30-31, Descent upon Union City [see also August 2, 1861, Description of the Confederate camp at Union City]
HDQRS. U.S. FORCES OPPOSITE ISLAND NO. 10, MO., March 31,
SIR: I have the honor to report that since I have been in command of the forces at this place, having left but a small number of troops at Columbus and a smaller number at Hickman, Ky., I have learned of daily reconnaissances of rebel cavalry in the vicinity of the latter place, and that two regiments, one of infantry and one of cavalry, were at Union City, who were in railroad and telegraphic communication with Humboldt, where there was a large force.
On the 29th instant I received letters from the commanders both at Columbus and Hickman, each expressing the desire for re-enforcements, the latter, Lieut.-Col. Hogg, proposing that on the arrival of cavalry re-enforcements he must go south of Union City and destroy a trestle bridge and cut the telegraph wire. on the same day I received dispatches from Gen. Strong, at Cairo, who intimated that I should act in the premises on my own judgment. on the same day also I exhibited all my dispatches to Flag-Officer Foote, and suggested to him that if my forces were not required here in aid of his operations for two days I would take a part of them and march on Union City. He heartily concurred.
On the 30th....I...conferred with Capt. Dove, of the U.S. Navy, commanding the gunboat Louisville, and communicated to him my plans. Except [for] the commanders...no one knew my plans.
I gave out to the citizens of Hickman that on the hill in rear of the town I would review all the troops. The people from the country remained to see the review. At 2.30 o'clock p. m. the column got under way with a light train and one day's rations in their haversacks. The march was in the following order: 1st, the cavalry; 2d, the Twenty-seventh Regiment; 3d, the company of artillery; 4th, the Fifteenth Wisconsin Regiment. The march was without a halt for 6 miles on a dusty road, the thermometer at 80 degrees, and we got in advance of the persons whom I thought would be likely to carry the intelligence of our march to Union City. The obstacle we encountered was at Reelfoot River; the railroad. and country bridges had both been destroyed, the banks were precipitate, and the crossings miry, but the crossing was made with alacrity. Beyond the route was through a dense woods, flat grounds, and bad roads. At 7 p. m. it was too dark to proceed, so I ordered a halt in a lane. We bivouacked, two companies of cavalry in front, artillery in battery in the lane, the Twenty-seventh on the right, the Fifteenth on the left, and Hutchens' cavalry in the rear. I ordered all the houses in the vicinity to be strictly guarded. I detained every one at Mr. Lawson's (a rebel) house. I learned he had been apprised of our advance by one of his neighbors, and apprehended information had reached Union City.
At dawn [31st] the column moved. It was in the same order as the day before. It was a little over 4 miles to Union City. We had not stopped for breakfast. Before 7 a. m. we were in sight of the rebel camp, at the distance of half a mile. I formed my plan of attack, which was executed as the column marched up in succession. First, Lieut.-Col. Hogg formed his cavalry in front and gallantly led it on. While it was forming in the swampy woods the rebel pickets fired fifteen shots, which was their first notice of our approach. The Twenty-seventh Regiment was next formed in line of battle and led by Lieut.-Col. Harrington over obstacles in perfect order. The company of artillery was led by Capt. Sparrestrom through an opening made in the Twenty-seventh for their passage. While passing to take their position the enemy's cavalry was seen drawn up in line of battle, about 700 in number, opposite Lieut.-Col. Hogg, who opened fire on them with carbines. The rebel infantry was seen huddled in squads, but did not form in line. As the artillery advanced, led gallantly by Capt. Sparrestrom and followed by Maj. Stolbrand, who was suffering from a contusion occasioned by a fall from his horse and unable to ride but full of enthusiasm, Col. Hogg led up his regiment and formed in line of battle on the left, facing the rebel cavalry, which outflanked ours in that direction. Quickly the artillery had attained the hill in full view of both camps, one of which was tents and the other wooden huts, with a parade ground of about 40 acres between them, and opened fire. The whistle of the departing engine was heard, leaving three cars at the depot, and the stampede of infantry, cavalry, loose horses, and citizens was complete. The artillery moved forward, and the cavalry and infantry marched into the camps.
The artillery fired twenty-seven shots. The infantry did not draw a trigger. By my order Capt. Hutchens made a detour to the right and captured 14 prisoners. Lieut.-Col. Hogg, with one company, went into Union City to call the citizens to a conference with me. He found they had run into the woods, with few exceptions. Our work was accomplished. We had surprised the command of Col. Edward Pickett, commanding a brigade of one regiment, the Twenty-first Tennessee Infantry, numbering, as their morning report shows (we captured the books), 616 men, commanded by Lieut.-Col. Tilman, and one regiment of cavalry, commanded by Col. Jackson, all of whom ran before they could see how large a force was attacking them. I ordered both camps to be burned, which was effectually done. Powder exploded in many of the tents. I captured 100 mules and horses and 12 wagons, also a lot of sabers and carbines, which were brought off. I had the telegraph pole next the depot destroyed, and ran the three cars away from the depot, took out the baggage and mail matter, and ordered the cars set on fire. I found provisions and goods in the railroad depot, but concluded not to destroy any useful buildings. loaded up all the wagons we took with the articles captured and could not bring away more. The troops had not breakfasted, were weary, and had a march of 15 miles before them. In two hours after arriving we marched in the same order we had advanced, except placing Capt. Hutchens' cavalry company as a rear guard. We captured three large flags and two guidons, all of silk, and one of them with elegantly embroidered letters, "Victory or Death." We burned all the baggage, clothing, and provisions, so that if the enemy returned they must have found themselves destitute. I think we destroyed 50 trunks and more than 100 stand of arms.
It gives me great pleasure to speak of the good conduct of all the officers and men under my command. They had been confined for fifteen days on the transports near this place; they marched 30 miles in a little less than twenty-four hours: they slept on the ground; they made no fire; they respected all private property; they obeyed all my orders with cheerful alacrity; they almost fasted until they reached the transports we had left at Hickman, where we arrived at 2.30 p. m. this day; they embarked, and arrived here before night. When did troops behave better? They made but one complaint, and that was that the enemy would not stand. My thanks are due to Lieut.-Col. Hogg, Lieut.-Col. Harrington, Col. Heg, Capt. Sparrestrom, and Capt. Hutchens (I named them in the order of march), and all the officers and soldiers in their commands. With such troops any commander would feel sure of victory. I had but one staff officer with me, Adjt. Henry A. Rust, of the Twenty-seventh Regiment, who exhibited, as he did at Belmont, all the qualities of a gallant soldier, worthy to be a commander.
Lieut.-Col. Hogg had provided me with two trusty guides. His judgment was only equaled by his gallantry. As my place was in front of Island No. 10, to co-operate with our gallant Navy and its war commander, Flag-Officer Foote, I felt compelled to return as soon as the main object was accomplished.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
N. B. BUFORD, Col., Commanding in the Field.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 8, pp. 116-118.
Excerpt from the Report of Thomas A. Scott, Assistant Secretary of War, relative to the attack upon Union City, March 30-31, 1862
NEAR ISLAND NO. 10, MISSISSIPPI RIVER, April 2, 1862.
DEAR SIR: I returned to this point Monday afternoon and found all quiet, but there were several small matters in progress, all of which have proved successful.
Before leaving for Cairo on Saturday night Col. Buford, in command of infantry forces, consulted Commodore Foote and myself in regard to the propriety of making a dash upon Union City, to break up the rebel encampment there, which it was believed consisted of one regiment of infantry and one of cavalry. It was left with Col. Buford, as commander, to act as in his judgment seemed proper.
He left Sunday morning by steamers to Hickman with 1,050 infantry, one company of artillery, four guns, and three companies of cavalry; total force, 1,350. Made a splendid movement, arriving within 4 miles of the rebel camps by 8 p. m. Moved again at daybreak and made the attack. At 7 a. m. opened with his battery upon their cavalry, which was formed in line of battle; broke their ranks twice, and the whole camp finally fled in great confusion. Their camps, baggage, stores, &c., were all burned. About 100 horses and mules, with 12 wagons, were brought off, along with such papers and trophies as their transportation would admit of.
Troops returned to Hickman in excellent order, having made the march of 30 miles and completely routing the enemy all within twenty-four hours. It was a very successful and gallant affair. Great credit is due to Col. Buford and his officers and men.
* * * *
Thomas A. Scott, Assistant Secretary of War
30, Sinking of the transport Mattie Cabler
Order of Acting Rear-Admiral, Lee, U. S. Navy, to Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Wells, U. S. Navy, in case of a call from the quartermaster at Nashville for assistance in raising the transport Mattie Cabler
MOUND CITY, April 1, 1865.
SIR: The transport Mattie Cabler, I am informed by Quartermaster Garland Donaldson, was sunk in the Cumberland 22 miles below Nashville on the 30th ultimo. If the Army quartermaster telegraphs for the services of the Little Champion, as I momentarily expect him to do, send her to the Cumberland to render all practicable assistance, delivering the enclosed order to her commanding officer, and inform Commodore Livingston that I desire her to render this service, or show him the order.
S. P. LEE, Acting Rear-Admiral, Commanding Mississippi Squadron.
Acting Volunteer Lieutenant F. S. WELLS,
Commanding U. S. S. Kate, Mound City.
NOR, Ser. I, Vol. 27, p. 130.