)
Francis Hatch (2)
O. L. Baldwin (2)
Jack Powell (1)
O. M. Mitchel (1)
H. W. Halleck (1)
Doc (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
27th (2)
9th (2)
June 21st, 1862 AD (1)
June 4th (1)
28th (1)
6th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: