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Doc. 83.-the fight at Hartsville, Tenn.1

Letter from Colonel A. B. Moore,

Libby prison, Richmond, Va., January 29, 1863.
friend H. : Of course you are aware that I am a prisoner of war, and am now confined in a room seventy-three by forty-three, with one hundred and twenty-five men, composed of officers, citizens, sutlers, thieves, deserters, highwaymen and robbers, all thrown together promiscuously, and you can fancy what a comfortable position I am in. We are full of vermin ; if we did not slaughter them wholesale, every morning, we should soon be eaten up alive. As I assure you, that these filthy creepers and confederate money are the only two things abundant in Dixie. It is useless for me to write about our living, etc., in this place; I must reserve that until 1 see you, for I indulge the hope that I shall get out of this place by and by, but when I cannot say. I purchase the Southern papers, and from the Northern extracts contained in them, I infer that the secessionists and cowards of the North contemplate working a compromise. If they only knew how their exertions for such things are ridiculed by the Southern press, they would renounce and abandon the idea instanter. I see by the resolutions of those peace men, if they are correctly printed here, that they find great fault about putting Northern citizens in confinement for disloyalty, and call upon the Administration to cease such things; but I find nothing in those resolutions condemning the same things in the South. There are citizens in prison here, and have been here month after month, simply because they are not loyal to the conthievaracy. They should denounce Old Abe for that also.

No man in the South dare speak against the rebel government. If he does, confinement is his doom. There are men in this prison who are here for being alien enemies — having the misfortune to have been born in Maine. Bully for Jeff. He confines a man, if he don't happen to be born in the right spot. How much more then will he put one in the jug, if he speaks disrespectfully of his unrighteous dictatorship. Talk about settling with such men by proposing peace! It is nonsense. There was once a negro very ill, and about to die. His minister called to see him and told him he must forgive all his enemies before he died. The negro hated one of his brethren heartily, and he would not consent to forgive him for his many acts of meanness toward him. The minister told him he must do it. Whereupon the sick negro compromised as follows: “If I dies, I forgive that nigga; but if I get well, that nigga must take car.” This is just my feeling toward the Confederacy, and all enemies to the old flag; and that should be the feeling of every man in the North. Carry on the war, sustain the Administration, and the miserable scorpion will soon be trying to swallow its own head. I am as much in favor of peace as any man living, but the proposition must first come from the rebels, and then if peace is ever established, the honor of our beloved Government and country must be unimpaired, and the rebels must submit to be governed by Uncle Sam; and take the consequences of such legislation as may be enacted by the loyal people to suit their case.

Now, a word in reference to the fight at Hartsville, where I and my whole force were captured. I had been in command of the Thirty-ninth brigade but a few days before the fight, having succeeded Col. Scott, of the Nineteenth Illinois, who [289] gave up the command and returned to his regiment. I had in my brigade the One Hundred and Fourth Illinois, the One Hundred and Sixth and One Hundred and Eighth Ohio, about two hundred and eighty of the Second Indiana cavalry, one company of the Eleventh Kentucky cavalry, and a section of Nicklin's Indiana battery. I had my pickets and videttes well thrown out, and kept the country well scouted for miles around every day. My scouts reported to me that Lebanon, Tenn., was picketed by the rebels fifteen miles from Hartsville. On the evening of December sixth, John Morgan, with his whole cavalry force of over four thousand, and eight pieces of artillery, and two regiments of infantry, (the Seventh and Ninth Kentucky,) and Cobb's battery, started at ten o'clock at night, eight miles from Lebanon, with the infantry mounted behind his cavalry, and marched twenty-five miles that night, crossing the Cumberland River, five miles below my camp, cut off my videttes and pushed on for Hartsville. My pickets gave the alarm in time for me to have my men in proper line to receive them. I commenced the attack upon the enemy, and fought him for one and a half hours. The fight, while it lasted, was very severe. The One Hundred and Fourth Illinois infantry and the Second Indiana cavalry fought nobly; but the One Hundred and Sixth Ohio, led by their Colonel, behaved most shamefully and cowardly. I did my utmost to rally them, and also called upon Colonel Stewart, of the Second Indiana cavalry, to aid me in rallying them. But it was unavailing. They ran, with their Colonel, at their head, and were soon captured. The One Hundred and Eighth Ohio did much better than the One Hundred and Sixth. Indeed, I have no particular fault to find with the One Hundred and Eighth, as it did not have a single field-officer in the regiment. Capts. Phepho and Krielder did good service.

The company of Kentucky cavalry also did nobly. The section of artillery also performed good execution. After the One Hundred and Sixth had deserted their position without orders, it left the guns without any support on the right. I ordered the One Hundred and Fourth to hold the rebels in check until I placed the cannon in another position. They did so. I then ordered them <*>o fall back, for the reason that they were flanked on the right by the rebels. They fell back in good order, with a portion of the One Hundred and Eighth accompanying them. By this time we were completely surrounded. My gunners were either killed or wounded, no prospect of receiving reenforcements, and part of my command basely deserting me, I was forced to surrender, to prevent any further slaughter, as it was entirely useless to make further resistance, being hemmed in on all sides, by an overwhelming force of five or six to one. Capt. William G. Gholson, my Adjutant-General, trying in a gallant manner to rally the One Hundred and Sixth Ohio to perform their duty, fell by my side, pierced through the head by a Minie bullet. Lieutenant M. Randolph of the One Hundred and Fourth was also killed, a most excellent, brave, and patriotic man. Lieut.-Colonel Stewart and Major Hill, of the Second Indiana cavalry, Lieut-Colonel Hapman and Major Widmer, and every officer in these regiments, and also every man, acted well their parts, and all deserve the appellation of heroes. Capt. Slater of the Eleventh Kentucky cavalry did nobly, and Lieut. Green of the battery, and all in his command, while they had opportunity, did good execution. Lieut. J. Dewald, my Aid-de-Camp, was with me in the most dangerous parts of the field, and did me much service, by the prompt and faithful delivery of orders. If ever I experienced a sensation of mortification, it was the moment when I was compelled, upon consultation with some of my officers, to surrender those brave men, who had held at bay a force of rebels for one and a half hours, five times their number. I indulged the hope that reenforcements would come, but we were all disappointed. There were two brigades of infantry within eight miles of us, and they could hear the reports of the cannonading, but never came to our relief until too late. Why it was so, I cannot tell. I was thrown out on the extreme left with a small force, liable to be attacked, and no arrangements made to render me relief. From the time the fight commenced, and we were marched away from camp, it was nearly three hours, and no reenforcements. It was too bad. If they had started when the first cannon sounded, they could have reached us, and saved us. The force of the rebels was six regiments of cavalry, who dismounted and fought as infantry; also, two regiments of infantry, and fourteen pieces of artillery, making in the aggregate about five thousand men. My force consisted of about four hundred and fifty men of the One Hundred and Fourth, three hundred and fifty of the One Hundred and Sixth, two hundred and fifty of the One Hundred and Eighth, and two hundred and fifty cavalry and two cannon. My whole force in the fight was about one thousand two hundred, but no more. I had sent the day before to Gallatin, as an escort to our provision train, three companies of infantry, one company of cavalry, and twenty-five men as mounted infantry, being about two hundred men that were not in the fight. There was also one company of infantry in the city of Hartsville, acting as provost-guard, that were not in the fight. I am astonished that with my little force, we held out as long as we did. The rebel loss in killed and wounded was about four hundred. They hauled them away by the wagon-load, but for fear that reenforcements might come to me, they were compelled to leave many of their dead and wounded on the field. What my loss was, I cannot tell, as I have had no opportunity to find out. If I had had two more such regiments as the One Hundred and Fourth Illinois, I could have cut my way out, and could any way, if the One Hundred and Sixth Ohio had stood up bravely.

There is not an officer in my command held as [290] a prisoner of war, but what will corroborate the brief statement I here make of our fight at Hartsville.

Upon my return, I shall prefer charges against Col. Taffle, of the Sixth Ohio, for cowardice, and every officer here will sustain me in it. So conscious was Morgan himself that Taffle was a coward, he paroled him, and sent him home as he would a private.

I have seen some extracts taken from Northern papers, condemning me for surrendering. They know nothing about it, and should at least withhold censure until they can get all the evidence in the case. The Louisville Journal notifies its readers that I made a speech in front of the Galt House, in Louisville, in which I said I wanted to find Morgan. This is false in every respect. I never made a speech in Louisville of any kind. I never saw either editors of the Journal, to my knowledge; nor do I think that they ever saw me. I think Mr. Prentice will retract what he has published, for I do assure you he is entirely mistaken. I have always been at my post, and to this General Dumont will certainly testify. I have not been long in the service, and do not make any pretensions as a military man, and never did; but since being in the Army I have tried to do my duty, and I have never disobeyed an order.

I have been told by some of the Federal soldiers captured at Murfreesboro, that it was reported that a negro had came to my lines and notified me that the rebels were corning to attack me that night. That is also untrue. Nothing of the kind was communicated to me in any way whatever. If it was told to any of my pickets, it never reached me; others say it was a surprise. If it was a surprise, I was ready for them, and commenced the fight. The only surprise was the overwhelming force which was brought against us. Yet, I would have fought them to the last had there been one hundred thousand. Morgan said I was isolated from the main army, and he brought the overwhelming force, so as to take me before reenforcements would reach me, and that he intended to take me without a fight.

I desire to try the rebels again, when I get released, and I want no better men than the One Hundred and Fourth. God bless them all! All the officers taken at Murfreesboro and Hartsville are in prison at Atlanta, except myself and A. D. C. Lieut. J. Dewald, who are in Libby Prison in Richmond, having been taken from Atlanta and sent here for exchange.

Your old friend,

A. B. Moore Colonel Commanding the Thirty-ninth Brigade, Army of the Cumberland.

1 see Doc. 65, page 237, ante.

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John Morgan (4)
Taffle (2)
J. A. Stewart (2)
Doc (2)
J. Dewald (2)
Widmer (1)
Niles Slater (1)
Lyman Scott (1)
M. Randolph (1)
W. P. Prentice (1)
Phepho (1)
Nicklin (1)
Abraham B. Moore (1)
Krielder (1)
Jeff (1)
A. P. Hill (1)
Hapman (1)
F. M. Green (1)
William G. Gholson (1)
E. Dumont (1)
A. B. Moore Colonel (1)
Thomas R. R. Cobb (1)
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January 29th, 1863 AD (1)
December 6th (1)
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