previous next

Chapter 11:

It is of interest, before entering upon a narrative of the military events of 1864 in Mississippi, to learn the plans of the enemy. These are clearly stated in a letter of so early date as January 5th, by General Grant, who, until March 12th, when he was given command of the armies of the United States, remained in charge of operations in the eastern Mississippi valley. Sherman, he said, had gone down the Mississippi to collect at Vicksburg all the force that could be spared for a separate movement from the Mississippi. ‘He will probably have ready by the 24th of this month a force of 20,000 men that could be spared east of the river.’ The Washington authorities desired to divert the Federal forces toward the Red river, but this Grant strongly opposed. ‘I shall direct Sherman,’ he wrote, ‘to move out to Meridian with his spare force’ (the cavalry going from Corinth) ‘and destroy the roads east and south of there so effectually that the enemy will not attempt to rebuild them during the rebellion. He will then return unless the opportunity of going into Mobile with the force he has appears perfectly plain.’ Meanwhile nothing more would be done at Chattanooga by Thomas than to threaten Johnston, who had succeeded Bragg in north Georgia, [187] and try to hold his force there. ‘I look upon the next line for me to secure to be that from Chattanooga to Mobile; Montgomery and Atlanta being the important intermediate points. The destruction which Sherman will do the roads around Meridian will be of material importance to us in preventing the enemy from drawing supplies from Mississippi and in clearing that section of all large bodies of rebel troops.’

Sherman was of course ready for the work of demolition, and wrote that he hoped to destroy Meridian and its railroad connections as he had wrecked Jackson in the previous summer. In a letter to Banks he said, ‘You know the Memphis & Charleston road is either ruined or in our hands, and that the single track from Meridian to Selma is the only link that unites Mississippi to Alabama and Georgia, and will agree with me that its destruction will do more to isolate the State of Mississippi than any single act.’

General Johnston, at Dalton, was at the same time reporting that on account of lack of troops and supplies for them, he could hope to do nothing more than fall back if attacked; and he repeatedly suggested that northern Mississippi be selected as the Confederate base of offensive operations from which west Tennessee and its abundant supplies could be seized.

Lieut.-Gen. Leonidas Polk was now in command of the department of Mississippi, Alabama and East Louisiana, with headquarters at Meridian, and had an effective force of about 16,000, the strongest parts of which were cavalry, some 7,500, under Maj.-Gen. S. D. Lee, and Loring's division, about 5,500 men, at Canton. Forney's command had been transferred to General Maury, at Mobile, leaving the infantry brigades of Featherston, John Adams, Buford, with Loring, and of Ector and Cockrell with French at Brandon. The Texas cavalry brigade with Lee was commanded by Col. Lawrence S. Ross. Small commands were stationed at the military [188] posts of Cahaba, under Col. H. C. Davis; Columbus, under General Ruggles; Demopolis, under Col. Nathaniel Wickliffe, and at Selma, under Col. T. H. Rosser. In this statement the command which Forrest was organizing at Cosmo is not included. He had displayed great energy in the work of reorganization, and the war department had revoked all other authority to raise troops in west Tennessee and north Mississippi. On February 5th he reported that he brought 3,100 out of Tennessee and had since received several hundred more.

In January Forrest organized four brigades of cavalry, to be commanded by Brig.-Gen. R. V. Richardson, Col. Robert McCulloch, Col. T. H. Bell, and Col. J. E. Forrest. The division of Gen. J. R. Chalmers included Richardson's and McCulloch's brigades, and the brigades of Bell and Forrest (later Thompson) made up a division commanded by Gen. A. Buford. The cavalry of the department had been divided by order of January 11th, Forrest being assigned to command in northern Mississippi and west Tennessee; and Lee in southern Mississippi and east Louisiana, with headquarters at Jackson.

The threatened Federal movement against Meridian was preceded by the abandonment of Corinth by Hurlbut, who burned the town and prepared his forces to co-operate with Sherman. The plan was for Sherman to march from Vicksburg with 25,500 men; while Gen. William Sooy Smith, with a cavalry division 6,500 strong, should march from Memphis to Meridian by way of Pontotoc and Okolona. About January 28th Sherman began a demonstration with gunboats up the Yazoo. He was closely watched by General Lee, who had posted Ross' brigade at Benton and Starke's at Brownsville. Wirt Adams, who had been operating in East Louisiana, was brought up to Raymond. The advance up the Yazoo was very gallantly met by Ross' Texans, who encountered with equal aplomb infantry, cavalry and gunboats at Liverpool, defeating the infantry and gunboats combined. [189] Under cover of this diversion, Sherman's two corps of infantry rapidly crossed the Big Black and advanced to Clinton. Here the brigades of Adams and Starke engaged in a heavy skirmish February 4th, and then hung on the front of the advancing columns during the following day, steadily fighting though fully aware of the overwhelming strength of the enemy. Marching through Jackson on the night of the 5th, General Lee turned to the north to cover Loring's division while it could cross Pearl river to Brandon, and was joined by Ferguson's brigade. Early on the 8th, finding that Sherman was crossing Pearl river toward Meridian, Lee sent Ferguson to Morton to cover Loring's front, called Ross up from Yazoo and ordered Jackson with Adams' and Starke's brigades to harass the flank of the enemy.

General Polk became convinced that Sherman's object was Mobile, not Meridian, and ordered Lee on the 9th to cover the railroad south of Meridian while he returned to Mobile its garrison which he had withdrawn. The cavalry made every effort to disable the enemy's column, but it marched with such care that a dash made by Adams' brigade on the 12th, disabling thirty wagons, was the most successful attack, and that was followed by an instant advance of the enemy in line of battle. The enemy occupied Meridian on the 14th, and Polk fell back with the small command of infantry at his disposal to Demopolis, Ala., putting General Lee in command of all cavalry in Mississippi, with orders to communicate with General Forrest.

Sooy Smith's cavalry expedition made a fatal delay of ten days in starting. After making demonstrations toward Panola and Wyatt, Forrest being behind the Tallahatchie, he crossed that river at New Albany and marched toward Pontotoc and Houston, not encountering any of the Confederate forces until General Gholson with a small body of State troops confronted him near Houston. As the enemy approached Houston closer a determined [190] resistance was made in the Houlka swamp, and Smith turned off and marched toward Okolona, whence he sent a brigade to Aberdeen to threaten Columbus, and two brigades down the railroad toward West Point.

Meanwhile Forrest, learning of Smith's movement at Oxford, February 14th, moved all his forces rapidly to Starkville, reaching there on the 18th, Lee being notified on the 17th to join him. On the 19th Forrest sent Bell's brigade to Columbus, Forrest's to Aberdeen and Chalmers, with McCulloch's and Richardson's brigades, to West Point to observe the enemy. At the same time Smith concentrated his command at Prairie Station, and advanced on West Point on the 20th. Colonel Forrest met his advance before West Point, and fell back skirmishing until he was joined by General Forrest, with McCulloch's and Richardson's brigades. But Forrest did not at this time desire an engagement until Lee came up, and he withdrew beyond Sakatonchee creek, three miles south of West Point, capturing a detachment that was burning Ellis' mill, and concentrating his force at the bridge at that point.

On Sunday morning, the 21st, Forrest was informed of the advance of the enemy against him, whereupon he ordered General Richardson to take position at the bridge across Line creek in the rear, Colonel Barteau to watch the enemy's flank, and Neely with Richardson's brigade to guard the Tibbe river, with Gholson at Palo Alto. This left him Chalmers' division, his escort and two batteries. Forrest's brigade was dismounted and thrown across in front of the bridge, and McCulloch's brigade took position on the south bank to support. Colonel Forrest threw up a breastwork of rails and logs, and when attacked at 8 o'clock held his position during a two hours attack, repulsing the enemy with considerable loss. Smith then, as he reported afterward, determined to withdraw from the woods and draw the enemy after him into the open country. Forrest, with his escort and a portion of Faulkner's [191] regiment mounted, a section of Morton's battery and one of McCulloch's regiments on foot, immediately accepted the invitation to the open country, and finding by a few cannon shots that the enemy was very active in retirement, dashed into the rear guard with his mounted cavalry, and reinforced by McCulloch kept up hot pursuit till night fall. By this precipitate retreat Smith demoralized his command, and at Okolona next morning Forrest, fully alive to the situation and confident of success, charged with Bell's brigade and created a regular stampede, one brigade of the enemy abandoning five guns without firing a shot.

Forrest then followed, the nature of the country compelling him to dismount his men, driving the Federals from hill to hill. Five miles from Okolona a fierce engagement occurred in which, reinforced by McCulloch's and Forrest's brigades, the Confederates finally were successful, but with considerable loss, Col. Jefferson E. Forrest, brother of the general, and Lieutenant-Colonel Barksdale, commanding the Fifth Mississippi, being among the killed. Ten miles from Pontotoc the Federal command again made a gallant stand, and Forrest, with only a part of his command up and that nearly out of ammunition, was successful mainly through pluck. The Fourth Missouri made against Forrest what he pronounced ‘the grandest cavalry charge I ever witnessed.’ But his Tennesseeans stood firm, and repulsed the attack. With this the pursuit stopped, except by General Gholson. In this brilliant campaign Forrest had about 2,500 men engaged. Smith reported that on account of his impedimenta he could not put more than 5,000 in action. The Confederate loss was 27 wounded, including Colonels Mc-Culloch and Barteau, 97 killed and 20 missing. Smith reported 47 killed, 152 wounded and 120 missing. He attempted to alleviate his disaster by reporting the destruction of two million bushels of corn, two thousand bales of cotton and thirty miles of railroad, and the capture [192] of 200 prisoners, 3,000 horses and mules and as many negroes. Possibly, if these numbers were exaggerated, it would be excusable under the circumstances.

Lee, not being able to reach Starkville in time to participate in this affair, returned to give his attention to Sherman, who had been engaged in the labor of devastation at Meridian and vicinity. It can hardly be better described than in Sherman's own words: ‘For five days 10,000 men worked hard and with a will in that work of destruction with axes, crowbars, sledges, clawbars, and with fire, and I have no hesitation in pronouncing the work well done. Meridian, with its depots, storehouses, arsenals, hospitals, offices, hotels, and cantonments, no longer exists.’ At the same time detachments destroyed sixty miles of railroad on the north and east, burning ties and twisting iron, and about the same amount of road on the south and west. All bridges and trestle-work in this region were burned and locomotives and cars destroyed. On the 20th, Sherman, remembering that he had an appointment with Banks at Vicksburg, abandoned his plan of going on to Selma, not to mention the idea of striking at Mobile, and started his army back toward Vicksburg. Near Sharon, Starke's brigade drove in his foraging parties, Pinson's regiment being particularly distinguished, captured twenty wagons and killed and captured about 200 of the enemy, the last of whom recrossed the Big Black on March 4th.

In his report of the operations during this campaign, Gen. Wirt Adams described a number of gallant performances by his men, among which was the spirited fighting of Colonel Wood's regiment and Stockdale's battalion, between Baker's creek and Edwards, against the enemy's advance, which they held in check for several hours. Adams' 800 men held the Federal column in check here nearly two days, Stockdale and his men being again conspicuous for valor on the second day, well sustained by Griffith and his regiment. While Adams was thus [193] contending with one corps of the enemy, Starke's Mississippians were fighting the other corps north of the railroad. His first fight was on the plantation of Joseph R. Davis, and from then until the close of the campaign he was actively engaged, losing 49 men and capturing or killing 128 Federals.

General Ross' brigade, returning to Benton on February 28th, was attacked by a detachment of the ‘First Mississippi (A. D.)’ about 80 negroes, who were followed and many killed by an equal number of Texans. On March 5th an assault was made upon the garrison at Yazoo City, composed of about 1,000 Illinois troops and negroes, by the brigades of Ross and Richardson, who gained the streets of the town, where a desperate fight was carried on for four hours; but the enemy held their main fortification, a redan. Soon afterward, however, the Yazoo was abandoned by the Federals.

In the latter part of March, General Forrest made a famous expedition through west Tennessee, transferring the theatre of raids and depredation to the country held by the Federal garrisons. Colonel Duckworth, who had succeeded Colonel Forrest in brigade command, captured Union City, Tenn., on the 24th, with 450 prisoners, including the commandant, Colonel Hawkins. Forrest, with Buford's division, moved from Jackson, Tenn., to Paducah, Ky., in fifty hours, drove the Federals into the forts and gunboats and held the town for two days, doing considerable damage, but was not able to reduce the garrison to surrender. Returning then to west Tennessee, he was in undisputed possession of the territory, except the river posts, and was in hopes of adding largely to his command. On the 28th Colonel Neely met a Federal command near Bolivar, capturing the entire wagon train of the enemy, and driving him to Memphis with a loss of 30 killed and 35 captured.

On April 12th, with 1,500 men, part of Bell's and Mc-Culloch's brigades, under General Chalmers, Forrest attacked [194] the garrison at Fort Pillow, about 700 strong. After the Federal forces, partly negroes, were driven into the fort, Forrest demanded their surrender, which was refused, after considerable parley. General Forrest, in his report of what followed, says: ‘I stormed the fort, and after a contest of thirty minutes captured the entire garrison, killing 500 and taking 200 horses and a large amount of quartermaster's stores. The officers in the fort were killed, including Major Booth. I sustained a loss of 20 killed and 60 wounded. Among the wounded is the gallant Lieut.-Col. Wiley M. Reed, while leading the Fifth Mississippi. Over 100 citizens who had fled to the fort to escape conscription ran into the river and were drowned.’

General Chalmers, reporting the assault, in relating how Reed was struck down while standing on the rifle-pits cheering on his men, states that Lieutenant Barton was killed by his side. Lieutenant Hubbard of the Eighteenth battalion, a young but promising officer, was also mortally wounded. The loss of Chalmers' division was 14 killed and 86 wounded. General Chalmers, after the return of the expedition to Oxford, issued an address of congratulation to his division, in which he briefly summed up the results of the campaign as follows: ‘In a brief space of time we have killed 4,000 of the enemy, captured over 1,200 prisoners, 800 horses, 5 pieces of artillery, thousands of small arms, and many stands of colors, destroyed millions of dollars worth of property, and relieved the patriots of West Tennessee from the hourly dread in which they have become accustomed to live.’

Early in May an expedition started out from Memphis to intercept Forrest and cut off his return to Mississippi. This was commanded by Gen. S. D. Sturgis, and included 3,000 cavalry and 3,500 infantry, but moved so cautiously that Forrest was able to evade it with little trouble. The Federals followed to the vicinity of Ripley and then returned [195] to Memphis. During Forrest's stay in Tennessee a force of negro soldiers marched from Vicksburg to Yazoo City, accompanied by the gunboats Petrel and Prairie Bird; but Gen. Wirt Adams, on guard in that region, defeated the land forces without much exertion, and Colonel Griffith, with a section of artillery and a detachment of sharpshooters, drove the men from the guns of the Petrel and capturing her secured the armament of eight guns and the valuable stores, after which the vessel was destroyed.

Early in May, 1864, General Polk having united his infantry forces with the army under Johnston opposing Sherman's advance to Atlanta, Maj.-Gen. Stephen D. Lee was assigned to command of the department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana, and was promoted to lieutenant-general. Forrest remained in command of the cavalry in northern Mississippi. During May the brigade of Mississippi State troops was turned over to the Confederate States and, after being for a time under the command of Col. John McQuirk, came under the charge of Brig.-Gen. S. J. Gholson again. During June, 1864, the following may be given as representing approximately the organization of the cavalry left to defend Mississippi, though there were frequent changes:

Northern district, Maj.-Gen. Nathan B. Forrest commanding: Division of Brig.-Gen. James R. Chalmers— First brigade, Tennessee cavalry, Col. James J. Neely —Second brigade, Col. Robert McCulloch: First Mississippi Rangers (Seventh regiment later), Lieut.-Col. Samuel M. Hyams, Jr.; Fifth Mississippi, Lieut.--Col. Nathaniel Wickliffe; Second Missouri; Crew's Tennessee battalion; Willis' Texas battalion; Hudson's Mississippi battery, Lieut. E. S. Walton—Sixth brigade, Col. Edmund W. Rucker: Eighth Mississippi, Col. William L. Duff; Eighteenth Mississippi, Lieut.-Col. Alexander H. Chalmers; Seventh Tennessee, Col. W. L. Duckworth. Division of Brig.-Gen. Abraham Buford—Third brigade, Kentucky cavalry, [196] Col. Edward Crossland, Col. Hylan B. Lyon—Fourth brigade, Tennessee cavalry, Col. Tyree H. Bell.

Southern district, Brig.-Gen. Wirt Adams commanding: Wirt Adams—division-Scott's brigade, Col. John S. Scott: Scott's Louisiana regiment, Wingfield's Louisiana battalion, Col. Frank P. Powers' Louisiana and Mississippi regiment, Colonel Gober's command, Maj. I. N. Ogden's battalion, Col. B. D. Lay's cavalry—Wood's brigade, Col. Robert C. Wood, Jr.: Wood's regiment, Lieut.-Col. George Moorman's Mississippi battalion—Gholson's brigade, Brig.-Gen. Samuel J. Gholson: Mississippi regiments of Col. Thomas C. Ashcroft, Col. T. W. Ham, Col. William L. Lowry, Col. John McQuirkMabry's brigade, Col. Hinchie P. Mabry: Colonel Dumonteil's Fourth Confederate; Fourth Mississippi, Col. C. C. Wilbourn; Sixth, Col. Isham Harrison; Thirty-eighth infantry, mounted, Col. Preston Brent.

In Forrest's command, including a brigade of Roddy's Alabama cavalry, there were present for duty in June in round numbers 650 officers and 7,200 men; in Wirt Adams' division, 360 officers and 4,200 men. At the posts of Demopolis, Meridian and Selma were about 1,900 more. The effective total for the department was reported at a trifle over 13,000; aggregate present, 16,000. Artillery, 16 pieces with Forrest and 11 with Adams.

On the 1st of June an imposing expedition set out from Memphis to attack General Forrest at Tupelo, disperse his forces and destroy the Mobile & Ohio railroad which had been rebuilt as far north as Corinth. This Federal force included 3,300 cavalry, 5,000 infantry, 16 pieces of artillery and a train of 250 wagons, and marched under the command of Gen. S. D. Sturgis. On the 9th of June it was approaching Guntown. General Forrest had been ordered almost simultaneously to destroy Sherman's railroad communications in middle Tennessee, but being informed of Sturgis' approach made preparations to meet him with Buford's division, Rucker's brigade, and Col. [197] A. T. Johnson's brigade of Roddey's Alabama cavalry. As soon as Forrest at Booneville was definitely advised that the enemy was advancing, not toward Corinth but on the Guntown road from Ripley, he hastened to seize Brice's cross-roads and concentrate his forces immediately in the enemy's front.

A small detachment reached the cross-roads and skirmished with the Federal advance until Lyon's brigade could come up. Bell's brigade and the artillery were hastened forward as rapidly as possible, while Lyon made hasty fortifications of logs and rails to hold his position. Lyon and Rucker fought mostly dismounted, holding back the Federal cavalry under Grierson, who with artillery and fighting as infantry endeavored to push back the Confederate lines. The Federal infantry did not come up until about two o'clock in the afternoon; but before that Forrest had brought up Bell's brigade and his artillery and was getting Grierson in condition to retire. At one o'clock Forrest ordered an assault, taking Bell's brigade and his escort to the Guntown and Ripley road to form the left of his line. Owing to the density of the undergrowth Bell was compelled to advance within thirty yards of the enemy before charging. ‘In a few seconds,’ Forrest reported, ‘the engagement became general, and on the left raged with great fury.’ The enemy having three lines of battle, the left was being heavily pressed. ‘I sent a staff officer to General Buford to move Lyon's and Johnson's brigades forward and press the enemy on the right. Newsom's regiment was suffering severely and had given way. Colonel Duff and my escort, dismounted, were ordered to charge the enemy's position in front of Newsom's regiment, and succeeded in driving the enemy to his second line, enabling the regiment to rally, re-form and move forward to a less exposed position. Fearing my order to General Buford had miscarried I moved forward rapidly along the lines, encouraging my men, until I reached Buford on the Blackland [198] road, and finding but two pieces of artillery in position and engaged, I directed my aide-de-camp, Captain Anderson, to bring up all the artillery and ordered General Buford to place it in action at once, which was promptly done. The battle was fierce and the enemy obstinate; but after two hours hard fighting the enemy gave way, being forced back on his third and last line. Colonel Barteau had gained his rear, and by his presence and attack in that quarter had withdrawn the cavalry from the enemy's flank and created confusion and dismay to the wagon train and the guard attending it. The cavalry was sent back for its protection, and the enemy now in front made a last attempt to hold the cross-roads; but the steady advance of my men and the concentrated, well directed and rapid fire from my batteries upon that point threw them back and the retreat or rout began.’ After abandoning the cross-roads, Sturgis endeavored to take advantage of every favorable position on his retreat, but was speedily driven from each in succession. Wagons and ambulances were abandoned in such profusion that before reaching Tishomingo creek the road was blockaded and it was difficult for the Confederate artillery to get through. Though it was attempted to destroy the wagons loaded with ammunition and supplies, the pursuit was so hot that the Confederates were able to save most of these without injury. During the night the wornout Confederates rested, but resumed the pursuit at one o'clock in the morning, finding at the south prong of the Hatchie that the enemy had abandoned the rest of his wagon train, all his wounded and 14 pieces of artillery. At Ripley the Federals were found drawn up in line of battle, and were immediately attacked by Forrest with his escort and Wilson's regiment, but as soon as additional Confederate cavalry appeared the enemy broke, abandoning 21 killed, 70 wounded, and another piece of artillery. After this the retreat became a disgraceful flight, the men throwing away guns, clothing [199] and everything calculated to impede their progress. While Buford continued the pursuit, Forrest, with Bell's brigade, endeavored to cut off the retreat at Salem, but was unable to come up with the routed foe. On the return march to the battlefield, several hundred prisoners were taken from their hiding-places in the woods.

In this remarkable battle of June o, 1864, called Tishomingo Creek, or Brice's Cross-roads, Forrest had an available force of 3,500. His loss was 96 killed and 396 wounded. The two Mississippi regiments engaged, Eighth and Eighteenth, suffered an aggregate loss of 107. The Federal report of loss was 223 killed, 394 wounded and 1,623 missing. The entire train of 250 wagons, sixteen pieces of artillery, 5,000 stand of small arms, and 500,000 rounds of ammunition fell into the hands of the Confederates.

The Federal authorities at once began preparations for another expedition against Forrest, the disaster at Tishomingo being accounted for, partly by blaming Sturgis for lack of generalship, and by exaggerated reports of the Confederate strength, which was said to be 15,000 to 20,000 men. Gen. A. J. Smith's division, which had returned from the Red river fiasco, was detailed for the duty of again attacking Forrest, whose name had become a terror, and orders came to Sherman from Grant before Petersburg that Smith must find Forrest, whip him and follow him as long as his command held together.

While this new expedition was getting ready, 3,000 men moved from Vicksburg under H. W. Slocum, and occupying Jackson, destroyed the railroad bridge which had been built. Gen. Wirt Adams, who skirmished vigorously with the enemy as he approached Jackson, again attacked as he withdrew, early on the morning of July 7th, inflicting severe loss with his infantry and artillery fire. An intrepid charge, made in an attempt to capture the wagon train, won the admiring comment of the Federal commanders in their official reports. But [200] this little force was not equal to the task of breaking the Federal lines. Among the Confederates wounded was General Gholson. The total loss of the Federals was 220.

About the time that Sherman and Johnston were maneuvering on the Chattahoochee, Grant was attacking Lee at Petersburg, and Early was making his dash at the United States capital, Gen. A. J. Smith's expedition set out from La Grange to enter ‘Forrest's country,’ as northern Mississippi had come to be called in the Federal camps. Smith had with him two infantry divisions: Grierson's cavalry division, and a brigade of negro troops, in all about 14,000 men. He advanced without much opposition in two columns, ravaging the country as he moved, until Pontotoc was closely approached, when his advance was checked by General Chalmers, Forrest meanwhile making preparations for a battle near Okolona. Gen. S. D. Lee was also with the forces, and assumed general command. Three attempts of the enemy to advance were checked by Lyon, McCulloch and Duff, on various roads, and on July 12th the Federal column turned off toward Tupelo. General Lee then moved with the divisions of Chalmers and Buford to attack the enemy's flank, while Forrest with Mabry's Mississippi brigade, the escort and his old regiment, assailed the rear. A running fight was kept up for ten miles, but without any considerable advantage to either side except a brilliant dash made upon the Federal wagon train by General Chalmers with Rucker's brigade, near Bartram's shop. He had possession of the train for a time, and killed the mules, so that the enemy was compelled to abandon and burn seven wagons, a caisson and two ambulances, but superior numbers soon compelled him to retire. On the morning of the 14th the enemy had taken a strong position at Harrisburg and intrenched. But General Lee formed his little army in line of battle, Roddey's Alabamians on the right, Mabry's Mississippians on the left, and the Kentuckians under General Crossland in the center. [201] Bell's brigade, at first supporting Mabry, was soon put in the front line on Mabry's right. These troops were all dismounted. Chalmers' division was held in reserve, also about 700 infantry under Colonel Lyon.

The plan of attack seemed to be to swing the right first against the enemy, but the Kentucky brigade became first engaged, and was forced to fall back with heavy loss. Chalmers' division, dismounted, was ordered forward, and after Mabry and Bell had been repulsed, Rucker made an assault equally futile. The men behaved with great courage, but were swept away by the fire of a superior and intrenched force, and many fell from exhaustion in the great heat of a July sun. A little after noon the troops fell back and intrenched, but were not molested by the enemy, who contented himself with tearing up the railroad in the vicinity of Tupelo and burning the houses of Harrisburg.

This battle of Harrisburg was a severe blow to the military strength of Generals Lee and Forrest, but they were still full of fight: and on the 15th, it appearing that the enemy would not attack, Buford made a demonstration on his left flank. Soon afterward Smith began a retreat, accounted for in his reports by the exhaustion of rations, and a vigorous pursuit was at once begun. At Old Town creek Buford came up with the Federals in line of battle and was driven back in confusion. Mc-Culloch's brigade was ordered to attack, but being sent in by regiments was speedily repulsed. Here General Forrest and Colonel McCulloch were both severely wounded, and the command of the forces in front devolved upon General Chalmers. Though the pursuit was continued, there was but slight skirmishing after this engagement.

Forrest estimateed his strength on July 14th as not exceeding 5,000. Buford's command, including Mabry, had about 3,200 effectives, Roddey's force hardly exceeded 1,000 or Chalmers' 2,800, or the infantry and [202] artillery 1,000, so that at the utmost the little army which so gallantly charged upon the intrenched hills held by 14,000 Federals could not have numbered over 8,000. Chalmers reported the total effective force on August 1st, 5,357. His division lost 57 in killed and 255 wounded. Among the severely wounded were both the brigade commanders, McCulloch and Rucker, and Colonel Duff. Captain Middleton, a gallant young officer of the Eighteenth Mississippi, was killed. The loss of Buford's division, including Mabry's brigade, was 22 officers and 131 privates killed, 104 officers and 694 privates wounded and 48 missing, a total of nearly 1,000, or a third of the command. All of the regimental and nearly all of the company commanders of Mabry's brigade were killed or wounded in the assault of the 14th. Among the killed were Col. Isham Harrison and Lieut.-Col. Thomas M. Nelson of the Sixth Mississippi, Lieut.-Col. John B. Cage, Fourteenth Confederate, and Maj. R. C. McCay, Thirty-eighth Mississippi. The death of the brave Sherrill, of the Seventh Kentucky, was deeply mourned. Colonel Crossland, commanding brigade, Faulkner, Russell, Wilson, Barteau, Newsom, Lieutenant-Colonels Stockdale and Wisdom, and Majors Hale and Parham were among the wounded. General Forrest reported his entire loss at 210 killed and 1,116 wounded. The Federal report of casualties was 9 officers killed or mortally wounded, 69 men killed and 558 wounded.

On July 26th Maj.-Gen. Dabney H. Maury, in command at Mobile, had his authority extended to embrace the department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana in order that he might draw upon that territory for support, and Gen. S. D. Lee was called to the command of Hood's army corps at Atlanta.

On August 5th Forrest wrote to Maury that, Lyon having been assigned to command in Kentucky, and Mc-Culloch and Rucker wounded, he had but one experienced [203] brigade commander, Colonel Bell, and in the brigade of the latter the greater part of the field officers were killed or wounded. ‘Nevertheless, all that can be done shall be done in north Mississippi to drive the enemy back. I have ordered Mabry to Grenada, a brigade to Pontotoc, and General Chalmers, with one of the best brigades I have, has gone to Abbeville. With Buford's division I shall await further developments and move as future indications require. I can take the saddle with one foot in the stirrup, and if I succeed in forcing the column back will be ready to move to your assistance on short notice.’ He was soon called upon to contest the advance of Smith with three divisions from La Grange, Tenn., upon Oxford, and kept good his word by the stubborn fights on the Tallahatchie, at Oxford, Lamar, Hurricane creek and Abbeville. ‘When the enemy occupied Oxford, after a severe skirmish with General Chalmers, men, women and children and negroes were robbed and plundered indiscriminately,’ Capt. C. T. Biser reported. ‘The main body arrived on the 24th under Gen. A. J. Smith, and burned 34 stores and business houses, the court house, Masonic hall, two hotels, a number of shops and five residences, General Smith superintending the burning and refusing citizens permission to remove articles of value from their houses.’

Forrest's army was now too much depleted to offer battle, but on the 18th, leaving Chalmers to entertain the enemy, which he did with consummate audacity, Forrest demonstrated his wonderful resources by making a counter-raid against Memphis, taking with him parts of the brigades of Bell and Rucker, the latter now under Col. J. J. Neely. With the fragmentary regiments, the Second Missouri, the Twelfth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Tennessee, and the Eighteenth Mississippi battalion, he dashed into Memphis early on the morning of August 21st, and very nearly captured General Washburn, who escaped under cover of the darkness, leaving his clothing. [204] Generals Hurlbut and Buckland were also looked for, but those officers were so fortunate as to escape. In his telegraphic report of this daring exploit Forrest stated that he had killed and captured 400 of the enemy, and captured their entire camp with about 300 horses and mules. His loss was 35 killed and wounded. By this forcible demonstration of his daring and ability Forrest compelled Smith's army to abandon its advance to the interior and turn about in an effort to intercept his return to Mississippi, in which, of course, it utterly failed.

General Forrest's command, as organized at the close of August, included the two veteran divisions of Chalmers and Buford. The Tennessee brigade formerly commanded by Rucker was in charge of Col. D. C. Kelly, and McCulloch's brigade, mainly Mississippians, included Colonel Hyam's rangers, the Fifth regiment, under Maj. W. B. Peery, the Eighteenth battalion, under Col. A. H. Chalmers, and the Nineteenth battalion, under Col. W. L. Walker. Lyon again led his Kentucky brigade and Bell commanded his Tennesseeans.

At the same period, Gen. Wirt Adams was in command of the district north of the Homochitto up to Forrest's district, with the brigades of Colonel Wood and Colonel Mabry; and the district south of the Homochitto was in charge of Brig.-Gen. George B. Hodge, with Scott's brigade. In the district of Central and Northern Alabama, also in Maury's department, Gen. D. W. Adams had two brigades, Clanton's and Armistead's. The latter contained Armistead's Mississippi regiment, under Col. Philip B. Spence. The military posts in Mississippi were commanded as follows: Aberdeen, Col. Marshall T. Polk; Brandon, Capt. Wm. R. Spears; Canton, Capt. John N. Archer; Columbus, Col. Levi McCullum; Enterprise, Maj. M. S. Ward; Grenada, Lieut.-Col. Nathaniel Wickliffe; Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Archibald Macfarlane; Macon, Maj. Bell G. Bidwell; Meridian, Lieut.-Col. G. W. Law; Okolona, Maj. E. G. Wheeler; [205] Oxford, Capt. Charles T. Biser; Panola, Capt. R. C. Walsh.

On August 24th General Maury telegraphed Forrest, ‘You have again saved Mississippi. Come and help Mobile. Fort Morgan, after a long and fierce struggle, was occupied by enemy yesterday. The attack on the city will be made at once, I expect. Will the retreat of the enemy from North Mississippi enable you to come with any of your force? We are very weak.’ But the land attack on Mobile was not made until the next spring.

Of the same date as Maury's letter to Forrest, there was a communication from Col. J. D. Stewart, chief of ordnance of the State of Mississippi, which throws light upon the efforts of the State in support of the cause. He said: ‘I am directed by Governor Clark to urge you to aid in arming his troops. We have now 5,000 in camp and not half of them armed. Mississippi will not have less than 9,000 or 10,000 troops ready in a few days, and we fear from present prospects that arms cannot be procured. Captain Evans, the ordnance officer at this place, seems to be doing all in his power, yet the arms do not come fast enough to arm the men. Your strong helping hand will no doubt facilitate matters. Give it to us, and let Mississippi elevate herself.’ Mississippi was represented in the operations at Mobile during the summer by the battery commanded by Capt. George F. Abbay, and early in September part of McCulloch's brigade was sent to Mobile.

On September 6, 1864, Lieut.-Gen. Richard Taylor assumed command of the department including Mississippi, with headquarters at Meridian. President Davis immediately telegraphed him that General Forrest believed that if he could take 4,000 men and six pieces of artillery into middle and west Tennessee he could do some good and recruit his command, which Mr. Davis advised, and Taylor immediately ordered the movement. Forrest then telegraphed Chalmers. ‘Move your troops [206] from West Point to Aberdeen. Cheer up and be prepared for a movement in the direction of Memphis.’

The movement made by Forrest began from Verona, September 16th, and was directed against Sherman's communications in middle Tennessee and north Alabama and in co-operation with the flank operations of General Hood after the fall of Atlanta. In this expedition Forrest took Buford's division and Kelly's brigade, leaving Chalmers and his Mississippians on guard in the State. It was one of Forrest's most brilliant raids, but an account of it belongs more properly to another branch of this work. It is sufficient to say here that, returning to Cherokee, Ala., October 6th, and thence to Corinth, he was able to report a loss to the enemy of 3,360 men, a number equal to his own command, 800 horses, a great amount of arms and artillery, and the destruction of the railroad from Decatur to Spring Hill. In this expedition, the Pettus Flying artillery, under Lieut. E. S. Walton, did valuable service.

During the same period there was some Federal activity in southwest Mississippi, in the district commanded by Hodge, and Scott's brigade had an opportunity for some effective skirmishing in the vicinity of Woodville and the Homochitto.

Forrest prepared in October for another sojourn in western Tennessee, on the 16th ordering Colonel Bell to move from Corinth to Lavinia, and on the 18th sending Buford with the Kentucky brigade to Lexington to watch General Hatch. With his escort and Rucker's brigade Forrest moved from Corinth on the 19th and was joined by Chalmers at Jackson, Tenn., with about 250 men of McCulloch's brigade and 300 of Mabry's. After remaining in peaceable possession of the region he had entered for about two weeks, Chalmers was ordered to proceed to the Tennessee river and co-operate with Buford, who was blockading the river at Fort Heiman and Paris Landing.

Here the Confederate forces were brilliantly successful [207] in capturing Federal steamers. The Mazeppa, with two barges in tow, was the first to make an appearance, and, being disabled by the artillery, made for the opposite shore, when the crew escaped. She was then towed over and the valuable cargo of military stores removed, after which the vessel was burned. The steamer Anna was the next victim, then the gunboat Undine and the transports Cheeseman and Venus. On the 3d of November, with his whole command, Forrest attacked Johnsonville, where the enemy had an immense storehouse and a wharf lined with transports and gunboats, protected not only by the gunboats but a battery of 14 guns on the hill. Opening upon this force with the batteries of Thrall and Morton and Hudson (Pettus Flying artillery), 50 guns became engaged on both sides. The gunboats were soon set on fire by the Confederate artillery, next the stores along the shore and the warehouse. ‘By night the wharf for nearly a mile up and down the river presented one solid sheet of flame.’ Forrest then returned to Corinth, which he reached after an absence of two weeks or more, during which time he ‘captured or destroyed 4 gunboats, 14 transports, 20 barges, 26 pieces of artillery, $6,700,000 worth of property and 150 prisoners. Brigadier-General Buford, after supplying his own command, turned over to my chief quartermaster about 9,000 pairs of shoes and 1,000 blankets. My loss during the entire trip was 2 killed and 9 wounded; that of the enemy will probably reach 500 killed, wounded and prisoners.’

On October 17th General Beauregard assumed command of the department of the West, east of the Mississippi. Lieutenant-General Taylor remained in charge of his department, and Maj.-Gen. Franklin Gardner was given command of the district of Mississippi and East Louisiana. General Forrest was assigned to command of cavalry with the army of Lieutenant-General Hood during the Nashville campaign. [208]

About the time that Gardner took command, a Federal expedition from Baton Rouge surprised General Hodge's headquarters at Liberty, November 16th, capturing about 60 officers and men, including four of the general's staff. General Hodge escaped on foot and walked twenty-four miles to rejoin his command. Brookhaven and Summit were also surprised and a considerable number of men captured and stores and railroad transportation destroyed. But on the 18th the enemy was attacked at Liberty by Colonel Scott, who had collected about 300 men, and his fierce assault checked the progress of the raid. The enemy was at least 1,200 strong, accompanied by artillery.

In the latter part of November Gen. E. R. S. Canby, in command at Vicksburg, sent out an expedition of 2,000 men to destroy the Mississippi Central bridge over the Big Black, and the railroad, so as to cut off supplies from Hood. A feint was made against Jackson, where large Confederate stores had been accumulated, and the bridge was then fired and several miles of track destroyed. Col. John Griffith, now in command in this region, with very slight resources, sent a detachment under Capt. W. S. Yerger, of Wood's regiment, to defend the Big Black bridge. He found some dozen citizens making a manful defense of the bridge, and with his help the enemy was repulsed before any great damage was done. As soon as the bridge was repaired Griffith started after the enemy, who fled precipitately, and overtaking them at Concord church he fought a brisk engagement of any hour and a half's duration, in which he inflicted considerable damage and caused the continued retreat of the Federals to Vicksburg.

Later, as the preparations were under way for the Federal movement against Mobile, a column of cavalry was sent northward from Baton Rouge, but it was ineffective. A detachment which crossed Chickasawha river to destroy the railroad was met and repulsed by the Second [209] Missouri regiment and Willis' battalion December 10th.

On December 19th an expedition set out from Memphis, about 3,500 cavalry under Grierson, for the old raiding ground along the Mobile & Ohio railroad. Maj.-Gen. W. T. Martin, commanding Northwest district, with Colonel Denis' reserves and 300 State troops, was near Memphis. Scott and Wilbourn with their forces, about 800 men, were in the Gulf district, as also was King's battery and 500 men under Colonel Wier from Corinth. Colonel Griffith had been ordered south, but was called back. General Gholson had a camp at Cotton Gin, collecting dispersed cavalry, Captain Pope was at Columbus with about thirty men, and at Macon was Lipscomb of Mabry's brigade with 250 and Captain Doss with about thirty men, while Colonel Mabry, in command of the Northeast district, had a small force at Corinth.

Corinth was supposed to be the enemy's objective, and a train in charge of Maj. John S. Hope, inspectorgen-eral, with 700 infantry and King's battery, under Lieutenant-Colonel Burke, from Mobile, reached West Point en route to Corinth December 26th, but found that the enemy was in force near Okolona, confronted by General Gholson with about 200 cavalry without ammunition.

Major Hope, scouting with a locomotive, brought the railroad cars at Okolona to Egypt, and 270 men were sent up to Okolona and posted just south of that place to protect the railroad bridge. This detachment and Gholson's fell back to Egypt on the 27th, before the advance of the enemy. The fight at Egypt began on the morning of the next day and resulted in severe loss to the Confederates, General Gholson being reported mortally wounded, and several hundred men captured. The train with the troops was also partly destroyed, though the locomotive and battery escaped. Reinforcements from Meridian coming up during the fight, Col. W. W. Wier, in command, attacked the enemy, who soon afterward retreated to Houston, leaving 7 dead and 35 [210] wounded at Egypt. At Franklin, on January 2, 1865, a detachment engaged in destroying the Central railroad was encountered by the forces of Colonels Wood and Griffith under Gen. Wirt Adams, and a stubborn fight was made. Grierson's raiders reached Vicksburg soon afterward, having wrecked a large part of the two railroads and destroyed an immense amount of property in an almost defenseless territory. It was with immense satisfaction that Grierson recaptured the most of the wagons which Forrest had taken on the Tishomingo, and exploded the shells for Hood's army with which they were laden. About 100 of the soldiers captured by Grierson were men who had enlisted in the Confederate army from the southern prison-camps.

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 Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Meridian (Mississippi, United States) (18)
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (15)
Mississippi (Mississippi, United States) (12)
Okolona (Mississippi, United States) (10)
West Point (Mississippi, United States) (7)
Louisiana (Louisiana, United States) (7)
Alabama (Alabama, United States) (6)
Jackson (Mississippi, United States) (5)
Selma (Alabama, United States) (4)
Ripley (Mississippi, United States) (4)
Atlanta (Georgia, United States) (4)
Aberdeen (Mississippi, United States) (4)
Yazoo City (Mississippi, United States) (3)
United States (United States) (3)
Tishomingo Creek (Mississippi, United States) (3)
Tennessee River (United States) (3)
Guntown (Mississippi, United States) (3)
Demopolis (Alabama, United States) (3)
Starkville (Mississippi, United States) (2)
Red River (Texas, United States) (2)
La Grange (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Jackson (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Houston (Mississippi, United States) (2)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (2)
Chuquatonchee Creek (Mississippi, United States) (2)
Abbeville (Mississippi, United States) (2)
Woodville (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Verona (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Union City (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Tishomingo (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Spring Hill (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Sharon (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Salem (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Raymond (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Ratliff (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Prairie Station (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Palo Alto (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Paducah (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Missouri (Missouri, United States) (1)
Johnsonville, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Illinois (Illinois, United States) (1)
Fort Pillow (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Fort Morgan (Alabama, United States) (1)
Fort Heiman (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Ellis Mill (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Decatur (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Dalton, Ga. (Georgia, United States) (1)
Cotton Gin (Texas, United States) (1)
Columbus (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Clinton (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Cherokee, Ala. (Alabama, United States) (1)
Cahawba (Alabama, United States) (1)
Brownsville (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Brookhaven (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Bolivar, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Bethany (Mississippi, United States) (1)
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.
Nathan B. Forrest (42)
J. E. Forrest (20)
Sherman (19)
Abraham Buford (19)
Robert McCulloch (15)
Hinchie P. Mabry (15)
Jefferson E. Forrest (15)
Wirt Adams (15)
Alexander H. Chalmers (14)
S. D. Lee (13)
Tyree H. Bell (12)
Edmund W. Rucker (10)
A. J. Smith (9)
Hylan B. Lyon (9)
Sooy Smith (8)
Robert C. Wood (7)
John S. Scott (7)
R. V. Richardson (7)
Grierson (7)
Lawrence S. Ross (6)
Dabney H. Maury (6)
Stephen D. Lee (6)
J. R. Chalmers (6)
S. D. Sturgis (5)
Peter B. Starke (5)
Leonidas Polk (5)
W. H. Jackson (5)
John B. Hood (5)
Samuel J. Gholson (5)
James J. Neely (4)
W. W. Loring (4)
Joseph E. Johnston (4)
George B. Hodge (4)
John Griffith (4)
U. S. Grant (4)
William L. Duff (4)
A. H. Chalmers (4)
T. H. Bell (4)
C. R. Barteau (4)
Nathaniel Wickliffe (3)
Richard Taylor (3)
T. R. Stockdale (3)
P. D. Roddey (3)
Newsom (3)
Morton (3)
Samuel Jameson Gholson (3)
S. J. Gholson (3)
Edward Crossland (3)
Billy Wilson (2)
L. Willis (2)
C. C. Wilbourn (2)
W. W. Wier (2)
E. S. Walton (2)
Wiley M. Reed (2)
John McQuirk (2)
Mc-Culloch (2)
King (2)
D. C. Kelly (2)
A. T. Johnson (2)
Hurlbut (2)
Houston (2)
John S. Hope (2)
Isham Harrison (2)
Richard Griffith (2)
Franklin Gardner (2)
S. W. Ferguson (2)
Faulkner (2)
W. L. Duckworth (2)
Jefferson Davis (2)
James Ronald Chalmers (2)
A. Buford (2)
William F. Brandon (2)
Charles T. Biser (2)
Samuel Benton (2)
Banks (2)
Armistead (2)
W. S. Yerger (1)
Wyatt (1)
Wisdom (1)
Wingfield (1)
E. G. Wheeler (1)
Washburn (1)
M. S. Ward (1)
R. C. Walsh (1)
W. L. Walker (1)
Thrall (1)
Fleming Thompson (1)
S. B. Thomas (1)
J. D. Stewart (1)
Philip B. Spence (1)
William R. Spears (1)
William Sooy Smith (1)
H. W. Slocum (1)
D. R. Russell (1)
Daniel Ruggles (1)
T. H. Rosser (1)
Roddy (1)
Frank P. Powers (1)
Pope (1)
Marshall T. Polk (1)
R. A. Pinson (1)
John J. Pettus (1)
W. B. Peery (1)
Parham (1)
I. N. Ogden (1)
Thomas M. Nelson (1)
George Moorman (1)
L. M. Montgomery (1)
Middleton (1)
Levi McCullum (1)
R. C. McCay (1)
Will Martin (1)
Archibald Macfarlane (1)
William L. Lowry (1)
George H. Lipscomb (1)
B. D. Lay (1)
G. W. Law (1)
Lavinia (1)
L. Q. C. Lamar (1)
Samuel M. Hyams (1)
Hyam (1)
Alfred Hudson (1)
W. F. Hubbard (1)
A. T. Hawkins (1)
Edward Hatch (1)
T. W. Ham (1)
Hale (1)
Gober (1)
John H. Forney (1)
Winfield Scott Featherston (1)
Nathan G. Evans (1)
Edwards (1)
Ector (1)
Early (1)
Dumonteil (1)
W. L. Doss (1)
Denis (1)
Joseph R. Davis (1)
H. C. Davis (1)
Culloch (1)
Crew (1)
Francis M. Cockrell (1)
Charles Clark (1)
Clanton (1)
E. R. S. Canby (1)
John B. Cage (1)
Thomas A. Burke (1)
Buckland (1)
Brice (1)
Preston Brent (1)
Braxton Bragg (1)
Thomas Booth (1)
Bell G. Bidwell (1)
Beauregard (1)
Bartram (1)
Seth M. Barton (1)
William Barksdale (1)
A. J. Baker (1)
Thomas C. Ashcroft (1)
John N. Archer (1)
Patton Anderson (1)
John Adams (1)
D. W. Adams (1)
George F. Abbay (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: