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Doc. 152.-battle near Somerset, Ky.

Official despatches.

Somerset, Ky., March 31.
I attacked the enemy yesterday in a strong position of his own selection, defended by six cannon near this town, fought him for two hours, driving him from one position to another, finally stormed his position, whipped him handsomely, and drove him in confusion toward the river. His loss is over three hundred in killed, wounded and prisoners.

The enemy outnumbered us two to one, and were commanded by Pegram in person. Night stopped pursuit, which will be renewed in the morning.

We captured two stands of colors. Our loss in killed, wounded, and missing will not exceed thirty. Scott's famous rebel regiment was cut off from the rest and scattered.

Gillmore. Brigadier-General.
The entire rebel force has been drawn out of Central Kentucky, and much of their plunder has [491] been recaptured. Their force has been greatly exaggerated, as well as the amount of plunder taken by them.

I have this morning received a second despatch from General Gillmore, dated this morning, from Slagal's Ferry, on the Cumberland River, as follows:

I underrated the enemy's force in my first report of yesterday's fight. They have over two thousand six hundred men, outnumbering us two to one.

During the night their troops recrossed the Cumberland in three places. We have retaken between three hundred and four hundred cattle. Pegram's loss will not fall short of five hundred men.

Gillmore, Brigadier-General.
The alacrity with which the troops were concentrated, and the vigor and gallantry of the attack, are highly commendable.

A. E. Burnside, Major-General Commanding.

Cincinnati Gazette account.

Lexington, Ky., April 2.
Gen. Gillmore and staff returned from the front last night, leaving Cols. Runkle and Wolford to pick up prisoners and bring up the rear. Gen. Pegram's long-planned and boasted invasion of Kentucky has ended in a destructive and disagreeable defeat.

General Gilmore assumed the command in person, and left here with the determination to recapture the earnings of the rebel expedition, and punish the audacity of the brigands.

Perceiving that they had converted a retreat into a precipitate flight, he left the infantry and pushed on with his mounted force, consisting of the First Kentucky cavalry, Colonel Wolford's; Forty-fifth O. V.I., mounted, Colonel Runkle; a detachment of the Forty-fourth Ohio, mounted, under Major Mitchell; and the Seventh O. V. cavalry, Colonel Garrard--in all one thousand two hundred men. Such was the dashing energy of the pursuit, that, notwithstanding the rebels had thirty-six hours the start, they were overtaken four miles north of Somerset.

General Carter, in command of eight hundred mounted men, had reached Buck Creek, twelve miles from Somerset, when Gen. Gillmore reached him with his body-guard and the Seventh Ohio cavalry, increasing the number to one thousand two hundred, with which they double-quicked until within reach of the enemy's rear-guard. The skirmishing then commenced, Gens. Gillmore and Carter with Wolford and the body-guard in the advance. As often as the rebels made a stand they were dislodged with shell. Within twelve miles of Somerset, at Dutton's Hill, in a very strong position, the rebels drew up in force and planted their batteries; and here, about twelve o'clock, commenced the real battle. Our line of battle was drawn up, with the batteries in the centre, supported by the Seventh cavalry, (Runkle,) with a detachment of the Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth on the left, and Wolford's on the right. The preliminary artillery fight lasted one and a half hours, and resulted in the dismounting of three of their guns.

The wings were then ordered to advance. Wolford did so, wounded. Runkle dismounted and found it too hot, but when the enemy found him out and commenced shelling, he threw aside all hesitation, and at the head of his men, gallantly charged up the hill. The rebels moved out to meet him. For an instant his line wavered, with batteries playing directly upon them, shot and shell booming over them, and leaden rain playing with deadly music around them. They paused, however, only to take breath, and with one intent and a single shout, they hurled their column upon the advancing foe. Col. Runkle and his command behaved like heroes and veterans.

At the same time Wolford, on the right, and Col. Garrard, in the centre, charged, and the enemy broke in disorder to their horses, under cover of the wooded hill, and fled pell-mell through the town. Captain Stowe, with a detachment of the Forty-fourth, was ordered forward to reconnoitre. A body of Scott's and Ashby's rebel cavalry were here detected in a flank movement on Wolford. Colonel Sanders hastened to reinforce, and after a short, sharp, and decisive conflict, captured sixty prisoners, and put them to rout. A detachment of Scott's men were seen flying into the road to cut off Capt. Stowe, when Gen. Gillmore, at the head of his body-guard, charged down upon them like a whirlwind, and they turned off another road. Gen. Gillmore and guard entered the town, and held it until the Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth came up.

The enemy made another stand three miles below Somerset, and were again routed.

Night now came on, and our boys were exhausted. In the morning it was found the rebels had crossed the river during the night in great confusion. More than one hundred, it is said, were drowned. They planted a battery on the river, which was quickly demolished. We recovered four hundred cattle at the river. Their loss in killed and captured is nearly five hundred, of whom fifty were killed. The loss on our side is but thirty-five killed, wounded and missing.

The shot mostly passed over the heads of our men. The whole affair was brilliant and dashing, one thousand two hundred to two thousand five hundred, led by the Generals in person. A surgeon, under a flag of truce, was searching for Gen. Pegram after the battle.

Another account.

Somerset, April 27, 1868.
The details of the battle of Somerset, so much as refers to the engagement at Dutton's Hill, have been published; but the more interesting and brilliant history of the charge upon Scott's and Ashby's cavalry, and their subsequent rout and utter defeat, have not.

I gave you an account of the previous skirmishing and rebel stand at the hill, together with the Federal plan of attack, and the charge, resulting in the retreat of the rebels, and our possession [492] of the ground. This charge was made simultaneously by Runkle, and the Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth Ohio on the left, Wolford on the right, and Major Norton with two battalions of the Seventh Ohio cavalry in the centre. The rebels fled, pursued by Norton to within half a mile of Somerset. This charge and pursuit revealed the fact that the rebel guns and a large part of their force had previously been detached, and before the rear of the Seventh cavalry, heretofore supporting the batteries, had reached the hill, about one hundred and fifty of Scott's cavalry swept down a ravine on our left rear at full speed, passed the ground but ten minutes before occupied by our batteries, pressed hotly upon Colonel Garrard, whose splendid horse and skilful horsemanship alone prevented his capture, and upon the order for the Seventh to right about and fire the enemy turned and went out as they came in. Had this rebel charge taken place thirty minutes sooner, as Pegram ordered and had intended, with our troops in position, they would doubtless have captured our batteries and materially changed the result of the action. Their plan was detected, however, almost at the moment of the success of our charge upon the hill, and Wolford was despatched by Gen. Carter to the wood on the left rear, to counteract it. Upon engaging the enemy he discovered that instead of the one hundred and fifty who had made the dash he was met by a largely superior force, and sent for reenforcements. Major McIntire, with two companies of the Seventh, was promptly ordered to his relief. Upon the arrival of Major McIntire the enemy gave way and commenced the retreat. Wolford and his men had performed feats of individual valor worthy of the days of knight errantry, and held the rebels in check. Wolford himself had pursued the rebel leader Colonel Scott so closely, that when within thirty paces of him with levelled pistol he called upon him to die or surrender. At the moment Wolford's horse was shot, and fell, and Scott escaped, when McIntire arrived. The Mountain Wolf was cheering his men forward on, foot. The rebels broke in confusion, and fled. Wolford halted for want of ammunition, and McIntire with seventy-two men yelling like a thousand, followed across an open field and into the woods, and here commenced the most extraordinary flight and pursuit, I venture to assert, that has been recorded during the war.

The rebel force, under Scott and Ashby, is estimated variously from six hundred to eight hundred. Major McIntire's command at this time was but seventy-two, and yet the rebel panic increased with every rod passed over in their terrific flight over hill and valley, brook and rock, tangled brush and fallen timber. Any one to review the field to-day, would pronounce such a race over such ground impossible. At the base of a precipitous hill and embarrassed by the contracting valley, high fences, and a complication of lanes, the rebels were evidently about to turn at bay in very desperation, when additional reenforcements of four companies of the Seventh cavalry, under Colonel Sanders, appeared dashing along at their left. This completed their consternation and utter discomfiture. They again broke, every man for himself. All attempts at organization were abandoned from that moment, and each rebel sought only to save himself as best he could. Those who made the Stanford road passed through Somerset without hats or guns, using their sabres as whips, in very desperation of terror. The distance from the first wood, where Major McIntire engaged them, to the end of the pursuit, is about six miles. A part of the rebel force crossed the Crab Orchard road about midnight, and the Cumberland about twenty miles above Somerset, others at Mill Springs. Those who passed through Somerset were pursued by Col. Sanders, and the Colonel fired his last shot through the rearmost rebel's head and abandoned the chase within two miles of town. Lieut. Copeland maintained tile pursuit without other ammunition than yells for over two miles. The green flag of Scott's First Louisiana cavalry, made by the fair hands of the daughter of Humphrey Marshall, was captured by Lieut. Copeland. The flag of Carter's Tennessee cavalry was also captured.

On the Stanford road Major McIntire encountered three rebels, shot one and captured two, in a clump of cedars near the lane where the final flight began. Lieut. Daniels, of the First Louisiana cavalry, lies buried where he fell, with an oak shingle at his head, on which is inscribed in pencil, his name and rank. To which some one has added the epitaph--“Thus perish all enemies of Uncle Sam.”

The flight for six miles is marked by torn brush, scarred trees and dead horses. Nineteen rebels were killed, six wounded, and sixty-seven prisoners taken. In the valley several women of the neighborhood had fled for safety and concealment, and when they found themselves surrounded by conflicting armies after the arrival of Sanders, their terror and piteous shrieks may be imagined but not described. It was ludicrous, even amid the terrible realities being enacted around them. Our boys ceased firing, and let them pass to the rear. Their screams for a few moments fairly drowned the roar of musketry and shouts of our men.

After the rebs were fairly routed, Runkle pursued them three miles below Somerset, where, in a very strong position, evidently prepared beforehand, on a semicircular range of hills commanding all approaches, they made another stand. As night had come, and doubtful of their strength, he abandoned the chase. It has been since ascertained that they really would have made no defence, and had our forces continued the pursuit to the river, they would have surrendered. It is easier to know these things after than before, or during a battle. It is enough now to know that our boys fought bravely against overwhelming odds in numbers, and fairly whipped the braggarts; and still better to know that they anxiously await but the opportunity to repeat the experience.

S. S.


Louisville Journal account.

Somerset, Ky., April 6, 1863.
I propose giving your readers an outline of our late movements in Central Kentucky, and more especially the part taken by Wolford's cavalry in the battle of Somerset. We were in camp near Stanford, when our scouts announced the approach of a large force of the enemy by way of Monticello. From the fact that they had a long wagon-train, and the advance was composed of cavalry and artillery as they passed through Wayne County from the direction of Knoxville, we all concluded that they told the truth for once when they announced a formidable invasion of the State under Breckinridge, Morgan, and Pegram. They left their wagon-train beyond the river with Chenault, Hamilton, and Champ Ferguson, with their commands, to protect their crossings on the Cumberland, and to press wagons, horses, negroes, and cattle in that vicinity, while the rest made an invasion of the central parts of the State. A printed handbill was also found by our scouts, signed by Morgan's Adjutant-General, giving all Union men of conscript age three days to leave the State or be conscripted into the Southern army. They crossed the Cumberland in three places, and those coming into Somerset marched in as infantry to make the impression complete that a large army was there. These impressions being reported to Colonel Wolford and to Gen. Carter at Danville, made it necessary for them to be cautious, lest another affair like that of Richmond last fall should again give up the whole State to the rebels. Under this uncertainty, it was determined to retreat from Danville, carrying back the supplies to the Kentucky River, and await further developments of their force and movements.

It is quite easy for men now to criticise the movement, but we venture the opinion that no military man, with the information then in our possession, would have done otherwise than Gen. Carter did under his instructions, and the importance of holding communication with Lexington by way of the Kentucky River bridge at Camp Robinson. General Carter had not yet had time to prepare for this movement when the enemy appeared in force in his front at Danville, confirming the impression of their superior numbers. Wolford's cavalry and the battery of mountain howitzers at once engaged the enemy, and the Second Tennessee and Eighteenth Michigan infantry under Colonels Carter and Doolittle were brought out in line of battle, supporting the First Indiana battery. The rest of the forces had been sent to the Dick's River bridge to protect the rear and hold the bridge. The Danville fight lasted an hour, perhaps, until the train was ready, and then we began our retreat to Camp Robinson. We had barely gotten our train out of town, and the artillery and infantry had gotten nearly through, when the enemy made a furious attack upon the rear of Wolford's cavalry, which was protecting the retreat, guarding both the rear and the train in front. Repulsed from the rear, they charged up the street, and began an indiscriminate fire upon citizens and soldiers on the streets. Wolford's men rallied upon the streets, and repulsed them on every side, and prevented them, with the aid of a few shots from the artillery, from making any further attacks upon the train and the rear. Leading his men in a dashing charge upon the foe, in the streets of Danville, Lieut.-Colonel Adams, of Wolford's regiment, was cut off, and himself and three or four of his men were compelled to surrender. This was a heavy loss to us, but he finally succeeded in making his escape from his guard below Monticello, and has rejoined his command, to the great joy of his men. The night after our retreat to the Kentucky bridge they captured some thirty more of Wolford's men, while on picket, by closing in behind then; but Captain Boone, who was at Lancaster with some sixty men, recaptured most of them, and the Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth Ohio recaptured others, and captured, in connection with Captain Boone's force, forty of the enemy. We lost in all only about tree of Wolford's men wounded, ten captured, and some twenty of the Eighteenth Michigan captured on picket, besides a few sick and a few commissary stores that we could not get wagons enough to carry off. The enemy lost one killed and six wounded, and over forty prisoners--one of whom is Major Paine, and several other commissioned officers. A more successful and orderly retreat has seldom been made; and, inasmuch as it was but a part of a higher plan, it was a complete success. As it was the first retreat Wolford's cavalry ever protected, (and as the infantry got no opportunity to assist, though they behaved with great coolness and steadiness throughout,) they and the howitzer battery were especially complimented by their gallant commander. Lieut.-Colonel Adams, Major Owens, Captains Rowland, Alexander, and Carter, Lieuts. Keene, Dick, Carpenter, and Beatty, and many private soldiers of the rear-guard we noticed, and no doubt others whom we did not see, especially distinguished themselves by their daring bravery in the fight. Colonel Wolford, conspicuous in every fight, was foremost in the danger, and Gen. Carter, and Colonels Doolittle and Carter, and with Captain Robinson's great coolness, performed their respective parties in the action and the retreat.

After our retreat across the Kentucky River we had to await intelligence of the strength and position of the enemy. Four long anxious days did we await and skirmish with them, before we were certain of their strength and intentions. When we at last found out the truth, how impatient all were to avenge the wrongs, and drive out the thieving hordes from our State. They fled on Friday night from our front, and on Saturday morning we began the pursuit. Some of the gallant Ninth Kentucky cavalry had dashed into Danville and so alarmed the guilty crew that they burned the bridge betten Danville and Camp Robinson, and Wolford's cavalry and Col. Runkle's mounted infantry began to press upon their rear near Lancaster, when they fled across Dick's River, burning the bridge behind them, [494] and encamped near Stanford on Saturday night. Dick's River was too full to ford, and we captured several of their rear-guard, several of them being drowned in attempting to cross it. We encamped between Lancaster and Crab Orchard and awaited the fall of the river and the morning light. Early next morning we crossed the river, carrying our howitzer ammunition across upon the horses, and plunging the howitzers through. At Crab Orchard, Wolford's cavalry made a dash upon the rear of Col. Ashby's and Major Steele's cavalry, killing two, wounding several more, and capturing twenty-five. We now began our march toward Somerset, hoping to intercept a part at least of the enemy, and recapture a part of the cattle before them. At Buck Creek we came within ten miles of Somerset; and, as the enemy was reported in our front in double our force, General Carter determined to encamp and feed, and await until the next morning before making an attack upon them. There we were joined by General Gillmore the next morning with some two hundred and fifty of the Seventh Ohio cavalry and two Parrott guns of the First Indiana battery.

Our whole force now amounted to about eleven or twelve hundred men, of which the Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth Ohio mounted infantry had three hundred each, and Wolford's cavalry about three hundred, and the rest were of the Seventh Ohio cavalry and the artillery, of which we had six pieces of small mountain howitzers and two Parrott guns. General Gillmore took the chief command, but General Carter continued to command and advise with him. As I acted as volunteer aid to General Carter, and was thus often with the Generals, I can bear testimony, not only to their bravery and coolness, but to their complete generalship, so far as I am competent to judge, in this affair. About three miles from Somerset our advance came upon theirs in considerable force, posted in ambush behind a temporary breastwork made of rails and timber. Our artillery and skirmishers soon routed them out of this, and we pressed rapidly forward after them. We soon came upon a second ambushed force on a hill, which opened a galling fire upon our advance, wounding three of Wolford's men very severely.

Again the cavalry and light artillery routed them, and they fell back to their main force, now in strong position upon a hill, one mile and a half from Somerset. The hill is some two hundred feet above the plain, where we were advancing; has a clump of trees next to the road, on its top and side, and is full of stumps and rocks and crossed by a fence, all forming an excellent cover for riflemen and a splendid position for artillery. A deep stream flanked it on our left, as there is a mill-dam just at the foot of the hill on the enemy's right. This prevented any flank movement with our dismounted men and artillery on that side. On our left, a ridge, with a heavy timber upon it, enabled them to take advantage of their superior force, more than double ours, to flank us beyond the range of our guns, and to come into our rear, which was their plan of battle. Our men were soon in line and ready to engage. Colonel Runkle, with the Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth Ohio infantry, dismounted, and formed the left wing; Colonel Wolford with his cavalry dismounted, composed the right wing; and the artillery and the Seventh Ohio cavalry, mounted, composed the reserve and support of the artillery.

We opened the battle with our artillery, and were soon replied to by theirs, composed of three Parrott guns and two howitzers. As Col. Wolford advanced upon the right, through the timber, he saw a heavy body of cavalry moving around to his right to gain our flank and rear. He ascertained from time to time the progress of this movement, and after the artillery and skirmishers had been hotly engaged for an hour or more, he was ordered to deploy more to the centre, in line of battle, so as to be within supporting distance of Colonel Runkle, who had advanced his column to the foot of the hill on the left. An order was then sent to Colonel Runkle to charge the hill with fixed bayonets. An order was sent to Colonel Wolford, at the same time, to storm the hill with his cavalry riflemen. As Captain Honnell galloped along the line to the Colonel, the boys well knew that some command from the General had come. “Col. Wolford,” said the Captain, “the General orders you to storm that hill!” “Forward, boys!” shouted the Colonel, as he led them up the hill, the enemy pouring their rifle-balls and grape-shot all over and around us. But on and on, up the long hill, went the boys, with that terrific shout so often heard by their flying foes on other fields of blood. The brave Ohioans on their left caught up the sound, and, with fixed bayonets and shouts of victory, they, too, poured volley after volley upon the foe as they advanced up the hill. They gained the heights step by step, and here and there were seen hundreds of their foes behind trees, stumps, rocks, and fences; but they halt not, nor falter, until, with a wild shout, they sweep from the hill-top every living foe. In ten minutes from the time the command was given, they had stormed the hill and had killed, wounded, and captured over three hundred men. And it was only by dint of hard running that the enemy saved their cannon and their whole command. Thus was the battle fought and the victory gained by about two hundred and fifty each of three regiments against more than twice their number on their own chosen field. Our loss in this charge was only three killed and thirteen wounded, while that of the enemy was more than ten times as great, besides some two hundred taken prisoners, with many horses and arms.

After we had stormed the heights and routed the front, our whole force immediately occupied the battle-field. We had barely gained our new position when here came Scott's celebrated cavalry, and a part of Ashby's, charging upon our rear and almost capturing our horses, guards, and all. We hastened to gain our horses, and rescued a part of the horses of the Ohio infantry from the [495] hands of the enemy. We now drew a new supply of ammunition, and Wolford's and Scott's cavalry were soon most fiercely engaged. Scott had between six and seven hundred, as all the prisoners agree, and Wolford but three hundred men. Scott dismounted his men and took a strong position in the thick woods to our rear, and awaited the assault. He told his men that their long desire was now to be gratified, as Wolford's cavalry was approaching in line of battle, and they must fight. As our advance came up they opened a rapid fire from behind the trees and fence; and we had to approach through an open field to dislodge them from their shelter. Wolford kept the most of his men on their horses ready to charge when opportunity offered any chance. His dismounted men rushed forward, and all opened volley after volley upon the men in the woods. An hour's manoeuvring and fighting was of no avail; he could not dislodge the superior numbers of Scott, who fought with the utmost desperation. Wolford then determined to try the force of strategy, and so announced to his men. He feigned a repulse and retired, in order to get Scott to mount his men for a charge. The strategy succeeded. As Wolford retreated back about two hundred yards to the woods, Scott ordered his men to mount and charge. In two minutes here they came, in no regular order, through the field with a shout; when Wolford (his men now in battle-line) shouts them on to the charge. Never, since the days of Cromwell, was there such a shout and charge as then was made by the First Kentucky cavalry, headed by their Colonel in person. His horse fell under him, shot through the neck, but, being large and strong, rose again with the indomitable Colonel, who spurred him on into the fight, when a spent ball struck the Colonel himself, stunning him for a moment, but on still he went, his men firing their rifles and shouting through the woods after Scott's now retreating, scattering host. For three quarters of a mile they pursue thus, when, coming to an open field, Scott again rallies a part of his men and makes another desperate stand. For an hour or more he holds this second position, when reenforcements from the Seventh Ohio cavalry caine up in view, and opening upon him volley after volley, he again breaks his line and orders a retreat. A rapid pursuit follows for some five miles, and our men are ordered to return. The killed on our side were three of Wolford's bravest men, Orderly Sergeant Hoy, and Staley, of company C, and one of company F, and Capt. Rowland and four others wounded. Scott lost some twelve or fifteen killed and forty wounded and over one hundred captured, besides horses and arms, and his large regimental flag. His whole command was scattered, and made their way out that night by companies and squads at different points, from Wheeler's Gap down to Creelsboro, on the Cumberland River. We had to march upon the force in front, still larger than our own, and hence had no time to pursue his scattered forces. Night closed in, and the enemy, by different ferries, prepared beforehand, crossed over the Cumberland and made their escape. Our loss in all the campaign was six killed, twenty-five wounded, and about thirty prisoners paroled, while theirs will amount in killed, wounded, and prisoners, to over five hundred, besides the rout and demoralization following so signal a defeat. We also captured about five hundred head of cattle, most of which have been given up to loyal citizens on proof of ownership. We can mention no names distinguished for gallantry in this affair where all did so bravely and well.

Kentucky, especially, will honor the dead and pray for the wounded and the well in this battle for her protection and deliverance.

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