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General Forrest's operations against Smith and Grierson.

Letter from General Polk.

headquarters, Demopolis, March 4, 1864.
General Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond:
I send by Captain Vanderford accompanying dispatches, among them a communication from Major-General Forrest, containing account of his operations in checking and defeating the enemy's cavalry forces, intended to form a junction with his infantry at Meridian. You will perceive that it was a brilliant affair, and that it accomplished my wishes in effectually preventing General Sherman availing himself of his cavalry in his contemplated operations. That success destroyed his campaign.

Dispatches from General Lee's forces, just received, are of a very gratifying character. He has overtaken the enemy, on the west of Pearl river, in a very exhausted state, from a want of provisions and forage, and a long and hurried march, and is cutting up the rear of his column. I have hopes of destroying also some of his boats that have gone up the Yazoo towards Grenada. Ross's brigade, of Lee's division, is on the river below them, and will be reinforced, and I have another brigade above them. The result of the campaign has been thus far satisfactory, and we have not as yet seen the end of it. I shall send General Forrest, without delay, into the western district, to break up the Federal elections proposed to be held there within the next ten days, and to bring out other troops, horses, &c., from there and southern Kentucky. My report of the late operations will be sent you in [567] a few days. I refer you in the meantime to my staff officer, Captain Vanderford.

I hope that the War Department will comply with my wishes and suggestions, in regard to the management of my department in the several communications recently forwarded, as they are indispensable to its efficient and successful management.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

L. Polk, Lieutanant-General.

Refort of General Forrest.

headquarters Starkville, Miss., February 26, 1864.
General — I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 20th inst., and am under many obligations for the ordnance stores and train sent to Gainsville.

I am also gratified at being able to say that your wishes in regard to the enemy's forces under Generals Smith and Grierson are realized-at least to the extent of defeat and utter rout.

We met them on Sunday morning last at Ellis's Bridge, or Succartouchee creek, three miles south of West Point, in front of which Colonel Forrest's brigade was posted to prevent the enemy from crossing. After a brisk engagement of an hour and a half the enemy retired towards West Point. It was not my intention to attack them, or bring on a general engagement, but to develop their strength, position and movements.

I moved forward with my escort and a portion of Faulkner's Kentucky regiment and found the enemy had begun a systematic retreat, and being unwilling they should leave the country without a fight, ordered the advance of my column.

Will forward a detailed official report as soon as reports from brigade commanders are received. It is sufficient for me to say here that with twenty-five hundred men, the enemy, numbering from six to seven thousand strong, were driven from West Point to within ten miles of Pontotoc in two days; all his efforts to check our advance failed, and his forces at last flying utterly defeated and demoralized, leaving six pieces of artillery, one hundred killed, and one hundred prisoners, and wounded estimated at three hundred or over. The seriously wounded, about fifty in number, fell into our hands. They took in their retreat every carriage, buggy, cart, and wagon along the road to move their killed and wounded officers, and all their slightly wounded — according to report of citizens — were moved in front with their pack train. [568]

Our loss is about twenty-five killed, seventy-five wounded, and probably eight or ten captured. Among the killed are my brother, Colonel Jeff. E. Forrest, commanding brigade; Lieutenant-Colonel Barksdale, commanding George's regiment, and several other officers, whose names are not now remembered.

It affords me pleasure to mention the fortitude and gallantry displayed by the troops engaged, especially the new troops from west Tennessee, who, considering their want of drill, discipline and experience, behaved handsomely, and the moral effect of their victory over the best cavalry in the Federal service, will tell in their future operations against the enemy — inspiring them with courage and confidence in their ability to whip them again. Considering the disparity in numbers, discipline and drill, I consider it one of the most complete victories that has occurred since the war began.

After the enemy succeeded in reaching the hills between Okalona and Pontotoc, the resistance of the enemy was obstinate, compelling me frequently to dismount my advance to drive them from favorable positions defended by the broken condition of the country. About three hundred men of the Second Tennessee cavalry, under Colonel Bartean, and the Seventh Tennessee cavalry, Colonel Duckworth, received the repeated charges of seven regiments of the enemy in open ground; drove them back time after time, finally driving them from the field, capturing three stand of colors, and another piece of their artillery. A great deal of the fighting was almost hand to hand, and the only way I can account for our small loss is, the fact that we kept so close to them that the enemy overshot our men. Owing to the broken down and exhausted condition of men and horses, and being almost out of ammunition, I was compelled to stop pursuit.

Major-General Gholson arrived during Monday night, and his command being comparatively fresh, continued the pursuit, and when last heard from, was still driving the enemy, capturing horses and prisoners. The enemy had crossed the Tallahatchie river on the night of the 23rd, burning the bridge behind them at New Albany, and retreating rapidly towards Memphis, with Gholson still in pursuit. I am, General,

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


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N. Bedford Forrest (4)
Jefferson E. Forrest (3)
Vanderford (2)
W. W. Smith (2)
Leonidas Polk (2)
R. E. Lee (2)
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W. T. Sherman (1)
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