14, Skirmishes at Big Creek Gap [Hawkins County]
MARCH 14, 1862.--Skirmishes at Big Creek Gap and Jacksborough, Tenn., REPORTS.
No. 1.--Col. James P. T. Carter, Second East Tennessee Infantry, U. S. Army.
No. 2.--Maj.-Gen. E. Kirby Smith, C. S. Army.
Report of Col. James P. T. Carter, Second East Tennessee Infantry, U. S. Army.
HDQRS. SECOND EAST TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS, Camp at Flat Lick, March 23, 1862.
GEN.: In obedience to your order of the 8th instant to proceed to Big Creek Gap and Jacksborough, Campbell County, Tennessee, and capture or rout the rebel forces which were reported to be in that vicinity blockading roads and molesting the persons and property of Union citizens, I left with my command on the morning of the 10th instant, accompanied by Lieut. Col. James Keigwin, of the Forty-ninth Indiana Volunteers, and marched to Big Creek Gap via Boston. My force consisted of the Second East Tennessee Regt.; Company A, of the First East Tennessee Regt., Capt. Cooper; Company B, of the Forty-ninth Indiana Regt., Capt. Thompson, and a detachment of Lieut.-Col. Munday's First Battalion Kentucky Cavalry.
We arrived at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains, on the north side, on the 13th instant, at 6 o'clock p.m. I then learned that two companies of the First Tennessee Regt. rebel cavalry were encamped at Big Creek Gap. Finding the road completely blockaded, I detached the cavalry, and sent them around by another road, with orders to meet the main body of the command at a certain point on the opposite side of the mountain. Procuring the services of a guide, I divided my command, placing one portion under charge of Lieut.-Col. Keigwin. We took up the line of march at 9 o'clock p.m., intending to meet at a point on the opposite side of the mountain about daybreak. The distance we had to march was about 9 miles, yet so difficult was the ascent of the mountain that it was only by the superhuman exertions, as it were, of the men that the march was made. The men, however, bore it patiently, and moved on "eager for the fray."
Having to pass through narrow ways in single file, and the night being very dark, a portion of the infantry got lost, and did not arrive in time to take part in the skirmish. About 1,300 of the infantry came upon the camps of the rebels, under command of Lieut. Col. John F. White, at about 6 o'clock a.m. of the 14th instant, and after a sharp skirmish of about five minutes the rebels were completely routed. The rebel loss was 5 men killed, 15 wounded, and 15 taken prisoners, among whom were Lieut.-Col. White and Lieut. Hoyl.
We captured 86 horses (27 killed), 7 mules, and several wagons, a large amount of camp and garrison equipage, a quantity of powder, and a large amount of quartermaster and commissary stores-a sufficient amount of the latter to supply the command during their stay. It being impossible to bring off the quartermaster stores I caused them to be burned and the powder destroyed. Owing to the darkness of the night and the impassability of the roads the cavalry did not arrive till after the skirmish. Had the troops been able to get up in time I am satisfied that we could have succeeded in capturing the whole force. on the arrival of the cavalry we marched to Jacksborough, distance 5 miles, and there overtook the rear guard of the cavalry; killed 1 man and captured Capt. Edward Winston, of the Corps of Sappers and Miners. We hoisted the Stars and Stripes over the town, and on the 15th instant marched to Fincastle, and from thence to Woodson's Gap, where we encamped a few days.
Learning that there was a manufactory of saltpeter in the neighborhood, I sent a detachment of cavalry with orders to destroy the same. They destroyed about 1,000 pounds of saltpeter, broke up the kettles, burned up the shed, and destroyed about 11,000 pounds of bacon and 20 sacks of flour. Our loss was 1 wounded-Lieut. Myers, Company H, Second East Tennessee Volunteers. His wound, however, is not dangerous.
Officers and men behaved admirably, and proved that they are ready and willing at all times to meet the rebels. The people through the section of country over which we passed are truly loyal in their sentiments and hailed the advent of our troops with unbounded enthusiasm. Everything they had was freely tendered to us. We found forage and provisions abundant on the route after we left Boston. The position we had at Woodson's Gap was a very strong one, and could have been held against a large force, and had we been permitted to remain we would no doubt have had an opportunity of meeting the forces at Cumberland Gap which had been sent out to attack us, but on the 19th instant I received an order from you to report at headquarters with my command at the earliest possible moment. I accordingly took up the line of march for this place on the 20th instant, and arrived here on the 23d instant without the loss of a single man.
Your obedient servant,
JAS. P. T. Carter, Col. Second East Tennessee Volunteers.
Report of Maj.-Gen. E. Kirby Smith, C. S. Army.
HDQRS. DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE, Knoxville, March 15, 1862.
GEN.: I have the honor to report that the enemy, having passed the Cumberland Mountains, yesterday surprised and captured, without the fire of a gun, I believe, the larger number of two companies of the First East Tennessee Cavalry near Jacksborough. Their force consisted of a regiment of infantry.
Couriers who arrived last night bring the intelligence that they are moving in this direction. I have ordered forward to Clinton two Alabama regiments, the Third Regt. Tennessee Volunteers, a battalion of North Carolina Volunteers, a section (two pieces) Third Maryland Artillery, and a portion First East Tennessee Cavalry (an aggregate of 2,000 men), the whole under the command of Col. D. Leadbetter, who had received such instructions from me as I thought necessary for the exigency.
From what I have learned of the character of the troops from East Tennessee in our service, of their strong Union proclivities, greatly increased by their near relationship to and from intimate association with many citizens who have fled the country and espoused the Federal cause, I am satisfied the capture near Jacksborough was the result of treachery. Pickets detailed from them cannot be relied on, and even officers are not free from suspicion of more fidelity to the Federal than to out service. It is not an individual opinion that some of the regiments from this section are disloyal, but it is the conviction of many of our friends, who know the public sentiment prevailing in those counties in which they were raised and the strong personal ties which would influence them to become so. There is a want among them of that confidence in the loyalty of each other which would make them faithful in the discharge of their duty to their fellow soldiers and to the country, and this is aggravated, too, by the opinion, which exists to some extent, that East Tennessee cannot be defended by the force we have in the field, and must be abandoned upon the advance of the Federal Army.
I cannot, therefore, too strongly urge upon the Department the propriety, if not the necessity, of removing these troops to some other point, where they cannot prove traitors, either by purchase or from love to the Federal Government, and where, if they do not make efficient soldiers, they cannot be tampered with by the enemy. If this be done, and their numerical strength be supplied by troops from other States, I am persuaded it would in every respect be to the advantage of the service.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, pp. 19-21.
14-17, The 5th Iowa cavalry sees action in Henry County
On Friday last (14th) about 4 o'clock A. M., we were getting ready to start for Paris – a town about 26 miles southwest of our camp and soon started. After a march of 9 miles we stopped to feed our horses and wait for a battery of artillery. Noon we started again and just at sundown entered Paris, white flags being displayed from different part of the town. The rebel camp was about a mile on the west of the town. We passed on and in a little while under the thunder of the artillery told that the fight had begun. We only mustered all together about 200 men. The rebel force was variously stated at from five to 1500. The rebels not making any answer the cavalry were ordered to charge on the camp. Cos. A, B, and D advanced, Co. C being ordered to stand by the guns and baggage. Our men came within a few rods of the camp where a force of rebels lying down in the brush rose and poured in a close volly [sic]. Some of the horses of our men took fright and ran away with their riders. Some stood firm and some of the men not being able to quiet their horses dismounted and went in on foot. A short time however showed that our cavalry could not do anything among the timber and brush and they were ordered to fall back and form on the artillery. LA warm contest was not carried on for some time between these and the rebels, whose fire well sustained for some time, began to slacken as darkness came on. Our guns also ceased firing, but after a short time the rebels resumed it and leaving their cover advances as if to charge on the guns, a few drove them back to the woods and their fire soon died off. We could get no further answer we followed suit and returned to town. Our loss was our Sergeant Major, one sergeant of Co. A, 1 corporal and three privates and one private of Co. B killed and one or two wounded. The Artillery Capt. – Bullitt [sic] was also mortally wounded. After consulting together our officers determine to retreat, as there was a large force of rebels only a few miles on the railroad and we were far from ours, so we continued on till about three o'clock next morning and I finished the night on picket guard. Next day [15th] we returned to camp. Here I had to get five days rations for the men and after working till midnight I was right glad to get to bed. Next day [16th] we moved towards Paris again and encamped a few miles out. Friday [17th] two Cos., C and G, went out on a scouting expedition and passed on till within four miles of Paris. We came home through a pouring rain, lost our way in the woods at night and cracked our camp wet and weary; after tattoo after a ride of 40 miles….have had a hard time, wet and hungry, not having tents and only one days [sic] provisions and at least in consequence of the wet were ordered back to camp. Such is a soldier's life.
Alley Diary, entry for March 17, 1862
March 14, 1863 - "If we can't have our families protected, what have we to fight for?" Correspondence from a Soldier in Co. A, 32nd Tennessee Regiment in the Tullahoma environs to the editor of the Fayetteville Observer
FROM COL. ED. COOK'S REGIMENT
In camp near Tullahoma, March 14, 1863.
N. O. Wallace, Esq:
Dear Sir – It has been some time since I have had any correspondence with you, and even now, I fear that I shall not be able to interest you or your readers, knowing as I do that you are familiar with what is going on at this point and portion of the army. We have quite a number of men on the sick list at this time, more than I have ever seen at one time since I have been in the service. It is a general thing throughout the entire army here, and I attribute the most of it to living on bread and meat alone, which seems to be all that can be procured, only as our friends send to us from home. We get occasionally a box of luxuries from the friends of soldiers which all highly appreciate, but no one has yet sent us a mess of turnip greens, which is nearly as much prayed for as the recognition of our independence. Yes, if the good ladies would spend one-half the time in preparing vegetables to send the soldiers that they do in preparing nicknacks [sic] we would appreciate them still more highly, though I know what they will say to these remarks. They will say at once that there is [sic] no vegetables in the country. So I will reply to that and say to them that we mean turnip greens when we speak of vegetables. Knowing as we do that there are no potatoes, cabbage, &c. we only ask for roughness. We would not refuse eggs, but be thankful of them. – The soldiers would be glad to get the above mentioned articles at any price. We are aware that there is a set of trifling loafers ranging through almost every neighborhood who consume a great portion of the citizens['] supplies, and that, too, without paying for it, and I will here give my opinion as to what I conceive to be the duty of citizens in regard to the punishment of such thieves as are scouting through the county absent from their commands, and a great portion of them without leave or knowledge of their officers.
In the first place it is the duty of the citizen to find out whether the scamps have authority to be absent from their commands or not; it is your duty to report him to the commander of the nearest post. If he has permission to visit your house to buy any thing and you have the article to spare, sell it to him; if he refuses to pay for it report him. In the very outset get his name, his rank, the command he belongs to, and where the command is stationed. Then if he conducts himself ungentlemanly you can have recourse upon him. Always present your complaints to the commander, in writing with date and place. Some will ask why the writer is meddling with these matters, and as this may be the last time I may write on the subject, I will answer previous to the question being asked. Well what [sic] Because I am interested both directly and indirectly in horse thieving being stopped. Horse stealing is not all; not a week passed over but we hear of some villian [sic] calling at some house and demanding white ladies to prepare a meal of victuals then insulting them if they asked any pay for it. – Such treatment is too intolerable to be suffered, and I again say that it is the duty of all citizens to arrest such soldiers, or rather such thieves. But says one, we have no power; all the power is vested in the military department – but that is not so. The citizens' rights are as much shielded by the law as they ever was [sic], and his evidence in a courtmartial [sic] has to be the same weight as it ever did in a civil court of justice; and I argue that if the citizens do not punish or have such men punished they should be regarded not only as an enemy to our cause but an enemy to humanity. Military law is very strict to punish any soldier for molesting citizens or taking private property. So you citizens have no excuse for suffering such conduct; all you have to do is to prefer the charges and adduce the evidence. If the officer refuses to take action in the case, report him. If we can't have our families protected, what have we to fight for? Space demands me to bring my remarks to a close. Mr. Wallace, please send us a few copies of the Observer, and oblige your friend from Lincoln Co, [sic] Tenn.
A Soldier in Co. A, 32nd Tenn. Regt.
Fayetteville Observer, March 19, 1863.