On the 10th of September, 1861, General Albert Sidney Johnston
, one of the five officers who then held the rank of “General” in the Confederate army, was assigned to the command of Department No. 2, embracing the States of Tennessee
, and that part of the State of Mississippi
west of the New Orleans, Jackson
and Great Northern and Central Railroad; also, the military operations in Kentucky
, and the Indian
country immediately west of Missouri
had entered into a league with the Confederacy
on the 7th of May, 1861, and although the efforts of the Confederates
to take Kentucky
out of the Union
had been defeated, the State
contained a large element friendly to secession, from
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which was recruited at an early day a number of regiments.
In order to afford securer opportunities for such enlistments, it was necessary to make an effort to occupy eastern Kentucky
This was desirable, also, in order to protect vital interests of the Confederacy
in south-western Virginia
, where were situated the great salt-works and lead-mines of the South
, and where ran the chief line of railway, connecting Virginia
with the Gulf
With these objects in view, on the 1st of November, 1861, Brigadier-General Humphrey Marshall
was sent by the Confederate Government to take command of certain troops at Prestonburg, Ky.
, then under command of Colonel
(afterward General) John S. Williams
These consisted of a regiment and a battalion in a camp on the Big Sandy, which had been organized in the fall of 1861, by Colonel Williams
The regiment was the 5th Kentucky, the famous “Ragamuffin regiment,” composed almost exclusively of mountain men, and one of the finest corps of soldiers ever enlisted in the army.
They were hardy, raw-boned, brave mountaineers, trained to hardships, and armed with long rifles.
had also organized a battalion of mounted riflemen from the famous “Blue grass” country in central Kentucky
, composed of young men of education and fortune,--the class of men who afterward made John Morgan
famous as a raider.
This force was further increased by the 54th Virginia, under Colonel John H. Trigg
, the 29th Virginia, under Colonel A. C. Moore
, and a battery of field artillery, under Captain W. C. Jeffress
In General Marshall
's official reports, he states that during the campaign of 1861-62 his force never exceeded 1,800 effective men of all arms.1
The force assigned to him was very small, considering the interests involved and the objects to be attained.
occupation of eastern Kentucky
would have required an army of several thousand men. In response to his request for reinforcements, President Davis
wrote to General Marshall
that they “were sorely pressed on every side,” and were unable to send him any troops.
It was a very severe winter, and Marshalls men were poorly clad, and many of the soldiers were nearly naked.
One regiment had 350 barefooted men and not over 100 blankets for 700 men. General Albert Sidney Johnston
, observing their condition, sent them one thousand suits of clothes, including hats and shoes.
These supplies reached the army at Whitesburg, Ky.
An incident connected with the distribution of them will serve to illustrate the poverty of the Quartermaster's Department, and the ready genius of General Marshall
When the quartermaster distributed the clothing among the soldiers, it was noticed that they examined with suspicion the peculiar color and texture of the cloth.
discovering that it was cotton
, and fearing the result of such a discovery by his men, rose to the occasion with a stirring speech, in which he eulogized the courage, endurance, and patriotism of his men, and commended the Government
for its thoughtful care of them, and relieved their fears as to the quality of the goods
by assuring them that they were “woven out of the best quality of Southern wool, with which, doubtless, many of the Kentuckians were not acquainted.
” The men took the general's word for it (with a grain of salt) and walked off to their quarters with their cottonade suits.
The general often remarked afterward that the deception nearly choked him, adding, “but something had to be done.”
The army was not only badly clothed, but in general badly armed.
Many of the men had only shot-guns and squirrel rifles.
Requisitions on the War Department were not filled for want of supplies; and General Lee
wrote that owing to the scarcity of arms he was having pikes
made, which he offered to furnish General Marshall
for his unarmed troops.
The field of operations lay in the Cumberland Mountains
, along the sources of the Big Sandy River
,--a poor, wild, thinly settled country.
The roads ran along the water-courses between the mountains, and were often rendered impassable by the high waters, and during this winter were ruined by the passage of cavalry, wagons, and artillery.
was three days moving his battery from Gladesville
to Pound Gap
, only sixteen miles. General Marshall
's report states that his wagons were sometimes unable to make
over four miles a day. An unusual amount of rain fell, drenching the unprotected soldiers, most of them raw recruits, and keeping the roads deep and the waters high.
This first winter was the worst of the war, and the scanty rations and great hardships made hundreds of the men sick.
Besides, the measles and mumps broke out in the camps, and many died from these diseases and from exposure.
The command at Prestonburg
was over one hundred miles from its base of supplies at Abingdon, Va.
, with the Cumberland Mountains
The farms were generally small and poor, lying along the mountain-sides or in narrow valleys.
During January, 1862, corn was worth ten dollars per barrel, and had to be hauled thirty miles over desperate roads.
For weeks they subsisted upon mountain beef and parched corn.
These privations General Marshall
shared, giving up his tent to the sick and wounded, and sleeping beneath a wagon.
On the 17th of December, 1861, General Don Carlos Buell
, then in command of the Department of the Ohio, including Kentucky
, assigned Colonel
(afterward General and President
) James A. Garfield
, of Ohio
, to command his Eighteenth Brigade, and sent him against General Marshall
. Colonel Garfield
concentrated his forces at Louisa
at the forks of the Sandy
, from which place he began his advance movement on the 23d of December.
His army consisted of his own regiment, the 42d Ohio, under Lieutenant-Colonel L. A. Sheldon
, the 1st Squadron Ohio Cavalry, Major William McLaughlin
, the 14th Kentucky, Colonel L. T. Moore
, the 22d Kentucky, Colonel D. W. Lindsey
, 2d Virginia Cavalry (6 companies), Lieutenant-Colonel W. M. Bolles
, the 40th Ohio, Colonel Jonathan Cranor
, and 300 of the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel J. W. Letcher
, numbering in all some three thousand men. Garfield
having found the road up the river impassable for wagons, many were taken to pieces and conveyed on boats; others, that were empty, were pulled by the men. His supplies were brought up on steam-boats and push-boats.
On the 6th of January, 1862, Garfield
arrived within seven miles of Paintsville
, where Marshall
had established his camp and headquarters.
It had been Marshall
's intention to offer battle at Hagar
's farm, near Paintsville
, but he had intercepted a letter from Garfield
, who, with his regiment and some 400 cavalry, was advancing upon Marshall
's left and rear from the direction of Salyersville
He then decided to fall back to the forks of Middle Creek
, where he awaited the approach of the Federal
made a junction near Paintsville
, and all moved up to Marshal
's front on the 10th of January.
had selected a strong position along a high ridge south of Middle Creek
, and covering the road to Virginia
by way of Beaver Creek
's battery was placed in a gorge of the left fork of Middle Creek
; the 5th Kentucky and 29th Virginia regiments and part of the Kentucky Battalion of Mounted Riflemen occupied the spurs and heights to the right of the artillery; the 54th Virginia occupied a height covering the battery, with two cavalry companies in reserve; two other cavalry companies (dismounted and armed with Belgian rifles) were placed across Middle Creek
, on a height commanding the valley.
Skirmishing between the two commands began about 10 A. M., but the action began in earnest about noon by a charge of Federal cavalry, supported by infantry.
This attack was repulsed, the artillery putting the cavalry to flight, and it appeared no more during the engagement.
The men probably dismounted and fought on foot, as the ground was not suitable for cavalry operations.
then endeavored to take the ridge occupied by the 5th Kentucky and 29th Virginia, on the right wing of General Marshall
He moved his infantry up the side of the mountain, above Spurlock's Branch, and made a desperate attempt to dislodge the Confederate forces, commanded by Colonel Williams
, but was repulsed.
The attack was renewed
three times, with the same result.
The ascent was steep, the top of the mountain was covered with trees and rocks affording good protection to the Confederate forces.
The engagement lasted until dark, both sides claiming the victory, and both withdrawing from the field of battle.
estimated Colonel Garfield
's forces at 5000,2
and states his own at not over
In his official report to the War Department he gives his losses at 11 killed and 15 wounded.
withdrew his forces next day, taking three days to reach Martin's Mill
on Beaver Creek
,--sixteen miles from the battle-field.
This was the nearest point at which he could get provisions for his men, some of whom had fasted for thirty hours before the action.
withdrew his forces, February 22d, to the Big Sandy River
, where he remained until March.
This was the only engagement between the
The next month General Marshall
sent the bulk of his command south of the Cumberland Mountains
, to go into winter quarters, because all supplies were exhausted in the mountains of Kentucky
. General Marshall
's forces would probably have been compelled to return to Virginia
in order to secure supplies, even if they had not been opposed by an enemy.
The occupation of the Sandy Valley
by a largely superior force so crippled his resources that he could hardly have subsisted his troops among the impoverished mountains.
Indeed, Colonel Garfield
could not have maintained his position a week, without the aid of the river, by which supplies were brought on steamboats.
On the 16th of March, 1862, Garfield
with 750 men made an attack on a battalion of Virginia
militia, occupying Pound Gap
, and drove them away and burned the log-huts built for winter quarters.
Soon after this he was ordered to report to General Buell
, who had gone to the relief of General Grant
at Pittsburg Landing
This he did on the 7th of April, 1862, in time to take part in the second day's contest.
was born January 13th, 1812, in Frankfort, Ky.
, and came of a most distinguished family, which included Chief-Justice John Marshall
, the historian Humphrey Marshall
, and the orator and lawyer Thomas F. Marshall
He was four times elected to Congress from the Louisville District, and was Minister to China
under President Fillmore
In his profession of law Humphrey Marshall
had probably no superior and few equals among the jurists of Kentucky
As an orator he fully inherited the talent of a family which was famous in the forum.
As a soldier he enjoyed the confidence of General Lee
, who wrote him frequently in reference to military operations, and earnestly opposed his retirement from the army.
He was a graduate of West Point
, and both he and General Williams
had won distinction in the Mexican
war-Marshall at Buena Vista
at Cerro Gordo
personally was not adapted to mountain warfare, owing to his great size; nor was he qualified to command volunteers, being the most democratic of men. Moreover, his heart was tender as a woman's. For these reasons he could not enforce the rigorous discipline of an army.
So well known was his leniency, that an officer of his staff made a standing offer to eat the first man the general should shoot for any crime.
Speaking to Colonel Leigh
about military dignity and discipline, Marshall
said he “regarded these things as the decrepitudes of the military art.”
, who was his ablest lieutenant, was a man of very different mold, proud, imperious, a born soldier, who believed in discipline to its last extremity.
With his little command Marshall
afterward successfully defended the vital interests of the Confederacy
in south-west Virginia
, so long as he remained in the service.
In the summer of 1863 he was transferred to the Mississippi Department, but resigned his commission because he believed that he had been badly treated by President Davis
in not having received the governmental support which he thought he deserved and which the necessities of his command required.