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Marshall and Garfield in eastern Kentucky.

The Rev. Edward O. Guerrant, Assistant Adjutant-General to General Marshall.
On the 10th of September, 1861, General Albert Sidney Johnston, one of the five officers who then held the rank of “General” in the Confederate army, was assigned to the command of Department No. 2, embracing the States of Tennessee and Arkansas, and that part of the State of Mississippi west of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern and Central Railroad; also, the military operations in Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, and the Indian country immediately west of Missouri and Arkansas. Tennessee had entered into a league with the Confederacy on the 7th of May, 1861, and although the efforts of the Confederates to take Kentucky out of the Union had been defeated, the State contained a large element friendly to secession, from

Confederate private. From a tintype.

which was recruited at an early day a number of regiments. In order to afford securer opportunities for such enlistments, it was necessary to make an effort to occupy eastern Kentucky. This was desirable, also, in order to protect vital interests of the Confederacy in south-western Virginia, where were situated the great salt-works and lead-mines of the South, and where ran the chief line of railway, connecting Virginia with the Gulf States.

With these objects in view, on the 1st of November, 1861, Brigadier-General Humphrey Marshall was sent by the Confederate Government to take command of certain troops at Prestonburg, Ky., then under command of Colonel (afterward General) John S. Williams. These consisted of a regiment and a battalion in a camp on the Big Sandy, which had been organized in the fall of 1861, by Colonel Williams. The regiment was the 5th Kentucky, the famous “Ragamuffin regiment,” composed almost exclusively of mountain men, and one of the finest corps of soldiers ever enlisted in the army. They were hardy, raw-boned, brave mountaineers, trained to hardships, and armed with long rifles. Colonel Williams had also organized a battalion of mounted riflemen from the famous “Blue grass” country in central Kentucky, composed of young men of education and fortune,--the class of men who afterward made John Morgan famous as a raider. This force was further increased by the 54th Virginia, under Colonel John H. Trigg, the 29th Virginia, under Colonel A. C. Moore, and a battery of field artillery, under Captain W. C. Jeffress. In General Marshall's official reports, he states that during the campaign of 1861-62 his force never exceeded 1,800 effective men of all arms.1 The force assigned to him was very small, considering the interests involved and the objects to be attained. The [394] occupation of eastern Kentucky would have required an army of several thousand men. In response to his request for reinforcements, President Davis wrote to General Marshall that they “were sorely pressed on every side,” and were unable to send him any troops.

It was a very severe winter, and Marshalls men were poorly clad, and many of the soldiers were nearly naked. One regiment had 350 barefooted men and not over 100 blankets for 700 men. General Albert Sidney Johnston, observing their condition, sent them one thousand suits of clothes, including hats and shoes. These supplies reached the army at Whitesburg, Ky. An incident connected with the distribution of them will serve to illustrate the poverty of the Quartermaster's Department, and the ready genius of General Marshall. When the quartermaster distributed the clothing among the soldiers, it was noticed that they examined with suspicion the peculiar color and texture of the cloth. General Marshall discovering that it was cotton, and fearing the result of such a discovery by his men, rose to the occasion with a stirring speech, in which he eulogized the courage, endurance, and patriotism of his men, and commended the Government for its thoughtful care of them, and relieved their fears as to the quality of the goods

Map of Big Sandy River and Middle-Creek battle-field (January 10, 1862).

by assuring them that they were “woven out of the best quality of Southern wool, with which, doubtless, many of the Kentuckians were not acquainted.” The men took the general's word for it (with a grain of salt) and walked off to their quarters with their cottonade suits. The general often remarked afterward that the deception nearly choked him, adding, “but something had to be done.”

The army was not only badly clothed, but in general badly armed. Many of the men had only shot-guns and squirrel rifles. Requisitions on the War Department were not filled for want of supplies; and General Lee wrote that owing to the scarcity of arms he was having pikes made, which he offered to furnish General Marshall for his unarmed troops.

The field of operations lay in the Cumberland Mountains, along the sources of the Big Sandy River,--a poor, wild, thinly settled country. The roads ran along the water-courses between the mountains, and were often rendered impassable by the high waters, and during this winter were ruined by the passage of cavalry, wagons, and artillery. Captain Jeffress was three days moving his battery from Gladesville to Pound Gap, only sixteen miles. General Marshall's report states that his wagons were sometimes unable to make [395] over four miles a day. An unusual amount of rain fell, drenching the unprotected soldiers, most of them raw recruits, and keeping the roads deep and the waters high. This first winter was the worst of the war, and the scanty rations and great hardships made hundreds of the men sick. Besides, the measles and mumps broke out in the camps, and many died from these diseases and from exposure. The command at Prestonburg was over one hundred miles from its base of supplies at Abingdon, Va., with the Cumberland Mountains between. The farms were generally small and poor, lying along the mountain-sides or in narrow valleys. During January, 1862, corn was worth ten dollars per barrel, and had to be hauled thirty miles over desperate roads. For weeks they subsisted upon mountain beef and parched corn. These privations General Marshall shared, giving up his tent to the sick and wounded, and sleeping beneath a wagon.

On the 17th of December, 1861, General Don Carlos Buell, then in command of the Department of the Ohio, including Kentucky, assigned Colonel (afterward General and President) James A. Garfield, of Ohio, to command his Eighteenth Brigade, and sent him against General Marshall. Colonel Garfield concentrated his forces at Louisa,

Brigadier-General James A. Garfield. From a war-time photograph.

at the forks of the Sandy, from which place he began his advance movement on the 23d of December. His army consisted of his own regiment, the 42d Ohio, under Lieutenant-Colonel L. A. Sheldon, the 1st Squadron Ohio Cavalry, Major William McLaughlin, the 14th Kentucky, Colonel L. T. Moore, the 22d Kentucky, Colonel D. W. Lindsey, 2d Virginia Cavalry (6 companies), Lieutenant-Colonel W. M. Bolles, the 40th Ohio, Colonel Jonathan Cranor, and 300 of the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel J. W. Letcher, numbering in all some three thousand men. Garfield having found the road up the river impassable for wagons, many were taken to pieces and conveyed on boats; others, that were empty, were pulled by the men. His supplies were brought up on steam-boats and push-boats.

On the 6th of January, 1862, Garfield arrived within seven miles of Paintsville, where Marshall had established his camp and headquarters. It had been Marshall's intention to offer battle at Hagar's farm, near Paintsville, but he had intercepted a letter from Garfield to Cranor, who, with his regiment and some 400 cavalry, was advancing upon Marshall's left and rear from the direction of Salyersville. He then decided to fall back to the forks of Middle Creek, where he awaited the approach of the Federal forces. Garfield and Cranor made a junction near Paintsville, and all moved up to Marshal's front on the 10th of January. [396]

General Marshall had selected a strong position along a high ridge south of Middle Creek, and covering the road to Virginia by way of Beaver Creek. Jeffress's battery was placed in a gorge of the left fork of Middle Creek; the 5th Kentucky and 29th Virginia regiments and part of the Kentucky Battalion of Mounted Riflemen occupied the spurs and heights to the right of the artillery; the 54th Virginia occupied a height covering the battery, with two cavalry companies in reserve; two other cavalry companies (dismounted and armed with Belgian rifles) were placed across Middle Creek, on a height commanding the valley. Skirmishing between the two commands began about 10 A. M., but the action began in earnest about noon by a charge of Federal cavalry, supported by infantry. This attack was repulsed, the artillery putting the cavalry to flight, and it appeared no more during the engagement. The men probably dismounted and fought on foot, as the ground was not suitable for cavalry operations. Colonel Garfield then endeavored to take the ridge occupied by the 5th Kentucky and 29th Virginia, on the right wing of General Marshall's position. He moved his infantry up the side of the mountain, above Spurlock's Branch, and made a desperate attempt to dislodge the Confederate forces, commanded by Colonel Williams, but was repulsed. The attack was renewed

Brigadier-General Humphrey Marshall. From a photograph.

three times, with the same result. The ascent was steep, the top of the mountain was covered with trees and rocks affording good protection to the Confederate forces. The engagement lasted until dark, both sides claiming the victory, and both withdrawing from the field of battle.

General Marshall estimated Colonel Garfield's forces at 5000,2 and states his own at not over 1,500. In his official report to the War Department he gives his losses at 11 killed and 15 wounded.

General Marshall withdrew his forces next day, taking three days to reach Martin's Mill on Beaver Creek,--sixteen miles from the battle-field. This was the nearest point at which he could get provisions for his men, some of whom had fasted for thirty hours before the action.

Colonel Garfield withdrew his forces, February 22d, to the Big Sandy River, where he remained until March. This was the only engagement between the [397] two forces. The next month General Marshall sent the bulk of his command south of the Cumberland Mountains, to go into winter quarters, because all supplies were exhausted in the mountains of Kentucky. General Marshall's forces would probably have been compelled to return to Virginia in order to secure supplies, even if they had not been opposed by an enemy. The occupation of the Sandy Valley by a largely superior force so crippled his resources that he could hardly have subsisted his troops among the impoverished mountains. Indeed, Colonel Garfield could not have maintained his position a week, without the aid of the river, by which supplies were brought on steamboats. On the 16th of March, 1862, Garfield with 750 men made an attack on a battalion of Virginia militia, occupying Pound Gap, and drove them away and burned the log-huts built for winter quarters. Soon after this he was ordered to report to General Buell, who had gone to the relief of General Grant at Pittsburg Landing. This he did on the 7th of April, 1862, in time to take part in the second day's contest.

General Marshall was born January 13th, 1812, in Frankfort, Ky., and came of a most distinguished family, which included Chief-Justice John Marshall of Virginia, the historian Humphrey Marshall of Kentucky, and the orator and lawyer Thomas F. Marshall. He was four times elected to Congress from the Louisville District, and was Minister to China under President Fillmore. In his profession of law Humphrey Marshall had probably no superior and few equals among the jurists of Kentucky. As an orator he fully inherited the talent of a family which was famous in the forum. As a soldier he enjoyed the confidence of General Lee, who wrote him frequently in reference to military operations, and earnestly opposed his retirement from the army. He was a graduate of West Point, and both he and General Williams had won distinction in the Mexican war-Marshall at Buena Vista and Williams at Cerro Gordo.

General Marshall personally was not adapted to mountain warfare, owing to his great size; nor was he qualified to command volunteers, being the most democratic of men. Moreover, his heart was tender as a woman's. For these reasons he could not enforce the rigorous discipline of an army. So well known was his leniency, that an officer of his staff made a standing offer to eat the first man the general should shoot for any crime. Speaking to Colonel Leigh about military dignity and discipline, Marshall said he “regarded these things as the decrepitudes of the military art.” General Williams, who was his ablest lieutenant, was a man of very different mold, proud, imperious, a born soldier, who believed in discipline to its last extremity.

With his little command Marshall afterward successfully defended the vital interests of the Confederacy in south-west Virginia, so long as he remained in the service. In the summer of 1863 he was transferred to the Mississippi Department, but resigned his commission because he believed that he had been badly treated by President Davis in not having received the governmental support which he thought he deserved and which the necessities of his command required.

1 Yet, on the 30th of December, 1861, General Marshall had reported his force as “equal to 3000,” including “battery of four pieces, equal. to 600 men.”--editors.

2 Garfield's strength on the field did not exceed 1,700 men. He says in his report: “Not more than 900 of my force were actually engaged.” Marshall's estimate of his own (1,500) is probably correct. The Union loss was 2 killed and 25 wounded. Garfield's reports exhibit no doubt of his success in the engagement. He says: “At 4.30 he ordered a retreat. My men drove him down the slopes of the hills, and at 5 o'clock he had been driven from every point. ... It was growing dark, and I deemed it unsafe to pursue him.” Garfield withdrew to Paintsville on the 12th and 13th, to procure supplies, having on the 11th occupied Prestonburg, which the enemy had abandoned.-editors.

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