between a party under Lieutenant Purinton
and the detachment of the First Wisconsin Cavalry, under Colonel Harnden
, who, it seems, had followed the rebel trail the night before till it was no longer distinguishable in the dark, had gone into camp only two or three miles behind the party he had been pursuing so long, and had renewed the pursuit in the morning as soon as he could see to march.
Both Colonel Pritchard
and Colonel Harnden
were informed that Davis
had been reported as having with him a well-armed bodyguard, variously estimated at from ten to fifty picked men. Supposing from this that he had determined to sell his life dearly, they expected and were prepared for desperate resistance.
The sergeant in command of Harnden
's advanced guard had orders to move rapidly, and as soon as he discovered the enemy to wheel about and give notice to the colonel, following closely behind.
The sergeant had not gone more than two miles when he was challenged by an unknown party, found across the road a short distance ahead; obeying orders literally, he wheeled about without answering the challenge and notified Colonel Harnden
, who at once pressed forward with his troopers divided into two detachments, one on the road and the other moving through the forest.
In the collision which occurred the men of both regiments seemed inspired by the greatest courage and determination, but the Michigan
men, being outnumbered, were pressed back rapidly.
Owing to the darkness it was several minutes before either party discovered that they were fighting friends instead of the enemy.
The discovery was finally made by the capture or surrender of one of the Michigan
men. In this unfortunate affair two men of the Fourth Michigan were killed, and one officer wounded, while three men of the First Wisconsin were severely and several slightly wounded.
It is difficult, under the circumstances as detailed, to perceive how this accident could have been avoided.
certainly had no means of knowing and no reason to suspect that the party whom he found in his front were any other than the rebels he had been pursuing, while Colonel Pritchard
claims, and no doubt justly, that he had cautioned Lieutenant Purinton
particularly to keep a sharp look out for the First Wisconsin, which he knew would approach from that direction.
The hurry with which the corps was subsequently mustered out of service, and the absence of the principal officers, prevented an investigation of the details of this affair, and the circumstances which led to it. At this late day nothing more can be said of them than what is contained in the official documents on file in the War Department, except that not the slightest blame was ever intended to be cast upon Colonel