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Doc. 186.-surrender of Clarksville, Tenn.

Colonel Rodney Mason's defence.

camp Chase, Tuesday, August 25, 1862.
To the Editor of the Ohio State Journal :
I have found the papers filled with accusations against me, touching the surrender of Clarksville, and telegrams grossly misrepresenting the facts in the case. I have only to state my relations to that event, and leave to a candid and not ungenerous people the verdict upon me.

On the twelfth of June, Gen. Halleck published an order changing the boundaries of the districts of Gen. Buell, and providing, among other things, that Gen. Buell should relieve the forces of Gen. Grant, then in garrison at Clarksville. This order was never carried out. After Gen. McClellan's retreat on James River, the rebel sympathizers became very active and open in recruiting, and the evidences of a general rising multiplied. About the same time the river fell so that a class of boats that could reach Clarksville could not proceed to Nashville, and begun to deposit their cargoes for reshipment. These stores gradually [583] accumulated, and created a temptation for an attack that had not before existed. I warned the officers at Gen. Buell's headquarters of the necessity of increasing my force. I begged them for cavalry to scour the country, but especially for artillery. Gov. Johnson tried to obtain for me even a section of a battery, but failed. I telegraphed to Colonel Lowe, at Fort Henry, and to Lieut.-Col. Olney, at Paducah, for assistance; the latter started a battery on a boat, but it could not get up the river, and returned. I telegraphed to Gen. Grant, as did also Col. Lowe; the General telegraphed me to give notice to Nashville of a day when I would leave the post, and to move on that day. I gave this notice, and visited Nashville a few days after, to represent matters at headquarters. Major Seidell, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, urged me to remain, stating that Gen. Buell had requested General Grant to countermand his order. I finally agreed to await the result, but told him that while I thought I could hold any camp against infantry, that I was in no condition to sustain an artillery attack; that I was fully advised of the strength of the enemy, and that I was advised by Lieut.-Col. Bristow, of the Kentucky cavalry, that they intended to attack Clarksville. That, while I was willing to do the best I could, I would not hold myself responsible for the post. He still urged me to remain. On the day I had fixed for my departure, I received an order from Gen. Grant to remain. The day I was in Nashville, Gov. Johnson also telegraphed Gen. Halleck, recommending that I should be allowed to bring the remainder of my regiment from Fort Donelson to Clarksville.

So matters remained, becoming more and more threatening, of which they were fully advised at Nashville. On Monday morning I received notice of the approach of the enemy in force. I was near my headquarters in the city, and immediately started for camp, which I reached just as the enemy galloped down the street. I found Lieut.-Col. Andrews, who was in command, forming the men in position. The enemy halted out of range, and sent in a flag of truce, demanding a surrender. I called my officers together, and submitted the proposition to them. The matter was some time in consideration. Pending the negotiation, I asked and obtained leave to send Lieut.-Col. Andrews along the line to verify their statements of their force. He counted them to the number of about eight hundred, well armed, one company with volcanic rifles, ( “sixteen-shooters,” ) one with carbines, some with muskets, and the remainder with double-barreled shot-guns. Besides this number, they were joined by citizens, variously armed, making their entire force about one thousand or one thousand one hundred; and this increasing every hour, by a constant stream of people coining in from the country. They had, besides, a battery of four guns, six and twelve-pounders. To oppose this force, the officers reported to me one hundred and ten men, in all one hundred and fifty-two men, with no artillery, except a little gun picked up at the rolling-mill, and of no account whatever. We had relied on holding the college, about which we were encamped, against infantry; but its walls were only thick enough to explode a shell as it passed through them. We had thrown up some rifle-pits to guard the open approach, but had nothing that could be called “fortifications.” Our total nominal force was about two hundred and ninety enlisted men; but we had four detachments of six to eight each up the river, guarding boats; another down the railroad, and another guarding the wharf, telegraph-office, commissary and quartermaster's warehouses, and the stables; so that the total force in camp, as reported to me, was only one hundred and fifty-two men.

The officers first voted part for surrender and part against it. I told them that we would then fight for it, and started for the flag of truce. While we were talking, Lieut.-Colonel Andrews came to me and said the officers were now unanimous in their recommendation for surrender, and I asked an interview with Col. Woodward, which resulted in our capitulation.

The question for my consideration was a simple one. On the one hand I had the strongest possible motives for desiring to make a desperate resistance; on the other hand, my conviction that we could not hold the building against an artillery attack, and that we could not stand a siege I knew, for we had not sufficient supplies of either water or food. My men out of camp were all prisoners, and I could see nothing for it but surrender, either before the fighting or after. I had needlessly, and against my own judgment, sacrificed the lives of my men. My duty, I thought then, and I think so now, was plain; and terrible as have been the results to myself, I am sure that my conscience could again, under like circumstances, demand a similar action. I knew, as the Louisville Democrat suggests, that I had an opportunity to retrieve my good name, but I have never permitted a selfish consideration to influence my conduct on a matter of public duty; and as God is my helper, I trust I never may. Had I for such motives sacrificed the lives of my brave men uselessly, I should have received, as I would have deserved, the execrations of the very men who now, for other reasons, traduce me, and I should not have been sustained by the voice of my own conscience.

The telegraph says I am to be dismissed from the service. Should this even be so, I am ready to meet even that. I can at least then, if discharged from my parole, renter the service, as on the day after the President's proclamation I first entered it, as a private soldier, and I shall then ask all those now censuring me to go with me, and let us see which can look death most calmly in the face. If then, responsible for my own life only, I falter, let them indeed call me a coward.

Statement of company officers.

The undersigned, commissioned officers of the line, who were at Clarksville, Tenn., on duty at the time of the surrender, have read with deep [584] regret a telegraphic despatch, purporting to come from Russellville, and comments thereon, giving a basely false report of the action. To the ends of obtaining simple justice, we submit a faithful statement of the facts.

About ten days after the battle of Shiloh, our regiment was sent from thence to garrison and hold Fort Donelson and Clarksville. Four companies were stationed at the former place, under Lieut.-Col. Andrews, the other six at Clarksville, under Colonel Mason. We had lost one hundred and thirty-seven men in the battle at Shiloh, out of five hundred and ten--balance of regiment being sick in hospital at the time. We were divided to garrison the above places.

After sending back to Ohio the sick, we did not, all told, number three hundred men fit for duty; still both places have been held for more than three months. Our number for duty has never, at Clarksville, numbered two hundred. Col. Mason constantly called on superior officers for reinforcements and for artillery, but because of supposed greater necessity at other places, neither were sent.

Rumors of designed attacks upon us were received for several days, and, by Colonel Mason's order, several temporary rifle-pits were constructed. A few days before the attack, Lieut.-Colonel Andrews came up from Donelson, (forty-five miles distant,) and Major Hart was sent to take his place at the Fort. On the morning of the attack, Col. Mason was near the river, attending to the duties of the post, and upon hearing of the enemy's approach, made his way to the camp.

Upon the approach of the enemy Lieut.-Colonel Andrews immediately placed all men in camp in line of battle. Detachments had been sent to guard steamers with Government stores on the way to Nashville, others on telegraph-line, and still others to guard Government stores on the landings, so that at the time not more than one hundred and twenty-five men were in line. As Colonel Andrews was preparing to open fire upon the enemy, Col. Mason had, by a circuitous route and rapid movement, reached the camp. At that moment a flag of truce approached from the enemy. Of course all movements were halted, and the messenger was sent to Colonel Mason. He immediately summoned us to his quarters in council.

The messenger stated he was sent to demand a surrender, with the condition that private property should be respected, and the force allowed to retain its colors. The true condition of affairs was, for a moment, canvassed. It was certain that a force of from eight hundred to a thousand was drawn up before us, supported by two batteries of artillery — the messenger said a greater number. Col. Woodward commanding, conjointly with Colonel A. R. Johnson, the enemy, was called, and Lieut.-Col. Andrews asked to be permitted to pass along the enemy's lines to ascertain the true number; after some parleying the request was granted.

He returned and reported that, as near as he could ascertain, about four hundred cavalrymen were drawn in line some four hundred yards. distant; one company armed with new sixteen-shooter rifles, one company with carbines and sabres, balance with double-barrel shot-guns ; at the left and rear were drawn up about one hundred infantry; at other points of street-crossings were stationed probably two hundred men. Besides these, about one hundred and fifty cavalry had dashed through the city to the landing. This was Col. Andrews's report. But several others had reconnoitred, and discovered two batteries of artillery planted within five hundred yards of us — the people, six or seven thousand in number and containing at least one thousand fighting men, were rising and turning out armed — there were but five or six Union families in the city.

We had not the sign of artillery but a little bell-muzzled piece Col. Andrews had patched up at Donelson and brought along — a grapeshot could not be put in its chamber; we have no ammunition for that! Under these circumstances we thought it madness to hold out, and we unanimously advised Colonel Mason to surrender.

N. J. Harter, First Lieutenant, company I, Seventy-first.

Isaac Mason, Second Lieutenant, company C.

Ira L. Morris, First Lieutenant, company C.

Smith H. Clark, Captain, company D.

J. R. Woodward, Captain, company C.

T. W. Bowen, Captain, company K.

C. H. Kraum, Captain, company F.

Sol. J. Houck, Captain, company I.

Thos. T. Moore, Adjutant.

Wm. H. Callender, Captain, company E.

H. M. Drury, Lieutenant, company D.

L. W. Beanar, Lieutenant, company F.

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