Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/209

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Gen. N. B. Forrest Captures Memphis.

posts, creating the impression that the Confederates would take the aggressive. Confronted by an army of 22,000 veterans, it seems remarkable that he could have so disposed his small force as to completely deceive the federal commander.

Too much praise cannot be given to General Chalmers for his brave, bold, wise and persistent generalship in that campaign. It was important that he should not be drawn into an engagement, and yet it was necessary to keep constantly in front of the enemy.

Late in the afternoon of August 19, General Chalmers moved his whole force forward, driving back the federal outposts, and made a sharp attack against the main line. His troops, wet and hungry, knowing the great disparity in numbers, they did not hesitate. General Smith was startled. He felt sure that Forrest had been re-enforced. On the 21st General Chalmers decided to draw the federal commander further away from his base. He fell back to the south bank of the Yocona river. The federal forces, therefore, marched into Oxford on the morning of the 22d, and, finding no Confederates at hand, scattered over the town, indulging in the most disgraceful acts of arson and rapine. The force was under the immediate command of Brigadier General Hatch, who gave order to burn all public buildings and all unoccupied houses. The splendid courthouse and other handsome buildings were destroyed, and of what was an attractive little city on the morning of August 22d, there only remained at night skeletons of houses and smoldering ruins. Nearly every business house in the town was burned. Nor was this destruction confined to the voluntary action of the private soldiers. Brigadier General Edward Hatch, commanding the division of cavalry, established his headquarters at the beautiful home of Mrs. Jacob Thompson, about a mile south of town, and while a guest (uninvited and unwelcome) in the house, allowed his soldiers to plunder every article of value about the place. Mrs. Thompson appealed to General Hatch to protect her belongings from theft and destruction.

Seated in an elegantly-upholstered chair, he leaned back, placing his muddy boots on another chair, and said, in the most supercilious and insolent manner, "Madam, my men are at liberty