29, Skirmish near Lexington
No. 1.--Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth, U. S. Army, commanding District of Columbus, Ky.
No. 2.--Lieut. M. M. R. William Grebe, Fourth Missouri Cavalry.
No. 3.--Maj. Wiley Waller, Fifteenth Kentucky Cavalry.
No. 4.--Col. George E. Waring, jr., commanding First Brigade, Sixth Division, Sixteenth Army Corps .
Reports of Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth, U. S.
Army, commanding District of Columbus, Ky.
HDQRS. DIST. OF COLUMBUS, KY., 6TH DIV., 16TH A. C., Columbus, Ky., July 3, 1863.
COL.: I beg to state that First Lieut. M. M. R. William Grebe,
Fourth Missouri Cavalry, arrived this morning at 4 o'clock from Fort Heiman, and make the following preliminary report:
On June 29, a. m., a force under command of Lieut.-Col. Von Helmrich, Fourth Missouri Cavalry, consisting of 8 officers and 85 men of the Fourth Missouri Cavalry, and 8 officers and 160 men of the Fifteenth Kentucky Cavalry, under Lieut.-Col. Henry, left Spring Creek to scout toward Lexington. When within 6 miles of Lexington, information was gained of a large rebel force in that place, said to be 1,500 strong, and that another force of about 500 men was moving from Jackson to attack us in the rear. Lieut.-Col. Von Helmrich concluded to fall back to Spring Creek to avid being cut off. On the march back, we were attacked by a force of about 2,000 rebels at 2 p. m., lying in ambush, who were not discovered until they fired upon our advance guard. Being closely pressed and pursued, and not being able to reach Columbus, an attempt was made to reach Fort Heiman, which was but partially successful.
Lieut. Grebe returned with 5 officers and 57 men of the Fourth Missouri Cavalry, but cannot state the exact loss of the Fifteenth Kentucky Cavalry. He left at Fort Heiman but 2 officers and about 45 men of that regiment. Lieut.-Col. Von Helmrich and Lieut.-Col. Henry, Fifteenth Kentucky Cavalry, are both missing.
It was reported to Lieut. Grebe that the rebel force engaged is of Forrest's division, under immediate command of Gen. [R. V.] Richardson, under whom are Col.'s [Jacob B.] Bifle [James U.] Green, and [John F.] Newsom.
Please refer to my communication of 24th ultimo, inclosing a copy of my instructions to Lieut.-Col. Von Helmrich, dated 23d ultimo. As soon as Lieut. Grebe can make out his detailed report, a copy will be forwarded.
Respectfully, colonel, your obedient servant,
Lieut. Col. HENRY BINMORE, Asst. Adjt. Gen., 16th Army Corps.
HDQRS. SIXTH DIVISION, SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Columbus, Ky., August 9, 1863.
COL.: I beg to inclose, in addition to my report of July 3, the official report of Col. George E. Waring, jr., Fourth Missouri Cavalry, and Maj. Wiley Waller, Fifteenth Kentucky Cavalry, of the action near Lexington, Tenn., on June 29, 1863, with lists of the killed, wounded, and missing.
The loss may be stated as follows: Fourth Missouri Cavalry-commissioned officers missing, 2; enlisted men missing, 26.
Fifteenth Kentucky Cavalry-commissioned officers missing, 5; enlisted men missing, 17; enlisted men killed, 1; enlisted men paroled and returned, 7; enlisted men paroled and not returned, 4. Total officers and men, 62.
The men reporting themselves paroled have been ordered to duty.
Respectfully, colonel, your obedient servant,
Lieut. Col. HENRY BINMORE, Asst. Adjt. Gen., 16th Army Corps.
Report of Lieut. M. M. R. William Grebe, Fourth Missouri Cavalry.
FORT HEIMAN, July 7, 1863.
I arrived here last night with 2 officers and about 40 men of the Fourth Missouri Cavalry Regt. and 10 men of the Fifteenth Kentucky Cavalry Regt. Lieut.-Col. Von Helmrich and Lieut. Garrett are missing, and probably taken prisoners. All the officers of the Fifteenth Kentucky Cavalry Regt. are missing.
On the morning of June 29, we left Spring Creek to go to Lexington. When within 2 miles of the latter place, we were informed that a large force of rebel troops was there, probably 15,000 men, and that another force from Jackson, about 500 strong, was to attack us in our rear. Lieut.-Col. Von Helmrich concluded to fall back to Spring Creek to avoid the cut off. When on the march back there, we were attacked by a force of about 2,000 rebels at 2 p. m., who were lying in ambush, whom we did not see till they fired upon our advance guard. Lieut.-Col. Von Helmrich has done the best he could do, but we met with a bad fate. As we were very hardly pursued, and not able to reach Columbus, we entirely broken down, and many men without arms, and cannot be of any assistance to the fort here, we intend to leave here by the first boat, to go to Columbus.
The whole force of the enemy under command of Gen. [R. V.] Richardson is reported to be from 20,000 to 25,000 men, well armed, and all mounted; and the nearest pickets are reported at Paris, Tenn.
I have the honor to remain, your most obedient servant,
M. M. R. WILLIAM GREBE, First Lieut., Cmdg. Detachment Fourth Missouri Cavalry.
Brig. Gen. A. ASBOTH, Cmdg. District.
Report of Maj. Wiley Waller, Fifteenth Kentucky Cavalry.
HDQRS. UNITED STATES FORCES, Fort Heiman, July 4, 1863.
GEN.: I have the honor to report that in the absence of Lieut. Col. A. P. Henry, I have assumed command of this post.
On the 26th instant Lieut.-Col. Henry, with the entire effective force of the cavalry at this post, numbering 285, rank and file, started on an expedition against [J. B.] Biffle. He was joined by the forces under Lieut.-Col. Von Helmrich, of the Fourth Missouri Cavalry, numbering 80, rank and file, at Paris Tenn. The forces then moved to Lexington, and from there toward Jackson, an encountered a rebel force, estimated at from 1,000 to 1,500 strong. A skirmish ensued under the direction of Lieut.-Col. Von Helmrich, which lasted some hour and a half, when our forces retreated, and were rapidly pursued by the enemy. The rear guard made several stands, each time inflicting severe loss on the enemy.
The loss from the Fifteenth Kentucky, as near as can be ascertained, is as follows: One lieutenant-colonel, 1 captain, 3 lieutenant, 35 enlisted men, and a considerable number of horses, arms, &c.
Several of our men have returned paroled, and I would respectfully ask for instructions as to what disposition to make of them.
The situation of the cavalry at this time is bad; almost all the horses they had were engaged in the skirmish, and, after a hasty retreat of 100 miles, those that have reached camp are utterly exhausted, and will be unfit for service for some time. The force also is quite small, and unable to withstand an attack of 500 men. The enemy has a force of from 10,000 to 15,000 men within 100 miles of this post, and some small bodies as close as 30 miles, and but for the gunboats we might be attacked any hour. Yet we are willing to do everything in our power, and expect to hold the place as long as possible.
Please let me hear from you at your earliest convenience.
I am, general, very respectfully, yours,
Maj., Cmdg. Post.
Brig. Gen. A. ASBOTH, Cmdg. District of Columbus.
Report of Col. George E. Waring, Jr., commanding First Brigade, Sixth Division, Sixteenth Army Corps.
HDQRS. FIRST Brig., SIXTH DIV., SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Union City, Tenn., August 7, 1863.
CAPT.: At the time of the action near Lexington, Tenn., June 29, 1863, I was in command of the post of Columbus, and since that time to the present I have not been in command of the Fourth Missouri Cavalry. But learning from your communication of August 5 that no official report has been furnished, and believing from the fact that the regiment is in part here and part of Columbus, further delay would result unless some action was taken by myself, I submit the following:
Lieut.-Col. Von Helmrich was intrusted, by order from headquarters of the district, with an expedition to West Tennessee, of about 97 officers and men of the Fifteenth Kentucky Cavalry.
On the morning of the 29th of June, 1863, he was made aware of the presence of the enemy in two detachments, one, numbering about 500, at or near Lexington, and the other, about 1,500, near his flank. He was then near Spring Creek, and finding it impossible to get aid or information from the hostile inhabitants, determined to retreat toward Clarksburg, and was so marching when, near Spring Creek, his advance guard was fired upon. The command was halted, and was formed to repel the chargers over heavy ground by two companies of the Fourth Missouri Cavalry, which developed the enemy in large force on foot behind an embankment formed by direst thrown from a drain, with cavalry in equally large numbers on the flank, the retreat was continued ward Clarksburg. At judiciously selected points in the road, the Fourth Missouri Cavalry was formed, to repel the pursuit and to protect the rear and those who were wounded. In one of these encounters, Lieut.-Col. Von Helmrich dismounted to assist a wounded officer, and while so dismounted his horse broke away and he was taken prisoner, after which the retreat became less systematic, and the inhabitants of Clarksburg, who fired from their houses as the troops passed through that place, increased the confusion. The retreat was continued to Fort Heiman, when Lieut. Grebe, the senior officer after the engagement, arrived with about 45 men, which number was increased somewhat by the arrival on the next and succeeding day of those who had become dismounted, but had made their way through the woods to Fort Heiman on foot or in passing country wagons.
I cannot close this report without adding that all the officers with whom I have spoken concerning the affair speak in the highest terms of Lieut.-Col. Von Helmrich's well-formed plans in encountering the enemy, his coolness and bravery during the action, and his judicious management of the rear during the short time which elapsed from the skirmish until his unfortunate capture. The men of the Fourth Missouri Cavalry are also highly praised for their soldierly conduct during and after the skirmish.
Inclosed is a report of the killed, wounded, and missing, as nearly as can be ascertained.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. E. WARING, JR., Col., Cmdg. Brigade.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 23, pt. I, pp. 631-632.
The purpose of this expedition was to gather hostages from Lexington, Tennessee, to guarantee the safety of Union men taken prisoner by Confederates. Likewise the skullduggery of spying is indicated, with a secret rendezvous with a Union informant. According to Lieutenant-Colonel Von Helmrich's marching orders:
COLUMBUS, KY., June 23, 1863.
Lieut.-Col. VON HELMRICH, Cmdg. Expedition:
COL.: Herewith find copy of Section XI, Special Orders, No. 152, current Series, from these headquarters, in accordance with which you will proceed to Fort Heiman, Kentucky....In case the reported demonstration of the enemy on Fort Heiman should prove to be false, you will proceed with the three companies of your regiment southward, in the general direction of Lexington, Tenn. Arriving at Lexington you will arrest the following named persons, well known as actively disloyal and dangerous, on account of their wealth, and influence: William T. Collins (Carries on a shoe factory for the rebels; his negro, Burrell, can give all necessary information), John F. Clark, Dr. John E. West, and George W. Pool, all residing in Lexington, and William F. Kiser, Verbin Trico, and William Barnhill, residing about 4 miles west and northwest of Lexington. These men, you will inform the citizens of Lexington, will be held as hostages at Columbus, Ky, for the good treatment of the persons and property of Union men. Isaac C. Hall, William Brooks, and Levi McEwing (the sheriff) can be relied on for information regarding the enemy, they being reported as consistent Union men. Either going or returning you will visit Huntingdon, Tenn., and obtain a secret interview Dr. Seth W. Bell, a trustworthy Union man. Any statement he may make can be relied upon, and you will arrange with him to send by messenger to these headquarters, from time to time, any authentic information he may gather of importance regarding the enemy, assuring him that men employed by him for that purpose will be remunerated here. His signature, when writing letters of information, is D. Snips. Finally, you are informed that a cavalry force of ours is expected to move from the Mississippi State line to Jackson, Tenn., and the Obion region. Be careful not to mistake them for rebels.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 24, pt. III, p. 434.
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