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Doc. 229. fight at Munfordsville, Ky.

General Buell's despatch.

Gen. McCook's division is at Munfordsville, and Gen. Mitchell at Bacon's Creek. Zollicoffer is either retiring across the Cumberland River or is preparing to do so at the approach of any superior force.

McCook reported that the rebels attacked my pickets in front of the railroad bridge at two o'clock P. M. to-day. The pickets consisted of four companies of the Thirty-second Indiana, Col. Willich, under Lieut.-Col. Von Trebra. Their force consisted of one regiment of Texas Rangers, two regiments of infantry, and one battery of six guns. Our loss was Lieut. Sachs and eight enlisted men killed and ten wounded. The rebel loss was thirty-three killed, including the colonel of the Texas regiment, and about fifty wounded.

D. C. Buell, Brigadier General Commanding.

Gen. Buell's orders.

Headquarters Department of the Ohio, Louisville, Ky., December 27, 1861.
The General commanding takes pleasure in bringing to notice the gallant conduct of a portion of Col. Willich's regiment, Thirty-second, at Rowlett's Station, in front of Munfordsville, on the 17th inst.

Four companies of the regiment, under Lieut.-Col. Von Trebra, on outpost duty, were attacked by a column of the enemy, consisting of one regiment of cavalry, a battery of artillery, and two regiments of infantry. They defended themselves until reinforced by other companies of the regiment, and the fight was continued with such effect that the enemy at length retreated precipitately.

The attack of the enemy was mainly with his cavalry and artillery. Our troops fought as skirmishers, rallying rapidly into squares when charged by the cavalry-sometimes even defending themselves singly and killing their assailants with the bayonet.

The General tenders his thanks to the officers and soldiers of the regiment for their gallant and efficient conduct on this occasion. He commends it as a study and example to all other troops under his command, and enjoins them to emulate the discipline and instruction which insure such results.

The name of “Rowlett Station,” will be inscribed in the regimental colors of the Thirty-second Indiana regiment.

By command of Brig.-Gen. Buell,


James B. Fry, Assistant Adjutant-General, Chief of Staff.

Rebel official report.

Headquarters Central army of Ky., Bowling Green, December 21, 1861.
Special Order No. 64:
On the 17th inst., our forces, under Brig.-Gen. Hindman, partially engaged a superior force of the enemy near Woodsonville. In the action we sustained a loss of four killed and nine wounded. The enemy was driven back, and left about fifty killed, and seven prisoners. The conduct of our troops was marked by impetuous valor. On charging the enemy, Col. Terry, of the Texas Rangers, was killed in the moment of victory. His regiment deplores the [474] loss of a brave and beloved commander — the army one of its ablest officers.

The General commanding returns his thanks to Brig.-Gen. Hindman and his command for their conduct in the initiative of the campaign in Kentucky, and he hails the brilliant courage shown in the affair as a bright augury of their valor when the actual hour comes for striking a decisive blow.

By order of Major-Gen. Hardee, D. H. White, Act. Ass't Adj.-Gen.

A circumstantial account by one who was in the fight.

Camp wood, Ky., December 17.
We have had the first really earnest fight, and I hasten to give you as full and complete an account thereof as is possible under the circumstances. Since we have been out here on Green River, we have been on picket duty nearly all the time, occupying, as we do, the advance of the army of Central Kentucky. A few days ago we had the first little skirmish. One of our pickets, consisting of six men, had incautiously been advanced a little too far, and were cut off by a party of Rangers. In the fight which ensued, two were wounded, and one of them fell into the hands of the enemy, who had suffered a much larger loss. This little affair led to an order of Col. Willich that, for the future, no member of the regiment should be suffered to remain in the hands of the enemy, even if the whole regiment should be drawn into battle. All the necessary precautions were taken on both banks of the Green River; signallists were posted to give instantaneous alarm in case of an attack.

The regiment had usually two companies on the south side of Green River, for the protection and reconstruction of the railroad bridge. But on the evening before the fight another bridge over the river had been completed by our company of sappers, under Lieut. Pietzuch; and the former arrangement, according to which the main defence of the work on the railroad bridge should, in case of an attack, be conducted from the northern bank, was, by order of Colonel Willich, changed, and four companies were ordered to occupy the north bank of Green River as skirmishers, while four other companies were sent over the river in support of the pickets there.

About twelve o'clock on the 16th of December the right wing of the chain of pickets of the second company, Captain Glass, was attacked by cavalry from the enemy. Captain Glass sent reinforcements, who drove back the enemy; and he himself, with the balance of the company, followed. About a mile beyond his chain of pickets he met an infantry company of the enemy, which he saluted with a full volley, whereupon the same retired as quickly as possible. Immediately thereafter large masses of infantry advanced against him, before which he retired to his line of skirmishers, fighting all the time till reinforcements arrived. About the same time the third company, to the left of the Woodsonville pike, advanced in a southern direction, meeting but very feeble resistance; at the same time the alarm had been given to the other companies, and in an indescribably short time all those on the other side of the river started in “double-quick” step over the bridge.

On account of the hot haste to get to support the companies already engaged, the captains forgot the precautions which, for such an event, had been urged upon them by Colonel Willich, and all of them in fierce haste crossed the river, went up the hill on the other side, and, almost breathless, pushed into the woods in the direction of the firing.

Col. Willich had gone to the Headquarters of the division when the engagement commenced, and Lieut.-Col. Trebra was therefore in command. He sent the Sixth, Seventh, and Tenth companies to support the Second company on the right, and the First, Fifth, Eighth, and Ninth companies to support the Third company on the left flank. At the very first rush of our skirmishers, the infantry of the enemy were thrown into confusion, and driven back at all points.

Then it was, however, when the most severe and bloody part of the battle commenced. With lightning velocity and a demon-like howl, black masses of cavalry--Col. Terry's regiment of Texas Rangers--pounced upon our skirmishers along the whole line. They rode up to them within fifteen or twenty yards, some even in the very midst of our men, and commenced a terrible fire from their carbines and revolvers. At their first onset it seemed as if every one of our men would be destroyed. But here it was that the veteran coolness and bravery of our troops shone forth. They allowed the enemy to come almost as near as he chose, and then poured a deadly fire upon him, which shook the entire line. Upon our left flank Lieut. Sachs, with half of the Third company, in the frenzy of battle, left his covered position and attacked the enemy in the open field. But terrible and fierce as his onset was, the odds were too much against him. The entire number would have been destroyed — for the Rangers, to do them justice, fought with desperate bravery — if they had not been quickly rescued. Upon the right flank of the Third company's position, by order of Adjutant Schmidt, the Eighth company was led forth by Lieuts. Kappel and Levy; upon the left, Lieut.-Col. Trebra advanced with the Ninth company; both attacked the enemy in close skirmishers' line, drove him back, and rescued the rest of the heroic little band under Lieut. Sachs. He himself and a number of his men were, however, already killed, though they had made the enemy pay dearly for their lives.

Now the artillery of the enemy was brought to bear upon our men. Their fire, balls and shrapnells, was well directed, but fortunately not very fatal. Only a few of our men were wounded by splinters of balls; among them was [475] Assistant Surgeon Geanson, who, while devotedly attending to his duty on the battle-field, was struck senseless by a heavy branch of a tree, which had been cut down by a cannon ball. Fortunately for him and us he soon recovered.

While this was going on upon our left wing, the fight on the right was no less severe. The Second, Sixth, and Tenth companies were scattered as skirmishers, while the Seventh was drawn up in column for their support. The Sixth company had taken position behind a fence. The Rangers galloped up to them in close line, and commenced firing from rifles and revolvers. Their fire was steadily returned by the Sixth company, which held them in check till a part of them got behind the fence, when our skirmishers fell back behind the Seventh company, drawn up in a square. Now a conflict ensued such as has perhaps seldom before taken place. A whole battalion of Rangers, fully two hundred strong, rushed upon the little band of not more than fifty. Upon the front and left flank of the square, they rushed, no doubt thinking that they would easily trample down the squad before them.

Capt. Welschbellich allowed them to come within a distance of seventy yards,and then gave them a volley, which not only staggered them, but sent them back, not, however, till a part of them had returned the fire. But immediately afterward they reformed and again they rushed fiercely upon the front and both flanks of the square. They seemed frantic with rage over the successful resistance offered to them, and this time a number of them rode up to the point of the bayonet. But another well-aimed volley emptied a number of saddles, and sent back the whole mass which but a moment before had seemed to threaten certain destruction to Capt. Welschbellich's company. A few bayonet thrusts and scattering shots brought down those who had ventured to our very teeth. This second repulse seemed to have a marked effect. Yet a third attack was made; however, it was much less determined and fierce than the two first, though it was more disastrous to them. During this third attack it was that Col. Terry, the commander of the Rangers, was killed. Upon his fall the whole column broke and fled in wild dismay from the field of battle.

In their place a whole regiment of infantry, accompanied by their band of music, marched against the “invincible square.” Before this overpowering force Capt. Welschbellich deemed it prudent to retire, and united with the Second, Sixth, and Tenth companies again.

About this time it was that Col. Willich, with foaming horse, had arrived upon the field of battle. He saw the right wing retiring, and the entire infantry of the enemy, two regiments, advancing, thus endangering the line of retreat of the left wing. He therefore ordered the signal for “retiring slowly” to be given, and collected the companies. The Second company, under Capt. Glass, and the Seventh, under Capt. Welschbellich, were the first who took their places in the line of battle of the regiment.

About this time a manoeuvre was executed by the First company, under Capt. Erdemeyer, which decided the day. When the battle commenced, and the impression prevailed that we were fighting only cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Trebra had detached this company, to take a position in the flank of the enemy, and from there to attack them. When the First company arrived at the place of destination, Capt. E. found that the enemy had likewise a large force of infantry and artillery, to attack which would have been certain destruction for his company. He therefore kept his covered position until the time mentioned. Then, finding the larger part of the infantry drawn to another part of the field, he ordered an advance. His appearance was the signal of a general retreat of the enemy. The rest of the cavalry fled precipitately, the artillery retired hastily, and the infantry followed just as quickly.

Then followed the sad business of collecting the dead and wounded. Our loss was eleven killed and twenty wounded, and five missing. Of the wounded, several, according to the reports of the surgeons, may possibly die. The missing will probably turn up. The loss of the enemy is much larger. They left a large number of killed on the field, and the First company saw them, on their retreat, throw about thirty dead bodies into a wagon which was brought off. Among the dead left in our hands was the body of Col. Terry. But his body and several wounded soldiers of the enemy were delivered up to a flag of truce sent by them. Some of their surgeons had humanely bound up the wounds and sent back three of our wounded who had fallen into their hands, and Col. Willich was glad of the opportunity which was allowed him to show his acknowledgment.

Thus our first fight has gloriously ended. The force of the enemy was at least four times as large as ours, and consisted of their best troops, picked for this purpose. Everybody in our regiment has,on this occasion, done his entire duty. Our officers have all acted with coolness and bravery, and did exactly the right thing in the right place. For this reason it would he unjust to name any one especially. I will merely add what I have above omitted, that the Second and Tenth companies, on the right wing, were engaged with the infantry of the enemy, and prevented their attempt to turn our flank. Their engagement became particularly brisk during the cavalry attack upon the Seventh company. We all think we have done justice to our reputation.

To-day we paid the last honors to our dead. The funeral was a very impressive one. Col. Willich, in a touching address, paid a beautiful tribute to the memory of those who have fallen, and at the close of his address every man went up and threw a handful of earth upon the last abode of his fallen comrades. May they rest in peace!


Another account.

camp George wood, Munfordsville, December 17.
At about half past 1 this afternoon our camp was startled by the sharp rattle of musketry, which seemed to come from the south bank of Green River. It was known that a part of Colonel Willich's magnificent regiment, the Thirty-second Indiana,was doing picket duty on that side, and the inference at once was that the lusty Germans had either attacked the enemy or been attacked by them — most likely the former. General Johnson well knew the sound to be that of fight — the direction of the firing and the hour of the day told plainly that at least a skirmish was actually going on — probably a grand battle pending. So he ordered the signal gun to sound, and for the first time our regiments formed in line of battle.

A messenger shortly came over with the intelligence that Willich's pickets had espied rebel soldiers in the woods beyond them, and immediately their lion-hearted Lieutenant-Colonel, Henry von Trebra, had ordered two companies to advance, and, if possible, effect their dislodgment. The enemy retreated half a mile to his main body without firing a shot, and the two companies pursued him, stealthily advancing as skirmishers. Suddenly and unexpectedly a troop of rebel cavalry came dashing over the hill, and a careless volley from their shot-guns told our boys that they were near falling into an ambuscade, and that the enemy was actually in their front in considerable force. But, nothing daunted, the brave Germans, veteran like, returned the volley with a galling fire, slowly retreating so as to bring the enemy out from the woods, and into a level, open field. The enemy, confident in his numbers, was not slow to accept the invitation. In the mean time, the two companies being hard pressed, the bugle was sounded to bring up the remaining companies of the regiment. They came on right gallantly, part of them having to cross Green River, and fell in upon the right and left flank with as much apparent coolness as if this had been their hundredth battle instead of their first. Then followed an almost hand-to-hand conflict, lasting fully an hour. The enemy strove in vain to draw the Germans up the hill by feigned retreats; a masked battery was so planted as to have swept our brave fellows fore and aft, had they for a moment permitted their valor to get the better of their discretion; but, knowing the fearful odds arrayed againt them, they were content to hold their ground. Finally, when the enemy despaired of getting them into the ambush, they unmasked their battery and opened fire. The first ball passed between the adjutant and major of the regiment who occupied positions not many feet apart. The belching cannon was the signal of another onset by the Texan cavalrymen, and right well did they perform the work. Captain Welschbellich, Company G, formed his men in hollow square and the cavalrymen charged their front, their right, and their left, but they were as adamant, the square remained unbroken, while many of the Texans, equally brave, but less successful because they were the attacking party, bit the dust. The cavalrymen retired, discomfited, and then. an entire regiment of rebel infantry darkened the hill and came marching down toward the brave men composing Company G, but a galling fire from our front and right scattered their forces and gave them something else to think about. Colonel Willich had been ordered on duty at Headquarters, and consequently did not get to his regiment until the heat of the battle was over. The regiment was forced to fall back a short distance, not being able to stand against the artillery. The rebels did not pursue. They carried off their wounded, and then beat a hasty retreat. It is known that the rebel force consisted of Terry's regiment of cavalry, two regiments of infantry and three pieces of cannon. The rebels lost forty-nine killed. Their number of wounded is not known, but is undoubtedly large.

December 18.
This morning they sent in a flag of truce, under which they are interring their dead. Willich's entire forces only numbered four hundred and fourteen, including commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates.

The following is a list of our killed and wounded:

Killed.--Theodore Smith, Christopher Renter, Ernest Schimean, Garry Keifer, all of Company F; Max. Sachs, First Lieut. Company C, (six shots.;) Frederick Shoemaker, Henry Lohst, B Weke, all of Company C; Daniel Smith and George Burkhardt, of Company G.

Wounded.--Sergeant Wm. Straubs, Company F, mortally; Corporal John Rice, Corporal Augus Faufer; Antoine Rittey, Dominick Phleim, Sigmund Mudoerfer, all of Company G; Sergeant Sigmund Sulig, John P. Zimmerman and Phillip Drohn, of Company K; Orderly H. Hausher, Company I; Wm. Mielick, Louis Linkenheld, G. Wolf, Fronk Neth, all of Company G; Sergeant Henry Eisenbiess, Corporal Gustave Hochstetter, Corporal Louis Schuttendeube, Charles Knapp, August Wolters, Charles Thum, Henry Schapneyer, Herman Milyers, all of Company C; making ten killed and twenty-two wounded.

A secession account.

At dawn on Tuesday morning, Nov. 17th, a body of men consisting in part of Severt's artillery and a fragment of Col. Terry's Rangers was ordered forward from Cave City, near which they were encamped. They proceeded toward Woodsonville, and after they had passed the deep cut on this side of the dirt road bridge, they found a part of the enemy. It was in the out-skirts of Woodsonville. They had learned that the enemy had boasted that they intended cutting off “Terry and his d — d Wildcats.” This Col. Terry endeavored to defeat, by turning a gap in an adjacent fence and outflanking them. But this attempt was unsuccessful, as was also [477] an effort to plant Severt's battery. Before other preparation could be made, the fight became general along the fence. The enemy were on both sides of it, extending in a line from one hundred and fifty to two hundred yards in length, and numbering six hundred strong. Our forces did not exceed two hundred and seventy-five. Col. Terry dashed on in advance, having shouted to Capt. Walker, “Come, John, let's charge on them and risk the consequences.” Capt. Walker, Dr. Cowan, Capt. Evans Paulding Anderson, the orderly of Capt. W.'s company, (whose name has escaped us.) followed after in a group, firing, their six-shooters with great effect as they proceeded, killing numbers on either side of the fence, and scattering to the right and left. They did not retreat, however. They stood up with intrepid firmness and courage. The fight lasted in this way along the fence for fifteen minutes, when our boys had reached the extreme end of it. Just here Col. Terry--always in the front — discovered a nest of five of the enemy. He leaped in his saddle, waved his hat, and said, “Come on, boys, here's another bird's nest.” He fired and killed two of them. The other three fired at him simultaneously. One shot killed his charger; another shot killed him. He fell head-long from his horse without a groan or a moan. He was killed instantly, the ball piercing his windpipe and penetrating the lower part of the brain. At the same time, Paulding Anderson and Dr. Cowan rode up and despatched the remaining three of the enemy. The man who killed Col. Terry was a huge, raw-boned German, well dressed, and armed with a fine Belgian musket. The fight ended here

When Col. Terry's fall was announced, it at once prostrated his men with grief. The enemy had fled; sixty-six of their dead lay upon the field; of ours, only five. Slowly these were collected, and our troops fell back to a secure position. All in all, this is one of the most desperate fights of the war. It was hand-to-hand from first to last. No men could have fought more desperately than the enemy. The Rangers were equally reckless. The result, mournful as it is, in the loss of a brave and gallant soldier, a promising officer, the idol of his men, a beloved and honored citizen, adds another page to the glory of our invincible arms. It opens the ball in lower Kentucky. Stirring scenes may be expected hourly in that quarter.--Nashville Banner.

Rebel report of the battle.

Headquarters advance Guard, C. A., Ky., Cave City, December 19, 1861.
sir: At eight o'clock A. M., on the 17th inst., I moved toward Woodsonville for the purpose of breaking up the railroad from the vicinity of that place southward. My force consisted of one thousand one hundred infantry and four pieces of artillery.

When within two and a half miles of Woodsonville, concealed from the enemy's view, I halted the column and ordered forward Col. Terry's Rangers, to occupy the heights of my right, left, and front; and Major Phifer's Cavalry to watch the crossings of Green River, still further to my left.

These orders having been executed, and no force of the enemy or pickets seen, I advanced the column till the right reached the railroad. This brought me within three-quarters of a mile of the river and the enemy, but still concealed, except a small body of cavalry upon the extreme left. Here a company of rangers was detached to observe the enemy from Rowlett's Knob, which was to my right, across the railroad. A strip of timber bordered the river parallel to the line held by my cavalry. Fields were between a body of the enemy's infantry, as skirmishers moved through the timber, by their right, on my left. They were fired upon by a small body of my cavalry, and retired. The firing ceased for about half an hour, and I went in person to select a suitable place for camp, leaving Col. Terry in command, with instructions to decoy the enemy up the hill, where I could use my infantry and artillery with effect, and be out of the range of the enemy's batteries.

Before returning to the column, the fire from the skirmishers recommenced. The enemy appeared in force upon my right and centre. Col. Terry, at the head of seventy-five Rangers, charged about three hundred, routed and drove them back, but fell mortally wounded. A body of the enemy, of about the same size, attacked the Rangers, under Capt. Ferrell, upon the right of the turnpike, and were repulsed with heavy loss. The enemy now began crossing by regiments, and moving about on my right and left flanks. Three companies of Col. Marmaduke's (First Ark.) battalion were thrown out as skirmishers on my left, engaged the enemy's right, and drove them to the river. I now ordered forward Capt. Smith's battery and the Second Arkansas regiment to support it, holding the Sixth Arkansas regiment in reserve. The artillery opened fire upon the enemy in the field adjacent to the railroad, and drove them to the bank of the river.

Firing now ceased on both sides. The enemy made no further attempt to advance, but knowing that he had already crossed the river in force more than double my own, and had the means of crossing additional forces, I withdrew my command by way of the turnpike, two miles and a half, and took position to meet the enemy, if disposed to advance. There being no indications of such an intention, I returned to my camp here, reaching this place at eight o'clock P. M.

My loss in this affair was as follows:--Killed, Col. Terry and three men of his regiment.--Dangerously Wounded, Lieut. Morris and three men, (Texas Rangers.)-Slightly Wounded, Capt. Walker and three men, (Texas Rangers,) and two men of the First Arkansas battalion.

I estimated the enemy's loss at seventy-five killed and left on the ground; wounded, unknown. [478] I have eight prisoners; others taken, were too badly wounded to be moved, and were left at citizens' houses.

The troops under my command who were engaged, displayed courage in excess. The others were as steady as veterans.


T. C. Hindman, Brigadier-General. To Lieut. D. C. White, Act. Assistant Adj't-Gen. First Division Central Army of Kentucky.

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