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Doc. 154.-fight at Bridgeport, Ala.


General Mitchel's despatch.

Huntsville, Ala., April 30, 1862.
Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War:
on yesterday, the enemy having cut our wires, and attacked during the night one of our brigades, I deemed it my duty to head in person an expedition against Bridgeport.

I started by a train of cars in the morning, followed by two aditional regiments of infantry, and two companies of cavalry.

I found that our pickets had engaged the enemy's pickets four miles from Bridgeport, and after a sharp engagement, in which we lost one man killed, drove them across a stream, whose railway-bridge I had burnt.

With four companies of infantry, two pieces of artillery, dragged by hand, and two companies of cavalry, at three P. M. we advanced to the burnt bridge, and opened our fire upon the enemy's pickets on the other side, thus producing the impression that our advance would be by the railway.

This accomplished, the entire force was thrown across the country about a mile, and put on the road leading from Stevenson to Bridgeport.

The whole column now advanced at a very rapid pace. Our cavalry scouts attacked those of the enemy, and forced them from the Bridgeport road. We thus succeeded in making a complete surprise, and deliberately formed our line of battle on the crest of a wooded hill, within five hundred yards of the works constructed to defend the bridge.

At our first fire, the guards broke and ran. They attempted to blow up the main bridge, but failed. They then attempted to fire the further extremity, but volunteers, at my call, rushed forward, in the face of their fire, and saved the bridge from the island; to the main shore we could not save it. It is of small moment, its length being only about four hundred and fifty feet.

Prisoners taken report that five regiments of infantry, and eighteen hundred cavalry, were stationed at the bridge.

The campaign is ended, and I now occupy Huntsville in perfect security, while all of Alabama, north of Tennessee River, floats no flag but that of the Union.

O. M. Mitchel, Brig.-General Commanding Third Division.


Chicago Tribune account.

Bridgeport, Ala., April 30, 1862.
Gen. Mitchel has finished his campaign by the complete victory which he gained over the forces of Gen. E. Kirby Smith, at this place, yesterday afternoon, and which you have doubtless had by telegraph. On Tuesday the march began, under command of Gen. Mitchel, who had come up, and we pushed eastward, along the line of the railroad, dragging two pieces of artillery by hand, for a distance of twenty miles at the least.

It was about four o'clock in the afternoon of yesterday--Sunday--that we came upon the enemy's pickets, three miles from Bridgeport. They were stationed on the side of a small stream, the bridge across it having been burned, and we soon found they were supported by an infantry and two cavalry regiments, the former of which came up, and engaged our advance, the Thirty-third Ohio. This regiment was the only one which appeared to the sight of the rebels, and after half an hour's work they fell back unpursued, as no means were had by the rebels for crossing the stream.

Gen. Mitchel, in the mean time, made a detour to the left, with his whole force, and after marching a mile, came upon a road which led [531] to Bridgeport. He immediately started for this point, and after an hour's weary march, approached the rebel fortifications, on the bank of the Tennessee. This march was one of incredible difficulty and danger. General Mitchel was placing himself, with five regiments of infantry, two companies of cavalry, and two pieces of artillery, between two divisions of the enemy, much stronger combined than himself. Had he been defeated, he could not have managed to retreat — it would have been an utter impossibility.

We halted at six o'clock, at the foot of a hill, and the column deployed right and left, and formed into line of battle, where they stood hid from the enemy by the hill. The artillery stood in the centre, the Thirty-third and Second Ohio on the right, with the Tenth Wisconsin and Twenty-first Ohio on the left. As soon as formed in line, the whole column advanced, and reaching the crest of the hill, looked down upon the enemy. Again they came to a halt. Peering above the top of the hill, I saw the whole of the rebel force below the hill, in their intrenchments.

The setting sun glistened on thousands of stacked guns, and two pieces of brass cannon, the men had evidently been drawn up in line of battle at the first alarm, but when it had ceased, they stacked arms, and were now engaged in eating supper. Capt. Loomis, when the force halted, stepped forward, saw the enemy, calculated the distance, and stepped back undiscovered.

In a moment he had given his orders, the cannon were charged with canister, and moved to a position in which they were brought to bear on the main body. This evidently consisted of four full or parts of regiments of infantry. The first warning which the rebels had of their danger, or of our near approach, was the discharge of our artillery, and the launching of the terrible death-dealing missiles in their very midst. They sprang instantly to their guns, hundreds, however, firing in every direction.

The main body evidently intended standing, but a second discharge added to the panic, and the whole force fled as our columns in line marched to the top, and began the descent of the hill on a charge bayonets. The frightened rebels, without a single general discharge, broke for the river, and quickly crossed the bridge. When we reached the works of the rebels, they were deserted — a few dead and wounded alone remaining.

The rebels fled with precipitancy, their speed increasing as they went, followed by the shells of Captain Loomis. They managed to fire the bridge, and a good portion of it was destroyed, but the half west of the island was saved by General Mitchel's personal exertions. Having reached the other shore, the rebels abandoned their camp and stores on that side, and, by the whistling of a locomotive, I imagine went off at railroad speed.

Capt. Loomis continued to throw shells after them for several rounds, when, by order of Gen. Mitchel, he ran his two pieces down the hill, and placed them in position to receive the body on the railroad, who, it was anticipated, would come to the aid of their friends, now already and completely defeated. A second line of battle was formed in the works of the rebels, and we awaited for the rest of the rebels to attack us.

We had not long to wait. In a short time we saw the infantry on a double-quick, coming through the woods, along the line of the railroad, and the cavalry right and left. They came into the open fields, and formed in splendid line of battle. The cavalry looked magnificent, and came dashing along in splendid style. They got within three hundred yards of us, before they discovered their mistake, and then the artillery told them of it.

The canister was poured into them, and away they went in every imaginable direction — infantry and cavalry mixed in one conglomerated mass of frightened and flying humanity. The cavalry was sent in pursuit, when they had got out of artillery range, and the prisoners were being sent in every hour, until I lay down to try to sleep.

This morning I find we have killed and wounded seventy-two, and taken three hundred and fifty prisoners, and two pieces of artillery.

Gen. Mitchel has entire possession of the railroads from Bridgeport, ten miles east of Stevenson, west to Huntsville, thence south to Decatur, north to Athens, and in a month will have the railroad lines running to Nashville, via Columbia, from Decatur, and via Murfreesboro from Stevenson.


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