Doc. 13.-fight at Campbell's Station, Tenn.
Knoxville, Tenn., November 7, 1863.The first engagement of any consequence between our forces and those of Longstreet, in the retreat to Knoxville, took place yesterday, at Campbell's Station — a little collection of houses on the Kingston road, where it forms a junction with the road to Loudon. During the night of Sunday, the rebels made three different charges on our position at Lenoir, with the intention of capturing the batteries on the right of our position; but every onset was met and repulsed. In the morning, our troops again took up the march in retreat, and the rebels pushed our rear-guard with so much energy that we were compelled to burn a train of wagons, to obtain the mules to aid in getting away the artillery. Its destruction was necessary, as otherwise we would have been compelled to abandon it to the enemy. One piece of artillery, which had become mired and could not be hauled out by the horses, fell into their hands. The rear was brought up by General Ferrero's division of the Ninth corps, and as the progress of the wagon-trains in the advance was necessarily slow, no easy duty devolved upon that portion of our column. To check the impetuous pursuit of the rebels was indispensable to the safety of our main body, as well as the wagons, which, in addition to the baggage, carried the subsistence for the march. The result was, that a series of heavy skirmishes ensued along the whole line of the retreat. As we approached Campbell's Station, where it was feared the enemy would endeavor to throw a force upon our flank, from the direction of Kingston, the division of Colonel Hartrauft was marched through the timber until it came upon the road leading from that point. In a short space of time, the wisdom of the precaution manifested itself; for the rebels soon made their appearance, but too late to execute their object. Colonel Hartrauft skirmished with them, and fell back slowly, fighting as he came. The rebels, at one time, made an effort to flank him, but failed. In this endeavor, they approached so close as to fire a volley directly at him and staff. A brigade of cavalry, under Colonel Biddle, gave material assistance in checking the enemy. General Burnside, finding that the enemy were pressing him so closely as to endanger the trains and extra artillery, which, at the head of the column, still “dragged their slow length along,” determined to come into position, to give them battle, and, pending it, to enable the wagons to get well in advance. Accordingly he selected positions for the artillery on commanding eminences to the right and left of the road, which at this point runs through a valley whose slopes are under cultivation, and consequently cleared of timber. The ground chosen was, in fact, a succession of farms, commencing at Campbell's Station, and flanking either side of the road for a distance of over two miles. Our guns were in position some time before noon, but it was near that hour when the fight became warm. General Ferrero, in falling back on the Loudon road, came in advance of Colonel Hartrauft, and defiling to the right, (it would be to the left as he marched, but facing the enemy, it was the right,) took up his position in line of battle. Colonel Hartrauft, whose flank was now reenforced by a detachment of General White's command, under Colonel Chapin, came in rear of General Ferrero as he passed the fork of the road, and, marching to the left, came into position on the southern slope of the valley, Colonel Chapin still holding his position on the flank. A consideration of the whole movement will show with what admirable position each regiment and brigade came into line of battle. Indeed, the evolutions on the field at Campbell's Station have seldom been excelled in beauty and skill. In coming into position, as well as in the succeeding manoeuvres, the commands on both sides, Union as well as rebel, exhibited a degree of discipline which at once betrayed the veterans of many a battle-field. Our troops here found an enemy not unworthy of their steel, in the hands of Longstreet. Insignificant as the present fight may appear in comparison with others of this war, it certainly will rank among those in which real generalship was displayed. Every motion, every evolution, was made with the precision and regularity of the pieces on a chessboard. The rebels, finding the disposition of our troops to be one which offered battle, readily accepted the gage thrown down to them, and it was not long before their main body was seen advancing from the timber at the end of the clearing in two formidable lines. On they came, alternately surmounting the crests of the little knolls in beautiful undulating lines, and disappearing again into the hollows beneath. Our forces opened at long-range; but still they pressed on, heedless of the shower of bullets which whistled all around them, until they reached a position apparently suitable to them, when they began to return the fire. The rattle of musketry soon became quite lively, and continued for upward of an hour, when it was discovered that, while they had thus engaged us in front, a heavy force was menacing us on both flanks. The steady music of the volley-firing was now mingled with the intermittent shots of the skirmishers, who pushed out upon us from the woods on either side. Our troops fell back, and the rebel lines closed in a semi-circle. Still advancing, still pouring in their volleys with the utmost deliberation, the enemy came on, and at length a portion of their column quickened into a charge. Our troops gave way, not in confusion, but in steady line, delivering their fire as they fell back, step by step, to the shelter of the batteries. Quick as lightning our guns now belched forth from the summits of the hills above. Shell and shrapnel, canister and case, whichever came readiest to hand in the ammunition-chests, were