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Doc. 198.-battle of Britton's Lane, Tenn.


Brigadier-General Ross's report.

headquarters District of Jackson, Jackson, September 7.
Colonel John A. Rawlins, A. A. Q.:
I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of troops under my command during the thirtieth and thirty-first days of August and the first day of December instant.

On the morning of the thirty-first of August I received a dispatch from Col. M. M. Crocker, commanding at Bolivar, that that post was threatened by a large force, advancing from the south, and subsequently that Col. Leggett had been sent out to make an attack on the advancing columns of the enemy, that a skirmish had taken place with a force supposed to be about four thousand strong, and that reenforcements had been asked for and sent forward. Feeling that an attack was being made on Bolivar, I took the first train to that place. On arriving I ascertained that a severe skirmish had taken place four miles south of Bolivar, between the forces under Col. Leggett, consisting of the Twentieth and Seventy-eighth regiments of Ohio volunteers, four companies of the Second Illinois cavalry, under Lieut.-Colonel Hogg; two companies of the Eleventh Illinois cavalry, under Major Puterbaugh, and one section of artillery, and the whole rebel force. After a skirmish of about seven hours by our infantry, our artillery was brought to bear upon the enemy; this, followed by a gallant charge of our cavalry, under Lieut.-Col. Hogg, drove the enemy from the field. In this charge Colonel Hogg fell while engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with Col. McCullogh, by a shot fired by one of McCullogh's men.

Night coming on, our forces fell back to within supporting distance of the balance of the division, formed a line and awaited a renewal of the attack; but in the morning the enemy was nowhere in sight, but I heard that his main force had moved to our right, and had gone north. Fearing an attack on Jackson in force, the place being but weakly garrisoned without fortifications, I directed that Col. Dennis, stationed at Estinaula, with the Twentieth and Thirtieth, two companies of cavalry under Capt. Forster, and one section of artillery, return at once to Jackson, for which place I took the first train. Within an hour of my return I am informed the telegraph-wires were cut and railroad bridges fired between here and Bolivar, and that four companies of the Forty-fifth Illinois volunteers at Medon, under Captain Palmer, were attacked by superior numbers.

Six companies of the Seventh Missouri volunteers, under Major Olivar, were at once sent forward to reenforce Medon. Orders were also dispatched to Col. Dennis, who was moving toward this place, to change his direction toward Medon, attack the enemy in the rear, and, if possible, cut them to pieces and capture them.

Major Olivar, with his six companies of the Seventh Missouri, moved at once to Medon, by railroad, and attacked the enemy vigorously and drove them from the field. The enemy had previously taken prisoners some forty of our pickets along the line of the railroad, but being driven from Medon and the line of the railroad, and closely pursued, he retired on the road leading to Denmark.

When about six miles from Denmark, on the following morning, the enemy's advance was met by the advance forces of Col. Dennis's command, eight hundred strong. Both parties prepared for action. Col. Dennis, selecting a strong position for resisting a cavalry charge, awaited the attack. The forces of the enemy numbered some six thousand. The engagement resulted in a victory to our arms, the most brilliant of the war. The enemy left one hundred and seventy-nine on the field dead; wounded not known how many. Our loss is five killed and fifty-one wounded. After this engagement the enemy retired beyond the Hatchie, toward La Grange.

For particulars in regard to the above engagements, and for lists of killed and wounded, I beg leave to refer you to the reports of Col. Crocker, Thirteenth Iowa volunteers, and Colonel Lawler, Eighteenth Illinois volunteers, inclosed herewith.

In each of these engagements the skill and gallantry of the officers, and the cool determined courage of the men, deserve the highest commendation.

Your obedient servant,

Leonard T. Ross, Brigadier-General Commanding District.


Colonel Lawler's report.1

Headquarters Commander of the post, Jackson, Tenn., September 6, 1862.
To Capt. M. J. Kimball, Aid-de-Camp:
sir: I have the honor to report the following concerning the recent engagements along the line of the Mississippi Central Railroad, and in the vicinity of Medon Station: Immediately after the repulse of the enemy at Bolivar, large bodies of his cavalry attacked the different detachments stationed along the line of the Mississippi Central Railroad, between Medon and Tooness Station. The detachment being small-consisting at most of single companies-after sharp skirmishing retired to Medon Station, at which point and near the railroad depot a barricade was constructed of cotton-bales, under the direction of Adjutant [603] Frohock, of the Forty-fifth Illinois infantry. At three P. M., of August thirty-first, the enemy attacked the defences at Medon in force, estimated to be one thousand five hundred strong, but were gallantly held at bay by about one hundred and fifty men of the Forty-fifth Illinois. Being informed of the attack on Medon, I immediately sent six companies of the Seventh Missouri infantry, under Major W. S. Oliver, by railroad, with instructions to reenforce our men at that place. On the arrival of the train at Medon the Seventh immediately formed into line and charged the enemy, driving him from the town and inflicting considerable loss upon him, also taking a number of prisoners.

As soon as I was informed of the demonstration on Bolivar, I ordered the force stationed at Estaualya, under command of Col. Dennis, of the Thirtieth Illinois, to this post. Colonel Dennis's command consisted of the Thirtieth Illinois, commanded by Major Warren Shedd; Twentieth Illinois, commanded by Capt. Frisbie; a section of two pieces of gunboat artillery, and two companies of cavalry commanded by Captain Foster. Colonel Dennis struck tents on the morning of August thirty-first, destroying such stores and baggage as he was unable to carry, and marched to within twelve miles of this post, when he was met by an order from me directing him to march for Medon Station, to intercept the enemy near that point. Colonel Dennis countermarched his command, arriving in the vicinity of Denmark that night. About ten o'clock A. M., on the first of September, his advance-guard reported the enemy in stong force at Britton's lane, near the junction of the Denmark and Medon roads. The enemy's force consisted of seven regiments of cavalry, namely, Barstow's, Adams's, Stevens's, Jackson's, Forrest's, Wheeler's, and Parson's, amounting in the aggregate to five thousand men, under the command of Brig.-Gen. Armstrong. The aggregate of Col. Dennis's force was but eight hundred. Discovering that he was outnumbered, Col. Dennis immediately selected the best position the ground would admit, and formed in line of battle. The position was in a large grove surrounded by farms, the fields all being in corn — the wood and some broken ground being in the rear and the corn-fields in front — the line being on a ridge. The greatly superior force of the enemy enabled him to entirely surround the command of Colonel Dennis, and early in the engagement to capture the transportation-train, taking with it the teamsters and sick as prisoners. They also captured the two pieces of artillery, but were unable to get possession of the caissons and ammunition. During the engagement the artillery and train were recaptured by Col. Dennis--the enemy having destroyed four of the wagons by fire. The enemy made many determined charges; dividing their force and dismounting a part, they attacked both as infantry and cavalry, the latter charging so close as to fall from their horses almost within the ranks of our men. The battle was of four hours duration, at the end of which time the enemy left Colonel Dennis in possession of the field, leaving a hundred and seventy-nine of his dead on the field, and also a large number of his wounded. The total loss of the enemy in killed and wounded is over four hundred. The loss of Col. Dennis is five, buried on the field immediately after the action. The wounded numbered about fifty-five, who were brought to the general hospital at this post the day after the battle.

Great praise should be given to the admirable generalship and ability displayed by Col. Dennis, and in fact every officer acted with the greatest bravery. When all did so nobly, it would perhaps be invidious to particularize. Great credit is due Capt. Frisbie, commanding the Twentieth Illinois, and to Major Shedd, commanding the Thirtieth Illinois; also to Adjutant Peyton, of the Thirtieth, who, severely wounded, refused to leave the field. Major Shedd was also wounded. Great praise is due Capt. Foster, commanding the cavalry, he rendering Col. Dennis important aid on every part of the field. The men acted with the most veteran courage. Surgeon Goodbrake, of the Twentieth Illinois, was untiring in his attention to the wounded, and for skill is deserving of great praise. Accompanying this report I send a list of the killed and wounded, as furnished by him.

I have the honor to be, respectfully,

M. K. Lawler, Colonel Commanding Post.

1 see Doc. 195 and the Supplement.

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