previous next

Doc. 203.-fight at Philadelphia, Tenn.

A National account.

Loudon, Tenn., October 27, 1863.
The beautiful valley known as the “Sweetwater Valley,” extending from Loudon, on the Holston, to Calhoun, on the Hiawassee Rivers, has lately been the scene of bloodshed and suffering.

Colonel Wolford is an exceedingly cautious man, and so excessively cautious in guarding against surprise, that the more fiery and incautious have regarded him faulty in this wise. While at Philadelphia, his pickets were well posted, and were kept vigilant by a system of visiting them often, which he himself inaugurated, and which he compelled his officers to pursue. In addition to detailed scouts, whom he constantly kept out, he had his picket posts so strong as to allow scouts from them to be out four or five miles, day and night.

On the morning of the twentieth instant, (the day of the fight,) a staff-officer from General Burnside arrived at headquarters, with a flag of truce to the enemy, and obtained an escort of ten men from Wolford, requesting the Colonel to immediately withdraw his scouts and send out no more until his return, assigning as a reason that his scouting parties might so provoke the enemy as to endanger the flag. The request was acceded to, except picket scouts and a scout at Sweetwater, a distance of six miles from Philadelphia. It was not long after the departure of the flag of truce before an or derly announced the fact that a rebel column had come up to Sweetwater, and had taken a north-westerly direction, which threatened the safety of our foraging train. The Eleventh Kentucky cavalry, being on review, the commanding officer, Major Graham, was ordered to hasten to the train for its defence. But a short time had elapsed before another communication from Sweetwater announced a still heavier force of the enemy moving in the same direction. These two rebel forces, evidently sufficient to overwhelm the Eleventh Kentucky, the First Kentucky, [571] Lieutenant-Colonel Adams, was ordered to reenforce Graham.

Meantime, two hundred of the Twelfth Kentucky were sent to reconnoitre in the vicinity of Sweetwater, and endeavor to ascertain, if possible, the magnitude of the movements of the enemy, and endeavor to develop his designs. It was but a short time until the real animus of the enemy was disclosed, for a heavy column, moving up the main road from Sweetwater, announced the intention to be an attack. A courier was hurriedly despatched to recall Adams and Graham, but, unfortunately, was captured before reaching his destination. Soon the rebels swarmed in from every direction in overwhelming force — in front, in the rear, and on both flanks; and making no demands, and giving no warning for the women and children to leave the place, they commenced the attack with fury. It was now that the brilliancy of Wolford's qualities were called into requisition, for the rebel hosts had sworn that they would have Wolford and his entire command. Environed on all sides by such a force, was placing him in a position of unenviable character. The First and Eleventh Kentucky cavalry both gone, no information of their whereabouts could be obtained, and their fate no one was able to divine, which left but the Twelfth Kentucky cavalry and Forty-fifth Ohio mounted infantry to confront and battle an enemy, the lowest estimate of whose force was seven thousand picked and experienced warriors, with a battery of heavy guns. It was really a critical situation. The fight was inaugurated in front. Wolford, getting his battery of little mountain howitzers into position, and arranging his handful of men to the best advantage, opened with animation on the advancing foe, and by a desperate struggle, in which the Twelfth Kentucky cavalry and Forty-fifth Ohio mounted infantry distinguished themselves, the rebel column was checked, reeled, and finally gave way. This cheering result was quickly followed by the enemy advancing in every direction. The battle progressed for four hours, during which time our trusty Enfields and carbines were dealing death in the rebel lines, while our little battery, under the command of the gallant Lieutenant Allison, was in close and effective range. The anaconda began to tighten, and our little band were being gradually confined to more narrow limits; and, there being no hopes of reenforcements from Loudon, all began to feel their critical attitude, and that something must speedily be done, or defeat and capture were inevitable. Our men, wearied with four hours exertion, and plainly seeing themselves surrounded by the rebel lines, began to settle down in the conviction that capture was unavoidable, and numbers so expressing themselves, Wolford told them never to think of surrendering, and straightening up his shattered ranks, as best he could, ordered a charge, leading it himself, and amid the huzzas of our cavaliers the rebels gave way, and could not be rallied until Wolford and almost his entire command were out of their clutches, coming off the field with fifty-one prisoners, losing twenty-two out of fifty-four wagons, and losing his battery, but not until every round of ammunition had been exhausted. Thus ended the battle of Philadelphia. Now, I will sketch the whereabouts of the First Kentucky and Eleventh Kentucky cavalry, and I may say with propriety that the achievements of these two regiments add a distinguishing lustre to the whole affair. The Eleventh Kentucky, in the advance, had proceeded but four miles before they came upon the enemy in possession of the train, having captured it and the guard. Under the leadership of the gallant Graham, the rebels were soon put to flight, and the train and escort recaptured. Then commenced a running fight of twelve miles, in which severe punishment was inflicted on the enemy, for the rebel dead and wounded lay scattered along the road at short intervals, during the entire chase. They threw away blankets, saddle-bags and contents, and guns, evidently in order to facilitate their flight. According to the best information, the result of the pursuit sums up a mortality list on the part of the rebels of thirty killed, one hundred wounded, and seven hundred prisoners. This I regard as close figuring, without exaggeration. But, unfortunately, we were pursued by eighteen hundred rebels, who recaptured the most of them, together with the men guarding them. It was in this way, and not at Philadelphia, that we lost the most of our captured men. Hearing cannonading at Philadelphia, we discontinued the pursuit, knowing that our forces there were engaged. Ascertaining that Wolford was completely surrounded, we aimed to strike the road leading from Loudon to Philadelphia, which we succeeded in doing, and on arriving at the road, found the rebels, and under Adams attacked them, driving them near Philadelphia. In one charge, we captured twenty-five, and killed a number. Learning that Wolford had cut his way out safely, we withdrew to Loudon, bringing in sixty prisoners. The full and complete result of the day's proceedings exhibits our list in killed to be twenty; wounded, eighty; and missing, three hundred and fifty-four.

The rebels acknowledge a loss of one hundred and fifty killed, and three hundred and fifty wounded, and a loss of prisoners of one hundred and eleven, which we have in our possession. This acknowledgment is fully corroborated by the citizens of Philadelphia. With this result before us, we may claim the advantage of the fight. What occurred at Philadelphia I obtained from the most reliable source — from officers in whose statements the utmost confidence can be safely reposed; and of what happened, as narrated on the pursuit, I was an eye-witness.

Louisville Journal account.

To the Editors of the Louisville Journal:
As you and your numerous readers may be interested about affairs in East-Tennessee, and many of our personal friends solicitous to learn the casualties of our late engagement, I therefore send you the following reliable account: We [572] had been ordered back from Athens, some eighteen miles west to Philadelphia, which lies six miles from Loudon Bridge, in order to be in supporting distance of that strong position — had been constantly on the lookout there with scouts and patrols up till Tuesday morning of the twentieth instant, when a flag of truce passed through our lines from General Burnside to the confederates. On account of the usages of war, we sent no menacing force forward to a reconnoissance, but sent out some forage wagons for corn. They had gone out but a few miles when they were rushed upon and captured by the enemy. Colonel Wolford immediately sent the First and Eleventh Kentucky cavalry, and part of the Twelfth, to recapture them, which was accomplished, but was not all held. Just at this time an attack was fiercely made upon the town on the east, north, and west sides, including all the approaches, and was defended by the Forty-fifth Ohio, mounted men, on the west, and the Twelfth Kentucky cavalry on the east, and a small part of the First and Eleventh on the north, while the small howitzer battery, commanded by Captain Laws, was stationed on the high hill which sets in the south of the town. Picket skirmishing commenced at twelve o'clock, and in thirty minutes the lines engaged, and continued firing with more or less volume for an hour, when it was ascertained that two brigades at least surrounded our position, and cut off the return of the First and Eleventh. As our danger had been telegraphed to General White at Loudon, and our guns in hearing of his quarters, Colonel Wolford naturally expected reenforcements from there; hence he encouraged his men to a stubborn stand, which was responded to cheerfully and maintained with indomitable courage. The Forty-fifth Ohio fought gallantly, more than once charging the rebel lines with fatal effect. The battery fought a Georgia regiment single-handed, who were five times repulsed by canister shot with fearful loss. The Twelfth, on the east, led by Major Delfosse, had several times broke the rebel lines and scattered their front, which was filled up by reserves, until it became a hand-to-hand affray, in many instances, of capturing and recapturing prisoners. Thus continued the contest of unequal numbers till four long hours had passed, our ammunition wagons captured, the cartridge-boxes depleted, while horses and men were fatigued, and yet no reenforcements came. In this dilemma, Colonel Wolford ordered his undaunted band to charge the eastern line with sabre and every available instrument, and taking the lead himself, they soon cut themselves out of their fearful surroundings, bringing off some eighty-three prisoners and many horses, yet not without the loss of some valuable lives and serious casualties. Major Delfosse, of the Twelfth, was shot dead just as he gave orders to charge.

Captain Harrison took command, and led the Twelfth in the gallant charge on double lines of reserves of the enemy, and, being assisted by the Forty-fifth Ohio and commandants of the battery, went through. While this was being done the First and Eleventh were fighting manfully a force some miles north of the town, and so moved as to join Colonel Wolford soon after cutting the rebel lines, when the whole brigade fell back slowly toward Loudon Bridge, fighting back the approaching foe, who checked pursuit when in about two miles of the bridge. Night coming on, every thing became quiet. It was ascertained that our whole brigade of over two thousand men had lost about four hundred and twenty-five men, and that of these the Forty-fifth Ohio had lost one hundred and eighty-one, the Twelfth Kentucky cavalry ninety-two, and the First and Eleventh Kentucky cavalry the balance, in killed, wounded, and missing. As the enemy held the battle-ground, our information is defective, but from the best sources we know of but eight were killed dead on the field, and about eighty wounded. The Forty-fifth lost about forty-five and the Twelfth Kentucky thirty of this number, they being subject most of the time to a strong enfilading fire, and occupying the most dangerous position as a body. The rebel loss was heavy, as we learned they buried thirtyseven, besides hauling off several wagon loads after filling all their ambulances. They also sent back from Sweetwater several wagons next morning to remove the disabled from the field. Colonel Wolford estimates their casualties at over six hundred in killed, wounded, and missing. Many of our wagons were destroyed with our camp and garrison equipage; most of our men, however, saved their horses and arms. It is some gratification in our loss to know that our enemy added little or no strength to himself by it. Our boys were cheerful and more than willing to go at them again, which they did in fine style in two succeeding days, driving the rebels several times back and reoccupying our old ground for at least a temporary season.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Wolford (14)
J. E. Graham (3)
Wirt Adams (3)
Delfosse (2)
A. E. Burnside (2)
J. W. White (1)
Laws (1)
James Harrison (1)
Doc (1)
Calhoun (1)
Allison (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
20th (2)
October 27th, 1863 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: