Thursday, June 2, 2011

June 2 - 9 - Notes on the Civil War in Tennessee

Negley's Raid, June 2 – 9, 1862.

By James B. Jones, Jr.

The term "raid" when taken in the context of the Civil War in Tennessee usually brings to mind the name Nathan Bedford Forrest. This is not without good reason as he was perhaps the premier untutored commander of light cavalry in the entire Civil War. His raids upon Murfreesboro and later in West Tennessee and Kentucky are the stuff of legends. Yet there was o­ne raid made by Federal forces just a month before Forrest's Murfreesboro attack, a raid led by Brigadier James Negley.

Federal Major-General O. M. Mitchell, was alarmed by reports late May that Confederate forces were passing from Chattanooga across the Tennessee to occupy Jasper, Winchester and the mountains bordering o­n the river and railroad. This posed a threat to Union advances made since the fall of Corinth. Mitchell then determined to send a force to drive back the Confederate advances, giving Brigadier-General James Negley the task.[1] .

Negley pitched into his work that would take him from Fayette, Alabama, o­n or about the 1st of June 1862 to Union lines near Shelbyville, Tennessee, by the 9th. There is very little documentation to say just how the raid was planned, but according to Confederate correspondence the attack first hit Kingston, moving to McMinnville and then to Chattanooga, or from east of Winchester and from Jasper to Chattanooga. Rapidly moving through Confederate territory his raiders did much to encourage East Tennessee Unionists and discourage Rebels, especially in Chattanooga.[2] The Confederate high command in Knoxville believed this was really the long anticipated "invasion of East Tennessee, via Kingston, by column from the direction of McMinnville." Confederates sent reinforcements to Chattanooga and to Powell's Valley to protect the terminus of the Kentucky Railroad o­nly ten miles from Clinton, Tennessee.[3] Poor intelligence prompted the Confederate commander Major-General E. Kirby Smith to wire the Governor Joseph E. Brown that "Chattanooga is threatened by so superior a force that its evacuation seems almost inevitable." The Rebel commander in Chattanooga, Gen. Leadbetter, had been ordered to retreat in the direction of Knoxville if he could not hold the city.[4] Certainly, the success of Negley's raid was in large measure ensured by faulty intelligence gathering o­n the part of E. Kirby Smith.

Moving up from Freeport, Alabama, o­n June 1st, Negley's force first attacked Winchester o­n June 2, as Federal intelligence had learned that Confederates were bound to hold the town and thus the north bank of the Tennessee River. While there was a Confederate force present (Starnes' Third Tennessee Cavalry), it was routed. In a note directly to Military Governor Andrew Johnson, Negley wrote that the Yankee force, composed elements of Major John E. Wynkoop's battalion of Seventy-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry and a portions of the Fourth and Col. Haggard's Fifth Kentucky Cavalry and some fourteen of "Andrew Johnson's body guard" dashed into Wincheser and summarily captured and swept all Confederate cavalry. A militant Baptist preacher, Captain A. D. Trimble,[5] "a ranger, with four of his band "were captured. According to Col. J. W. Starnes' forthright report o­n the fiasco: "The greater portion of the men captured were greatly rejoiced at the idea of being paroled, getting home, and quitting a service with which they were disgusted." [6]

From Winchester that column moved o­n toward Jasper in the Sequatchie Valley. A second Union column, under Col. Still, occupied Stevenson, Alabama, and would link up with Negley o­n the 3rd somewhere in front of Jasper.[7] The next day, at Sweeden's Cove, in Marion County, Confederate cavalry under Nashville's Col. John Adams would suddenly face Negley's now augmented force of Yankee raiders.

One June 4, after making a forced march of 20 miles over a jagged and almost impassable mountain road and after capturing the enemy's pickets Negley's force of 4,000 cavalry succeeded at 3 p.m., in completely surprising Gen. Adams' command of rebel cavalry encamped at the foot of the mountain. After a sharp fight Negley routed and scattered the Confederates "in the wildest disorder, capturing camp, wagons with supplies, and ammunition." Adams' cavalry fled 43 miles, "strewing the ground for miles with guns, pistols, and swords" without stopping until reaching Chattanooga. The Rebel getaway was so sudden that Adams escaped without his hat or sword or horse. Confederate infantry and artillery were crossing the Tennessee River at Shellmound but turned back upon witnessing Adams' routed cavalry. Federal losses were put at 2 killed and 7 wounded, and the Confederate loss at 20 killed and 12 captured. Major General E. Kirby Smith reported greater losses of 100 killed and missing. He immediately eight companies [450 men] to Chattanooga, "all the available force I have, with instructions to hold Chattanooga and its approaches as long as possible." [8]

The Bombardment of Chattanooga

The next objective of Negley's Raid was Chattanooga. His activities important enough for Smith to keep Robert E. Lee posted.[9] Negley's force made demonstrations in force upon Chattanooga o­n the 7th moving up from Winchester and Jasper with artillery. E. Kirby Smith telegraphed Col. Benjamin Allston, commanding the First Cavalry Brigade send to Kingston "such disposable force as you may be able to spare" from Powell's Valley, after making proper provision for watching the approaches over the mountains. Allston was to inform the commanding officer at Kingston, send out scouts in the direction of Winchester "and give timely notice of any movement of the enemy."[10] By the 7th it was clear that Negley intended to attack Chattanooga, and the Confederate high command in Knoxville informed Brigadier General G. L. Stevenson, in charge of Confederate forces at Cumberland Gap, that all supporting forces were being withdrawn from Powell's Valley to protect Knoxville and Chattanooga. Stevenson, now abandoned by his superiors, would "therefore have to rely upon your own resources in the event of being attacked."[11] Thus Negley's raid, although not aimed at such an outcome, caused Confederate forces to be drained from the Cumberland Gap, making it virtually defenseless and so easier for Federal forces to take, without firing a shot, o­n June 18, 1862.

Standing o­n the north bank of the Tennessee River at 8 A.M. June 8th, Negley took stock of his situation. He didn't think Chattanooga would be difficult to take, but because of the lack of pontoon bridge components, rising water, limited supplies and his remote and so potentially exposed position he opted instead for bombarding the Confederate batteries and city of Chattanooga.[12] Confederate forces o­n the opposite side of the River were well entrenched close to the river behind earthworks and ready to "dispute our crossing the river at this point." o­ne company of the Seventh Pennsylvania took positions at the river and served as sharpshooters "to pick off the enemy's gunners." The remaining cavalry protected the rear. At 9 o'clock A. M. Federal sharpshooters began their work and Confederate defenders fired back with a 24-pounder, and 18 pounder, and four smaller pieces. Federal batteries responded in kind with batteries of 4½-inch Parrot guns. The cannonading was kept up briskly for five hours when the Rebel batteries were discovered to be silenced. Confederates then "beat a hasty retreat" and began to evacuate Chattanooga. Having learned the lessons of Nashville's panic, Confederate stores were secured and two railroad bridges were burned to impede an expected Yankee attempt to cross the river.[13]

D. M. Key, a Chattanooga native and attorney, served the Confederate artillery and left an account of the bombardment in a letter to his wife. According to Key:

[On June 7] the enemy and perhaps other forces were o­n the opposite bank of the river. o­n the morning of the day o­n which I wrote their infantry made its appearance in range of our cannon and it opened fire upon them. This was about 5 o'clock P.M. No sooner did it find them [than] three batteries of the enemy artillery opened o­n our batteries....

The cannon played o­n each other from then till dark, the sharpshooters of both Armies in the meantime firing at each other across the river. Night ended the conflict. We had 3 men wounded and none killed. The wounded will get well. Our folks, it is said, killed o­ne Colonel and o­ne Captain and some four or five others. The next morning [June 8] Maj. Genl. [E. Kirby] Smith having arrived we were ordered to move from our camp near Col. Brabsons and o­n to Cameron Hill and to support our batteries. This we did about 9 o'clock A.M. At 9:12 o'clock the cannon of the enemy again opened o­n our camp near Brabsons and o­n the town generally.

They threw shells and balls all through Market Street and over the town and far beyond the Crutchfield House. Our guns remained in perfect silence Gen. Smith having ordered them not to fire until he ordered them to do so. The enemy ceased firing about 12 o'clock and commenced a hasty retreat.[14]

One anonymous Confederate wrote of the bombardment:

On Saturday [7th] morning some small parties of the enemy were seen at the head of the land running down to the ferry, and out scouts fired upon them, killing, it is said, o­ne officer. The enemy showed no force at this time; neither did they make any demonstration. It appears, however, they were busy making reconaissances, and getting their light field-pieces and mortars in battery, when our battery, having injudiciously sent a few to be concealed, near an old barn at the head of the lane, the enemy opened fire, their sharp-shooters at the same time showing themselves in the woods near the bank of the river.

The frightful whizzing of the shell, as they fell rapidly near the dwelling of some families residing near the vicinity of the ferry, produced the greatest consternation among the women and children, who were seen running in every direction, from the river to the centre of the town in the wildest terror, while the most heart-rendering cries and screams of others in the houses frantically illustrated the horrors of war.

A few buildings were injured, but no accidents occurred.

This morning [8th] the enemy commenced shelling the town again about ten o'clock, and continued the fire for about an hour and a half, a number of the shells exploding in the streets and in the ground, o­ne building o­nly being hit; no other damage done. Our batteries did not reply. All is now quiet, it now being 4 P. M. [15]

Withdrawing from his position, Negley led his force over the mountains to Shelbyville where he reported to Military Governor Johnson that his mission "had proved successful." He returned with 80 prisoners, a drove of cattle and a larger quantity of horses. His raid had destroyed Chattanooga's batteries o­n the 7th and drove Confederate defenders from his earthworks and the city. Several railroad bridges were destroyed by the Rebels to prevent a Yankee pursuit. Perhaps of most value was that "the Union people in East Tennessee are wild with joy. They met us along the road by hundreds."[16] Indeed, Negley, while near Jasper, was the first to enforce Military Governor Johnson's policy of making "rich rebels…pay for Union losses incurred by rebel predatory bands."[17]

While Negley seemed to have met with some success in his daring raid there were some secret whispers -- in Union circles -- that the raid worked to disaffect Unionists in East Tennessee and was riddled with examples of depredations committed against the civilian population. In a confidential note to Col. James B. Fry, Chief of Staff for Major General D. C. Buell, Assistant-Adjutant General Oliver Greene wrote of the "outrageous proceedings of the recent expedition to Chattanooga. Outrages of "every sort" were committed o­n foe and friend alike. Negley's line of march was o­ne complete picture of plunder and larceny, Greene charged.

I wish to call the attention of the general to the outrageous proceedings of the recent expedition to Chattanooga. I have reports from several reliable officers with the expedition that outrages of every sort were perpetrated o­n friend and foe alike. The line of march is o­ne scene of pillage and robbery. His subordinate officers had aided and encouraged and benefited by the depredations. Negley even "laughed at and did not attempt to prevent the outrages which came under his notice." His troops were little more than thieves and robbers.

And as for the alleged good he did to bolster the spirits of Union men, Greene claimed that those Unionists who were o­n Negley's line of march had "been transformed into secessionists by this expedition." All men who declared their Union sentiments along his line of march "were after his retreat either run out of the country or murdered." The expedition was not a success, but a "miserable failure…."

"For God's sake let something be done for relief. When you get a little farther east you will hear enough."[18]

Washington Turner, a Confederate from Jasper, was o­ne of those who were roughly treated by Negley. In his petition to Jefferson Davis, Washington spelled out how he and a number of his pro-Southern friends were robbed by Negley's soldiers, taken prisoner, given no blankets, and finally were jailed in Shelbyville in a slaughter house. He continued:

General Negley issued an order prohibiting the ladies or citizens of Shelbyville from furnishing us with any article of diet or citizens of Shelbyville from furnishing us with any article of diet whatever saying we were furnished with the same rations that the Federal soldiers were, which was false. From thence we were taken to the State Penitentiary [in Nashville] and incarcerated with thieves, murderers and assassins and such men as do God and man's laws at defiance set (for no crime save my love and devotion to my home and native south and her constitutional rights), where I remained near four months, while my little children were robbed of everything they had to eat and scared and insulted by a brutal soldier, they having come twelve miles to do it. I never lived in their lines. General Negley sent his cavalry six miles from his road of travel to rob and arrest me. He killed o­ne of our citizens by marching him while sick for no cause except his opinion's sake, and other citizens of our county have been sent to Camp Chase, and are there now, if alive. Their names are William H. Ballard and Claiborn Gott. Neither of us was ever connected with politics or the army.[19]

Most likely Mr. Washington never received remuneration from Jefferson Davis or Military Governor Andrew Johnson.

Only four days after his mission ended, "a little farther east" the New York Times was ebullient about Negley's Raid. Calling it a "Complete Success" causing "East Tennesseeans [sic] came out in crowds along the march and cheered our troops enthusiastically."[20] Ironically, its greatest success came from its effect of drawing Confederate forces away from the Cumberland Gap, allowing the Union to take that strategic position with out firing a shot o­n June 28, 1862.


[1] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. II, pp. 282-283. Negley was from Pennsylvania and served in the Mexican War, and had served with Don Carlos Buell in Kentucky as a brigadier of U. S. Volunteers. Before the Battle of Stones River he worked to reduce the guerrilla menace in Middle Tennessee, in the Columbia environs. He served brilliantly at the Battle of Stones River. He was promoted to Major General as a result of his brilliant commanding. He served later in the Tullahoma Campaign that pushed Bragg and the Army of Tennessee out of the Volunteer State. His career all but ended at the Battle of Chickamauga as a result of his poor performance while commanding the Second Division of Thomas' XIV Corps. Subsequently cleared of charges of cowardice and desertion he was never again given a field command. He resigned in January 1865, maintaining that it was the prejudice of West Pointers against civilian officers that led to his fall. He died in New Jersey o­n August 7, 1901.

[2] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, pp. 53, 920.

[3] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. II, pp. 598-599.

[4] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. II, p. 596.

[5] There is no mention of Captain A. D. Trimble in the OR. Trimble was the founding minister of the Missionary Baptist Church of Winchester. He possessed $7,000 in real and $8,000 in personal property in 1860. After service with the 8th company, Tennessee Provisional Artillery, and his capture and release, he returned to Winchester. As cited in Papers of Andrew Johnson, Vol. 5, p. 435, from Thomas F. Rhoton, A Brief History of Franklin County, MA Thesis, Univ. of Tenn., 1941, p. 76.

[6] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, pp. 917-918.

[7] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. II, p. 257.

[8] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, pp. 903-905.

[9] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. II, pp. 596; 903-905.

[10] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. II, p. 596

[11] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. II, pp. 598-599, 601.

[12] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, p. 919.

[13] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pp. 919-922.

[14] David M Key Collection and Scrapbooks, Local History Section, Chattanooga Public Library.

[15] Frank Moore, ed., The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Events, Poetry, etc., (New York: D. Van Nostrand, Publisher 1866-1868), 11 Vols., Vol. 5, pp. 189-190. [Hereinafter: Rebellion Record, Vol. No., etc.]

[16] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, p. 920.

[17] Rebellion Record, Vol. 5, p. 188

[18] OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 40.

[19] OR, Ser. II, Vol. 5, p. 805.

[20] New York Times, June 13, 1862.

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