Dec 25 1862. Now that communications to the rear have been restored, I have sent a report to Washington of my struggles with the rebel cavalry lead by Gens. Forrest and Van Dorn.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE,
Holly Springs, Miss., December 25, 1862.
Colonel J. C. KELTON, Washington, D. C.,:
I am just sending a large wagon train to Memphis after supplies and avail myself of the opportunity (the first now for over a week) to communicate with the authorities at Washington. I had timely notice of the advance of Forrest on the road, in the neighborhood of Jackson, and took every means to meet it. General Sullivan was re-enforced from the army with me, and forces from Corinth, Forts Heiman, Henry, and Donelson sent to co-operate. As the enemy’s force was all cavalry and General Sullivan’s nearly all infantry it is possible that they have succeeded in evading our troops, so as to do some damage to the railroad, but the extent I have not yet learned. Before any decisive move had been made by General Sullivan against the enemy, or by the enemy on our railroads, communication was cut between us and a formidable move of cavalry from Grenada reported going north.
This force assembled first at Pontotoc, and as Colonel Dickey was out to the east on the Mobile road, with about half of my available cavalry, I concluded that the object was to cut him off. I immediately ordered all the cavalry that could be spared to Pontotoc, and two brigades of infantry with them, with directions to operate from there for the relief of Colonel Dickey. Before these troops got in motion, however, I learned of the rebel cavalry passing north from Pontotoc and of Colonel Dickey passing safely by their rear. I immediately notified all commanders north of me to Bolivar of this move of the enemy, and to be prepared to meet them, and to hold their respective posts at all hazards. Except at this place all have done well, the enemy being repulsed at Coldwater, Davis’ Mill, Bolivar, and Middleburg. This place was taken while the troops were quietly in their beds. The commanding officer of the post (Colonel R. C. Murphy, of the Eighth Wisconsin Volunteers) took no steps to protect the place, not having notified a single officer of his command of the approaching danger, although he himself had received warning, as hereinbefore stated. The troops cannot be blamed in the matter, for they found themselves surrounded-the first intimation they had of an approaching enemy. Notwithstanding this surprise many of the troops behaved nobly, refusing to be paroled, and, after making their escape from the enemy, attacking him without regard to their relative strength. From the enemy, attacking him without regard to their relative strength. Conspicuous among this latter was the Second Illinois Cavalry, which was stationed here at the time. Our loss here will probably amount to $400,000 of property and 1,500 men taken.
As soon as I learned that the rebel cavalry had moved north from Pontotoc and that Colonel Dickey was safe I ordered all the cavalry that could be spared for the purpose (about 1,500 men) to pursue the enemy, and not leave them until they were captured or completely broken up. They found them near Bolivar, and were close upon their heels all day yesterday, compelling the enemy to change his course southward,killing and capturing quite a number. Last night the Federals and rebels encamped near Saulsbury, and I presume the pursuit is still going on. General Hamilton sent a brigade of infantry, with one battery, to Salem, to operate against the enemy if he should return by that route. Have also sent the remainder of the cavalry force that returned from the expedition to the Mobile road, to intercept the enemy wherever he may attempt to cross the banks of the Tallahatchie. I yet hope the enemy will find this a dearly-bought success.
I am now occupying the line of the Tallahatchie, with the strongly guarded, to the rear, waiting for communication to be opened, to know what move next to make. It is perfectly impracticable to go farther south by this route, depending on the road for supplies, and the country does not afford them. Our immense train has so far been fed entirely off of the country, and as far as practicable the troops have been also. For 15 miles east and west of the railroad, from Coffeeville to La Grange, nearly everything for the subsistence of man or beast has been appropriated for the use of our army, and on leaving our advanced position I had the principal mills destroyed.
The expedition under Colonel Dickey was quite successful. White out he captured about 200 rebels with a fair proportion of horses, arms, and equipments; found large quantities of corn collected on the Mobile road, which he destroyed; also a few cars. The road was completely broken up from Saltillo to south of Tupelo. Reports as they are handed in to me will be duly forwarded.
U. S. GRANT.