The battle of Prestonsburg.
an interesting account.
[Although the following letter has from some derangement of the mails been delayed to this late day, yet there are some facts contained in it which have not heretofore been made public, and which will be found interesting to the reader.--Dis.]
Camp on Beaver Creek,
54th Reg't Va.
, Vols., Jan. 12.
Editors of the Dispatch:
The first brigade of the Army of Eastern Kentucy, under the command of Gen. H. Marshall
, engaged the enemy on the 10th inst., at Middle Creek, in Floyd county
The enemy's forces were commanded by Col. Garfield
, from Ohio
; and I understand was composed of two Ohio
regiments, one Indiana
regiment, and a Kentucky regiment — the latter under the command of Col. A. Moore
The strength of the enemy is estimated at from four thousand to forty-five hundred men. Our brigade was composed of Col. Trigg
's regiment, the 54th,) Col. Moore
's battalion; Col. Williams
's Kentucky regiment, and Capt. Jeffries
's battery of four field pieces.
The whole force on our side, including sick, did not amount to over twenty two hundred men.
The force engaged on the day of the battle was about one thousand strong, Col. Trigg
's regiment not being engaged, but held in reserve to protect our battery.
's men and those of Col. Williams
's were first assaulted by the enemy at one o'clock, their commands having first been deployed as skirmishers across the crest of a mountain, the battery being placed in a narrow defile, so as to command the entrance to the narrow valley in our front, and which was held by the enemy.
The enemy attempted to storm the height, upon which Col. Moore
and Col. Williams
were placed for the purpose of turning our battery, but were three times repulsed and driven back by the gallant and brave men under their command.
The battle lasted from one to six o'clock P. M., and with the exception of about twenty minutes, raged with unabated fury.
Both parties fought with great energy until darkness closed in, and the enemy, seeing Col. Trigg
's Regiment advance for the purpose of reinforcing our men, retired from the field.
The enemy sheltered himself behind a pine thicket, and from which he could not be dislodged by the men opposing him. Gen. Marshall
ordered Col. Trigg
to reinforce Williams
, and to drive the enemy from the pine thicket.
at once marched his Regiment to the top of the mountain, and selected the ‘"Montgomery
7th"’ and a company commanded by Capt. Burwell Akers
, from Floyd county
, and placing them under the command of Capt. James C. Taylor
, directed him to perform the bloody job. The enemy, however, abandoned the point before.
reached it, and gave up the field.
Our loss in this engagement summed up as follows: Of Colonel Moore
's men, five were killed and six wounded; of Colonel Williams
's men, six were killed and seven were wounded.
The loss of the enemy could not be less than three hundred.
A gentleman has just arrived from Prestonsburg, who reports that they lost, in killed, wounded, and missing, one thousand men. We are informed that they immediately retreated back to Paintsville
, and there reported that they had lost but one man killed and two wounded. Their report is false, and calculated to deceive their own people.
Our position was such as to enable us to overlook them, and it makes my heart aches when I think of the number of human souls who were hurried into eternity on that day. It is no disparagement of their bravery for me to record the above facts; for I must say they fought long and fought, well, but certainly persisted in what they could not accomplish — i. e., to drive-ins from our position.
We had been falling back from Paintsville
for several days, because he could not subsist our men; and they, I suppose, conceived the idea that we were retreating from them.
But to their sorrow did they find themselves mistaken, when they encountered us. If we had had one meals' victuals for our men, we would have driven them back with great slaughter, but, owing to the great scarcity of supplies here, General Marshall
has been compelled gradually to withdraw from the country.
Our men had been compelled to subsist upon five meals in seven days when the fight commenced, and many of them fought that day who had not had a mouthful to eat for twenty-four hours.--In order to subsist this Brigade, Gen. Marshall
is compelled to daily detail men from his command to go into the corn-fields, to shuck the corn, shell it, carry it to the mills, have it ground, and then to pack it on horseback, to the men.
The roads are awful, the country barren and mountainous.
I have often seen the General
in the mud superintending the movement of his wagons, and so bad are the roads that he can rarely ever move over from two to three miles per day. I therefore assert the proposition that it is madness and folly to keep, or attempt to keep, this command here any longer — it cannot be subsisted, and unless the War Department intends to sacrifice our health and lives to no purpose, it should speedily withdraw us from here.
We are worn out with exposure and toil.
Humanity says let us return.