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Doc. 121.-surrender of Munfordville, Ky.

Report of Colonel Wilder.

Cave City, Ky., Sept. 18, 1862.
To J. E. Stacey, A. A.G. and Chief of Staff:
sir: I have the honor to report that on September eighth, 1862, according to a special order from General Boyle, I assumed command of the forces at Munfordville, Kentucky. I immediately set to work building fortifications for defence of the railroad bridge over Green River. On Sunday, September ninth, I was informed that the railroad bridge at Salt River was burned by the rebels. Our supplies being sufficient for one day only, I immediately began collecting flour and bacon in the country about us, and got some bread from Bowling Green, and managed to get rations for fifteen days. At the same time I ordered all the home guard companies and recruits [450] for the Thirty-third Kentucky, who had no arms, to scatter out over the country, and act in the capacity of scouts. They served me admirably in this respect, giving notice of Bragg's approach when over fifty miles distant, and notifying me of his numbers, pieces of artillery, direction taken, etc., in every movement made by him on his advance from Cumberland River. On Saturday, September thirteenth, Col. Scott, with a brigade of cavalry and a battery of five mountain-howitzers, came down the north side of the river from Greensburgh, and at eight o'clock P. M. demanded an unconditional surrender of the place. I peremptorily refused, and at three o'clock the next morning he commenced an attack by firing on our pickets. They contested the ground so stubbornly that he was compelled to bring up his artillery to drive them in, which he accomplished at daybreak, after losing his guide and a lieutenant-colonel killed. At daylight a furious attack was made on the pickets, on the south side of the river, by a large force of infantry; I immediately sent company K, Seventy-fourth Indiana, out to a belt of woods about a quarter of a mile in advance, to act as a reserve for the pickets to rally on. They held their ground until nearly surrounded, and only fell back when peremptorily ordered to do so by Major Cubberly, of the Eighty-ninth Indiana, who had charge of the pickets and skirmishers on the south side of the river. Our advanced line fought them stubbornly for an hour, and only came in when ordered to do so by me, as I did not wish to lose the advantage of our works. At half-past 5 the fighting became general along the whole line, the enemy having advanced to within two hundred yards of our works in large numbers.

At half-past 6 A. M., the enemy advanced in line of battle upon our west or main work, and, seeing their intention to storm our position, I ordered the men to fix bayonets, when the rebels came forward with a cheer, supposing our cessation of fire was a sign of retreat. When they came within about thirty yards I directed the men to fire, which was repeated by Col. Murray, and the officers along the line, and a very avalanche of death swept through the ranks, causing them to first stagger, and then run in disorder to the wood in the rear, having left all of their field-officers on the ground, either killed or mortally wounded. The regiments that made this charge were the Seventh and Tenth Mississippi and Seventh Alabama. Immediately after this repulse a similar one was made on the redoubt by the Ninth and Twenty-ninth Mississippi and a battalion of sharp-shooters. They were literally murdered by a terrible fire from the gallant defenders of the work. Major Abbott sprang up on the parapet with his hat in one hand and a drawn sabre in the other, urging his men to stand to the work, until he was shot dead under the flag he so nobly defended. A braver man never fell. The flag had one hundred and forty-six bullet-holes through it, and the staff was struck eleven times. Lieut. Mason, of the Thirteenth Indiana battery, commanding the artillery, in the mean time was riddling them with grape and canister, when they broke in all directions, fleeing as from a belching volcano, many dropping as they fled. At this juncture I sent Colonel Emerson, of the Sixty-seventh Indiana, with one more company to reinforce the redoubt, and to take command. The enemy soon rallied, however, and seemed to be more cautious in their movements, keeping up a constant fire from the best cover they could obtain, until half-past 9 A. M., making several weak efforts to charge us again; but they had learned a dear lesson, and profited by it. At half-past 9 they sent in a flag of truce, demanding again that I should surrender. I again refused,1 when they asked the privilege of removing their dead and wounded. I gave them leave to do so.

At nine A. M., I was reinforced by six companies of the Fiftieth Indiana, under Col. Dunham, who had come up on the railroad from Louisville, and were thrown off the track six miles back. At daylight they pushed through by a circuitous route, missing Scott's cavalry, on the north side of the river, and getting into the works without any loss, except one man slightly wounded. After the night closed, Colonel Dunham, being the ranking officer, assumed command, and will, no doubt, make a report of the events occurring on Monday and Tuesday following the Sunday's fight. My whole force consisted of the Sixty-seventh and Eighty-ninth Indiana regiments, one company of the Eighteenth regulars, two hundred and four recruits of the Seventeenth Indiana, two companies Seventy-fourth Indiana, one company of cavalry, Louisville Provost Guard, Lieutenant Watson commanding--one twelve-pounder heavy gun, one twelve-pounder Napoleon, one twelve-pounder howitzer, and one three-inch rifled gun, under Lieut. Mason; Thirteenth Indiana battery, sixty men; Thirty-third Kentucky, Capt. Wilson--the whole force amounting to two thousand one hundred and twenty-two men for duty. If I were to give a list of those who did their whole duty, it would simply be a muster-roll of all who were there; no man flinched or held back a particle. [451] I must, however, mention W. A. Bullitt, Adjutant Third Kentucky, who conveyed orders for me through the hottest of the fire with as much coolness as if on review; and Capt. Frank White, Fifteenth Indiana, who superintended the earthworks, and, whenever a point was exposed to a raking fire from the enemy's batteries, immediately threw up traverses to protect the men.

Our entire loss was thirty-seven killed and wounded. The enemy admit a loss of seven hundred and fourteen killed and wounded on Sunday alone. I cannot give as complete a report as I could wish, not having yet received a report from the different commands engaged.

On Tuesday evening, at seven P. M., I was again placed in command. By this time General Polk had crossed the river ten miles above, with the right wing of Bragg's army, and coming down on the north side, took up a position on the river hills commanding our works; the left wing under Hardee, having taken position on the hills on the south side. Bragg had sent a summons to surrender, and a consultation had been held late Tuesday evening with commanders of regiments, in which it was the unanimous expression, that unless enabled by reinforcements to hold the north side of the river, we could make no successful resistance. All, however, decided to resist, unless full evidence should be given of the overwhelming force of the enemy; and having been informed that Gen. Buell's army had not left Bowling Green at two P. M., the day before, and having been notified by you that we could get no help from ~Louisville, our ammunition for small arms being very limited, and our men worn out by constant work and fighting for four days and nights, and being satisfied that further resistance was no less than wilful murder of the brave men who had so long contested with over-whelming numbers, I determined, after counting forty-five cannon in positions commanding our open field-works, and surrounded by over twenty-five thousand men, with no possible chance of assistance from any quarter, although promised such by you from Bowling Green, to surrender the entire force; which I did on Wednesday morning, at two A. M., marching out of the works at six A. M., with all the honors of war, drums beating and colors flying, we being allowed, by the terms of surrender, our side-arms and all private property, and four days rations. Officers and men were immediately paroled, and are about to start for the Ohio River.

I have the honor to be, your ob't servant,

J. T. Wilder, Colonel Commanding U. S. Forces at Green River.

Colonel Dunham's report.

Louisville, Ky., September 30, 1862.
To the A. A. General and Chief of Staff of the Army of Kentucky:
sir: I have the honor to report that in obedience to an order of Major-General Gilbert, on the thirteenth instant, at eleven o'clock P. M. left the depot of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad with six companies of the Fiftieth regiment Indiana volunteers, and one company (K) of the Seventy-eighth Indiana, attached to the Fiftieth for duty — in all four hundred and forty-six strong, rank and file — for Green River, near Munfordville, to reenforce Col. Wilder in defence of that point. The train ran very slowly until some distance below Elizabethtown, when I went forward and earnestly urged the engineer to greater speed, assuring him that it was all-important for us to reach Green River before daylight. He did increase the speed as far as safety would permit. Just below Bacon Creek, and about seven miles from Green River, the train stopped for wood. I immediately passed along the cars, aroused the men, and bid them stand by their arms in readiness for any emergency, as we were approaching dangerous ground. I then took position on the engine, and the train moved cautiously forward. We had proceeded about a mile when we ran upon a portion of the track which had been undermined by the enemy, and slid to one side in such a manner as to make the injury apparent to the engineer and myself. The train was thrown off and several of the cars completely wrecked, yet strange to say, not a man or horse were seriously injured. The men seemed inspired with even greater confidence, as if feeling themselves under the especial protection of an overruling Providence.

They were immediately formed in line of battle, an instantaneous attack being expected. The woods which skirted both sides of the road were promptly reconnoitred. No enemy appearing, the regiment was put in rapid march for Munfordville, presuming that the road had been destroyed to prevent reinforcements from reaching that place. We had not proceeded far before cannonading in that direction was heard. It had now become daylight, and the men deposited their knapsacks and blankets in the thicket on the roadside and moved rapidly on. We soon met crowds of frightened and fleeing citizens, from whom no satisfactory information could be got of the situation of affairs at, or of the forces investing our works. When within between three or four miles of the place we were met by an intelligent citizen, of my acquaintance, who informed me that a cavalry force of the enemy, at least two thousand strong, and a battery of artillery were posted some distance this side of the river, and covering the road approaching our works which were upon the south bank, that guns were also so planted upon both banks of the river as to cover the bridges, and that he deemed it impossible for us to pass them and get in. But nothing daunted, our little force made a detour to the right, and, by keeping under the cover of the woods, and corn-fields, and down ravines, eluded the enemy and reached the river just below the railroad bridge and opposite our works. Here a momentary halt was made under the cover of the woods to close up the column and give the men a little rest. They then plunged into and forded the river at double-quick, between the two bridges, the first notice the enemy having of our approach being the hearty cheers of our [452] beleaguered troops in the works. Fortunately for us, the guns of the enemy upon the northern bank, bearing upon the crossing, had just before, by a well-directed fire from our own, under Lieut. Mason, been silenced, and from those upon the southern side he had only time to throw a shell or two at our rear as it disappeared under the cover of the bank, resulting only in slightly wounding one man. His cavalry came dashing down in an attempt to cut us off, but only in time to be as hastily driven back, as we promptly turned and fired upon them.

We found the engagement still progressing. By Gen. Gilbert's written order, the command was to go according to seniority, and I being the senior officer, Col. Wilder promptly tendered me the command, but I promptly refused to assume it, feeling that to do so during the progress of the engagement would be ungenerous in me and unjust to him; but I placed myself and force under his command. He has reported the proceedings of that day.

On Monday, the fifteenth, I assumed command. The enemy had, under the cover of the night, withdrawn from before us — the infantry and artillery to Cave City and the cavalry up the river. Work upon the intrenchments was at once resumed and pushed forward with vigor that day, the night following, and in fact throughout all the affair on Tuesday. Wagons were sent to the wrecked train for the provisions upon it, and steps successfully taken, by the aid of Mr. William Gibson, a patriotic Union citizen of Munfordville, of whom I cannot speak in too high praise, to bring in the ammunition which had been upon it, but which the loyal men of the neighborhood had carried to the woods and concealed. Efforts were also made to repair the telegraph line. Messengers were sent to different points northward to communicate to the headquarters in this city our situation, and inform them that we expected a renewal of the attack by a largely increased force, and ask for reenforcements. Messengers with a like object, I was informed, had been sent by Col. Wilder to Bowling Green. I regarded the place as of great importance to the Government, and made every effort to save it.

On Monday night, reinforcements, under command of Colonel Owen, Sixtieth Indiana, were received from Lebanon Junction, consisting of a part of the Sixtieth Indiana, (four hundred and twenty men,) including one company of the Twenty-eighth Kentucky, Lieutenant Conaway, which had been attached to it for duty; a part of the Sixty-eighth Indiana, Colonel King, (five hundred and seventy men,) and a battery of six pieces, Captain Conkle in command.

On Tuesday, the sixteenth instant, about half-past 9 A. M. the advance of the enemy attacked our pickets on the south of our works, and from the direction of Cave City. His advance was sternly resisted by companies A, B, and H, Fiftieth Indiana, and part of company K, Seventy-eighth Indiana, under Major Wells, who, as well as the officers and men under him, in this little skirmish, displayed great coolness and courage. They held the enemy's advancing column at bay for over an hour, and were only pressed back by overwhelming numbers. The object evidently was to avoid the field-work on our left, known as Fort Craig, from which he had been so fatally repulsed on Sunday, and, under the cover of the woods, to approach and carry by storm the breastworks of our right. But the promptness and energy with which he was met seemed to deter him from the attempt. Before eleven A. M. the engagement had become general along our south line, the heavy pressure being upon the west or right. The men were cool and eager for the expected assault. The fire was rapid and continuous on the part of the enemy, who kept himself under cover of the woods.

Between two and three it slackened, and by three it had almost ceased, and, supposing the enemy had withdrawn from the woods which fronted our entire south line, and, being anxious to occupy the farther edge of it that I might be advised of, and check a renewed attack, company A, Fiftieth Indiana, Captain Barrell, was thrown out as skirmishers, to feel through it. They soon became hotly engaged with the enemy, who attempted to turn their left flank. I immediately ordered Captain Carothers, with company G, of the same regiment, to his support. The order was promptly obeyed and the company gallantly deployed under a galling fire. This was a brilliant little affair. In it Lieutenant Burton, of company G, fell severely wounded, nobly doing his duty.2 Finding that the enemy still occupied the woods in force, our men were withdrawn under a fire from the works. I should also mention that company A, Sixtieth Indiana, was thrown out as skirmishers upon the left early in the engagement, and there remained for some time, doing excellent service with a loss of one man wounded. By half-past 4 the firing on both sides had nearly ceased, there being only an occasional shot from our guns as opportunity offered to prevent the planting of batteries by the enemy. Between five and six o'clock a flag of truce from the enemy was seen approaching. I sent Colonel Wilder to receive it. It covered a note from General Bragg, commanding the enemy's forces, asserting that we were surrounded by an overwhelming force, all hopes of reenforcements cut off, and demanding a surrender to save the loss of human life which must result from carrying the works by storm. I promptly and peremptorily declined, but when Colonel Wilder returned, after the delivery of my reply, and informed me that so far as he had been able to observe, the force against us was truly over-whelming, and especially in artillery, and situation critical, and being a senior officer of equal rank with several others in the works, some of whom had had greater experience, I, at his suggestion, deemed it my duty to call a council of war of those officers. I desired also to gain time in hopes of relief from this place or from Bowling Green. I, therefore, sent a note to Gen. Bragg, [453] asking a further suspension of hostilities to give me time for consultation. He consented to such suspension until nine o'clock P. M. This was a point gained, as by that time it would be too late for further attack except by assault, which I felt able to repel.

By this time I had got telegraphic communication with Louisville, and immediately telegraphed General Gilbert in substance that we had held the enemy, said to be Bragg's and Polk's whole army, at bay all day; that evidently fresh columns were being moved against us, and whether we should be able to continue to hold our position without assistance remained to be seen; that we should do the best we could. I received an answer ordering me to turn the command over to Colonel Wilder. I replied that under the circumstances I regarded the order as unjust, but should obey it. In the mean time the council had been convened, consisting of Colonels Owen, Wilder, King, Emerson, and Murray, Captain Conkle, and myself. The unanimous conclusion was, that if they had the force claimed, namely, over twenty-five thousand men and sixty pieces of artillery besides cavalry, it would be a useless sacrifice of human life to resist, and especially as by their artillery they could in spite of us occupy the heights north of the river, which completely covered our works. But it was also unanimously resolved that we should be permitted by some competent officer or officers to have actual observation of their strength or that we should demonstrate it by actual trial of arms. At the conclusion of the council I formally relinquished the command to Colonel Wilder who has reported the further proceedings. I at once telegraphed Brigadier-General Gilbert in substance that I had so relinquished the command, and that I should take my musket and go into the trenches, that as a senior under the circumstances I would not as an officer fight under a junior.

I was immediately ordered by him to report to Colonel Wilder under arrest, which I did. It is but just that I should add that I did not object to serving under Colonel Wilder. Between him and myself had existed, and yet exist, the most friendly and cordial relations. We had in all things agreed, and no praise from me would add to his reputation as an officer. The proper authorities must judge from subsequent events whether my telegram to General Gilbert was such evidence of weakness as justified my removal from command, or whether it was simply evidence that I saw our peril and was not afraid to look it in the face. To that authority I shall also appeal for the justness of my arrest. Of the coolness and determined bravery of the men I cannot speak too highly. Of officers, when all did their duty well, especial praise seems almost out of place; yet some, of course, had better opportunities than others to display tact, coolness, and courage.

Justice requires me to acknowledge my obligations to Lieutenant-Colonel Edward A. King, of the Nineteenth regulars, but now Colonel of the Sixty-eighth Indiana volunteers. He had position about midway of the south line of the works west of the railroad.

Six companies of his regiment were held as a support in a hollow near by, the assault being anticipated in that direction, His experience, coolness, and close observation, even when shell and musket-balls flew thick and fast, were invaluable, and cannot be too favorably mentioned.

Colonel Owen was in command of the field-works on the left, (Fort Craig,) with discretionary authority. I need scarcely say that it was a trust worthily confided.

I should also mention the excellent conduct of Adjutant John R. Simpson, of the Fiftieth Indiana, and Lieutenant Pompella, of the Sixteenth Kentucky, who acted as my aids. On Sunday they boldly reconnoitred the woods along our march to guard us against surprise. On Tuesday they did their duty with a quiet fearlessness that deserves favorable notice.

Our loss was one officer, Lieutenant Burton, and six privates wounded; one private mortally, and Lieutenant Burton dangerously, a musket-ball passing through both legs, and shattering the bone of one. The enemy's loss was over one hundred--said to be one hundred and five.

The forces under my command during this affair were those men named by Colonel Wilder in his report, and the reinforcements thereto hereinbefore noticed.

I am, respectfully,

C. L. Dunham, Colonel Commanding United States Forces at Green River.

N. B.--It is probably but just both to Major-General Gilbert and myself to add that, since my arrival in this city, he has informed me that, within a few moments after issuing the order directing me to report to Colonel Wilder under arrest, he sent a despatch. not only releasing me from arrest but restoring me to the command, but telegraphic communication being in the mean time cut off, it did not reach me.


C. L. D., Colonel Commanding United States Forces at Green River.

Major-General Jones's report.

To General S. Cooper, Adjutant-General C. S.:
A courier from General Bragg's headquarters, eight miles west of Munfordville, on the night of the eighteenth instant, confirms the report that Bragg captured about five thousand men at Munfordville on the seventeenth instant. Our loss was about fifty killed and wounded.

The same courier reports that up to the twelfth instant about twenty-three thousand Kentuckians had joined Gen. Smith, and they were still coming. The home guard was delivering up their guns as rapidly as they could be received.

Samuel Jones, Major-General.

General Bragg's report.

To General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector-General:
The garrison at this place surrendered last [454] night without our firing a gun. We got four thousand (4000) prisoners, four thousand (4000) small arms, pieces of artillery and munitions in large quantities.

1 The following is the correspondence that passed between the two parties:

Colonel J. T. Wilder, Commanding U. S Forces at Green River:
You have made a gallant defence of your positions, and to avoid further bloodshed, I demand an unconditional surrender of your forces. I have six regiments of infantry, one battalion of infantry sharp-shooters, and have just been reinforced by a brigade of cavalry, under Col. Scott, with two batteries of artillery. I have two regiments on the north side of the river, and you can't escape. The railroad track is torn up in your rear, and you can't receive reinforcements. General Bragg's army is but a short distance in the rear.

James R. Chalmers, Brig.-General Commanding First Brigade, Right Wing, Army of Mississippi.

To this demand and these arguments Colonel Wilder returned the following answer:

Brigadier-General Jas. R. Chalmors, Commanding First Brigade R. W. Army of Mississippi:
Your note demanding the unconditional surrender of my forces has been received. Thank you for your compliments. If you wish to avoid further bloodshed, keep out of the range of my guns — as to reeforcements, they are now entering my works. I think I can defend my position against your entire force. At least I shall try to do so.

J. T. Wilder, Colonel Commanding U. S. Forces at Green River

2 Since dead.

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