13, Affair on Harpeth Shoals
Destruction of fully laden US hospital ships (U. S. S. Trio, Parthenia) and one gunboat (Sidell) by Wheeler's cavalry at Harpeth Shoals on the Cumberland River.
Report of Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, U. S. Army.
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND, Murfreesborough, Tenn., February 15, 1863.
GEN.: Supposing it well to furnish the Department evidence of the inhuman violations of the rules of civilized warfare by the rebel authorities, I inclose of the lists of our medical officers who were robbed of their private and personal property at the late battle, and statement of Chaplin Gaddis, who was on a hospital boat that was fired on and robbed at Harpeth Shoals by Wheeler's cavalry. I can multiply documentary evidence on these outrages and many others, fully revealing the barbarism of these rebel leaders, and will do so, if you think desirable.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. S. ROSECRANS, Maj.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, .Vol. 20, pt. I, pp. 979-980.
Report of Brig. Gen. Robert B. Mitchell, U. S. Army.
HDQRS., Nashville, January 13, 1863.
MAJ.: The steamer Charter was burned last night about 8 o'clock, with her cargo. But two regiments have arrived from Gallatin yet; two locomotives have given out. Stanley went on the Hillsborough pike, as you directed. I think our force should have been sent nearer the train. Damn the railroad, say I!
ROBT. B. MITCHELL, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 20, pt. I, p. 982.
Report of Gen. Braxton Bragg, C. S. Army,
TULLAHOMA, January 17, 1863.
Gen. [Joseph] Wheeler, with a portion of his cavalry brigade, after burning the railroad bridges in the enemy's rear, pushed for the Cumberland River, where he intercepted and captured four large transports; destroyed three, with all the supplies, and bonded one to carry off the 400 paroled prisoners. He was hotly pursued by a gunboat, which he attacked and captured, and destroyed her with her whole armament. I ask his promotion as a just reward to distinguished merit.
OR, Ser. I, .Vol. 20, pt. I, p. 982.
Excerpt from the report of Reverend Maxwell P. Gaddis, on board one of the ships at the time of the attack:
...I beg to state that I was one of the passengers aboard the steamer Hastings...on the 13th...the day she was fired into by a party of rebel guerrillas of General Wheeler's cavalry brigade, under command of Colonel [William B.] Wade. The Hastings had on board 212 wounded soldiers under charge of Surgeon Waterman, with instructions to report the same at Louisville. The Hastings left Nashville without any convoy. On nearing Harpeth Shoals we saw the burning hull of the steamer Charter, opposite a group of some half dozen of more small houses that had also been burned. A short distance below a fleet of six steamers were engaged in loading and unloading Government stores under the protection of the gun-boat Sidell commanded by Lieutenant [William] Van Dorn. Suspicious of some danger below I hailed Van Dorn and inquired as to who burned the boat and boat and houses. He replied that the guerrillas had burned the steamer and that he had retaliated by burning the houses. "Is there any danger below?" "No;" said he, "you can pass on safely. I have cleaned them out." The steamer Trio also laden with wounded was in advance of us some four or five miles. Believing all safe below we passed on. On reaching the head of Harpeth Shoals we saw the Trio lying to in a cove on the south bank of the Cumberland River, thirty five miles from Nashville, and thirty miles from Clarksville. Having heard the caption of the Trio say that he was nearly out of fuel I presumed that he was taking on wood. On a nearer approach to her I discovered a company of cavalry drawn up in a line on the bank just above the Trio. Two of the company took off their hats, waved them at us and ordered us to come to. I inquired "Why, and what do you want? We are loaded with wounded and have no time to stop." "Come to, or we will fire into you." And at that instant the whole line came to a ready. Being the only commissioned officer of board (not wounded) with the exception of Surgeon [Luther D.] Waterman I immediately assumed command ordered the captain of the Hastings to land. The boat in the meantime had moved past the designated landing point, and the guerrilla commander gave the order to fire and three volleys of musketry were fired all taking effect upon the upper and forward portion of the steamer. The volleys were followed by one discharge of cannon, the ball passing through the clerk's office on the starboard side and out on the opposite side of the cabin. I told them to cease firing as we were landing as rapidly as possible. On landing they boarded the steamer and ordered the men to leave the boat as they must burn her. In connection with Doctor Waterman I urged the claims of humanity upon them, and finally through a personal acquaintance with Captain [Spruel E.] Burford, General Wheeler's assistant adjutant general, we extracted from them a promise to spare the boat on condition of the captain entering into bonds that she should carry no more supplies for the Army of the United States. I pass by a description of the horrible scenes enacted by Wades' men. They plundered the boat, even to the knives, forks, spoons, &c. Rifled passengers' baggage; robbed wounded soldiers of their rations, and money from their pockets; took the officers' side arms, overcoats, hats, &c. I reasoned with their officer to no purpose, save Captain Burford, who was utterly unable to control the men. I then took on board the wounded of the Trio and her crew and asked permission to leave. This was granted and the colonel ordered his men off. On his leaving he noticed several bales of cotton on which our wounded men were lying; he instantly became furious and ordered us to remove the same ashore and burn it, a task almost impossible. Many of the men were badly wounded; night was coming on; no rations nor medicines and thirty miles distant from any military post. Seeing all this I asked for other terms. He then agreed if I would burn the cotton on my arrival at Louisville he would spare the boat and allow us to go on unmolested, and in the event of my failing to comply with the order I must return to the line of the Confederate States as a prisoner of war. These terms were harsh, but in view of the suffering men I instantly complied, brought to, her crew and passengers transferred to us, and preparation was them made to burn the Trio and Parthenia. In order to save the Hastings from coming in contact with the steamers...I again asked to leave. This they would not grant, but through the entreaties of Captain Burford, we were allowed to cross to the other side of the river under range of their cannon. We hardly landed when the gun-boat Sidell hove in sight. On her appearance the enemy mounted their horses and awaited her action. She came on under a full head of steam, carrying her when the engine had ceased within 150 yards of our boat, on the same side of the river. I hailed Van Dorn; told him to take the middle of the stream and not endanger the lives of the wounded during the engagement, for we had no other idea but that he would fight. To our utter astonishment he ignominiously surrendered, without firing a single shot. He then crossed her over to the steamers and ordered us across the river again. I took on what was left of the crew and soldiers and after waiting one hours and a half, according to their orders I started with the Hastings for Clarksville, reaching there at 8 p. m. and reporting to Colonel Bruce. He acted promptly and soon furnished us with supplies. I telegraphed the facts to General Rosecrans at Nashville.
Maxwell P. Gaddis, Chaplain Second Ohio
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 20, pt. I, pp. 980-981.
Loss of a Federal Gunboat, Corrupt U. S. Quartermaster Corps and an Inventory of gunboat cannon on the Cumberland River and Army Interference with Navy Affairs
Report of Acting Rear-Admiral Porter, U. S. Navy, responding to the Department's enquiry regarding the loss of the U. S. gunboat W. H. Sidell, and Corrupt U. S. Quartermaster Corps and an Inventory of gunboat cannon on the Cumberland River
U. S. MISSISSIPPI SQUADRON, January 29, 1863.
SIR: In answer to your communication, asking information about a gunboat burned on the Cumberland River, I have the honor to state that the vessel mentioned did not belong to this squadron. She was called the Sidell, and was, I believe, an old ferryboat, with a field-piece on her.
The army undertakes sometimes to get up an impromptu navy, which generally ends by getting them into difficulty. There are five vessels of this squadron in the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, which are detailed for convoy, and under the management of Lieu-tenant-Commander LeRoy Fitch, who has until the late affair, kept the rivers open, and convoyed all vessels safely through.
I shall direct that no army vessels be allowed to ascend these rivers without a convoy, and I have detailed the Lexington and two more light-draft gunboats for the upper fleet. This will make 40 guns on the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers. There are enough there now (20 guns) to take care of these rivers, but the recklessness of the army quartermasters is beyond anything I ever saw, and they employ persons who half the time are disloyal, and who throw these vessels purposely into the hands of the rebels. If the history of the army quartermasters' proceedings out here were published, the world would not believe that there could be so much want of intelligence in the country.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
DAVIDD.PORTER, Acting Rear-Admiral, Commanding Mississippi Squadron.
Hon. GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.
NOR, Ser. I, Vol. 24, p. 19.
The late raid of Wheeler and Forrest on the Cumberland below Nashville is the talk now--cavalry capturing 5 transports and a gun boat is as good as Forrest's men taking a battery at Murfreesboro last summer with shot guns! Wheeler and Forrest burn the boats and stores and took 300 prisoners. The raids and feats of Stuart's cavalry in Va. are being thrown entirely in the shade by the daring deeds of the mounted men of the West. Forrest, Morgan, Wheeler and Van Dorn are beating the Virginian cavalry to death. Long may they wave!
War Journal of Lucy Virginia French, entry for January 25, 1863.
Report of killing negroes during the affair at Harpeth River, February 13, 1863
After the battle of Stone River, or Murfreesboro, a Federal Hospital boat when conveying the wounded, and bearing the customary flag indicating its object, was fired upon and boarded by the rebels, some fifteen negroes employed as servants on board the boat were killed. Others endeavoring to escape were shot in the water while clinging to the sides of the boat. The inhuman treatment was not the work of guerrillas, for whose actions the rebel authorities might endeavor to excuse themselves, but was done by soldiers under the command of Colonel Wade. General Wheeler's Adjutant General was among the officers present. This Wheeler was promoted for the raid which the attack on the hospital boat and murder of negroes was the principal feature.
These facts were made known in a private letter from the Headquarters of the Fourteenth Army Corps, near Murfreesboro and published in the New York Evening Post, March 11, 1863.
Colonel Percy Howard, The Barbarities of the Rebels, p. 23.
13, Skirmish at Collierville
JANUARY 13, 1864.-Skirmish near Collierville, Tenn.
Report of Maj. Ira R. Gifford, Ninth Illinois Cavalry.
HDQRS. NINTH ILLINOIS CAVALRY, Collierville, Tenn., January 13, 1864.
COL.: I have the honor to report that in pursuance of orders from your headquarters, I moved out on the road to Pleasant Hill with a battalion of the Ninth Illinois Cavalry, numbering about 60 men; while crossing the Nonconnah we heard firing about 1 mile to our left. I moved over the stream as rapidly as possible, the crossing being very bad, and before the command had crossed the firing seemed to be coming toward us. I ordered the advance company forward about 60 rods to a road crossing at right angle, where I saw a small party of soldiers pass at full speed. I knew them to be our own men by their uniform. I then ordered a halt, dismounted two companies, and moved forward in direction of the firing, sending one company around on our left flank mounted. We had advanced about 100 yards through a thicket of brush when we met the enemy coming toward us, numbering from 50 to 100 men, and within 50 yards of us. I then opened fire on them and emptied many saddles, the enemy falling back in great confusion, leaving 1 man mortally wounded on the field, 5 horses, 5 carbines and revolvers, together with 4 prisoners out of the 5 they had previously taken from the command sent out previous to our being ordered out.
I skirmished on through the woods about three-quarters of a mile, then mounted my men and pursued the enemy about 3 miles, and finding they had too much the start, I returned to camp. Our loss none. From indications on the field the enemy's loss must have been heavy.
I remain your obedient servant,
IRA R. GIFFORD, Maj. Ninth Illinois Cavalry.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. I, p. 72.
13, Military Governor Andrew Johnson announces the adoption of an amendment to the state constitution abolishing slavery in Tennessee
NASHVILLE, TENN., January 13, 1865.
Hon. A. LINCOLN, President of the United States:
The convention composed of more than 500 delegates from all parts of the State have unanimously adopted an amendment to the constitution forever abolishing slavery in this State and denying the power of the Legislature passing any law creating property in man. Thank God that the tyrant's rod has been broken.
This amendment is to be submitted to the people for ratification on the birthday of the Father of his Country, when, without some reverse of arms, the State will be redeemed and the foul blot of slavery erased from her escutcheon. I hope that Tennessee will not be included in the bill now before Congress and be made an exception if the bill passes.
All is now working well, and if Tennessee is now let alone will soon resume all functions of a State according to the genius and theory of the Government.
ANDREW JOHNSON, Military Governor.
OR, Ser. III, Vol. 4. p. 1050.
 As cited in: Colonel Percy Howard, The Barbarities of the Rebels, as shown in their Cruelty to the Federal Wounded and Prisoners; in their Outrages on Union Men; in the Murder of Negroes, and their Unmanly Conduct Throughout the Rebellion, (Providence, R.I.: Printed by the author, 1863.), p. 23
 Meeting in Nashville on January 9 unconditional Unionists formed in convention to consider measures to restore Tennessee to the Union. For five days most of the debate focused on procedural disputes and defining the characteristics of the convention as either radical or conservative. On the 13th the convention passed the amendment Johnson speaks of in his letter to President Abraham Lincoln. See: The Papers of Andrew Johnson, Vol. 7, 1864-1865, n.1, pp. 398-399, as cited from Alexander, Reconstruction in Tennesse, 16-17, 28-29.
James B. Jones, Jr.
Tennessee Historical Commission
2941 Lebanon Road
Nashville, TN 37214