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The Capture of Memphis by Gen. Nathan B. Forrest. From N. O., La., Picayune, December 15, 1901.

Captain Dinkins recalls a thrilling incident of the Civil War—The great Confederate Cavalry leader Outgeneraled an Army larger than his own.

A few days after the battle of Brice's Crossroads General Forrest addressed a communication to Major General Washburne at Memphis, in which he stated that it had been reported to him that the negro troops in Memphis took an oath on their knees in the presence of Major General Hurlbut and others to avenge Fort Pillow, and that they would show no quarter to the Confederates. He also advised that he had heard on indisputable authority that the troops under General Sturgis, on their march to Brice's Crossroads, publicly in many places, proclaimed that no quarter would be shown our men, and that when they moved into action, on June Io, their officers appealed to them ‘to remember Fort Pillow.’

Forrest also informed General Washburne that the federal prisoners in his possession voluntarily stated that they expected us to murder them; otherwise they would have surrendered in a body rather than take to the woods exhausted. The federal prisoners condemned their officers for telling them to expect no quarter.

Forrest further said that in all his operations since the campaign began he had conducted the war on civilized principles, and still desired to do so, but that it was due to his command that they should know the exact position they occupied, and the policy the federals intended to pursue, etc.

On June 10 General Washburne replied to the letter and stated: ‘I believe it is true that the colored troops did take such an oath, but were not influenced to do so by any white officer, but because of their own sense of what was due to themselves and their fellows, who had been mercilessly slaughtered. * * * The [181] affair at Fort Pillow justified that belief; and I believe it is true, as you say, they proclaimed on their late march that no quarter would be shown your men. * * * Your statement that you have always conducted the war on civilized principles is not borne out by the recent indiscriminate slaughter of colored troops at Brice's Crossroads. * * * I am left in doubt by your letter as to the course you and the Confederate government intend to pursue hereafter in regard to colored troops. If you do not intend to treat such of them as fall into your hands as prisoners of war, but contemplate their slaughter on their return to slavery, please so state, that we may have an understanding hereafter. If the latter is the case, then let the oath stand.’

General Washburn also wrote to General S. D. Lee, the department commander, a letter in which he stated that he had been told by colored soldiers who were fortunate enough to escape, that the massacre of Fort Pillow had been reproduced at Brice's Crossroads, and that, ‘if true, the consequences would be fearful to contemplate,’ and asked ‘to be informed without delay if it was the intention of the Confederate government to murder colored soldiers.’

This letter was referred to Forrest, who wrote an answer to General Washburne on June 23, in which he said, in part:

I regard your letter as discourteous to the commanding officer of this department and grossly insulting to myself. You seek by implied threats to intimidate him, and assume the privilege of denouncing me as a murderer, on the testimony of your friends, the enemies of myself and country. I shall not enter in to the discussion of any of the questions involved, nor undertake any refutation of the charges you make. Nevertheless, as a matter of personal privilege alone, I say that they are unfounded and unwarranted by the facts, but whether true or false, the questions you ask are matters which the governments of the United States and the Confederate States are to decide, and not their subordinate officers.

It is not the policy of the south to destroy the negro; on the contrary, to preserve and protect him, and all who have surrendered to us have received kind and humane treatment. You [182] speak of your forbearance in not giving to your negro troops instructions as to the course they should pursue in regard to Confederate soldiers who may fall into their hands, which clearly conveys to my mind two distinct impressions: First, that in not giving them orders, you have left the matter entirely to the discretion of the negroes as to how they should dispose of Confederate prisoners. Second, an implied threat, “to give such orders as will lead to consequences too fearful for contemplation.” You seem disposed to take into your own hands the settlement which belongs to and can only be settled by your government, but if you are prepared to take upon yourself the responsibility of inaugurating a system of warfare contrary to civilized usages, the onus, as well as the consequences, will be chargeable to yourself. Deprecating as I should do, such a state of affairs; determined as I am not to be instrumental in bringing it about; feeling and knowing, as I do, that I have the approval of my government, my people and my own conscience, as to the past, and with the firm belief that I will be sustained by them in my future policy, it is left with you to determine what that policy shall be.

Let it be remembered that in the battle of Brice's Crossroads the federal forces exceeded the Confederates nearly six to one; therefore, when the federal general talks about ‘murdering the negro troops,’ he confesses his own inability and imbecility. If six men could not defend themselves against one man, certainly Forrest and his followers were wonderful soldiers.

After the return of Forrest's cavalry from the pursuit of what was left of General Sturgis' army, the men were employed for some days in burying the dead and providing for the wounded; also in gathering the spoils and trophies. For some weeks subsequently the general was looking into all matters for the good of his command. He personally visited the different regiments, examined the horses and looked after the wagons and all other matters of detail. If he found a wagon without a feed, trough, or any evidences or neglect or carelessness on the part of any one, there was serious trouble. It was well understood by officers and men that nothing short of a full standard would be accepted by General Forrest. The rehabilitation of the command, [183] therefore, was rapid. The horses were rested and freshly shod, an ample supply of ammunition for cannon and small arms provided and the morale of the men kept up to the highest point.

Suffering from a slight but painful would in the foot, Forrest turned over the command to General Chalmers, and the latter wrote to the department commander on Aug. 1, as follows: ‘Our scouts report that the enemy is making preparations to move from Memphis, Vicksburg and north Alabama at the same time, and, if successful, to concentrate at Selma. There are now 14,000 infantry at Lagrange, a brigade moving from Decatur and other troops arranging for departure from Memphis. Some troops, number unknown, have been sent down the river to Vicksburg. If the enemy moves in three columns, as expected, it will be impossible for us to meet him, and after consultation with Major General Forrest, we have concluded to recommend a consolidation of the troops in this department to meet one column. The northern column will be the largest. If we can defeat it, the others may be easily overtaken and crushed. Our effective force is 5,357, but we are very much crippled in officers. My brigade commanders are wounded, also a brigade commander of General Buford's division,’ etc.

In the meantime orders were issued to distribute ten days rations, one hundred rounds of ammunition per man and two hundred for each cannon.

On Aug. 2 General Chalmers ordered McCulloch's Brigade from Tupelo to Oxford, and followed the next day with his staff and escort and Thrall's Battery. On the 4th Neely's Brigade was also sent to Oxford. At this time General Forrest resumed command, and wrote to Major General Maury, commanding the department, in part as follows:

I will do all that can be done to drive the enemy back. At the same time I have not the force to risk a general engagement, but will resort to all other means in my power to harass, annoy and force the enemy back.

It was well known to the federal authorities that the prairies of Mississippi and Alabama furnished bread to the Confederate armies. It is easy, therefore, to understand how anxious they were to lay waste that section, but having repeatedly failed to [184] penetrate further south than West Point, Miss., by the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, it seemed to be the purpose now to send a force sufficiently strong to overcome all the Confederate forces in Mississippi, even if they should be concentrated against either of the three columns moving.

General A. J. Smith, with three divisions of infantry and thirty-eight pieces of artillery, numbering all told little more than 20,000 men, besides a brigade of cavalry 3,700 strong, after repairing the old Mississipi Central Railroad from Grand Junction to the Tallahatchie river, moved to that point, near the little town of Waterford, which is some fifteen miles north of Oxford. General Chalmers was instructed to impress every able-bodied negro in the country, fortify the south bank of the river and make the best possible defense against the enemy's effort to cross, but, if forced back, to destroy the bridges along the railroad as he retired.

The situation was desperate; there seemed to be no hope of defeating the superb army of General Smith. Forrest wrote to Governor Clark, of Mississippi, expressing the opinion that the enemy intended to follow the Central Railroad and that the Confederate force was inadequate to meet him, and stated that unless all Mississippians should come to the defense of their homes, the State would be devastated.

The Eighteenth Mississippi Cavalry, not over 300 strong, commanded by that brilliant young Colonel Alexander H. Chalmers, was holding the line of the Tallahatchie in front of Abbeville. His position was a very unfavorable one. The south bank of the river was much lower than the north bank, and furthermore the timber had been cut from the south bank for a distance of half a mile, while the north bank was thickly wooded to the river. The enemy forced the pickets from the river bank with his big guns, but Colonel Chalmers formed a line on a ride in the edge of the woods, about half a mile back, and soon got together rails and timbers which he used as breast-works. The enemy threw several regiments across the river and moved against the Mississippians, but were driven back. Colonel Chalmers held his position until late in the evening of August 9, and then retired to Abbeville, where he was re-enforced by General Chalmers with McCulloch's brigade. [185]

During the night General Smith crossed with a division of his army, and on the morning of August 10, sent 10,000 infantry against McCullouch's brigade of cavalry, 1,500 strong. The enemy closed column and moved around and in front of Chalmers, expecting evidently to overpower and capture him. Chalmers had but four guns, while the enemy used twenty. Like hungry wolves they charged the little ‘game cock,’ but were twice repulsed. When Chalmers fell gack to Hurricane creek, six miles north of Oxford, the enemy did not advance further and made no attempt to pursue.

Chalmers then fell back to Oxford, where he received advice from Forrest that he had left Pontotoc with Bell's Brigade and Morton's Battery and would pick up Neeley's Brigade, hoping to reach Oxford by midnight. Chalmers was ordered to fall back slowly, and if possible draw the enemy's cavalry out south of Oxford. The federal cavalry did follow, but hearing that a Confederate force was approaching from the east, fell back on the column, before Forrest reached Oxford, at 1 o'clock.

Chalmers returned with McCulloch's and Mabry's Brigade, the latter having joined him south of Oxford. The following morning Forest advanced with his entire force and drove the enemy back across Hurricane creek. Here the two forces faced each other for two days, during which time savage picket firings were going on. On the morning of the 13th the enemy attacked the left of the Confederate line, which was held by Mabry's Brigade and the Eighteenth Mississippi. It was a determined effort, and but for the promptness with which Colonel Chalmers took his regiment into action, the whole command would almost surely have been forced back in disorder. The gallantry of this brave Mississippian, whose tenacity against great odds saved the situation and won the highest encomiums from General Forrest and the undying admiration of the other regiments, should not be forgotten by the people of the south; while Mississippians of all classes and degrees should strive to perpetuate the memory of their heroic conduct. Those Mississippi boys (75 per cent. of them were under 20 years of age), held their place against ten times their number long enough for the balance of the troops to get in position. [186]

Attached to that regiment was a New Orleans boy. He was the adjutant of the regiment, and was always to be seen in front of the line. During the numerous battles in which they were engaged, Sam. F. Green was always at his post, and on the many occasions when Colonel Chalmers charged into the enemy's ranks, Sam Green was always by his side.

Handsome as a picture, brave to recklessness, he was as modest as a girl. The men of his regiment loved him devotedly, and although he and Colonel Chalmers survived the war, both passed to the realms above many years ago. The writer was intimately associated with them, and feels the greatest pride in speaking of their glorious deeds.

Requiescat in pace.

Very soon the engagement became general along the entire line, and finally, by might of numbers, we were pressed back.

The enemy, however, did not improve his advantage, and the Confederates took position on a wooded ridge, three miles north of Oxford, where we remained several days.

On Monday, August 15, General Chalmers took about 200 men, including his escort, and moving around the enemy's flank, dashed into Abbeville, where two brigades of infantry were camped, throwing them into confusion. They fled precipitately, and were pursued until we saw a large force in line of battle. Then General Chalmers withdrew, without the loss of a man.

The enemy evidently thought they were being attacked by Forrest's whole force.

Forrest realized the great responsibility resting on him, and knowing his inability to successfully oppose such a large force, resolved to make a counter movement by threatening Memphis, and possibly thereby force General Smith to retire. After discussing the matter with General Chalmers he decided to take certain regiments of Bell's and Neeley's brigades, and two rifled guns of Morton's Battery, under Lieutenant Sale, and make the attempt. Without further parley he led the little column of 1,500 men and two guns away, while General Chalmers endeavored to conceal the movement from the enemy. Forrest left Oxford about 5 P. M., Auguust 18, in a hard rain, which had been falling for two days and nights. The streams were all bankfull, and it was necessary for him to go to Panola before he was [187] able to cross the Tallahatchie, forty miles out of the direct course. Arriving at Panola, about 100 of his horses were so fagged that animals and riders were sent to Grenada.

Forrest rested the command a few hours, and then set out for Senatobia, where he arrived about dark, and decided to rest the horses. Before leaving Senatobia he found it would be necessary to bridge Hickahala creek. Never at a loss for means to carry out his purpose, he sent the men to every ginhouse in the neighborhood to take up the flooring and carry it on their shoulders to the crossing, about four miles distant. The woods were full of grape vines, which were twisted together, making two cables as thick as a man's body. These were stretched across the creek and fastened to trees on both banks. Other details were cutting down telegraph poles which were tied together with grape vines also, and rolled into the river to serve as pontoons. They were run under the cables and fastened to them. Poles were then put across these, and on them the ginhouse flooring was laid. Within an hour the command began to cross, the men leading their horses, while the artillery was pulled over by hand.

Six miles further north, Cold Water river was also found to be full, and a second bridge had to be built, twice as long as the one over the Hickahala, which was accomplished in three hours, and the command arrived at Hernando, twenty-five miles from Memphis, before night. Here scouts who left Memphis that day with information of the position of the enemy in and around the city, stated that everything was quiet, and no expectation or intimation of any trouble was heard. The horses were very tired from the forced march in deep mud, and had to be rested a few hours, but about 3 o'clock Sunday morning, August 21, 1864, we arrived in the suburbs of Memphis.

Some trusted scouts had been sent ahead to learn the exact position of the enemy's pickets, who reported that there were some 5,000 troops in the city, a great many of whom were negroes and hundred-day men. Forrest ordered the troops to be closed up, and the regimental commanders were called together and each given definite instructions as to what he was expected to do. Captain W. H. Forrest, a brother of the general, was sent in advance with forty men to capture the pickets, if possible, [188] but in any event to dash into the city by the nearest route to the Gayoso Hotel, where it was known a number of federal officers were quartered. Colonel Neely was ordered to charge into the camps of the hundred-day men with the Second Missouri, Fourteenth Tennessee and the Eighteenth Mississippi, while Colonel Logwood, with the Twelfth and Fifteenth Tennessee, followed Captain Forrest to the Gayoso Hotel.

Colonel Jesse Forrest charged through Lauderdale street to Union, with special orders to capture General Washburne, while the Second Tennessee and Russell's regients and the parrot guns were left in the rear to cover the retreat. Every man was told to keep perfectly quiet.

Captain Forrest moved slowly and almost noiselessly. He rode about 50 yards ahead of his company with ten picked men, when suddenly a picket called out: ‘Who comes there?’ It was about 3:3, and as dark as could be. Captain Forrest very coolly and deliberately answered: ‘A detachment with rebel prisoners.’ The answer was, ‘Advance one.’ Captain Forrest whispered to his men to follow closely behind him. He then met the federal picket, mounted and in the middle of the road. As soon as he was in reach, he struck the picket a deadly blow with his pistol, which sent him to the ground. At the same instant his men dismounted and captured the other pickets, who were sent to the rear. About a quarter of a mile further on he encountered another guard, who fled and ran.

By this time General Forrest was close behind the advance, and knowing the alarm would be given, ordered the men to dash forward. Away they went, forgetting the orders to keep quiet, yelling like wild people. Forrest called on Gans to sound the charge, and all the other buglers took it up. The sharp, shrill notes reverberated along the line, and cheer after cheer burst forth as the men swept forward in the impetuous charge. Neely dashed into the infantry camp; Captain Forrest rode into an artillery camp, shooting down about twenty of the gunners and driving the rest away. Captain Forrest did not halt until he reached the Gayoso and rode into the office. His men, quickly dismounting, ran through the halls, bursting open doors, searching for General Hurlbut. They created the greatest panic. Some of the federal officers, disturbed by the noise and confusion, [189] rushed out and attempted to arrest the intruders. They had no idea of the situation. Several were killed, while many others sought safety under their beds. General Hurlbut was not found. Fortunately for him, he spent the night with a friend on Shelby street.

Colonel Logwood, in the meantime, followed Forest, and ran into a line of infantry posted along Mississippi avenue. He pushed ahead without halting, but as he turned into Vance street he saw a battery in position and the gunners charging the pieces. There was but a moment to act, but Logwood, quick as a flash, ordered a charge, and his men rushed forward with guns raised above their heads and knocked down every man in their reach. The rest of the enemy fled. The rammers were left in the cannon. Quickly getting his men together, Logwood galloped along Hernando street to Beal, thence to the Gayoso. The men went wild with excitement. Women and children were screaming with fright. Others were shouting and clapping their hands as they recognized the muddy rebels. Memphis was the home of many of Forrest's daredevil riders, and as they dashed by, women, young and old, regardless of their costumes, threw open their doors and windows and ran forth with cheers, giving every evidence of delight. Numbers of them rushed out into the streets in their nightrobes, forgetful of everything except the excitement of the moment.

After Logwood reached the Gayoso he posted a company at the intersection of Main and Beal, and one at Union and Main, and with the others renewed the search for General Hurlbut. But he was not there. After remaining in the vicinity until 10 o'clock, Logwood retired along Front street to Beal, thence to De Sota.

Captain Forrest, with that recklessness and indifference to opposition and danger which characterized him at all times, rode to Union, thence in the direction of De Soto. He was advised that the enemy was moving along Beal, Gayoso, Union and Monroe streets, but that made no difference to him and his heroic and of forty men. Leaving the hotel, he moved through Gayoso street to Main, and up Main to Union. Turning into Union he saw a column of infantry double-quicking turn out of Second street with guns at a trail. Captain Forrest dashed ahead regardless [190] of numbers, his men firing into the column, killing several, and before the federals had time to ‘carry’ their guns, the horses were trampling them down. Captain Forrest continued to shout, ‘Put down your guns!’ The head of the federal column wheeled about, and coming in contact with those following, caused the greatest confusion. Forrest, taking advantage of the mixup, galloped out Union to De Soto and joined Logwood, who, in turn, joined Colonel Jessie Forrest, and returned through Mississippi avenue to the State Female College, where General Forrest awaited them.

Colonel Jesse Forrest captured the members of General Washburne's staff, but the wily old general escaped in the woods. Neely met with strong resistance, but drove the federal infantry from the camps, and captured the horses of a cavalry regiment.

Forrest, finding that the enemy had recovered somewhat from the shock, had the telegraph wires cut east of the city, so that no further news could reach General Smith. He knew that the fact of his presence in Memphis would be flashed to him, and he determined to leave Smith under the impression that he had possession of the city, and, as he afterwards learned, the operator promptly notified General Smith that the rebel Forrest, with 10,000 men and 20 pieces of artillery, was in possession of Memphis. General Smith got no further news, and began a hurried retreat.

Leaving the city, numbers of men loitered behind, to bid relatives and friends good-by, and also to obtain such articles as the stores afforded. Finally a long column of federal cavalry was seen galloping after some twenty stragglers who had lingered in the city, Forrest determined at once to check them. He was riding his favorite charger King Philip, a magnificent white horse with black mane and tail, presented to him by the ladies of Columbus, Miss. He called on Colonel Chalmers, of the Eighteenth Mississippi, and Colonel McCulloch, of the Second Missouri, to get in motion, and as the federal column came in reach, the two regiments dashed forward, Forrest leading the Second Missouri. The enemy halted and began to give way, when a federal colonel named Starr rushed at Forrest with saber ‘en carte.’ Forrest met him with his long blade and unhorsed [191] him quicker than I can write it. Colonel Starr was no more in the hands of General Forrest than a butterfly would be in the claws of an eagle. Forrest ran his saber entirely through his body and forced him off his horse. The federal officers acted with great bravery and tried to rally their men, but could not do it.

Having attained the objects of the expedition, Forrest retired with the prisoners and captured horses to the south side of a creek about three miles distant, and gave the men time to exchange their jaded horses for the captured ones. There were about six hundred prisoners, a majority of them officers, who were captured in their night clothes. Finding they could not keep up on the march, he sent his aid-de-camp, Captain C. W. Anderson, back with a flag of truce, and with him he sent a member of General Washburne's staff, to say to General Washburne that the prisoners were in a wretched condition, without shoes or clothing, and as an act of humanity he would exchange them for such of his men as might be prisoners. He stated to Captain Anderson: ‘Should General Washburne reject the proposal, then suggest that he send clothing for them.’ Forrest added that he would await the answer at Nonconnah creek, six miles south.

General Washburne stated, in his answer, he had no authority to exchange prisoners, but would gladly accept the proffered privilege of sending a supply of clothing. In a short time Colonel Hepburn and Captain H. S. Lee arrived with a wagon load of clothing (Colonel Hepburn is now a member of Congress from Iowa), which was distributed under the direction of the federal officers.

General Forrest then directed his surgeons to examine the prisoners, and such as were unfit to undergo hardship were sent back with Colonel Hepburn and the wagon, with the promise they would not bear arms against the Confederate cause until exchanged. The remainder, about four hundred, were mounted on the extra horses and the march taken up to Hernando.

Including the prisoners, Forrest had about two thousand men without rations. He knew he could not obtain any before reaching Panola. With characteristic promptness, and with the matchless resource, which always met every emergency, he decided to [192] draw on General Washburne. He wrote him and stated his inability to feed the prisoners, and suggested that inasmuch as he would not receive them in exchange, that the least he could do would be to send them something to eat that night. He added that he would remain at Hernando until he answered. At daylight the following morning the same officers reached the camp with two wagons loads of flour, hams, coffee, sugar, etc. Two days rations were issued to all men, prisoners and Confederates, and there was ample left for several days' rations. We then began the march to Panola.

Persons in Memphis who heard the sharp call of the buglers and the crack of the rifles that Sunday morning said: ‘It was the most awful and ringing sound they ever heard. No one save Forrest and his men had any idea what it meant.’ One old man, in speaking of it, said: ‘I wondered if Gabriel was sounding the last call.’ The thunderous yells, the rush of the horses in the mud, the clanking of sabers and the rattle of spurs added horrors to the awful situation. The caravan which Forrest marched out of Memphis Sunday, August 21, 1864, was in deep distress. The men in underclothes, many of them in their night shirts, barefooted and without hats, besmattered with mud, as they struggled along up to their knees, were the most wretched-looking people I ever beheld. Officers who had been in the habit of parading the streets in Memphis with gay uniforms, some of them staff officers, ordinarily mounted on fine horses, with elegant saddles, were now in a sad and pitiable plight as they trudged along in the mud, their gowns wet and dragging. But that was part of war.

The command reached Panola in safety, and after resting a few days moved to Water Valley, where several days were spent reorganizing.

We will now return to Oxford and note how successfully and skillfully General Chalmers handled his command, His force was small, including not more than three thousand effective men, and yet he concealed from General Smith any idea of the move to Memphis. It was an important duty, one on which our success rested, but was accomplished in the most creditable manner.

The day following General Forrest's departure, General Chalmers made vigorous attacks against all of General Smith's outposts, [193] creating the impression that the Confederates would take the aggressive. Confronted by an army of 22,000 veterans, it seems remarkable that he could have so disposed his small force as to completely deceive the federal commander.

Too much praise cannot be given to General Chalmers for his brave, bold, wise and persistent generalship in that campaign. It was important that he should not be drawn into an engagement, and yet it was necessary to keep constantly in front of the enemy.

Late in the afternoon of August 19, General Chalmers moved his whole force forward, driving back the federal outposts, and made a sharp attack against the main line. His troops, wet and hungry, knowing the great disparity in numbers, they did not hesitate. General Smith was startled. He felt sure that Forrest had been re-enforced. On the 21st General Chalmers decided to draw the federal commander further away from his base. He fell back to the south bank of the Yocona river. The federal forces, therefore, marched into Oxford on the morning of the 22d, and, finding no Confederates at hand, scattered over the town, indulging in the most disgraceful acts of arson and rapine. The force was under the immediate command of Brigadier General Hatch, who gave order to burn all public buildings and all unoccupied houses. The splendid courthouse and other handsome buildings were destroyed, and of what was an attractive little city on the morning of August 22d, there only remained at night skeletons of houses and smoldering ruins. Nearly every business house in the town was burned. Nor was this destruction confined to the voluntary action of the private soldiers. Brigadier General Edward Hatch, commanding the division of cavalry, established his headquarters at the beautiful home of Mrs. Jacob Thompson, about a mile south of town, and while a guest (uninvited and unwelcome) in the house, allowed his soldiers to plunder every article of value about the place. Mrs. Thompson appealed to General Hatch to protect her belongings from theft and destruction.

Seated in an elegantly-upholstered chair, he leaned back, placing his muddy boots on another chair, and said, in the most supercilious and insolent manner, ‘Madam, my men are at liberty [194] to take anything they wish except the chair I sit in.’ This man, wearing a brigadier general's uniform, but without the instincts of a brave man or the manners of a gentleman, when he departed from the home, had his ambulance filled with silverware, paintings, rare china and such other articles as struck his fancy, many of them of great value.

But the burning of the beautiful home was the special work of Major General A. J. Smith, who sent one of his staff officers, with a detail of men, for that purpose. He performed the duty in accordance with General Smith's most approved idea. Mrs. Thompson appealed to him and made a dignified protest, but he told her to get out, and if there were any articles she desired especially to save, he would allow her fifteen minutes to do so. The members of the family and a few faithful servants went hurriedly to work to save a few articles, which were placed in the yard, and when the torch was applied, the federal soldiers, who clustered around, took possession of every article and carried them off.

Nor was this an exception; houses everywhere were broken into and robbed of every article of value, and while a few subaltern officers seemed greatly chagrined, and made an effort to restrain the men from such disgraceful acts, no officer of rank or authority was heard to interfere or in any way attempt to suppress the disorder. But the scene changed. About 5 p. m. everything was in confusion, staff officers galloped here and there with orders to move. The federal commander had received the dreadful news that Forrest was in possession of Memphis, and doubtless felt some little concern for his personal safety. Very soon his entire force was hurrying towards the Tallahatchie river. The following morning General Chalmers was in hot pursuit. Leading Mabry's Brigade in person, he assigned to General Buford the other two. McCulloch's Brigade was commanded by Colonel William Wade. Do not forget that the federal forces had been guilty of the harshest and most inhuman excesses, and that numbers of our men lived in the country traversed by Smith's army. Every species of outrages and humiliation were inflicted upon those defenseless citizens, old men, women and children. It cannot be said that General [195] Smith was ignorant of the facts. The path of his army was marked by heaps of ashes, blackened walls and solitary chimneys. Not an animal or fowl was left in his wake. After he departed from Oxford the people were without food.

Reaching Oxford, Colonel Wade was in advance. He rode at the head of the Fifth Mississippi. A few miles north of Oxford he overhauled the federal rear guard. He formed his men in columns of platoons and dashed into the column, using guns as clubs, and riding down two regiments. Colonel Wade had relatives in Oxford, and as he dashed through the enemy's ranks, his saber cutting right and left, he called on his men to do their duty.

In the meantime Buford struck the retreating column in the flank with the Kentucky Brigade, driving the enemy through the woods in great confusion, killing and capturing about 200. Chalmers, with Mabry's Brigade, supported Wade. The artillery performed the most conspicuous service. Captain Ed S. Walton, with his battery, was in the thickest of the fray. In fact, it was difficult for the cavalry to keep abreast of him. Whenever the enemy fell back he went thundering after them, every horse and every man doing his utmost, and, finding the enemy in position, he pushed his guns almost in their ranks and sent grape and canister, crashing and tearing them to pieces. His guns were ever in the front. The conduct of Walton and his men was glorious. Walton was reckless and brave. His men followed him with a desperation seldom equaled and never surpassed.

Night coming on, General Chalmers ordered a halt. The following day he harrassed the enemy as long as his ammunition lasted.

General Smith crossed the Tallahatchie, burned the bridge and returned to Memphis. Chalmers went into camp in the vicinity of Oxford and had soldier's rations issued to the citizens. For a week those people who had never before known hunger lived on the small allowance which we were able to give them.

After the command had gone into camp, General Chalmers took occasion to compliment Colonel Wade on his impetuous [196] rush. Wade answered: ‘D—m them! They ran us for two or three days. I wanted them to know we are not afraid of them.’

Forrest having defeated Smith and his finely-equipped army, the federal authorities never afterwards attempted to penetrate Mississippi. Had it been possible for Forrest to have commanded 20,000 well-equipped men, I firmly believe he would have been invincible.

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