NP, RD 8/29A/1863

From the Richmond Dispatch
 
August 29, 1863
 
The great Yankee railroad raid in Mississippi -- how it was executed
   The object of the various Yankee raids which have been heralded from Mississippi has been disclosed. A letter in the Mobile Advertiser from Okolona, the 20th inst., gives the following narrative of the raids, all tending to one point, and the damage done. It says:
   At the latter end of the past week General Ferguson, commanding the cavalry at this point, ascertained that two columns had sallied out from Corinth, the minor one passing East in the direction of North Alabama, and the more important one marching towards the Mississippi Central railroad. Major Davenport, with a battalion, met the smaller column, turned and pushed it back in the vicinity of Iuka. Gen. Ferguson having ascertained this, obtained permission from Gen. Ruggles, at Columbus, to advance upon the other column, prepared his command with an alacrity which is deserving of credit, and on Monday pushed on towards Oxford to discover the enemy leaving here in his stead the fine Arkansas command of infantry of Gen. McNair, under the control of Colonel Harper, an active and efficient officer.
   Intelligence of the various raids has been eagerly sought but not until this morning had we learned anything trust worthy from them. My informant left Grenada on Tuesday, and brings an interesting but unusually painful budget of news. From his statement it appears that in addition to the forces from Corinth, an additional column from Memphis or LaGrange, and still another from Yazoo city, were suddenly precipitated upon the line of the Central road by the enemy, for the obvious purpose of destroying an immense amount of railroad property, invaluable to us, and inaccessible to the enemy for his own uses.
   The column from Memphis encountered Chaimers's command in the vicinity of Panola probably on Sunday or Monday, and owing to its overpowering strength is reported to have defeated that body, and, it is surmised, captured Gen. Chalmers himself. This accomplished, our forces were driven back through Grenade towards Canton, and a junction formed at the former point with the Yankees from Yazoo, when the destruction of the valuable properly commenced, and the object of the various expeditions was fully accomplished. The damage inflicted cannot be easily estimated, or its immense value even vaguely guessed at.
   When Gen. Beauregard retreated from Corinth fifteen months since all the remaining stock of the Memphis & Charleston road, both of engines, cars, and machinery, were run down to Grenada by the Mississippi Central and Mississippi & Tennessee roads, which it served to supply to the fullest extent with all desirable rolling stock. In time the Mississippi & Tennessee road was, too, abandoned, and its rolling stock transferred to Grenada and Canton. Thus the stock of these two important roads was transferred to a third. When the enemy pushed us back from the river and defeated Pemberton in the engagement at Baker's Creek and Big Black, and pushed on to Jackson, the rolling stock was withdrawn from the New Orleans & Jackson {New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern RR} and the Jackson & Vicksburg road {the Southern of Mississippi RR}, and forced on to Canton under the protective wing of Johnston, throwing the vast stock of these two latter roads together in safety with that of the former three. Here, then, we have accumulated, for safety and from abandonment of roads, the rolling stock and machinery of five important railroads, viz: The Memphis & Charleston, Mississippi & Tennessee, New Orleans & Jackson, Jackson & Vicksburg, and Mississippi Central. When Gen. Johnston was about to move from Canton, for the greater security of this invaluable property it was sent further up the road to Grenada, and the vain hope seems to have been indulged in that the enemy were unaware of its existence of situation, or careless of its importance to our interests. It is difficult to conceive how such a great oversight could have blinded the Confederate military authorities.
   In addition to the machinery, there were no less than forty locomotives and several hundred cars, passenger and freight, amounting in value to millions of dollars, a property invaluable and impossible to be replaced until the end of the war, when it can lend us no assistance in the one great object we have all at heart our liberty and independence. The enemy appears to have been more fully aware of its importance to our interests than our own authorities. The forces from four points were to concentrate at this Mecca of railroad interests, charged to destroy every vestige of their utility, regardless of risks incurred or advantages otherwise lost. If three columns were met by disaster, a fourth was left for the one great accomplishment. It is difficult to look these stern facts in the face without a feeling of bitterness and a sickening lamentation for such important and irreparable losses rather, sacrifices.
   When the witnesses of the sad scene left, the work of destruction was still going on, and the flames were leaping high in the air from store-houses groaning beneath the weight of Government stores. Fifteen miles from the scene the blood-red light of the conflagration still gleamed in the sorrowful eyes of the observers. Not before to-day has Gen. Lee been able to concentrate his cavalry and threaten the vandals. Ferguson should have been within striking distance yesterday, but his command will prove unable to cope with such a force as the enemy has. Thus, it will be seen that they have had three uninterrupted days to complete the work of demolition.
   Gen. Stephen D. Lee should receive no coinsure for this disgraceful affair, since he only assumed command of the cavalry forces on the 17th, and had not yet had time to get them fully in command. In fact, cavalry was not adequate to the important charge, and infantry should have been held for its protection.

Home