Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/163

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153
Van Dorn's Operations in Northern Mississippi.

just at the wrong places, thereby obstructing the movement of troops, particularly the artillery. The morning after the cavalry had rejoined General Van Dorn near Oxford, the enemy, now south of the river, commenced a rapid advance. Our infantry at once resumed their retreat in the direction of Water Valley, while the cavalry was ordered in the opposite direction to check the advance. About four miles north of Oxford the cavalry came in contact with a heavy force of the enemy, and a sharp skirmish ensued, resulting in our forces being driven back, but time enough was gained to enable the straggling infantry and refugees to evacuate Oxford. At an early hour, before the advance of the enemy was reported, the squadron to which the writer belonged had received orders to reconnoitre the Panola road to a point fifteen miles distant, and in the event no enemy was encountered to return to Oxford during the night. Not hearing the firing of the affair of the morning, and not meeting any enemy, we moved quietly forward, reached the point named in our orders, remained until late in the afternoon, and returned to Oxford. The night was exceedingly dark, and the town seeming remarkably quiet, it occurred to the officer in command that it might be prudent to halt and send forward a scout, who soon returned with the startling information that the enemy was in possession of the place. We countermarched as quietly as possible, flanked the town, and by riding all night succeeded in joining our regiment the next morning. The enemy continued to advance rapidly, resulting in another sharp cavalry fight at Water Valley, in which we were again outnumbered and roughly handled. Two days later at Coffeeville, the tables were turned.

As they had done at Oxford and Water Valley, the enemy commenced a headlong advance as they neared the town of Coffeeville. The movement had been anticipated, and our forces had been well posted to receive the onset. Their advance consisted of what was known as the Kansas Jayhawkers, who enjoyed the reputation of being the most expert plunderers connected with Grant's army. They came forward with a rush and a yell, expecting, as it was afterwards ascertained, to take the town by a coup d'etat, and have the pillaging all to themselves.

Our line was so posted as to be concealed from view until the enemy were within a few feet of it, and the first intimation they had of its presence was a deadly volley, instantly followed by a splendid charge, which swept them back like chaff before the wind, until it became too dark to distinguish friend from foe. The