Memphis, November 6, 1861
I go to New Orleans tomorrow with Captain Hunt with a hope of being able to make some arrangement by which we may get a large lot of the things now most needed. I can hardly hope to accomplish all that our friend Richmond desires and is willing to attempt, yet we may do something, and anything now is that much in a close place. I learn that the gun-boat Howard is now due here [in Memphis]. There are six 32-pounder guns, and one 8 inch columbiad that Captain Hunt tells me is for her. I wish we had a dozen such boats. If we had, I should feel safe. I hope you will not cease your efforts until you get the chain cables now here in place, and as many submarine batteries planted as you think necessary to blow all the Lincoln gun-boats out of the Mississippi River. I think we have no positive insurance against these gun-boats except in the submarine batteries. These will do, I know. I learned from Mr. Morgan, at Nashville on Saturday last [2nd] that they were making 2,800 pounds of powder there daily. Mr. Thomas Lee, of New Orleans, assures me they are making 6,000 pounds daily at that place. The only fear is want of saltpeter, and we have enough of that to keep things going for thirty or forty days, by which time we will have some of our largest caves in operation in Arkansas, besides many of smaller note at other points. Beside this, I think our ports will be open in forty days, and we will be able to get what we want. Then we can fight the North for ten years and make money by it. The Federal fleet is bombarding Port Royal, but as far as heard from we have the best of it. We are looking with great anxiety to hear further from the fleet. We expect to hear of a great battle between Price and McCulloch and Fremont. Our advices assure us Price and McCulloch have made the trip and got together at Neosho with 37,000 men, and Fremont is a t Springfield with about 40,000. We have no fear of the result. General, don't forget or neglect the submarine batteries. They are the thing and should not be delayed. You must make them give you plenty of powder for Fort Pillow and Columbus. A failure to have this thing needful would ruin everything and bring ruin and disgrace upon us all. The month of November will be memorable and bloody.
My best wishes for your success and triumph.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. II, pp. 199-200
6, Skirmish and Confederate loss on the Little Tennessee River*
LENOIR'S, November 6, 1863.
No circumstantial reports filed.
Capt. Otman reports at Law's Ferry that citizens from Blount County say [Col. Frank] Wolford surprised a party of the enemy on Little Tennessee, killed or drowned 30, captured 40 or 50, and drove the rest across the river. A citizen, who came from Philadelphia and crossed near Loudon yesterday, reports them at Sweet Water and Loudon, not over 1,000 men in all.
R. B. POTTER, Brig.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 31, pt. III, p 68.
*Ed. Note - This skirmish was cataloged in neither the OR, nor the Index to Vol. 31, pt. III
November 6, 1863
FIGHT AT ROGERSVILLE, TENN. A NATIONAL ACCOUNT.
Bull's Gap, Tenn., Nov. 11, 1863
More than a month since, the division of reinforcements, under General O. B. Wilcox, entered East-Tennessee, and, with Shackleford's [sic] division, moved immediately on the rebels at Blue Spring. After a sharp engagement, the enemy was forced to retire, with severe loss, and our forces moved up the East-Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, Wilcox's division stopping a t Greenville [sic], the former home of Andy Johnson and Shackleford's [sic] occupying Jonesboro.
Every thing remained quiet until the twenty-eighth ult., when Shackleford [sic] was flanked by the enemy, and forced to fall back on Greevnville [sic]. Next day, however, the rebels retreated, and Shackleford [sic] moved to his former position. The enemy's attitude remained threatening, and on the morning of the sixth instant, heavy firing was heard in the direction of Rogersville, a small town situated on the north bank of the Holston River. A detachment of the Third Indiana cavalry was immediately sent out to learn the result, and toward evening sent in a courier with the intelligence that our forces at Rogersville, consisting of the Second Tennessee and Seventh Ohio cavalry, and second Illinois battery, had been defeated, and that the enemy was reported moving on Bull's Gap, eighteen miles in our rear. Then there was mustering in hot haste, and both divisions were quickly on the road for the Gap. Lick Creek was to be crossed before reaching the Gap, and it was feared the rebels would attempt to destroy the bridge before we could reach it; and to guard against this, the detachment of the Third cavalry that was in the advance, was ordered to fall back to the bridge to hold it. No enemy appeared and at midnight our column, led the Sixteenth Indiana, came in sight. Rapidly the brave fellows moved on, and soon the Gap was reached, which secured the army from present danger of a rear movement.
At an early hour next morning our troops were in position, ready and anxious for the foe approaching; but none appeared, and our scouts soon ascertained that, immediately after the fight, the enemy retreated toward Virginia, having burned up most of the property captured. They also learned that our loss was not so severe as reported, and does not, I think, exceed five killed, twelve wounded and a hundred and fifty prisoners. In addition to this, we lost four guns of the Second Illinois battery and the entire train. It appears that our forces were surprised early in the morning, and almost surrounded before they were aware that an enemy was near. Being greatly scattered, they were unable to fight with any show of success, while the rebels, confident in their overpowering numbers, pushed forward with a valor worthy of a better cause. Twice they charged the battery, and twice they were repulsed with heavy loss; but closing up their heavy ranks, they again returned to the attack. This time our little band was unable to withstand the impetuosity of their charge, and the guns that had held them at bay for more than an hour fell into their hands. Then ensued a scene of the wildest confusion. No way of escape was opened to our men but the river. Into this they plunged, and, although the rebels made every effort to effect their capture, the greater number escaped. A worse whipped set of men are seldom seen. Many had lost their hats, coats, arms, and horses, and all were indignant that they should have been humiliated by defeat.
Rebellion Record, Vol. 8, pp. 153-154.
RICHMOND ENQUIRER ACCOUNT
Richmond, Nov. 18, 1863
A correspondent, likely to be well informed, sends us the following detailed account of this operation, which was not only creditable in itself, but has gone far to give a new turn to confederate fortunes in East-Tennessee:
The affair at Rogersville, East-Tennessee, affords some mitigation of the general ignoring of the campaign there. A series of movements of the most unfortunate and disgraceful character, illustrated by the retreat of General Williams, glorious to him and his command, but wholly shameful to those responsible for his exposed position, the only other matter of commendation, justifies this sweeping phrase. A true relation of these will, doubtless, fill a dark page in his history. Let us turn to the brighter point, and present to your readers the truth.
A few days since, information of a reliable character was received by General Ransom of the exact position, numbers, and condition of the Yankees at Big Creek, four miles east of Rogersville. The nearest supporting force being at Greenville [sic], he conceived the idea of cutting them off by a rapid night march of cavalry upon their front and rear. Brigadier-General Jones, accordingly, was directed to put his brigade in motion, so as to bring himself, on Thursday evening, within a night's march, but the south side of Holston River, down the valley of Buck Creek; while Colonel Giltner, commanding Brigadier-General Williams's brigade, was to move from Kingsport and its vicinity, on the north side of the river. During the afternoon of the fifth Colonel Giltner concentrated his command, and went into camp at Kingsport, and ordered his force to move at six o'clock P.M. Owing to great difficulty in passing the fords, it was nearly eleven o'clock when the column had passed the river, with a march of twenty-one miles between them and the enemy's camp. The intense darkness of the night, with rain, made the march one of great difficulty and discomfort, but it was cheerfully encountered by officers and men, who seemed to have no doubt of the success which awaited them. At Lyon's Store the head of the column encountered the brigade of General Jones who was understood to have started for Dodson's and Smith's fords, in the Holston, below Rogersville. He, finding great obstacles in the way of his advance, had determined to cross the river at Long's ford, and take the Carter's Valley road to Rogersville, in the rear of Garrard's camp. This transferred him to the right, instead of the left of the army, and brought him by the north of the Yankee position, instead of by the south to the rear or west of it. Colonel Giltner had received information of a home guard camp, on the Carter's Valley road, by a citizen, whom he sent at once to General Jones, and by means of his information he was enabled to surprise their camp about daylight, where he captured some thirty or forty prisoners.
At Surgeonsville the enemy's pickets were driven in. Owing to a failure on the part of the advance-guard to charge them promptly, and the delay consequent in bringing up a company to pursue them, they were enabled to escape. Captain Fulkerson, of Colonel Carter's command, being ordered forward, pursued them some three miles, to the farm of Dr. Shield's, where he was ordered to halt and hold his position. Colonel Giltner halted the head of his column at Miller's, eight miles from Rogersville, and went forward to reconnoiter the enemy's position. Finding them posted, apparently in force, on the hill beyond Spears's, he waited for his column to close up, and to give time to General Jones to get into position, and rode back to observe the road and ascertain if it was covered from observation by the enemy. Finding it was so, and securing information of General Jones's progress he ordered the column to advance as soon as the artillery should close up, and rode to the front. Here he found that the force of the enemy had disappeared. Captain Fulkerson had been sent by the right to turn this position, and soon ascertained the fact that they had left this point, and that the way was open. The advance charged down the hill, urged to a sharp trot. A mile in advance, finding thick pine woods, the advance formed as skirmishers, and advanced through the fields to the right of the road, where they soon discovered the enemy's wagons crowded in the main road, while some of the advance called out that the Yankees were escaping by the ford – Russell's or Chism's ford – in front of the enemy's position. Colonel Giltner at once ordered Colonel Carter's regiment to charge, which they did in the direction of the ford. Owing to the roughness of the ground, only twelve of fifteen reached the ford, but the regiment was in supporting distance, and the Yankees, seeing their retreat cut off, made no further effort in that direction. They commenced, however, shelling the corn-field in which Carter's men were. Colonel Carter ordered his men to the cover of a precipice, whence he advanced, under cover of a hill, into open ground. Throwing down the fences, he dismounted and charged the enemy's gun, near the Russell House. The enemy abandoned one gun, carrying off their horses and some wagon. Meanwhile, another small regiment dismounted and charged through the fields between the gun and the retreating enemy, who, however, turned down the river road. Another gun now opened to the left, on a high hill south-west of William Lyons's house, west of Big Creek. Colonel Carter's regiment started to the left of the Russell house, crossing the creek to attack it. Almost as soon as they could traverse the distance, they charged and took it; not, however, until one gun of Lowry's battery had been put in position and fired several shots. A small body of the enemy appearing in the fields to the right, a few shots from another gun posted in the abandoned camp on the Second Louisiana were fired, and the enemy disappeared in the woods, to the rear of the field, west of Big Creek. Just then a heavy discharge of musketry was heard in the rear, which was at once recognized as the attack from General Jones, and a cheer went up from both columns. Colonel Giltner had, by this time, brought up his reserves, who charged down the river road, and down the lane between the Relay and McKinney farms, where the Yankees were attempting to escape by a private ford. Here they overtook two of the guns of the enemy, and took a large number of prisoners; a large number having previously laid down their arms in the woods to the right of the road, and in front of the lane last mentioned. While this was going on in front, General Jones had moved down the Carter Valley road to the left of the enemy's camp, to the intersection with the main road, a mile east of Rogersville where he dispatched a detachment of Witcher's battalion, and perhaps Dunn's, to take the town, occupied by a small force. These captured perhaps, one hundred prisoners, and killed some five of six Yankees and renegades. The body of the command turned up the main road a short distance, to the road leading out toward the Relay and McKinney farms, and intersecting the river road. The enemy being drawn from their camp by the front attack, here encountered the command in their rear, and, after several sharp volley, yielded themselves to their fate. The results of this victory have been detailed with sufficient accuracy, and need not be recapitulated. The change of plans on the part of General Jones is considered, by those acquainted with the country, as leaving open the avenues of escape through which the greater part of the enemy got away. This, however, was probably for good reasons. The most unfortunate part of the affair was the return of the army that night to camp, by order of General Jones, against the earnest remonstrance of Colonel Giltner. This resulted in the escape of many prisoners, and the loss of any material results beyond the captures. Subsequent intelligence shows that four men, pursuing the retreating Yankees within a few miles of Greensville [sic], captured a wagon which had escaped by Chism's Ford, and carried dismay into the camp of the Yankees at Rheatown and Greenville [sic]; and that while the confederate cavalry was hastening to secure its communications, the Yankees were stampeding through Greenville [sic] – horses, cattle, artillery, wagons, men and officers blockading the streets, filling the sidewalks into the very doors of the houses, a dismayed and disorganized mob. on they went even to Russellville, twenty-five miles, galloping bareheaded through the streets and crying that ten thousand confederates were upon their heels. I need not comment upon a result so common in this war, so disgraceful to the Yankee soldiers and the confederate general.
Rebellion Record, Vol. 8, pp. 154 – 155.