Doc. 103. the skirmish at West liberty.A participant gives the following account of this skirmish:
The Cincinnati Commercial of Oct. 27th, presents the subjoined account:
Capt. James Laughlin, of Company B, First O. V. C., returned yesterday from the expedition to Western Kentucky. He had been detailed to act as an escort for Capt. Konkles' battery, and his orders were to see the battery safe into General Nelson's command, and then to return, unless wanted for special service for a day or two. Capt. Laughlin has expected to serve as the body guard of Gen. Mitchell, under the anticipation that Gen. M. would take command of the column advancing to Eastern Tennessee. These facts will account for the presence of Captain Laughlin in the action of West Liberty and his return. Col. Len. Harris, with his regiment, Second Ohio, two guns of Capt. Konkles' Ohio battery, and Capt. Laughlin's Cavalry, set out at three o'clock Tuesday afternoon of last week, from a point thirty-six miles this side of West Liberty, for a march upon that town, intending to surprise it at daylight the following morning. It was reported that the rebels, several hundred strong, were advantageously posted in the neighborhood of West Liberty, which is situated on the head waters of the Licking River, is the county seat of Morgan County, and thirty-five. miles from Prestonburg, the headquarters of the rebels in Eastern Kentucky. The gallant boys of the Ohio Second pressed forward with great spirit and vigor, but a heavy rain came up and fell for six hours without intermission, making the roads so bad as to cause detention. The men toiled forward steadily all night, wading the Licking River — the water up to their belts--three times. At eight o'clock Wednesday morning they had marched thirty-six miles, and the bushwhackers of the enemy, posted on a rocky hillside and in a corn-field, opened fire upon the advance, doing no injury, as they were in manifest trepidation. Col. Harris saw that the fight was to be a mere skirmish, and that the first thing to be done was to clean the enemy out of the bushes. Giving directions to the artillery (one gun had been left behind, owing to the wretched condition of the roads, and there was but one on the spot) to send a few shells into the town, and a suspicious neck of the woods, the colonel gave his horse in charge of a servant, and went into the bushes with his flank companies, which were armed with Enfield rifles. They had a very exciting hunt after the rebels, who were popped over in all directions and driven like a flock of frightened animals through the bushes and fields. The captain says Col. Harris and his men returned from this rebel hunt covered all over with burrs and Spanish needles. Not one of the boys was so much as scratched by an enemy's ball, though they had killed seventeen rebels, most of whom were men living in that vicinity. There was no mistake about the killing, for coffins have been the articles most in demand since that time in the little town of West Liberty. Three well-known citizens of the town were killed, and another, the leading secesh of the place, was seen running away, his right arm dangling as if it had been shattered by a rifle ball. In the first onset, one platoon of Captain Laughlin's Cavalry had been sharply engaged with a party of the enemy, posted on a steep and rocky hill. One rebel was shot there and another wounded. Lieut. Sam. W. Fordyse, of the cavalry, was struck by a rifle ball in the left leg, the ball glancing from the bone, inflicting a painful wound. The rebels were terrified at the bombshells sent screeching through the woods, and fled as if they had discovered the devil suddenly on a dark night. There was a party of cavalry — a motley array — drawn up near the Court House. A shell howled up the street and exploded near them. The captain shouted, “Disperse!” and there was a wild scamper.  One fellow, well mounted and armed with a good rifle, lingered behind, and fired with deliberate aim at Col. Harris, as the latter rode into the town. He, luckily, missed his aim. The moment he fired he put his horse to the top of his speed to make his escape, but a volley was fired after him, and he fell headlong. On coming up with him, he was found stretched in the road insensible. A close examination of his person disclosed the fact that, though his clothes had been cut in several places by balls, the only wound was a bullet hole through his right hand. The fellow was secured. The town was deserted by its inhabitants, only a few negroes remaining behind. The people had been taught that the Union soldiers would be guilty of most awful atrocities. Several women made their appearance on Thursday, trembling with cold and fear, and said that they had remained in the woods all night after the fight. They were afraid they would be ill-used if they were in the power of the Union soldiers, and were greatly surprised and gratified to learn that they had been mistaken. The poor creatures had been told by the secesh that the Abolition troops rejoiced to kill Southern babies and were in the habit of carrying little children about on their bayonets in the towns which they took; and this was actually believed. Friday morning, when Capt. Laughlin left, the people at West Liberty were more reconciled. They had received a lesson. Col. Harris was expecting orders to join Gen. Nelson, to take part in the expedition to Prestonburg. Gen. Nelson was at Hazel Green with two regiments of Ohio troops, and Colonel Metcalf's Kentuckians, and there was another regiment of Ohians at Mount Sterling, pressing forward. Colonel Harris was within thirty-five miles of Prestonburg, and Gen. Nelson ten or fifteen miles south of Col. Harris, and about the same distance from Prestonburg. It was reported that the rebels were about three thousand strong at that place, and without artillery, though it was undertsood that six pieces for them were on the way through the mountains of Virginia. Col. Harris' regiment were in excellent health and spirits, and anxious to stir up something more exciting in the way of a fight.