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Doc. 61.-operations in Mississippi.

Report of General C. C. Washburn.

headquarters cavalry division, mouth of cold water River, Miss., Dec. 4, 1862.
Captain: I have the honor to report in regard to the operations of the forces placed under my command, in connection with the expedition into Mississippi, that the force was embarked and sailed from Helena at about two o'clock P. M. on Thursday, November twenty seventh. The embarkation was delayed several hours in consequence of insufficient transportation, and negligence on the part of the Quartermaster in not having the boats, which had been long in port, properly coaled and in readiness. In consequence I was not able to make my landing at Delta, and disembark the cavalry forces which composed my command till after dark.

The force I had with me was one thousand nine hundred and twenty-five strong, and consisted of detachments from the following regiments, namely:

 Commander.No. Men.
First Indiana Cavalry,Capt. Walker,300
Ninth Illinois Cavalry,Major Birge,150
Third Iowa Cavalry,Major Scott,188
Fourth Iowa Cavalry,Capt. Perkins,200
Fifth Illinois Cavalry,Major Soley,212

The above I formed into one brigade under the command of Colonel Hale Wilson, of the Fifth Illinois cavalry.

 Commander.No. Men.
Sixth Missouri Cavalry,Major Harkins,150
Fifth Kansas Cavalry,Lieut.-Col. Jenkins,208
Tenth Illinois Cavalry,Capt. Auderson,92
Third Illinois Cavalry,Lieut.-Col. Ruggles,200
Second Wisconsin Cavalry,Lieut.-Col. Sterling,225

The last-named were placed under command of Colonel Thomas Stephens, Second Wisconsin cavalry.

As soon as possible after landing, I took up my line of march for the interior, and went into camp for the night, about eight miles from the Mississippi River. I took with me no baggage or tents of any kind, and about three days rations. I broke camp at daylight on Friday, and marched thirty-five miles on that day to the west bank of the Tallahatchie River, just below its junction with the Coldwater. During this day's march we captured several rebel pickets. We found that reports of our landing had preceded us, and the impression prevailed that we were approaching in great force. From the negroes that we met we learned that there was a force of rebel cavalry encamped at the mouth of Coldwater, and that a large party of negroes had been collected near there to blockade the road and throw up fortifications. Wishing to surprise them, if possible, I delayed the column slightly, so as not to arrive at the river until after nightfall. As we approached the ferry where they were supposed to he encamped, I ordered Capt. Walker, who commanded the detachment of First Indiana cavalry, to dismount a party of his men and throw them forward as quietly as possible to the bank of the river, and at the same time to detach his horses from his small guns and have his men run them quietly forward by hand, and we soon came in sight of their camp-fires on the opposite bank of the river, and could distinctly see large numbers of soldiers moving around them. They were laughing, talking, singing, and enjoying themselves right merrily. Capt. Walker immediately brought his guns to bear at a distance of about three hundred yards, and opened out with all force at once, while the dismounted men poured a volley into them from the river bank. The enemy fled with the utmost precipitation, leaving many horses and arms upon the ground. The next day, five of them, very seriously wounded, were found in houses by the road-side, and the negroes reported that they had three killed during the engagement.

I encamped for the night on the banks of Tallahatchie River. The river at this point is deep and sluggish, and is about one hundred and twenty yards across. We here found a ferry, with one ferry-boat forty or fifty feet in length. It was my intention to bridge the river during the night, and for that purpose I took along with me five thousand feet of inch pine lumber, and five small boats sent from Memphis, but an examination of the boats proved them to be leaky and worthless, and we had to delay operations till morning. Being convinced that the means furnished for bridging were wholly inadequate, I despatched parties up the Coldwater, and down the Tallahatchie to hunt for boats. They found two large flats up the Coldwater, but they found the river full of snags, and it was not until nearly [231] four o'clock P. M. that they succeeded in getting them down. By half-past 4 P. M. I had the bridge completed, and by six o'clock P. M. I had my entire force of cavalry on the eastern bank of the river. My design then was to march my force as rapidly as possible to the rear of the rebel army, and destroy his telegraphic and railway communications. To do the latter the most effectively, I thought it best to march directly on Grenada, knowing that there were two important railroad bridges across the Yallabusha River, the one on the Mississippi Central, and the other on the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad.

The distance to make to reach Grenada was fifty-six miles, but by pushing hard I deemed it possible to reach there by daylight next morning. After proceeding nearly east, along the Yockna Creek about eleven miles, the road forks, one road going to Panola, the other to Charleston and Grenada. A few yards from the forks of the road, on the Panola road, is a ferry across the Yockna, and the head of my column turned down the Panola road to the ferry to water their horses. They were at once fired upon by a heavy rebel picket. Major Hawkins, of the Sixth Missouri, immediately brought his small howitzers to bear, and we soon silenced the enemy and drove him away. We afterward learned that they were the pickets of a cavalry force of three hundred, who were encamped six miles up the Panola road, who, on hearing our guns supposed we were bound for Panola, and they returned to that point. After leaving this point we were several times fired upon by the pickets of the enemy, which compelled us to feel our way during the night. At daylight I found myself at Preston, a little town sixteen miles from Grenada. When I arrived here I found that it would be impossible for me to reach Hardy Station, the first station on the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroads, in time to intercept the up-train, which I ascertained usually left at eight A. M. I detached Captain A. M. Sherman, Second Wisconsin cavalry, with two hundred men of the Second Wisconsin and Fifth Illinois cavalry, to cross over to the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad at Garner Station, which was only four miles distant, and destroy the telegraph and such bridges as he could find, and if possible to capture the train. He burnt one bridge over one hundred feet long, and cut the telegraph. He was also instructed on leaving Garner Station to cross through the woods to the Mississippi Central, distance of nine miles in an air-line, and hunt for and destroy bridges and cut the telegraph. This last, from the character of the country to be passed over, he found would be impracticable. The train from Grenada did not come up with the remainder of the column; I passed on down to Grenada. About nine o'clock A. M., my horses being thoroughly jaded, I found it necessary to stop and feed and rest them, which I did for about two hours; I then pressed on to Hardy Station; about half a mile below the station I found a bridge about one hundred feet in length, which I burned, and destroyed several hundred yards of telegraph-wire, and burned one passenger, one box, and ten plat-form cars. We here learned that information of our coming had preceded us by several hours, and that the evening previous one thousand one hundred infantry had come down the road from Panola to Grenada. At Hardy Station the road we travelled crossed the railroad and passed down between the Mississippi and Tennessee and Mississippi Central Railroad. Passing down the road toward Grenada for about two miles, we heard from the negroes that trains of cars were running all night down the Central Railroad toward Grenada loaded with soldiers. Being in a perfect trap between the two railroads, in a low and densely wooded bottom, with no knowledge in regard to roads, and knowing that they had had time to send ample forces from Abbeville, I deemed it too hazardous to proceed further in that direction. I here detailed Major Birge, of the Ninth Illinois cavalry, with one hundred men, armed with carbines, crowbars and axes, and directed him to cross the country through the woods and cane-brakes until they should strike the Central Mississippi Railroad, and then destroy the telegraph and all the bridges they could find. They successfully performed the service, destroying the telegraph, tearing up the rail-track, and burning one small bridge, being the only one they could find, they having an uninterrupted view of the track for a long distance each way. While thus employed, a train of cars loaded with soldiers came slowly up the track from toward Grenada, apparently feeling their way, to find out where we were. They fell back on discovering Major Birge and party. Major Birge having done all the damage to the railroad he could, fell back to the main column. By this time it was nearly night; my horses and men were too thoroughly tired out, and my knowledge of the country was too limited to justify me in perilling my whole force by venturing further, and I accordingly fell back for about fifteen miles and encamped for the night. Before doing so I hesitated as to the route I should take on my return. I was at the point where the main road from Abbeville and Coffeeville intersected the road I passed down upon, about five miles from Grenada. I felt the importance of striking Coffeeville, and destroying some bridges that I heard of there, and from there fall back via Oakland, on the Mississippi and Tennessee Road. Coffeeville was thirteen miles off, and Oakland thirty; but, on reflection, I determined not to do so. Had I taken the other road, the result might have proved disastrous. Sunday night a force of five thousand rebel cavalry came into Oakland in pursuit of me, with two field-pieces. After feeding and resting for a short time, they proceeded on to Grenada and Coffeeville. Had I taken the other road, via Coffeeville, and the only other one by which we could return, we should have encountered this force. As we should have had to go into camp from sheer exhaustion soon after leaving Coffeeville, they would, no doubt, have come upon us in camp; and, with more than double our number, and a perfect knowledge of the country, they would have had us at great disadvantage. On Monday morning 1 broke camp, four [232] miles beyond Charleston, and marched to Mitchell's Cross-Roads, twelve miles from the mouth of the Coldwater, where we found that Gen. Hovey had sent forward to that point about one thousand two hundred infantry, with four field-pieces. I had scarcely arrived at Mitchell's Cross-Roads, when word came into camp that two companies of infantry, sent out by Col. Spicely on the Panola road as a picket, were fighting, and in danger of being cut off. Without an instant's waiting. I threw my force forward--Captain Walker, of the First Indiana, with his little howitzers in front, and Major Birge, of the Ninth Illinois cavalry, immediately following. As soon as we came in sight of the enemy, Capt. Walker and Major Birgebrought their guns into position, and a few well-directed shots sent the enemy flying. The enemy was posted on the north side of the Yockna, a deep stream about one hundred and twenty-five feet wide, crossed by a ferry. I immediately threw a portion of Capt. Walker's command across the stream, who pursued them lively for a few miles, until further pursuit was useless. This force was part of Stark's cavalry. Being now entirely out of rations, I sent in to the mouth of the Coldwater, where the supply train was, for two days rations, to be sent out during the night, intending to in early next morning, and endeavor to reach Coffeeville. My men had their horses saddled up, and in readiness at daylight, but no rations came. Owing to the breaking-down of wagons, they did not come up so that the rations could be distributed before two o'clock P. M. This day, (Tuesday, Dec. 2,) it rained incessantly all day. Owing to the want of rations, not being able to march on Coffeeville, and knowing that the enemy were in considerable force at Panola, on the Tallahatchie, fourteen miles from my camp, where they had fortified to defend the crossing, and also at Belmont, seven miles further up the river, I concluded that I would go up there and reconnoitre, and, if possible, drive these forces away, so as to leave no force in my rear when I should move toward Coffeeville the following day. I left camp about two P. M., and rode rapidly to Panola. About one and a half miles before reaching the town, we came upon their camp, (apparently a very large one,) but we found nobody to receive us, they having fled the night before. I sent Major Birge with the Ninth Illinois cavalry forward, who took possession of the town, and captured a few prisoners. We also ascertained from negroes who had been at work on the fortifications at Belmont, that they abandoned their works there, and fled in great precipitation when they heard of our approach. After occupying Panola we returned, same night. to our camp near Mitchell's Cross-Roads. I did not disturb the railroad at Panola, or burn any bridges, having rendered it useless to the rebels, and knowing we should want to use it very shortly. The next morning early I took up my line of march for Coffeeville via Oakland. I ordered Col. Spicely, who was in command of the advanced infantry and artillery force, to throw forward for my support as far as Oakland six hundred infantry, and two field-pieces, which he did, under the command of Lieut.-Col. Torrence, Iowa Thirtieth infantry. The roads were very heavy, and the march was tedious. As we approached Oakland, information was, that there was no enemy there, and had been none since Sunday night, but about one mile before reaching town, the advance-guard from the First Indiana came in sight of two or three rebel pickets. Each party fired, and the pickets fled, hotly pursued.

The road here was narrow, and the ground on both sides covered with a dense growth of small saplings, with a fence on each side. The advance immediately formed in line, so far as the nature of the ground would admit. They found the rebels dismounted, and drawn up in line in large force in a most advantageous position. The advance stood their ground manfully, and delivered their fire with great coolness and precision. After delivering their fire, the enemy charged upon them in great force, and the ground being such as to render it impossible for them to re-form, they were compelled to fall back about two hundred yards, to an opening where I was able to deploy to the right and left of the road. Supposing that this force was the large cavalry force that occupied Oakland on Sunday night, I felt impelled to move with much caution, and beat up the woods as I proceeded. This occupied some little time, we in the mean-time having got our howitzers in position and shelled the woods in all directions where an enemy seemed probable. Advancing with our lines extended, we entered the town just in time to get sight of the enemy. Col. Stephens, commanding the Second brigade, having deployed on the left, was first to enter the town, and as soon as he came in sight of the enemy, charged upon them, and drove them with great rapidity through the town and down the road to Coffeeville. We captured a number of prisoners, horses, and arms, and five thousand rounds of Minie ball-cartridges; and we found, at different houses in town, about a dozen so badly wounded that they could not be taken away — among them Captain Griffin of the First Texas Legion, whose arm was shattered by a pistol-ball. Some of their wounded were fatally so. I have to report no loss of men during the engagement, but about ten were wounded, only one of whom seriously so. The First Indiana lost eight or ten horses, which were killed during the engagement, and my body-guard had six horses killed, and Lieut. Myers, commanding the body-guard, had his horse shot under him, and a bullet shot through his coat. I regret to have to report that, during the confusion that ensued when the enemy charged on the head of our column, and before the First Indiana could get their guns in position, one of them, which had been too far advanced to the front, was captured and borne of<*> by the enemy. This is the only event of the expedition that I have cause to regret; and yet, knowing as I did, from personal observation, the determined character of the first onset of the enemy, I do not regard the event as surprising, or one for which the company to which the gun belonged as censurable. The conduct of Captain [233] Walker throughout was worthy of all praise. When at Oakland I was fifteen miles from Coffeeville. From prisoners captured, and from citizens, I learned that the rebel army had fled from Abbeville, and were falling back rapidly via Water Valley and Coffeeville. I also learned that the cavalry force, which we encountered at Oakland, were Texas troops, about one thousand five hundred strong, and were part of a force which left Coffeeville that morning in pursuit of me; that it was divided into three different parties, each of about that number, and left on as many different routes. Concluding that they would all fall back on Coffeeville, and being satisfied that more or less force from Price's army was at Coffeeville, I deemed it highly important not to proceed further, as my whole force of infantry and cavalry did not exceed two thousand five hundred men. I bivouacked for the night on the public square at Oakland. Though near the enemy in large force, with the precaution I had taken I felt perfectly secure. I knew that the enemy was retreating on the road, not ten miles in an air-line from me, but I felt confident that he was in too great a hurry to move aside to fight me, particularly as they had received such exaggerated reports of my strength. I determined to remain here, and sent back for a portion of the remaining infantry to be sent up to my support, that I might proceed on to their line of retreat, and harass them as they passed, but about twelve o'clock at night I received a despatch from Gen. Hovey informing me that he had received despatches from Gen. Steele, stating that the object of the exhibition had been fully accomplished, and ordering us to return to Helena. I allowed my men to rest quietly at Oakland until morning, when I quietly and deliberately, but reluctantly, retired. The day I retired from Oakland it rained hard all day, and with the previous rains was calculated to excite just apprehensions that we could not get back to the Mississippi across the low alluvial bottom which we had passed over in going out. No person that has not passed over this road can have a just estimate of it in a wet time. For fifty miles from the Mississippi, or ten miles beyond the Tallahatchie, the land is an alluvial formation, filled with ponds, sloughs, and bayous, subject to annual overflow, and the roads are impassable as soon as the fall rains begin. In conclusion, I beg to say that the result of the expedition has, on the whole, been eminently successful. Had I possessed in advance the knowledge I now have, I could have done some things that I left undone; but my main object, which was to stampede the rebel army, could not have been more effectually accomplished. At no time except at Oakland, had I over one thousand nine hundred and twenty-five men, and then I had six hundred infantry and two field-pieces, which came up just at night. The impression prevailed wherever we went that we were the advance of a force of thirty thousand who were to cut off Price. The infantry, sent forward to my support, to Mitchell's Cross-Roads, consisted of the Eleventh Indiana, four hundred, Lieut.-Col. McCauley; Twenty-fourth Indiana, three hundred and seventy, Lieut.-Col. Barton; Twenty-eighth and Thirtieth Iowa, six hundred, Lieut.-Col. Torrence; Iowa battery, Captain Griffith; all under the command of Colonel Spicely of Indiana, an able and efficient officer.

Of the temper of both officers and men under my command I cannot speak in too high terms of praise. From the time of my landing at Delta to this time, my command has marched over two hundred miles. The weather for two days out of six has been most inclement, raining incessantly, without tents of any kind and not a too plentiful supply of rations. I have never heard a word of complaint or dissatisfaction. The health of the command has continued excellent. To my personal staff, who accompanied me on the expedition, Captain W. H. Morgan, A. A. General, Capt. John Whytuck and Captain G. W. Ring, I am under many obligations for efficient services.

Respectfully yours,

C. C. Washburn, Brigadier-General. To Captain John G. Phillips, A. A. General.

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