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1864 February 27: The Battle of Okolona and Other War News

February 27, 2014

The Battle of Okolona took place on February 22, 1864, in Mississippi. Union General William S. Smith¹ commanding over 7,000 cavalry was defeated by Confederate forces under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Smith, having disobeyed orders from General William T. Sherman, was forced to fight an eleven-mile running battle before retreating across the state line into Tennessee.  Smith was criticized for putting Sherman’s Meridian Expedition in danger.

From The Prescott Journal:

News Items.

A private letter from Vicksburg 8th, from an eye witness, says McPherson’s [James B. McPherson] corps crossed the Big Black 15 miles east of Vicksburg on the 7th.  Hurlbut’s [Stephen A. Hurlbut] took a parallel route from Vicksburg and crossed at Messenger’s ford, 5 miles above McPherson’s, on pontoons.  Each column was 14 miles long.  The force sent up the Yazoo was to prevent a flank movement to cut off our trains.  The ironclads will try to reach Grenada to co-operate with Smith’s cavalry and drive Forrest’s command towards Canton where Bishop Polk’s [Leonidas Polk] conscripts are.  Jackson is said to be fortified with cotton bales.

There are but forty-one daily papers published in what rebels call the Southern Confederacy.

The rebel Congress has passed and Jeff. Davis approved a bill prohibiting the importation of luxuries.  [Jefferson Davis]

The old regiments are recovering from their thirty days’ visit to their homes with an average of 140 new recruits each.

It is quite probable that the Secretary of the Treasury will in a few days advertise the ten-forty loan.  [Salmon P. Chase]

By orders of the War Department, no volunteer will be rejected on accounts of his height, who is at least five feet.

The 1st Minnesota Regiment having re-enlisted for the war has gone home on furlough.  They reached St. Paul on the 13th and were received with great enthusiasm.

The total funded and fundable debt of the United States on the 29th of January was $1, 446,371,507.  The interest of $756,717,809 is payable in gold.

The Herald’s Washington dispatch says the policy of extending the President’s amnesty to colonels is much talked of.  Rebel prisoners and refugees state that this would cause whole regiments to desert.

Sixty thousand veteran troops have already en-listed.  All the regiments in the Army of the Potomac, whose terms of service expire this year have re-enlisted, or about to do so.

An emancipation meeting was held at Covington, Ky., on the 14th, to elect delegates to the emancipation convention at Louisville, on the 24th.  Among the speakers was J. R. Grant, father of Gen. Grant [Ulysses S. Grant].

JOHN S. BURNS, the only citizen of Gettysburg who joined the army and fought in the battle in July last, has been put on the pension roll at the rate of $8 a month.  He fought with the 7th Wisconsin and is an old man.

Gen. John [Hunt] Morgan and his two staff officers who escaped with him have been made the recipients of a grand ovation and testimonial from the State of South Carolina.  The testimonial consists of a magnificent horse to each, and seven sets of elegant and costly caparisons.

The steamer Mill Boy was sunk on the 1st inst., 8 miles below Jacksonport, on White river, laden with Government stores for the troops at Batesville.  A part of the cargo was saved.  The boat was valued at $14,000 and was a total loss.

The Richmond Examiner of the 10th inst. has an editorial denouncing the Virginia Legislature for attempting to interfere with State and war matters, by the passage of an act requesting JEFF DAVIS to remove the outlawry against Gen. BUTLER, to facilitate an exchange of prisoners.  [Benjamin F. Butler]

The Richmond Enquirer also contains a long editorial bitterly denouncing the Virginia Legislature for its chicken hearted course in recommending the acknowledgement of the beast BUTLER, and yielding to terms for an exchange of prisoners in secret session.  It urges DAVIS to remain firm, and declares there will be no exchange of prisoners till they get more than we have.

The Washington correspondent of the Chicago Tribune states that it has the highest authority for saying that Gen. Grant has within a few days formally, peremptorily and in the most decisive terms, rejected direct offers made to him lately by leading Democratic politicians to secure his nomination for the Presidency by their National Convention.

The Times’ Washington special says that Gen. Butler has issued an order forbidding the sale of liquor to be drank on the premises in his department, under penalty of fine and imprisonment at hard labor. also, in order that all estates in his Department, abandoned or occupied by rebels, be taken possession of by the Superintendent of negro affairs.

The Secretary of War [Edwin M. Stanton] has decided that the term three-fourths, used in connection with veteran regiments, means three-fourths of the organization serving together, and does not include men absent in prisons, hospitals, &c.  Men who have not served two years will be allowed to go on furlough with their regiments, provided it goes as an organization, and they agree to re-enlist as soon as they come within the limits of re-enlistment.

Very near one hundred and ten thousand new recruits have been formally mustered into the service since the 1st of November last, and many more thousand are known to be enlisted, although not yet mustered in.  The last two weeks the enlistments have averaged 1,800 a day.  Of the number formally mustered into the service, New York has furnished about 16,000, Ohio 16,000, Indiana and Illinois 12,000 each, Missouri about 7,000 and Pennsylvania only the same number.

From The Polk County Press:

The U. S. steamers Wyoming and Jamestown have blockaded the pirate Alabama at Aboy China, and it is thought that her career is ended.

A large number of our prisoners who were confined at Richmond, recently made their scape by tunneling themselves out from under the walls of Libby prison.  They were fifty-one days in getting out.  Twenty-six of them have arrived in safety at Fortress Monroe, and among them the notorious Col. Straight, whom the rebels once held as hostage for John Morgan.

It is reported that the rebels are preparing to make a raid into Ohio, by way of West Virginia.

No news from the seat of war of any importance.

1.  William Sooy Smith (1830-1916) graduated from West Point and was a career military officer and engineer renowned for bridge construction. When the Civil War started, he joined the 13th Ohio Infantry and was soon commissioned colonel. Smith was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers during the Battle of Shiloh. After the Meridian Expedition he served as chief of cavalry for Grant in the Department of Tennessee and for Sherman in the Military Division of Mississippi. He resigned from the Army later in 1864 because of ill health.

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