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Doc. 121.-skirmish near Mayfield, Kentucky.

Cairo, Illinois, January 20, 184.
A detachment of the Fifty-eighth Illinois regiment, under the guidance of a citizen named Hood, met with the rebel guerrillas on Wednesday last, in the vicinity of Mayfield, Kentucky, and had a skirmish which resulted in the capture of nine of the Nationals, the death of their guide, and the severe injury of the Sergeant commanding the detachment. From a party fully acquainted with the facts the following particulars of the affair were obtained:

It appears that the citizens of Mayfield and surrounding country are nearly all of them strongly secesh, the Union men in the county numbering but about four hundred, and they have been in the habit of secreting bushwhackers and guerrillas, and doing many things which loyal parties call lending aid and comfort to the enemy. This the companies A and B, of the Fifty-eighth, located in the vicinity, determined to put a stop to. Hence scouting-parties were daily sent out to the distance of eighteen or twenty miles from Mayfield, with orders to arrest and bring in all suspicious characters, that they might have a trial before the proper commission. Some fifty or sixty rebel guerrillas, robbers, thieves, and murderers, have already been sent to Columbus as the result of these reconnoissances. It was in the course of one of these expeditions that the skirmish of Wednesday last occurred.

Sergeant J. Rowe, of Bureau County, with some fifteen men, including the scout Hood, a resident of Mayfield, but a Union man, mounted for the occasion upon mules, started out on Wednesday to catch some guerrillas, reported to the number of ten or twelve, as being prowling about the neighborhood, threatening to burn the houses of loyal citizens, stealing horses and cattle, and making mischief generally. They had proceeded some seventeen miles from Mayfield, when they were suddenly brought to a halt by a volley fired upon them from the under-brush at the roadside. The Sergeant ordered a halt, told the men to dismount from their animals and return the fire. This was performed. Hood, however, being used to horseback fighting, preferred to remain mounted, and was shot and instantly killed, falling from his horse, pierced by a bullet, at the roadside. Sergeant Rowe, being much exposed, received a ball through the hip, crushing the thigh-bone and inflicting what is supposed to be a mortal wound. After he had got down from his horse, however, and while enduring almost mortal agony, he saw a young private of the Fifty-eighth, named Tiffin, standing near him as though hesitating whether to shoot or not. The Sergeant cried out: “Fire upon the scoundrels! Why don't you fire?” The boy answered, coolly as a youth upon squirrel-shooting intent, dodging his head about, searching for something: “I'm not going to shoot until I see something to shoot at! There! I see something!” And he aimed his musket, fired, and a guerrilla dropped to the ground, shot through the heart.

But, notwithstanding the gallant conduct of our boys, they were overpowered by numbers, and fourteen captured, including Sergeant Rowe and Hood killed. The prisoners were as follows: privates Larkins and Conroy, of company A, and [469] Shepherd, Scott, Scoville, Van Duzer, and Davidson, of company B, Fifty-eighth Illinois.

Two of the Fifty-eighth escaped in gallant style. The officer commanding the guerrillas rode up to our men as they were standing where they had surrendered, ordered them to stack their arms, and concluding with the satisfactory threat that he was going to hang at least two of them on the spot. Young Tiffin, the lad mentioned as firing “after he saw something to fire at,” thinking this was a hint for him, said he “couldn't see it,” dropped his rifle to range, fired, killed the officer, and then made some tall walking into the timber, and escaped, although fired upon by the rebels several times. This example was followed by Skinner, of company B, another lad of only fifteen; he also bringing down his man, (it being proverbial with the Fifty-eighth that they leave but little for the rebel surgeons to do, when they get a chance to shoot,) and making good his escape to tall timbers. With the retreat of the two above, three others of the Fifty-eighth joined in; the entire five succeeding, as by a miracle, in reaching the Union lines that night in safety.

It may be remarked of Tiffin that, before shooting the rebel officer, and after being threatened by him with hanging, his ready wit did not desert him, and he retorted that: “The rebels had better not be too lavish in the use of ropes, as the Union men would soon have need of all they had in their country in hanging up guerrillas.” In a lad of sixteen this was not expected. Tiffin has made himself quite a hero by killing two rebels, and making such a speech on the occasion of his debut on the stage of war. He is now in his regiment, ready to do further service for his country.

After learning of the disaster which had befallen his men, Captain Lynch, at Mayfield, sent out Lieutenant Murphy and forty of the Fifty-eighth, mounted on horses and mules, loaned by the Union men of the vicinity, with orders to bring back the prisoners at all hazards, even if they had to burn and destroy every thing combustible in the country. The residents generally treated the detachment with the greatest courtesy, as it passed through to the town of Murray, some twenty-two miles from Mayfield, and not far from Louisville. Once, however, some rebel sympathizers misdirected Lieutenant Murphy, and delayed him several hours. He was accompanied by companies A and B, from which the killed, wounded, and captured of the Fifty-eighth had been taken; and it may be supposed they did not let grass grow under their feet as they sped along after the guerrillas. The weather was rainy, sleety, and cold, and the men suffered much; but they bore it unflinchingly, intent only upon rescuing their comrades, or taking bloody revenge upon the rebels.

While upon this march, Lieutenant Murphy was the recipient of orders to report with companies A and B at Cairo, as quickly as possible. Upon his arrival at Murray, a consultation was held, and it was hurriedly debated whether it was his duty to obey orders or keep on until he found his missing men. It was finally decided to make one last and desperate effort, and in the event of its failure, to march to Mayfield, en route for Paducah, and go thence by boat to Cairo. Orders were then issued and sent by messengers to all the residents of the place, that the detachment had marched twenty-two miles through the enemy's country, in search of their brothers in arms. They were bound to have them. If the citizens of the town could produce them within a limited time, well and good. If not, the detachment gave due notice that they should devote the village to fire and destruction. This had the desired effect. The citizens made diligent search, and the prisoners named above, with the wounded Sergeant, Rowe, and the body of Hood, were all produced in double-quick time; and the wellsatisfied detachment and its commanding officer marched back to Mayfield, were soon in Paducah, and to-day are safely in Cairo. The Mayfield loyalists are loud in their praise of the Fifty-eighth. They say they have done more to clear out guerrillas and treason-mongers than all the troops ever stationed in the vicinity. It will please all the friends of this command to know that Colonel W. F. Lynch, of the Fifty-eighth, has been made Brigade Commander of the Second brigade, Sixth division, Sixteenth army corps; and has taken the field for active service with his brave men.

T. H. W.

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J. Rowe (4)
Hood (4)
P. N. Murphy (3)
W. F. Lynch (2)
Tiffin (1)
Skinner (1)
Shepherd (1)
Scoville (1)
John C. Scott (1)
Larkins (1)
Duzer (1)
Doc (1)
Charles Davidson (1)
Conroy (1)
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January 20th, 184 AD (1)
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