Monday, November 3, 2014

11.03.14 Tennessee Civil War Notes

3, "To the People of Nashville"

Sewanee Coal Mines,

November 2, 1861

Some trouble has occurred in filling our orders for coal, mainly on account of transportation, it being impossible to get our cars returned. While we are dependent upon the ordinary freight trains. (It is due, however, to Mr. Cole, to say he has done all in his power.) But next week we are to have a regular coal train, to be continued. Under this new arrangement we can reassure the people of Nashville henceforth more than 100 tons of coal shall be delivered to Nashville everyday, without a change in price, and that everything shall be done that can be done to deliver it.

A. S. Colyar

Nashville Daily Gazette, November 3, 1861

        3, The Federal Courier's Tale

* * * *

A courier, recently sent out by Gov. Johnson and Gen. Negley, with important dispatches, met with a variety of adventures, the narration of which may be interesting to your readers, as showing the treatment our messengers receive from the hands of robbers who lurk on every road to rob and plunder travelers.

The courier left Nashville on the 3d instant, with dispatches and private letters, and passed over the road without difficulty until he reached Mitchellville, and was riding over Red River Bridge, when sixteen of Morgan's guerrillas came in sight, and ordered him to halt. He immediately rode near the side of the bridge, and threw most of his papers into the river. The leader, observing the movement, fired his gun, the ball just grazing his head, and immediately ordered him to dismount, wade into the water, and bring out the letters. He obeyed, but, instead of recovering, used his best efforts to destroy such letters and dispatches as he could reach. The robbers, who were looking at him from the bridge, fired several shots at him, which luckily missed him, but splashed the water all around where he stood. After coming out of the river, he thought he would try to give his captors the slip by running away, but, being much numbed and exhausted, he fell ere proceeding a dozen yards. The guerrillas soon overtook him, and the Lieutenant, placing his revolver at his forehead told him to go on his knees and say his prayers, if he had any to say, for he had but a moment to live.

The Captain used his authority in this instance, and prevented his subordinate from murdering him. After stripping and searching him, he was allowed to ride his own horse bare-backed to Gallatin, the headquarters of John Morgan, the robbers having appropriated his saddle, blanket, bridle, &c., together with all his papers and $35 in money, to their own use. Arriving at Morgan's headquarters, he was placed under guard in the house Morgan was then occupying, which was, by the way, Col. Bennett's residence, who was a prisoner in Nashville some time since, and recently exchanged. The first situation he received from the chivalric Morgan was, "You d_____d villain, we got you at last, and, d__n you, I'll have you shot before night." The prisoner told him he could murder him, but, said he, drawing a Confederate army discharge from his pocket, I demand a trial by court-martial.

Morgan, after cursing him awhile, told him he couldn't see why such d____d scoundrels as he wanted to be tried by Court-martial; but remarked that he had no time to attend such matters, and send him to Breckenridge, at Murfreesboro. The currier [sic] having by this means gained time, which, under the circumstances, was what he most needed, he ventured to ask Morgan for his horse. "I'll keep your horse for you until you're hung" and with this Morgan left. Soon after he was taken to Murfreesboro, his guards riding while he was compelled to walk. During this tedious trip he several time fell from exhaustion, and had finally to be carried in a wagon the last nine miles of the route. The disposal of the case was referred to Breckinridge, but he being sick deferred the trial for a day or two. This lucky illness was probably the means for saving out friend's life, as Breckenridge sent him word that he should surely be hung, and that he need expect no mercy shown him. He was confined in the upper story of the [Rutherford County] Court-house with several other prisoners charged with being spies. The rebels whom he met reported that Morgan's men had burned both the railroad and pontoon bridges at Nashville, and that the rebel force at Murfreesboro was never more than five thousand men. The room in which the courier was confined boasted of neither chair nor bed, nothing but a rickety table and an old mat. After some deliberation, the only article of furniture which seemed of any use was the mat, which with the aid of a broken-bladed penknife, he converted into a frail rope. At night he opened the solitary window of the room, and fastening one end of the rope to a post, he began his perilous descent, and at last reached the ground safely, and made for the woods. Not knowing the points of the compass, he was a long time trying to discover the right road to Nashville, but at last reached the Nashville pike, which he kept [walking] until obliged to leave it by the numerous guerrilla camps scattered along all parts of the road for the entire distance. Whenever he observed horsemen, or saw the light of the camp-fires, he would strike for the woods, where he would lie until [it was] safe to venture out again. Thus dodging about, first on the road and then among the woods, he, after three days' travel, with nothing to eat save a mouthful of corn bread, furnished him by a negro, reached a house near the Federal pickets. Seeing no light, he went around and found the family in the rear of the house at supper. Calling the proprietor to the door, he asked him what road he was on. "The Nolensville road," replied the gentlemanly Mr. T. "And how far from Nashville?" asked the courier. "two miles." Are those our pickets?" asked the courier. I don't know," said Mr. T., "which pickets you mean by 'our pickets,'" "Why," said the courier, "the Confederate pickets, of course." "Oh," said Mr. T., "Those don't happen to be our pickets." "Then," says our friend, "I'm all right, and much obliged." Refusing all invitations to remain over night, finding he was among friends, he related his escape from the rebels, and soon after reached the pickets, where he was warmly welcomed by the officer in command, who furnished him with a horse and escort, with which he reached headquarters. His arrival was quite unlooked-for, of course, and greatly surprised both the Governor and Gen. Negley, who were fearful that he had been killed by his captors. After a three days' rest he is as well as ever, and says he is willing to give Morgan another chance to capture him, whenever the Government needs his services.

New York Times, November 24, 1862.

        3, Drunk and Disorderly in Chattanooga

Quite a lively business was transacted by our Provost Guard Sunday in arresting straggling and drunken soldiers. No less than sixty-eight of the 1st Louisiana regulars were carried to the guard house, all of whom were more or less under the influence of liquor, and some "fighting drunk." What is the use of martial law if the main thing for which it is declared is thus violated? Of late, there appears to be no difficulty in running the whisky blockade, except by those who would be the least likely to abuse its use. A few more seizures had better be made.

Chattanooga Daily Rebel, November 4, 1862.

        3, Skirmish at Lawrenceburg

Report of Maj. Thomas C. Fitz Gibbon, Fourteenth Michigan Infantry, and congratulatory orders.

HDQRS. FOURTEENTH MICH. VOL. MTD. INFTY., Columbia, Tenn., November 7, 1863.

CAPT.: Early on the morning of the 2d instant, deserters from the camp of Col. Albert Cooper [Confederate guerrilla leader] informed me of the confinement in jail at Lawrenceburg of many Union citizens who refused to join the rebel army, as also some Federal soldiers captured from the various regiments that have been stationed and passed through here.

Cooper's force was represented as from 200 to 300 strong, partially and imperfectly armed, and as it was rumored that he intended leaving camp the day following, I resolved to surprise and capture him before daylight next morning. For that purpose I had 120 enlisted men, 6 lieutenants, and 2 captains detailed, and apportioning 20 to each lieutenant, and 3 lieutenants to each captain, at 3 p. m. on the evening of the 2d instant headed for Lawrenceburg. Believing that the oath-bound loyalty of the citizens of Columbia could not be relied upon, I gave out that I was going to Pulaski; and to deceive those who might follow or watch my movements, I proceeded 14 miles on that pike, then turned southeast and went through Campbellsville. I purposed coming in rear [south] of Lawrenceburg, occupy all roads leading to it, at 4 o'clock a. m. dismount my force, and walk into their camp. This could be done, for having no camp or picket guard out, as I had been reliably informed, they might have been taken in their quarters without firing a shot. But unfortunately for the success of our movement, Lieut. Miller, commanding rear guard, permitted the column to move too far ahead, and got lost in the woods. On being informed of this accident, or blunder, my spirit sank within me, for with the three hours lost in search of him and his command passed away the opportunity of surprising the rebel camp.

It was now day, and being only 5 miles from Lawrenceburg, I determined to test the mettle of the "200 or 300 men," and refresh and feed my men and horses from their stores. When within a mile of the town the "intelligent contraband" volunteered their fears of my destruction, as Cooper had "over 500 men" ready to receive me. He was told [they said] of my coming, and "got ready to lick me." Soon after my guide brought me word from a Union citizen, on whose statement reliance could be placed, that there were over 500 men drawn up in line to welcome me; that Capt.'s Kirk, Scott, Burch, Barnes, Payne, with their commands, under Col. Albert Cooper, determined to hold the town.

My advance guard, under Sergt. William Davis, had become hotly engaged with a group of rebel mounted men who occupied the road in my front, and to secure against defeat, which would be death and destruction to my entire command, I dismounted all but 32 of my men who were armed with carbines and revolvers I captured a few days previous], had them hitch their horses and form column of companies in front of my position--and close to the rebel first line of battle lay a piece of woods--and having ordered Sergeant Davis to hold the road, surveyed their situation and movements. Masking my movements from the enemy by taking possession of the woods, I ordered Lieut. William Finn, with parts of Companies B and C, to deploy his force as skirmishers, and giving Lieut. John M. Clarke the "terrible 32," gave command off the reserve to Capt. J. J. Donelly, with directions to hold them well in hand and await orders.

The advance of the skirmishers brought on a brisk fire, but, in spite of the effort of the rebels to stay their march, on, on they went, driving the enemy's vedettes and advance guard before them. Seeing now the material I had to deal with, I placed myself at the head of the 32 and came on the left of, and in line with, my skirmishers. Finn was driving them gallantly, and having come within close range of their first line, which was protected by a long row of cotton bales belonging to a Mr. Porter, pushed toward them at the double-quick, and while Lieut. Clarke threatened their right, Finn not only occupied their front, but swung round his right and enfiladed them, receiving the deliberate oblique fire of the skirmishers, by which 3 of them were wounded. The first line retired, or rather ran, in haste upon the second. Deeming this the opportunity to strike, I ordered up the reserve. Their right, I saw at a glance, was exposed, and as their whole line ran along the Mount Pleasant road, hemmed in by fences on either side, the center and left would be powerless in rendering the right any assistance. I resolved then to break through their right, swing round their rear, and terrify the whole by badly beating a part. Being vastly outnumbered, my enemy being nearly 500 strong, I dreaded to make known my numbers by an attack upon their whole line.

The reserve, under Capt. Donnelly, coming up, the skirmishers advanced and engaged their whole front, receiving two volleys in return. Under the smoke of their guns I ordered Clarke to "charge and smash" their right, and bravely and gloriously did he obey my words. The rebels fired by rank, but so nervous and unsteady as to pass closer in rear of my reserve than to my advance. Clarke crumbled their right, and, wheeling, aimed for their heart, but it was gone in all directions.

Occupying the court-house with two companies, the remainder pursued the flying force beyond the outskirts of the town. Fearing an ambuscade where there were so many, I ordered that the pursuit should be discontinued where opportunities for such would offer. Capt. Walsh, however, could not restrain his fierceness, and taking Lieut. Kirk and his company with him, drove Scott so close that he dropped him a first lieutenant [sic] and 3 men to stay his chase.

The jail and court-house had been emptied of prisoners an hour before our arrival, and, placing some loose cotton in the former, resigned it to the flames. The citizens begged that I would spare the court-house, as its destruction would disfigure and perhaps mutilate and destroy a monument close by, erected in memory of those of its former residents who died on the plains of Mexico defending the republic.

Apprehending trouble on my return, and anxious to get into an open country before night set in, I gave the prisoners in charge of Lieut. Kirk, left Lieut.'s Clarke and Finn, under Capt. Walsh, to guard the rear, while Lieut.'s A. P. Sinclair and James Stewart, under Capt. Donnelly, were to clear any hindrance to our advance. Lieut. Miller I held to aid either front or rear when attacked.

The enemy, being informed as to my strength and numbers, felt chagrined at his discomfiture, and gathering his scattered force on the west side of the town, determined to take advantage of the hills and road through which I had to pass to annihilate my little band. I had scarcely gone 2 miles when a courier from the rear informed me that Clarke was hard pressed, and the fierce yells of my assailants gave warning of their near approach. I ordered Capt. Walsh and Lieut. Finn to form in the woods on the right, telling them that I would go back with Clarke's 32, feign an attack, give way, and run by them, when they should open on them and close in their rear. I led Clarke's command to the rear, telling him my intention, but as I advanced to the brow of the hill the rebels were too close upon me to permit of my retiring with any chance of safety; they were about equal to my entire command, drawn up in the form of a crescent, their right resting on the road while the left lapped my rear.

Sending an orderly to the rear to bring up Capt. Walsh, I determined to punish them on their own ground or perish in the attempt. I ordered a charge, telling my men to reserve their fire till we could strike them in the face with our revolvers. We were about 30 yards from the rebel semicircular line, and my men, deeming themselves close enough, hesitated for a moment. Putting spurs to my horse I dashed forward to show my contempt for guerrillas that confronted me, and beckoning to the noble and truly gallant Clarke, urged him to follow. Bravely, fearlessly, and heroically did he and his men obey the summons, and up to their very teeth we dashed. At this moment my horse was shot from under me, three of a volley of musket balls having penetrated his heart, brain, and side.

The struggle that now raged over me was fierce, terrific, and appalling, exceeding in stubbornness any hand-to-hand and face-to-face encounter that has marked any war of the present age. Completely encircled by a galling fire, the rebel commander twice essayed to capture us, but the undaunted Clarke still struggled bravely, and though one after another of our horses fell to earth, we converted their bodies into a barricade and cleared the field. Capt. Walsh arrived in time to join in the pursuit. The rebels [sic] left [as Lieut. Clarke, who counted the bodies, informed me] 8 of their men in the throes of death behind them, while Sergt. William Davis, who refused to go to the rear, though severely wounded, and Private Beebe L. Saxton, of Company I, and Private Herman Curliss, of Company E, wounded, besides 3 horses killed, was all the loss the "terrible 32" sustained.

Being extricated from my horse by the aid of my faithful orderly, O. B. Brombly, I formed both companies to resist another onslaught, telling them to retire alternately and join the column. Anticipating an immediate attack on the advance I hastened to the front to prepare for it, and scarce had I formed when one of the most terrific but wildest volleys that ever was hurled upon a column greeted Capt. Donnelly's command from a frowning hill on his left. Coolly did that gallant officer receive it, and calmly did he deliberate upon his duty. Up that steep hill did he charge with his men, Stewart advancing direct upon their center, while Sinclair struck them on the right flank, both driving them in confused groups into a dense thicket, pouring volley after volley into the confused mass. Never before was such daring, dashing, cool, determined bravery exhibited by men, and, the cry of "no quarter to guerrillas" having been heard above the din and rattle of musketry, drove the enemy through briers and thickets to the mountains.

The force on this hill was little less than 150, half of whom were dismounted and contested Capt. Donnelly's ascent. He himself blew the brains out of one, and, as I had ordered that no more prisoners should be taken, he says their loss must have been very great. Both these terrible reverses terrified the assailants, and, if I except one more desperate effort on the rear which Walsh, Clarke, and Finn gallantly met and repulsed, their firing was irregular and at long range. Providentially the only loss sustained by the onslaught upon the front was the killing and wounding of 7 horses, which I soon replaced from the stables of adjacent farm houses.

Finding themselves baffled and defeated at all points, Capt. Barnes was dispatched to Mount Pleasant, 16 miles ahead, on my line of march, to notify Maj. Coffee to join and aid in a last attack at that place, he having about 50 guerrillas in the neighboring mountains, but he could not escape the watchful eye of Capt. Donnelly, who sent two men on fresh horses in pursuit, and they, being unable to close on him, drove him off the road with their long-range rifles. Ignorant of this, about 100 of the enemy kept in my rear to Mount Pleasant, where the brave "32" were concealed to receive them. The rear of my column having passed out of town, these cowardly murderers galloped up, shouting as they came, when Lieut. Clarke wheeled his men into line and, delivering one volley in their face, scattered them in all directions to trouble us no more.

I reached this post at 6 p. m., after an absence of twenty-seven hours, having traveled 82 miles, fought and defeated four times a superior force having advantage of ground and position, without food or rest. The prisoners, 26 in number, including 1 captain and 2 lieutenants, I turned over to Provost-Marshall Nixon, thus making in six days 107 prisoners captured by a single battalion.

It will doubtless seem strange to some that in such terrible and close conflicts between armed forces, so few are killed and wounded, but to the intelligent officer or soldier who has witnessed the unwieldy clumsiness of a Springfield rifle in the hands of a mounted man, the wonder is easy of solution. Such men as compose the Fourteenth Michigan, armed with breech-loading rifles or revolvers, would prove themselves a terror to any force with which they would come in contact. No tremulous hesitation, no fear of danger or of death, no retiring to load, or excuse to go to the rear, was visible in officer or soldier. They fought coolly, bravely, nobly; repulsing every attack, and breaking every line and barrier that interposed between them and success. The State of Michigan and the Republic [have] just reason to be proud of such noble sons and gallant defenders.

Respectfully submitted.

Your obedient servant,

THOMAS C. FITZ GIBBON, Maj., Cmdg. Fourteenth Michigan Volunteers.[1]

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 31, pt. I, pp. 238-242.


[1] Fitz Gibbon's report is a step beyond the usual dry accounts seen in the OR. It reads much like popular fiction of the day, and is, at least, very engaging and even humorous.

James B. Jones, Jr.

Public Historian

Tennessee Historical Commission

2941 Lebanon Road

Nashville, TN  37214

(615)-770-1090 ext. 123456

(615)-532-1549  FAX


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