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[370] the Confederates took by surprise and occupied. On the 23d, Metcalfe made an attempt to recapture it, but his troops, being quite undisciplined, were soon routed, and despite his efforts he only succeeded in rallying them at Richmond, twenty-four kilometres from that place, on the Lexington road. The Confederates, after having followed him for some distance, fell back upon their main column, which was approaching Loudon by the direct route. Smith, in fact, by means of forced marches, had traversed the vast region of the Cumberland Mountains in three days. During this rapid march his soldiers had found neither provisions, nor even enough water at times to quench their thirst; they however reached the comparatively rich and populous plain extending north of Big Hill in excellent order on the 28th. On the 29th they continued their march toward Richmond, driving before them a few Federal mounted pickets. Nelson had placed Cruft's and Manson's brigades in this village, under command of the latter, numbering between six and seven thousand men. These were the only well-organized forces remaining in Kentucky; moreover, with the exception of two old regiments, these soldiers had never been under fire.

At the news of the enemy's approach, Manson, whose camp, commanded by the surrounding heights, was difficult to defend, determined to anticipate the attack with which he was threatened, but he committed the error of leaving Cruft's brigade in Richmond, taking only his own with him. After having repulsed the Confederate vanguard, he took a favorable position near the village of Rogersville on the evening of the 29th; the next day, instead of waiting for the enemy, he sought to advance a little farther; this was to induce an untimely fatigue for men little used to marching, and to widen the space which separated him from his reserves, to whom he had just sent a tardy order to join him. He soon fell in with the small army of Kirby Smith; the fight took place on both sides of the road and in fields interspersed with clusters of trees. Kirby Smith placed Cleburne's division on the right and Churchill's on the left. The latter, while endeavoring to flank the enemy, became separated from Cleburne, who remained alone, exposed to Manson's fire. The Federals, despite their inexperience, gallantly sustained the combat.

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