Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/167

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157
Van Dorn's Operations in Northern Mississippi.

street leading north to the fair grounds, then wheel to the right and charge the cavalry camp; the third, following immediately after the second, was to dash through the town, disregarding every thing until it struck the infantry occupying the public square. Everything indicated that the enemy had no suspicion of our approach. At daybreak the column was moved forward until within about two hundred yards of the pickets, when a staff officer pointed out their position and ordered us to ride them down without firing.

We moved forward at a trot, soon increased to a gallop, and when a turn in the road brought the pickets in view, they were standing peering at us through the gloom, evidently unable to decide whether we were friend or foe. A stern command from the officer in front to throw down their arms and get out of the road was quickly obeyed, and we passed them like the wind. Another turn in the road, and the white tents of the camp were in full view.

On a slight eminence near the road side, and within gun shot of the camp, were three or four horsemen; in passing them, General Van Dorn was recognized in the group, and was greeted with a tremendous cheer, which he gracefully acknowledged, and pointed to the enemy with his sword. The effect of the silent order was electrical; the charge was instantly turned into a steeple chase, and in another moment we struck the camp like a thunderbolt.

The sleeping Federals were partially aroused by the wild cheer given General Van Dorn, but before its echoes ceased to reverberate, we had literally ridden over them. The camp proved to be that of the One-hundred-and-first Illinois infantry. When the alarm was given, they rushed out of their tents, and taking in the situation at a glance, promptly commenced a series of manœuvres, not laid down in tactics, to avoid being run over.

The scene of a regiment, with night garments fluttering to the breeze, trying to dodge an avalanche of horsemen, was truly laughable. Apparently there was no thought of resistance, and in a few moments the comedy ended without a shot being fired. The attack on the centre of the town was also a perfect success, although being a few moments later the surprise was not quite so complete. The cavalry at the fair grounds made a spirited defence. They were booted and saddled preparatory to starting on a scout when the alarm was given, and when Colonel Pinson, commanding the First Mississippi, dashed up to their camp, expecting to take it by surprise, he found them formed and ready to receive him. They met him with a counter charge, and a sharp fight ensued at close