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rebels, under Van Dorn, at once commenced falling back to the river and our cavalry, under Cols. Dickey and Lee, followed them up harassing their rear-guard. In the pursuit, an attempt was made by our forces to capture Coffeeville, which came near resulting in a serious disaster to our cavalry. The order of march was as follows: Col. Mizener, w^ith the 3d brigade in the advance; Col. Lee, wTith the 1st brigade, in the center, and Col. Hatch, with the 2d brigade, at the rear. Subsequently, Col. Mizener took a road running parallel to the Coffeeville road, which brought him to the rear of Col. Lee's column when he reached it, thus giving Col. Lee the advance. In this order the column moved forward. When near the river, a large advance guard was sent forward and a company was deployed to right and left as skirmishers. The skirmishing became very heavy, and our forces being unable to move the enemy, Col. Lee brought a 10-pounder and put it into position. This had hardly been done before a full rebel battery opened upon him. While this cannonade was going on, the skirmishers had encountered a heavy force of the rebel infantry which rose from the ground where it had been concealed, and poured volley after volley into our skirmishers, who were obliged to retire after suffering severe loss.
Cols. Dickey and Lee soon found that their position was untenable, and that a retreat must be executed as speedily and as promptly as possible. The flanking parties and skirmishers were called in and two squadrons of the 4th Illinois cavalry, under Capt. Townsend, were left in the rear to delay the enemy's advance. But the movement had hardly commenced when the rear-guard followed, driven before the rebel infantry, who were charging forward in strong force. Two regiments advanced on our right, another on the center, while two more were marching on our left flank. Our forces opened a terrible fire upon them. For a moment they were held in check, when our troops slowly retired up a hill, halting every few rods to pour a volley into the rebel advance, now close upon our rear. At the crest of the hill, Hatch's force which had been in reserve, held their fire until the rebels were within twenty yards of them, and then rose and poured a terrible volley into them. Five times this volley was repeated and the rebels wavered and fell back; but receiving fresh accessions, again renewed the attack, and advanced COFFEEVILLE FIGHT. 427
upon our right and left flanks. To avoid being cut off, our forces fell back through some dense timber, slowly and stubbornly contesting every inch of ground. New lines were formed and fresh troops were brought up, but the rebels were equally fortunate in this respect, and constantly opposed new and fresh troops to ours. The danger of being flanked and cut off was still imminent, and a hasty retreat was ordered. For three miles this style of warfare was continued, when the enemy gave up the pursuit and our forces arrived at their camping grounds. The fight, while it lasted, was most obstinate, although the odds against our forces were nearly three to one. Both officers and men did nobly. Cols. Dickey, Lee and Mizener, Lieut.-Colonels Prince and McCullough, and Majors Coon, Rickards and Love were constantly exposed to a most galling fire and were everywhere in the fiercest of the strife. One of Col. Lee's best officers was killed and five of Col. Hatch's were wounded. Lieut-Colonel McCullough, of the 4th Illinois cavalry fell bravely at the head of his column, shot in the breast. The casualties among Illinois troops in this fight and retreat were as follows: 4th Illinois, one killed, thirteen wounded and three missing; 7th Illinois, three killed, eleven wounded and twenty missing. The total of casualties in killed, wounded and missing, of all the troops engaged, summed up ninety-nine.
But our cavalry had little rest. They were constantly on the alert and in the advance, engaged in harassing the enemy or upon important expeditions. On the 13th of December, Colonel Dickey received an order from General Grant, commanding him to take a part of his division of cavalry and strike the Mobile and Ohio Railroad as far south as practicable, and destroy it as much as possible. On the 14th Col. Hatch reported to Col. Dickey with eight hundred picked men, ready for his share of the expedition. Major Rickards, with a battalion of the 5th Ohio cavalry, was sent to make a demonstration toward Grenada, and the remainder of the 2d brigade went with the train to the rear. Col. Mizener was ordered to the command of the 1st and 3d brigades to make a reconnoissance towards Grenada.
On the 14th, with a small escort from company F, of the 4th Illinois cavalry, under Lieut. Carter, Col. Hatch's detachment and the 7th Illinois cavalry, Col. Dickey, took the road towards Okolona, and reached Pontotoc on the next morning, after a march of forty-five miles. Several scouting parties of the rebels were captured, who gave the information that a body of rebel infantry from Bragg's army was encamped near Pontotoc and another near Tupelo, and that there was a strong rebel force at Okolona. At Pontotoc a violent storm set in and the roads became very heavy, obliging Col. Dickey to send back the prisoners, ambulances, and some wagons laden wxith spoils found at that place. Major Coon, of the 2d Iowa, with one hundred men, was sent forward to strike the railroad at Coonawa Station, with orders to destroy the telegraph line and railroad and the railroad bridge near Okolona.
On the 15th, with the rest of the command, Colonel Dickey took the road for Tupelo in the midst of a terrific rain storm, but they moved steadily forward over the low muddy ground, and through swamps and creeks until within two miles of Tupelo, when it was found that a Union force from Corinth had arrived at Saltillo, eight miles north of Tupelo that day, and that the rebels had retreated. Lieutenant-Colonel Prince of the 7th Illinois Cavalry, with one hundred men, pushed forward and occupied Tupelo, while the rest of the force fell back seven miles to render aid to Major Coon if necessary. The Major, however, had thoroughly and successfully performed his work. Lieutenant-Colonel Prince returned to the camp on the 16th, having found no enemy at Tupelo and having destroyed some important trestle-work north of the town. On the 16th and 17th, all the trestle-work and bridges from Saltillo to Okolona, a distance of thirty-four miles, were destroyed, as well as a large amount of timber for repairing purposes. At Yerona, LieutenantColonel Prince captured eighteen large boxes of infantry equipments marked, " Colonel S. D. Roddy," several boxes of canteens, a large quantity of clothing and tents, some commissary stores, small arms and ammunition, all of which was destroyed.
On the night of the 17th, the force camped at Harrisburgh, a deserted village about two miles from Tupelo and on the morning of the 18th took up their line of march on the return. About noon Colonel Dickey ascertained that a large rebel force of cavalry was in Pontotoc. Closing up his column, he moved to the northwest with a view COL. Dickey's Expedition. 429
of passing some four miies north of Pontotoc. Some stragglers from the rebel columns were captured, and from them it was learned that the rebel force was moving out from Pontotoc and passing across his track a mile ahead of them. The enemy was over whelming in point of numbers and our troops worn out. It was therefore not deemed prudent to attack. Throwing out a small guard at a strong position, the column was moved towards Pontotoc on the road leading to Tuscumbia. Passing down this road, the rebel force was in full view about three-quarters of a mile distant, moving in another direction. Couriers were dispatched to Gen. Grant informing him of this cavalry movement, and the column moved on from Pontotoc in a northwest direction for a few miles, and then turned southwest across the country to the road from Pontotoc to Oxford. Following this a few miles it again turned south and crossed the Yockna River. Early on the morning of the 19th, it again took up the line of march, and after a day's march reported at Oxford to which place General Grant had in the meantime advanced. The expedition had been absent six days, and in that time had marched two hundred miles, worked two days at the railroad, captured one hundred and fifty prisoners, destroyed thirtyfour miles of railroad and a large amount of the enemy's stores and returned, passing round our enemy, nine to their one, and reached camp without having a man killed, wounded or captured.
The force of rebel cavalry passing northward which Col. Dickey had seen, was closely followed by Gen. Grant's scouts. So well had Gen. Grant divined Yan Dorn's purpose and timed his march, that on the 19th he telegraphed to the commandant of the garrison at Holly Springs that the enemy would attack him next day, but that he had sent him sufficient reinforcements to repel the attack, but unfortunately they arrived too late owing to obstructions in the road. The rebel force consisting of twenty-two regiments of Van Dorn's cavalry dashed into the town, which was surrendered with all its valuable stores without resistance. A guard of a hundred infantry around the government stores made a brief fight, but were soon overwhelmed. Six companies of the 2d Illinois Cavalry were completely surrounded in the town by as many thousands, and were called upon to surrender, to which demand they made reply by dashing upon the enemy in splendid style and cutting their way out. It was one of the most gallant deeds of the war—a little band of six hundred men against over eight thousand, and still they mowed their way through them, made a path for themselves and escaped. Yan Dorn remained in the town from seven o'clock in the morning until five in the evening, during which time he destroyed government property to the value of over three millions of dollars, besides an immense amount of private property, and then left, his rear guard marching out of the place about an hour before the reinforcements arrived. General Grant issued a severe order reflecting upon this disgraceful surrender, both on account of the absence of any resistance, and the fact that the prisoners had taken parole. He excepted one regiment from censure, however, in the following terms: "It is gratifying to notice in contrast with this, the conduct of a portion of the command, conspicuous among whom was the 2d Illinois Cavalry, who gallantly and successfully resisted being taken prisoners. Their loss was heavy, but the enemy's was much greater. Such conduct as theirs will always insure success."
On the 21st of December, the force which had captured Holly Springs, suddenly appeared at Davis's Mills, a small place on the Wolf River twenty miles north of Holly Springs, garrisoned by six companies of the 25th Indiana infantry and two companies of Ohio cavalry. Although the attack was made in overwhelming numbers and with great fierceness and determination, still the little garrison held them at bay from behind their hastily constructed defences and finally compelled them to retire, leaving their dead and wounded and some prisoners in our hands. Indeed, after leaving Holly Springs, Van Dora's raid was a humiliating failure. After his defeat he crossed Wolf River, took a look at Bolivar, broke out of our lines at Middleburg and was gone.
But in the meantime the rebel Colonel Forrest was at work upon our communications also. On the 18th of December a report reached General Sullivan commanding at Jackson, that Forrest with a large force had crossed the Tennessee and was rapidly making his way to Jackson via Lexington. He immediately made his preparations to receive the attack, and on the evening of the 18th was reinforced by Brayman's and Fuller's brigades. On the 19th, the enemy