OR, Series 1, Vol. 45, Part 1, Page 861

Inspector-General's Office
Dept. of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana
Meridian, Miss.
December 29, 1864
Lieut. Col. E. Surget
Asst. Adjt. Gen.
Meridian, Miss.
   In obedience to Special Orders, No. 226, department headquarters, December 25, 1864, I have the honor to submit the following report:
   The train {Mobile & Ohio RR} arrived here from Mobile on the morning of the 26th instant with 700 infantry and one four-gun battery, known as King's battery, (on railroad without horses), the whole commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Burke; the infantry armed, but without ammunition. I drew from Major McCall, chief ordnance officer, seventeen boxes of ammunition, and moved with all dispatch with the train, as directed by the lieutenant-general commanding, making every effort in my power to take the infantry and battery to Corinth, Miss.
   I arrived at West Point at 5 p.m. December 26, and placed myself in telegraphic communication with Major Wheeler, commandant post at Okolona, and was informed by him that the enemy had tapped the road at Verona, twelve miles north of that place, and was reported moving on Okolona. I immediately telegraphed the lieutenant-general all the information that I had received, and awaited his telegraphic orders at West Point, which reached me about 9 p.m., ***. I was then ready to move with the train, but a delay of about one hour was made by the railroad agent in telegraphing, getting ready, &c. The train got off from this point about 11 p.m. There being no water-tank on the railroad between West Point and Okolona, I was informed by the railroad agent that he would have to bail water in order to get to Okolona. I reported this fact to Lieutenant-Colonel Burke, commanding, and he furnished a detail of soldiers for the purpose of bailing water.
   At 3 a.m. 27th instant I was again informed by the railroad agent that he had not water enough to take the train to Okolona, but could run to that point with the locomotive, where he could get a supply of water, and return in time to take the train to Okolona by 6 a.m. This proposition I submitted to Lieutenant-Colonel Burke, and it met with his sanction. The locomotive was detached, and I went on it to Okolona to get all the information that I could as regarded the whereabouts of the enemy, their strength, &c., as I had been able to hear nothing since leaving West Point, though I had instructed Major Wheeler, commandant of post, to send a courier five miles down the railroad to give me any information that he might have of the enemy. No courier was dispatched along the line of the railroad. I arrived at Okolona at 4.30 a.m., and was there informed that the enemy were encamped within five miles of the place, estimated at from 2,000 to 2,500 strong by the most reliable scouts that came in. Okolona being in a broad, open prairie, affording no protection for infantry, and finding that it could be approached by three roads, I thought it best not to attempt any defense of that place. I then for the first time learned that General Gholson was in front of the enemy with a cavalry command, reported to me to be 190 strong, without ammunition. I sent a courier to him immediately, telling him what disposition I thought best to make of the troops under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Burke, and asking a personal interview with him. I waited one hour, receiving no reply from General Gholson. It being then about the dawn of day, and not knowing how soon the enemy would be in the town, and not receiving any reports from the scouts, I caused to be moved about fourteen cars that were at the depot to Egypt, which I was informed by the railroad agent were of more value to the company than the defense of the track from that point to Egypt. Had those trains not been removed at that time they would have certainly fallen into the hands of the enemy. I returned to Egypt on this train, where I reported to Lieutenant-Colonel Burke all the information I had been able to get, and what I had written to General Gholson relative to the best disposition I thought to make of the troops, all of which met with the approval of Lieutenant-Colonel Burke. Two hundred and seventy men were moved up on train and placed in position on railroad two miles and a half south of Okolona, where there was a bridge and trestle that could be defended by infantry, that being the only point where there was any timber or cover on the prairie close to the railroad. The train was sent to report to Lieutenant-Colonel Burke, commanding these 270 men, to enable him to fall back on Egypt should the enemy make any demonstration on either flank, at that time having heard nothing from General Gholson. At 9.30 a.m. General Gholson came in person to where the 270 men were in position, and he was informed by Lieutenant-Colonel Burke and myself of the disposition that had been made of the infantry. General Gholson then informed me that he had 250 cavalry, with which he could and was watching the movements of the enemy, and would keep me posted as to their movements, but could make no resistance, as he had not one round of ammunition for his command. At about 11.30 a.m. the enemy were in Okolona, and General Gholson's command fell back on the position of Lieutenant-Colonel Burke. I was at this time in Egypt making disposition of forces, as directed by Lieutenant-Colonel Burke. Lieutenant-Colonel Burke fell back on Egypt that evening, and all the troops were placed in position to defend the railroad at that place. At 10.30 o'clock that night the operator informed me that General Gardner wished to communicate with me at the telegraph office -- General Gardner being then at West Point, and I at Egypt. He inquired of me the disposition that had been made of the forces and the whereabouts of the enemy. I telegraphed him fully of the condition of everything at that point. He replied that he would send up immediately 500 infantry, with the supplies needed, on the train. I then telegraphed him, setting forth the importance of the troops being in Egypt at 5.30 o'clock on the morning of the 28th; that General Gholson would be useless with his cavalry, as they had no ammunition; their guns being caliber .54, and the ammunition drawn at this place was caliber .58, the ammunition would not fit his guns, consequently could not be supplied by me. There was, however, found one box of ammunition, caliber .54, which was given by Lieutenant-Colonel Burke to General Gholson on the evening of the 27th. I then telegraphed to General Gardner that I thought it important to keep the train of cars at Egypt, as the enemy was camped about three miles north of that place, and there was no chance for the escape of these men, should they be overpowered by the enemy, except by this railroad train. ***** 
   From that moment I gave the train over to the charge of the railroad agent, who was then in the telegraph office, instructing him to leave off several hundred pounds of beef and one sack of salt, as the men were then without rations. I was informed by the railroad agent, whose name I do not remember to have ever heard, that he would move this train to West Point on the arrival of the train from West Point, which he supposed would be there about 5 a.m. 28th.
   The last telegram that I received from General Gardner was about 12 o'clock that night. At about 3 a.m. I again telegraphed General Gardner, telling him the importance of the 500 troops and ammunition being there by 5.30 o'clock to enable me to supply General Gholson with ammunition. The operator at West Point replied that the train had left half an hour before, but that General Gardner was not aboard. The distance being eighteen miles, I thought it safe to calculate that it would arrive at Egypt by 5.30 o'clock. What detained it I am unable to state.
   The fight commenced in Egypt about 7.30 o'clock. I at that time was at the railroad train, half a mile south of Egypt. The enemy moved between Egypt and train; at the same moment charged it with another column. The attempt was made to move this whole train, but it was found that there was not a sufficiency of steam or power to move the whole train and save it from capture by the enemy, who were then within less than 300 yards of the train. There was a number of cars cut off from the train, which enabled the locomotive to move forward and make good its escape with the remainder of the train -- several box-cars and flat-cars, which were loaded with King's battery. How many cars were cut off I am unable to state positively, but my impression is that there were seven or eight. I found that it was impossible to impress horses for King's battery. King's battery was on these platform-cars and fired repeatedly into the charging columns of the enemy. About 8.30 o'clock, the train still not having arrived from West Point, I concluded that the locomotive must have been off the track, and moved this train up for the purpose of loading the soldiers from one train on to the other, to enable me, if possible, to re-enforce Lieutenant-Colonel Burke at Egypt. We met the other train a distance of four and a half or five miles from Egypt. The enemy were then within one mile and a half of the train. The infantry, commanded by Colonel Wier, was immediately formed and moved up the line of the railroad, where they encountered the enemy about one mile from where they got off the cars, in which they repulsed the enemy; this being about 10.30 a.m. The enemy fell back and reformed south of Egypt about two miles, leaving Colonel Wier entirely cut off from all communication with Egypt -- Colonel Wier occupying position about four miles from town with his command, the enemy forming one line of battle north of the town, one east of town, and one south, fronting Colonel Wier, between his position and town. There being no longer any firing in Egypt, and it was evident to Colonel Wier and myself that the enemy had undisputed possession of Egypt (as they were then firing the railroad buildings), Colonel Wier requested me to take the train and go back to where I could get in telegraphic communication with General Gardner and inform him of the condition of things. I found that the telegraph operator had come on to West Point, and there I met General Gardner in person and gave him a detailed account of all that had transpired.
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Jno. S. Hope
Assistant Inspector-General