O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XVII/1 [S# 24]
DECEMBER 15, 1862-JANUARY 3, 1863.
Forrest's Expedition into West Tennessee.
No. 1. Report of Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Davies, U.S. Army,
commanding District of Columbus, of operations
December 18, 1862-January 3, 1863.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF COLUMBUS,
January 9, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of
transactions in this district since December 18, 1862:
I received telegram from General Sullivan, at Jackson, stating that the enemy
had crossed the Tennessee River at Clifton in force and were menacing Jackson,
and asking for troops. I had none to spare him, and so answered. I understood
he withdrew most of the troops from Union City into Jackson. News came that
Humboldt, Trenton, and Dyer had fallen into the hands of the enemy. I immediately
ordered the withdrawal of the force at Kenton (two companies) if Rutherford should
also fall. It fell, and I ordered the two companies to fall back on Columbus and also
the one company at Union City. I subsequently, on hearing that the enemy were
falling back, sent the company back to Union City, and they had no more than
arrived in and train left when a flag of truce was sent with paroled prisoners, and
while the officer in command was arranging for the flag of truce to be sent in they
were surrounded by a large force and surrendered without firing a gun. Upon
the cutting off of communication with General Grant I telegraphed to General
Halleck the state of things, and he immediately ordered General Curtis to send
General Fisk's brigade to re-enforce me, giving me orders in three separate telegrams
"to hold Columbus at all hazards and make no movement of troops that would
endanger it." Having no reliable information but such as I could gather from scouts
and countrymen I was compelled to do all to the maximum for the defense of
Columbus and the public property at the place. I had what I supposed was reliable
information that Forrest had a force of 7,000 and ten pieces of artillery and was
backed by a heavy infantry force. Under these circumstances I ordered the loading
of all the commissary and quartermaster's stores on the boats that brought troops
and forwarded the stores to Memphis, in accordance with orders from the
commissary department. This helped my defenses very much and placed Columbus
at once beyond all danger, even though the forces came here that were reported.
I got some navy howitzers from Cairo and the mosquito gunboat Fair Play to aid
along the river. A portion of Forrest's force having been reported as moving toward
Hickman, which had been evacuated to re-enforce Columbus (their having but 63
infantry and 73 cavalry for duty), and the additional fact that Van Dorn was also
moving in the same direction, and from information I received concluded their
design was to gain some point on the Mississippi to interfere with the navigation.
This conclusion proved true. The same evening I gained the information I dispatched
the gunboat Fair Play to Hickman, to be there at daylight. The steamer Duke coming
up was being brought to when the gunboat hove in sight. She sheered off and came
on up and the rebels disappeared. They endeavored to mount during the day two
64-pounder condemned guns on the bank, left by the Navy. Hearing of it I dispatched
a regiment to roll the guns into the river and burn the carriages, which was done.
Island No. 10, with all its armament in position and with plenty of ammunition, was the
greatest danger. I had 71 men there for duty, and under the threatening aspect I ordered
the guns dismantled and spiked with soft iron and the secesh powder there thrown into
the river. The remaining ammunition I had brought to Columbus. From reports of the
movements of Jeff Thompson and Jeffers on the Missouri shore against New Madrid I
consulted Generals Tuttle and Fisk, who were here, as to the propriety of evacuating
New Madrid and re-enforcing Fort Pillow and placing the armament there in such a
position as to be useless in case of capture. We all agreed to the suggestion, and it
was accordingly done. In the then position of our army below, without coal or supplies,
I considered that no possible chance should be run of the enemy getting possession of
either of these two points with the armament and ammunition. They are of no value to us,
and only a bait for attack and threatening danger if allowed to remain intact. Forrest did
not destroy the railroad this side of Union City, from which I concluded he wished me to
send out force in detail to that point. I did send 1,500 troops there, but immediately
withdrew them under what I considered the spirit of General Halleck's instructions.
I kept Forrest, however, for several days under the impression that I was going to give him
battle outside, by the movement of trains and circulating reports. He has been richly paid
for his temerity and boldness. There has been no damage done in this district nor railroad
running-gear injured. A heavy construction train was set at work as early as possible, and
the road will be in running order probably by January 15.
I am, very respectfully,
THOS. A. DAVIES,
Brigadier-General, Commanding District of Columbus
Col. JOHN A. RAWLINS,