Report of Col. John B. Palmer, Fifth-eighth North Carolina Infantry [CS], commanding Western District of North Carolina.
HDQRS. WESTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA, Asheville, January 19, 1864.
COL.: I regret to state that positive information has just been received that Brig. Gen. R. B. Vance, lately commanding this district, is a prisoner in the hands of the enemy. He was captured at Schultz' Mill, on Cosby Creek, in Cocke County, Tenn., on Thursday afternoon last.
Gen. Vance crossed Smoky Mountain from Jackson County, in this state, to East Tennessee on Tuesday, the 12th instant, with one section of artillery, 375 cavalry, and 100 infantry. Leaving Col. W. H. Thomas and Lieut. Col. J. L. Henry with the balance of the force at Gatlinburg, 4 miles below the Smoky Mountain, Gen. Vance proceeded with 180 cavalry to Sevierville, where he, on Wednesday at 3 p.m., captured a train of seventeen wagons, with which he started for Newport, Tenn., via Schultz' Mill.
At this latter place he, on Thursday, about 2 p.m., stopped and remained about one and a half hours. Here he was surprised by a force of the enemy's cavalry, estimated at about 400, coming from their camp 6 miles below Sevierville, and himself, 1 captain, 2 lieutenants, and 37 privates, together with about 100 horses, 1 ambulance, &c., captured. The captured wagons and teams were also retaken by the enemy. There being no rear guard or pickets out, the enemy were enabled to approach within 100 yards before they were discovered. The surprise was complete.
Col. W. H. Thomas, commanding the party left at Gatlinburg, had been ordered to fall back with his infantry and to send Lieut.-Col. Henry with his cavalry and artillery to Schultz' Mill, where they were directed to take up a position and await the arrival of Gen. Vance. Lieut.-Col. Henry, commanding the cavalry and artillery, replied that he thought it best to fall back with Col. Thomas, and failed to move as directed. (See statement marked B, by Lieut. Davidson, Gen. Vance's acting assistant adjutant-general.) Lieut.-Col. Henry, however, proceeded to Schultz' Mill on Friday, and the enemy having retired passed safely on to Newport, and is now on his way up French Broad.
It is believed that if Lieut.-Col. Henry had obeyed the order sent him or even without his force if precautions had been taken to prevent surprise, this calamity could have been avoided and the train saved, as the country immediately above Schultz' Mill is admirably adapted to defense.
I shall feel it incumbent upon me to place Lieut.-Col. Henry under arrest for disobedience of orders, to await the decision of the general commanding as to whether he shall be tried by the general court-martial now in session at this place.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JNO. B. PALMER, Col., Cmdg. District.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. I, p. 76.
*The OR list these events this way: "13-14, Affair at Sevierville (13th) and skirmish at Shultz's Mill, Cosby Creek, Tenn. (14th.)" See: OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. I, p. 1.
14, Capture of CSA cavalry, including Gen. Vance, brother of the Gov. of North Carolina, at Cosby Creek, 23 miles from Sevierville
Report of Brig. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis, U. S. Army, commanding Cavalry, Department of the Ohio.
DANDRIDGE, January 15, 1864.
I have just word from Col. Palmer, belonging to Gen. Elliott's command, and whom I had sent after a party 300 strong, under command of Gen. Vance, a brother of the Governor of the Governor of North Carolina, that he overtook them on Cosby Creek, 23 miles from Sevierville, at 3 p.m. on the 14th instant. They had rested to feed their animals, and were about to take the road to Newport when he charged them, routing their entire command. He captured 52 prisoners, including Gen. Vance, his adjutant-general, and inspector-general; also about 150 saddle-horses and over 100 stand of arms, besides destroying a large number of arms on the road. He also captured a fine ambulance filled with medical stores and provisions the rebels had picked up on their retreat from Sevierville. He also recaptured all the wagons and mules, together with the wagon-master and 23 other prisoners that were taken with the trains captured from us near Knoxville.
The Home Guards are pursuing the dismounted rebels, who fled to the mountains, and many of them will no doubt be captured. The entire command is dispersed, and the rebels not captured will no doubt return to their homes.
The enemy had 2 men wounded. Our loss was nothing. The prisoners are on their way to Knoxville, and the train has been returned to its wagon-master. Gen. Elliott speaks in high terms of Col. Palmer's operations, and I would recommend him to your special consideration.
S. D. STURGIS, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg. Cavalry Corps.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. I, p. 74.